Jesus is arguably the most significant man who ever lived. Time itself is divided by reference to him – BC (‘before Christ’) and AD (‘in the year of our Lord’, where Lord is a reference to Jesus). Even though many references have now changed to “common era” (BCE and CE) the years are still numbered with reference to Jesus’ life.
Yet Jesus is more than just a handy reference point for numbering the years. As he stands at the middle of time (as it were), Jesus also stands in the middle God’s story, and everything God is doing in our world is centred around Jesus.
The world God made perfect was spoiled by sin (because of the actions of our first parents). The Bible ends with the spoiled world made perfect again. Jesus is God’s way of bringing that about.
Jesus the man
Jesus was born in a small rural town roughly 2000 years ago, into a lower-class family, and in scandalous circumstances to a teenage virgin mum (Mary). He was brought up in a ‘backwater’ region, far from the centre of religious life in Jerusalem. He took up the trade of his ‘father,’ Joseph, until he began his public ministry at the age of 30.
Over the next 3 years, Jesus performed many miracles, preached about the Kingdom of God and salvation, and proclaimed that He was God by His word and His works. As prophesied in the Old Testament and predicted by Jesus, he was crucified on a Roman cross to save humanity from sin, Satan and death. On the third day, Jesus rose from death and appeared to hundreds before visibly ascending into the clouds, to join His Heavenly Father.
Jesus came proclaiming ‘The kingdom of God is near’ because the kingdom had drawn near in his person. Jesus followed after the ministry of John the Baptist, who preached repentance for sin (sorrow over and turning away from sin to and back to God), and pointed to himself as the fulfilment of John’s preaching and of all the Old Testament promises.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus proclaimed that true life consisted in following him. He said the work God requires is to believe in him (John 6:29), and that He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). There is only one way to God, because only Jesus lived the good life we can’t; only Jesus has dealt with our sin in his death, taking the punishment we deserve for it; only Jesus rose from the dead and is powerful enough and loving enough to do what is required to save us.
For those who believe in him, Jesus promises eternal life, abundant joy, the help of the Holy Spirit and reconciliation with God the Father. Those who believe in Jesus are freed from bondage to sin (and its consequences) to live for him.
Soon after Jesus’ crucifixion, Rabbi Gamaliel (who was no friend of Jesus) advised those who plotted to kill Jesus on how to respond to the threat of those who claimed Jesus was alive. “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38–39). It started with 12 disciples Jesus called to follow him. Today, Jesus is worshipped globally as nothing less than God by more than 2 billion people (including over 630 million evangelicals).
Jesus has commissioned us to continue His mission (Matthew 28:18-20) in sacrificially serving the world and proclaiming the good news of reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sin and new life through faith in Jesus and trust in all he has done.