Many people believe Jesus is an example for us to follow, or is he something more? Did Jesus live a life different from what we live merely as human beings? He is said to have lived in a father-son or family relationship to God.
In Greek three words are used for life, one refers to soul, or natural human desires, and “psyche” or mind in English. A second word relates to organs and physiological processes and is the source of the word biology in English. The third, refers to energized life in contrast to that which is dead or motionless.
A fourth kind of life,talked about by Jesus and his followers in the New Testament, is Eternal Life. The term “Eternal Life,” includes the term for energized life. What makes energized life become “Eternal” life?”
Here is what I think.
Our relationship to God and the quality that brings to our life makes life eternal. God sent Jesus to show us and give us eternal life. Eternal life is the kind of life we need to live in God’s Kingdom, bringing truth and justice to our relationships. Eternal life, in scientific terms, may be described as a quantum jump from ordinary biological life to Spiritual Life provided and guided by the Spirit of God. You experience life now with one foot in heaven now, figuratively speaking.
As Jesus went about living this new kind of life, many felt threatened. The Romans and Jews who were in power wanted to maintain the status-quo, and considered Jesus dangerous to Jewish relations with the Roman Empire which had overwhelming political and military power. They feared an uprising and its consequences.
Some of the Jewish leaders were very worried about the safety of their people when the potential for revolution was rising. They believed along with Caiaphas, the high priest, that it is better for the people to have the death of one man than to have the nation destroyed.
Rome was noted for crushing whole nations that rebelled. The Jewish leaders wanted to stop that from happening. As Jesus’ popularity rose, it became necessary to stop him, for their own sakes and for the general welfare.
Jesus could have escaped, as he had earlier when Herod of Galilee was looking for him. Instead, he went to Jerusalem, knowing that the Romans crucified those who were popular with the people and considered potential contenders to Roman rule.
Facing certain death, Jesus promised his closest disciples that God would send the Spirit to comfort and empower them (John 14:25-27; Acts 1:4-8, 2:1-21). His greater mission in life was handed to his followers.
The prayer he had taught them early in their training is a synopsis, summary, of his goals and purposes. Here is a modern paraphrase from Matthew 6:5-14 and Luke 11:1-13, based on English definitions of Hebrew and Greek vocabulary.
“Our Father above, as your children may we keep your name Holy and Good. May you rule in our lives and your kingdom rules be put into practice among us. May your delight and desire be done upon the earth as it is above. Give us our needed nourishment for each day. Forgive us when we fail to do what we ought to do. Lead us. Keep us away from temptation and keep on rescuing us from evil. For the ruling authority and basic counsel, the ability and power, praise, honor, and glory above all is yours into all time. So be it.”
The Lord’s Prayer, paraphrased,
from Matthew 6 and Luke 11
Jesus, leader of those who followed his example for living, and political hope of many who wanted to overthrow Roman rule, literally gave his human life that his people might be spared. He was crucified.
With his death, the Jewish people’s revolt and subsequent crushing by Rome was averted until another generation in A.D. 70. Besides being our example of life in the Family of God, Jesus kept the spirit of the God’s law given to the Jewish faith. Not that he satisfied people all the time or their understanding and interpretation of the Jewish Law, but that he loved God with all his being (First Great Commandment) and others as himself (Second Great Commandment. (See Matthew 22:34-40.)
The record says that as a child he grew in favor with God and man. At his baptism as an adult, God anointed him with the Spirit, poured God’s Spirit on and into Jesus. Perhaps someone saw a dove lighting on Jesus and we have the dove as the symbol of peace and of the Holy Spirit today.
In the ancient golden years of Judaism, when a prophet or priest “anointed” someone, it indicated that the person had been chosen by God to be a prophet, or a priest, or a king. The terms Christ (in Greek) and Messiah (from Hebrew), were used to indicate the “Anointing” or “The Anointed One.”
Therefore, the word “Christ,” as my Jewish friends and relatives tell me, is not Jesus’ last name; it is a title. In Jesus time, the Messiah was one who was to come to deliver the Jews from oppressive rulers. Other titles with similar meanings were Savior, Redeemer, and Deliverer. Political rulers and officials were called “Lord.” Even today we have the House of Lords as the second chamber of Parliament of the United Kingdom.
For Jews, the term “LORD,” was and is a substitute for the SACRED NAME of G-D, which was never spoken, perhaps physically could not be voiced, since there are no hard consonants in the SACRED NAME. The only sound is the sound of wind or air passing and is written with the English letters “YHWH,” however, the word Hashem is spoken or written in its place in some Jewish texts. It is thought to mean, “I am” or “I will be what I will be.” To me this indicates that we don’t put any limits on what God might be or do. God is free to be.
