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Who was Jesus Christ? What is His relevance for today ?

The primary sources for the details of Jesus' life, public ministry, death and ressurection are found in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which were written approximately between 60 and 90 A.D. However, mention is made of Jesus' in other writings outside of the gospels. Both the Roman Historian Tacitus (c.55-120), and the Jewish writer Josephus (c.37-100), mention Jesus' death by crucifixion.

Jesus Christ was born around 4 B.C. in the town of Bethlehem, a town that was also the Birthplace of David, one of Israel's greatest kings. His first name is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua or Yeshua, which means 'The Lord is Salvation'. The title 'Christ' comes from the Greek Christos : 'Anointed one'. In Hebrew, the term 'Messiah (Hammashiach)' is used.

In both the gospels of Matthew and Luke we find details of Jesus' family tree. An extensive list is provided, indicating Jesus was of the house of David and thus fulfilling the messianic prophecies of Psalm 132:11 and Jeremiah 23:5.

The gospels stress the miraculous nature of Jesus' birth as the son of Mary, a virgin. Again, this fulfilled a messianic prophecy (Isaiah 7:14).

"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
Luke 1:30-33 (KJV).

Jesus' birth as one who would be 'King of the Jews' represented a serious challenge to the Jewish king Herod the Great (c.73 - 4 BC). Herod therefore initiated a massacre of all children under the age of two, in order to remove any threat. Matthew's gospel tells us that Joseph, Jesus' father, had been warned by an angel and so Mary, the Baby Jesus and himself (often referred to collectively as the Holy Family) all fled into Egypt (Matthew 2:14).

Following Herod's death, Jesus and his family returned to Israel, eventually settling in a city called Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). From this time onward until Jesus was about 30, the gospels give no further information as to Jesus' life, apart from Luke 2:42-52, where Jesus is found in the temple at Jerusalem, discussing and debating with the Jewish religious teachers.

The start of Jesus' public ministry

All the gospels refer to Jesus' Baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, an event marking the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.

"And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Mark 1:9-11 (KJV).

Jesus' baptism was followed by a period of forty days of fasting and prayer, spent in a wilderness area successfully resisting the temptations of the devil Greek: diabolos (Luke 4:3-12). His ministry began in earnest in the region of Galilee (what is now the northern part of Israel). Matthew, Mark and Luke all give details of the calling of a select group of twelve men (known as Disciples, a word meaning 'pupil' or 'learner'). This group would later be sent out by Jesus as Apostles (Greek: 'One who is sent') in what Christians call the 'Great Commission':

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV).

A turning point in the ministry came in Matthew 16:16, where one of Jesus' disciples (Peter:Aramaic Kepha, Greek Petros ) states his belief that Jesus is Christ, Son of the Living God:

"And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Matthew 16:16 (KJV).
Jesus teaching and miracles

In John 2, we read of the first of Jesus' miracles: the turning of water in wine at a wedding in Cana. Several other miracles are mentioned in the gospels including the feeding of the 5,000 (found in all four gospels) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).

In Matthew 9:2 we read of the healing of a paralyzed man. Here the gospel writers indicate Jesus' claim to be more than a worker of miracles: he claims forgiveness of sin for the man, something which immediately aroused suspicion as Jewish law mandated that only God could forgive sins. Jesus' teaching was distinctive: he preached forgiveness (Luke 6:28), mutual love (John 13:34) and claimed that belief in him would give eternal life (John 6:40).

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