Lesson 5: The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ
To be a true disciple of Christ means not only to be an admirer and follower, but also to obey and imitate Him. May this lesson help you toward that goal.
The following account from John 20:19-21, 24-29 about "doubting Thomas"
has a great lesson for all of us:
"Then, the same day [the day after Jesus rose from the dead] at evening,
being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the
disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood
in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When He had said
this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were
glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to
you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you…'
"Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them
when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, 'We have
seen the Lord.' So he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the print
of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put
my hand into His side, I will not believe.'
"And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with
them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and
said, 'Peace to you!'
"Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach your finger here, and look at My hands;
and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving,
"And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'
"Jesus said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'"
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The Sources of Information About Jesus' Life and Ministry
The primary sources of information about the life and teachings of Jesus
Christ are the first four books of the New Testament, which are called the
Gospels. Other sources are the many prophecies in the Old Testament about
the future Messiah and the New Testament books in which the apostles explain
many things about Christ and His teachings.
Why are there four Gospels instead of just one? First, the Gospels are not
purely biographies. Each of the four authors are describing what he considers
the most spiritually significant elements of Jesus' life and teachings. Of
course, each author was inspired by God through His Holy Spirit.
There are no real contradictions among the four accounts. The four different
perspectives complement each other and help to fill out the whole picture
of His perfect life. Therefore, there is harmony, continuity and unity among
the four accounts. It's profitable to combine the perspectives into an overall
view, but it's also interesting and profitable to focus on one perspective
at a time.
Summarizing the particular focus of each author can be challenging, but here
is one simplified approach: Matthew announces Jesus as King, Mark presents
Him as Servant, Luke focuses on Him as Man and John highlights Him as God.
Jesus is our perfect model in each of those roles.
What are the meanings of Jesus' primary names and titles?
"And she [Mary] will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name
Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call
His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
He [Andrew] first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found
the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ).
"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples,
saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
We can understand a lot about Jesus and His mission by understanding His
names and titles. Jesus means "savior." Jesus is derived
from the Greek Iesous, which is derived from the Hebrew Yehoshua (from
which we get the English name Joshua).
Jesus truly was and is "God with us." He was and is the Son of God and therefore
God. He was God in the flesh (Luke 1:35; John 20:28).
Messiah (from Hebrew mashiach) means "anointed" or "anointed
one." Although the specific word appears in the Old Testament only in Daniel
9:25-26, many other prophecies promised a Messiah to be sent by God as a deliverer
and liberator. Jesus came to earth the first time to deliver us from our sins
and will come the second time to deliver us from mortality to immortality.
The Greek for Messiah is Christos, from which we get Christ.
Lord means master. Yet sadly, most who called Him Master would not obey Him
as their master.
Jesus usually referred to Himself as "the Son of Man." The reasons for this
have been controversial among scholars, but we can state some likely reasons.
Jesus used the definite article—He was the [unique] Son of Man, not a son
of man. Jesus wanted all to know that He was human, but a very special human.
This idiomatic designation sounded reverential, but it was ambiguous in meaning.
That may pinpoint why Jesus used it, because for most of His ministry, Jesus
avoided referring to Himself as the Son of God or the Messiah or the son of
David. He avoided what might sound political or blasphemous because He didn't
want to stir up violent opposition prematurely.
Perhaps Paul was elaborating on this title when he referred to Jesus as "the
last Adam," since adam is a Hebrew word for man (1 Corinthians 15:45).
"The first man [Adam] was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man [Jesus
Christ] is the Lord from heaven" (verse 47).
Did Jesus exist before His human birth?
John 1:1, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
To learn more about Jesus' preexistence, see Lesson 2 in this series of Free
Bible Study Guides: "The
God Revealed in the Old Testament Was the One Who Became Jesus Christ!"
How was Jesus conceived as a human child?
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed
to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy
God the Father used the Holy Spirit to bring about the conception of Jesus
in the womb of the Jewish virgin named Mary. For further description, see
Matthew 1:19-23 and Luke 1:26-35. And for a description of the Word voluntarily
giving up His divine power and glory to temporarily become a human being,
see Philippians 2:6-8.
What were the circumstances of Jesus' birth?