Jewish political leaders in Old Testament times were considered shepherds of the people, even as David had been a shepherd of sheep before being called and anointed King of Israel. David expresses his covenant agreement with the LORD in Psalm 2. In II Samuel 7, Nathan’s prophecy to David in the words of the LORD gave a promise to establish David’s house and kingdom forever. At the time Jesus lived, the Jewish kings, governors, and even priests were appointed by the Romans and Roman appointees. These leaders were very sensitive to pleasing the Romans.
Jesus announced the nearness of the Kingdom of God. He described it in terms of relationships with God, people and possessions rather than political and geographical borders.
Jesus was called Son of David and his ancestry traced through David in two lines. One line was traced to Abraham, who was forbidden to sacrifice his son and provided a ram instead (Mt. 1, Gen 22). The other line was traced back to Adam and God, through David and Abraham (Luke 3).
The Roman rulers, called Caesar, often had temples built where they themselves would be worshiped as Gods. That is very different from being a shepherd of God’s people!
Some later Caesars established a rule to test the loyalty of the inhabitants of any conquered country. The requirement was to bow down to Caesar’s statue and call him “Lord.” Sometimes sacrifices were demanded, which was similar to the practice of many religions in those days, including Judaism.
If the person refused, and many Jews and Christians did refuse, it could mean death by any of several methods, often by crucifixion. You can see that a definite conflict existed between the Roman rulers and the Jews in Jesus’ time, and later between the Roman rulers and the Christians also.
According to the records we have in the New Testament, God was pleased with Jesus and so were many of the people, especially the poor and sick, and those who wanted to overthrow the Roman rulers.
How did people know that God was pleased? They saw sick people healed through the ministry of Jesus and his followers. Twice they heard of people who were reckoned dead being brought back to life. Some of his disciples were with Jesus during a mountain retreat and saw Jesus change appearance, becoming “transfigured” with Elijah and Moses beside him. Then God spoke to them saying they should listen to Jesus (Luke 9:28-36; II Peter 1:16-18).
We remember that God is not only merciful, but also is just, so it is vitally important to note that Jesus pleased God, studying, praying, listening and doing what God asked him to do. He also took part in at least some of the Jewish sacrificial feasts and ceremonies. His followers saw him as a righteous person without any “sin” or wrongdoing.
Some strands of Jewish prophetic literature called for righteous living and justice in preference to the streams of sacrifices that were offered amid flagrant disregard for the Mosaic law. (See Amos 5:22-24 and Micah 6:8.) Nevertheless, sacrificial rites were still dominant features of both Jewish and non-Jewish worship in Jesus’ time.
The writer of the New testament book to the Hebrews used analogies of the sacrificial system of Judaism to support the arrival of the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah, whereby the Kingdom of God is established. (See Hebrews 8 and 12:28, Jeremiah 31:31-34.) Here he says:
For this reason he (Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.
Hebrews 9:15 NRSV
In the book of Revelation, chapters 5 through 7, the writer pictures Jesus as the Worthy Lamb of God. In sacrificial terms, Jesus, having been made perfect and learned obedience through suffering, his death could be used by God to provide eternal salvation and righteousness as a gift to others as part of a New Covenant. As a consequence, those who are experiencing salvation, those who accept the “new deal” also work for God’s will to be done, offering new kinds of sacrifices of praise, doing good, and sharing what they have.
After the crucifixion, Jesus’ closest followers were puzzled when they learned his body was missing from the tomb and astonished when they saw him alive, but changed. They still were able to recognize him, although with some difficulty since they had not expected to see him again. They came to believe God had resurrected him from the dead and changed his body to a new body with new capabilities.
This was further evidence to them that God was pleased with Jesus and acting in a powerful way in their time. The final reason they believed, was their experience as they received the power of the Holy spirit, promised by Jesus and their prophets from the past. (John 14:26, Acts 1 and 2, Joel 2, Jeremiah 31:31-34.)
Regardless of what we believe regarding a literal resurrection (a quantum jump of physical mass into spiritual mass?), the disciples’ experience of Jesus and the events that took place soon afterward inspired them to launch a movement that they ascribed to God’s power invoked through Jesus name. God’s Spirit is the power.
May it be so also for you.
See My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul delights. I will invest Him with My Spirit and He will announce justice to the gentiles. He will not quarrel or shout, nor shall anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed. He will not extinguish a smoldering wick until he carries justice to victory. And the nations shall hope in His name.
Isaiah 42:1-4, Matthew 12:18-21 Modern Language Bible
What do you think? Was Jesus merely an example or something more?