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Life of Jesus
So what do we know about the life of Jesus? This summary compiles the life of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels. The life span of Jesus was 4 BC - AD 30. (To find out why I say Jesus was born in 4 BC, go here.)
Birth and early infancy
A young girl named Mary once lived in Nazareth. Nazareth was in northern Israel, about 65 miles north of Jerusalem. For a map, go here.
Scholars believe she was in her early teens and she was betrothed to a man named Joseph; the Gospels give no indication of his age. Betrothal in those days was an arrangement we don’t have today: think of it as between engagement and marriage. The couple were not living together or sleeping together but it was a legal arrangement; if someone wanted to break the betrothal they had to get a divorce. So Mary was legally bound to marry Joseph but they were not sleeping together.
An angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would become pregnant. Mary did not understand how this was possible since she was virgin; but the angel told her that the power of God would cause her to become pregnant and it would be a miracle.
Once she became pregnant she told Joseph, who was rightly concerned and decided to break the betrothal.
Then he was told in a dream that Mary was pregnant through the power of God and so he decided to go through with the marriage.
At the same time the Roman government decided to take a census. For the Jews this meant that they had to travel to their ancestral home in order to be counted. For Joseph, this meant Bethlehem.
Joseph took his pregnant wife with him.
Once there, he could not find a room in the inns (hotels), and so they stayed where the animals stayed. The Gospels do not say where the animals were; they could have been in a stable, barn, or cave.
Once Jesus was born he was put in a manger (where the food for the animals was placed, like a small trough).
Some shepherds showed up to welcome the new baby.
Some “Magi” also showed up. Scholars are not clear what a Magi was; it is actually a Greek word with no clear translation. But they brought three expensive gifts and so it is popularly believed that there were three of them, hence “3 Wise Men” or “3 Kings.”
Prior to going to see Jesus, the Magi had gone to Jerusalem to look for Jesus. Why? They were looking for the new king and so naturally they headed to Jerusalem, which was the capital.
They told King Herod the Great they were looking for the new king. Herod did not know anything about this and told them to find the new king and come back and tell him where the new king was located.
They eventually found Jesus in Bethlehem. They were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod and so went home.
King Herod realized that the Magi were not coming back and he was furious.
He still wanted to kill the new “king,” though, and so had all the baby boys two years and under in that area killed.
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt.
After Herod died, they moved back to Nazareth. Herod died in 4 BC.
Every year they went to Jerusalem (perhaps for Passover), but something different happened when Jesus was twelve. While returning from a trip to Jerusalem, his parents realized that Jesus was not in their group. They went back to Jerusalem and found him talking with the teachers in the Temple. This may have been an early form of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony which Jewish boys go through. ("Bar Mitzvah" means "son of the Covenant"; Jewish girls today go through a Bat Mitzvah; "Bat Mitzvah means "daughter of the Covenant.)
We do not know of any event In Jesus’ life from the ages of twelve until thirty. A good guess would be that he worked as a carpenter, since Mary's husband (considered Jesus' earthly father), Joseph, was a carpenter.
Age 30 to 33 (death, burial, resurrection, ascension)
When Jesus was around thirty he was baptized by John the Baptist.
He then chose twelve men to be his 12 Apostles and undertook a three-year period of ministry, where he traveled, preached, taught, healed, performed miracles, and raised people from the dead. This was probably from AD 27-30.
We know it was a three-year period because the Gospel of John states that from the time Jesus was baptized until he was crucified three Passovers occurred. Since Passover occurred once a year, this means that there was a period of three years (or so) from the time he was baptized until he was crucified.
The last week of his life (when he was 33 years old):
The Sunday before he was crucified
Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey or colt. Many people took palm branches and laid them on the path for the donkey or colt to ride on as he entered Jerusalem. This is known as the Triumphal Entry. [Today this is called "Palm Sunday."]
Jesus was in and around Jerusalem from Sunday to Thursday.
Thursday was Passover and so Jesus gathered with his 12 Apostles to eat the Passover meal. This is also known as the Last Supper, since it was the last meal that Jesus ate before he died.
During the meal Jesus took bread and wine and initiated the service of Communion or Lord's Supper. [Christians do not celebrate Passover because Jesus replaced it with Communion.]
During the meal Judas left and went to the Jewish authorities. He had prearranged to guide them to Jesus' secret prayer place at night.
After the meal was over, Jesus and the 11 Apostles went to the Garden of Gethsemane so Jesus could pray.
Thursday night to Friday early morning (still at night)
After awhile, Judas came up with Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers and they arrested Jesus. Jesus was taken to the High Priest's house, then to see Pilate (the Roman governor), then to see Herod (ruler of the area where Jesus lived)(the son of Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus as an infant and who died in 4 BC (see above)), and then back to see Pilate. To find out why Pilate was in charge of Jerusalem instead of one of Herod the Great's sons, go here.
Pilate questioned Jesus and realized that he was not guilty of breaking the Roman rules (pay taxes and obey the Roman laws) and so wanted to release him. But the Jewish leaders encouraged the crowd to get angry.
Judas realized he made a mistake and tried to get the Jewish leaders to release Jesus. They refused to do so and so Judas committed suicide.
Morning: Then Pilate thought of a plan. Pilate had a custom of releasing one prisoner per year (to help keep the Jews from rebelling) and so had the prisoner Barabbas brought up from prison. Barabbas was a murderer, not the kind of person you want walking your streets. Pilate brought Barabbas before the crowd because he thought that if he offered the crowd Jesus or Barabbas to release, the crowd would certainly yell out to release Jesus.
So Pilate asked the people which person they wanted him to release. To his surprise, the crowd yelled, "Barabbas."
Pilate asked the crowds what they wanted him to do with Jesus, and they shouted, "Crucify him."
So Pilate had Jesus beaten (which was the normal procedure to do before crucifixions) and then crucified outside the city gates, which was the normal practice.
Jesus died that Friday afternoon. The Jews did not allow anyone to be on a cross on the Sabbath, which was from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Therefore if anyone was on the cross by Friday afternoon and still alive, the Romans broke their legs, which hastened death. Then they were taken down and buried before the sun set. But when the Romans came to Jesus, he had already died. He did this of his own will after saying "It is finished."
He was taken to a burial cave and buried late Friday afternoon.
He was in the tomb the rest of Friday, all day Saturday, and Sunday up until sometime that morning.
Sunday morning: Jesus arose from the dead. He appeared to several people.
For the next month-and-a-half, Jesus met with various people. According to Christian belief, Jesus did not live in a house or travel around, he appeared to people here-and-there over that time period.
After about a month-and-a-half, Jesus took his 11 Apostles (Judas had committed suicide) to a hilltop, spoke to them, and then rose up and ascended to the sky and went out of their sight.
©2010, 2012 Mark Nickens
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