Luke 2:1, 4-7
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that all the world should be registered [for a census]…
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea,
to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house
and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who
was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed
for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped
Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room
for them in the inn.
The events that followed Jesus' birth are described in the remainder of Luke
2 and in Matthew 2. The exact date of Jesus' birth is unknown, for God does
not want people to celebrate Jesus' birth. To understand why and for thorough
proof that most of the traditions involved in Christmas celebrations are not
from the Bible, see our free booklet Holidays
or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?
What was Jesus' childhood like?
So when they [Joseph and Mary] had performed all things according to the law
of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And
the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the
grace of God was upon Him.
"Is this [Jesus] not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called
Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters,
are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"
Jesus grew up with His mother, stepfather and several younger siblings, the
natural children of Mary and Joseph. Jesus certainly was precocious, being
able at 12 years old to discuss Scripture with scholars at the temple (Luke
2:41-52). And in order to later be the perfect sacrifice and Savior, He never
sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
When, where and how did Jesus begin His ministry?
Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John [the Baptist] at the Jordan to be baptized
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.
After His baptism and His 40-day fast and temptation by Satan, Jesus returned
to Galilee to begin His ministry. Galilee is the area around the Sea of Galilee,
north of Jerusalem.
What was the message that Jesus preached?
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel
of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
The word gospel means "good news." Jesus' message was about God's
plan to offer the opportunity for salvation to all humanity, which means eternal
life in the Kingdom of God!
What else was remarkable and astonishing about Jesus' ministry?
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching
the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds
of disease among the people.
Jesus healed people everywhere He went, which reveals several important things.
His miracles proved that He was sent by God (Acts 2:22). They showed that
He cares for our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs. He loved and
respected all people, regardless of gender, race, age or status, demonstrating
a degree of love the world had never seen and which serves as a role model
for all His future followers (John 13:34-35). He also used miracles to prove
that He had the authority to forgive sins and to heal us of our spiritual
problems (Matthew 9:6).
Is Jesus the foundation and Head of the Church?
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens
with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on
the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being
the chief cornerstone.
And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
Did Jesus die and rise from the dead exactly as He foretold?
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great
fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart
of the earth."
At the close of Jesus' 3½-year ministry, Jesus willingly allowed Himself
to be arrested, tortured, crucified and killed. Jesus' last and most important
sign was His prophecy that He would rise from the dead in three days and would
be in the tomb exactly three days and three nights (Matthew 12:38-40). That
was precisely fulfilled!
Careful study of all the accounts shows He was crucified on a Wednesday afternoon
and was put in the tomb before sundown. He rose from the dead and then left
the tomb exactly three full days later, in the afternoon of the weekly Sabbath
(Saturday). See "The
Chronology of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection" for more details.
After His resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to appear to
His followers several times. Then 40 days after His resurrection, He again
ascended to heaven to be at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 1:1-11).
As Jesus repeatedly promised, He will one day return to earth (verse 11).
And this next time, it will be "with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).
What was the main reason for the life and death of Jesus Christ?
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which
are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have
life in His name.
Christ lived His earthly life to set us an example and to build His Church.
He died for each and every one of us to pay the penalty of our sins so we
can be forgiven of those sins. And He lives again to serve as our Savior,
High Priest and Master (Hebrews 4:14-15).
So what shall we do?
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has
made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter
and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and
you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
After Christ's disciples received the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter preached
a sermon about Jesus being the prophesied Christ and how He had been raised
from the dead and "exalted to the right hand of God" (Acts 2:33). He told
the assembled people, "You crucified" Jesus (verse 36). Of course, most of
that crowd had no direct part in getting Jesus condemned to death. But we
all are guilty indirectly because "all have sinned" and "Christ died for our
sins" (Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3).
When the people were convinced that Jesus was "both Lord and Christ" (verse
36) and that the guilt for His death lay on everyone, many of them asked,
"What shall we do?" They knew they needed to take action. Peter then told
them what each person must do to be forgiven of his or her sins and to receive
the awesome gift of God's Holy Spirit (verse 38). Peter's instruction to repent
and be baptized is just as true today as it was at that time. This is explained
in more detail in our booklet Transforming
Your Life: The Process of Conversion.