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But there uncertainty did not last long… Miraculously, three days later, Jesus came back to life. He appeared to the women and then later to the disciples. They couldn’t believe their eyes! What was going on here?! Jesus is alive! Jesus spoke words to the disciples that have continually been spoken and acted upon for the last 2,000 years: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. And you are to be my witness in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world. Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And don’t forget, I am with you always, even to the very end of the ages.” No way! Jesus brought God’s kingdom here on earth, not through force or military bloodshed, but through love. The kingdom of heaven is here wherever people believe in Jesus and love their neighbor. The kingdom of God is not limited to a country or a certain ethnic group of people. The kingdom of God is available to people of all nations and tribes and tongues. And it was true. Not too long after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Spirit of Jesus descended on the disciples like fire! The Holy Spirit gave them power to bear witness of what Jesus had done for the sins of the world and the kind of life He modeled for the people of God to live—one of love. The disciples took this Good News (the Gospel) into Jerusalem, and in Judea, and next-door into Samaria, and even to the ends of the known world. This was the start of what we call the church—the new special people of God who identify themselves with God’s rescuer of humanity, Jesus. The church wasn’t perfect and the world around them wasn’t perfect either. This new message of hope and love wasn’t readily received. The disciples were beaten, thrown in jail, and some were eventually killed for telling people about the Jesus way of living. But this suffering did not stop the Good News about Jesus. More and more people across the world heard about Jesus and believed. They joined together in houses, rich and poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, and got along in love in the name of Jesus. And the church grew and grew. However, some communities of Jesus’ special people went bad and stopped looking like the Jesus they were following. Apostles (disciples of Jesus, or leaders) wrote letters to these churches and encouraged them to live the right way according to what Jesus taught. Some of these letters are in our Bibles today. Additionally, at least four different accounts of the life of Jesus were recorded which are called Gospels in our Bibles (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The story of the church starting, growing, and spreading to the ends of the world is called the Acts of the Apostles. Our Bibles end with a special book called The Revelation. It was written by the Apostle John and was a vision he received from the Holy Spirit. Basically, this cryptic vision speaks of the world through the eyes of Jesus in the spiritual realm—out of this world kind of stuff. Toward the end of The Revelation, the church gets a glimpse of what eternity looks like and the renewed heavens and earth. It is interesting that the eternal life looks a lot like the beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis—the Garden of Eden. Everything in the Garden was right—man’s relationship with God and with each other. “Behold,” Jesus says, “I am making all things new.” Rest assured, no matter what kind of suffering or trial the church or you personally is going through, because in Jesus everything is made right and true and perfect in the end.
Followers Of Jesus
THE MASTER STORY
a storied catechism of the Christian faith for students seeking to understand and live out the Christian faith
Life of Jesus— Resurrection The Church Starts The Church Grows The Church Letters The Revelation
BIBLICAL STORY ~ HISTORICAL STORY ~ CURRENT STORY
The New Testament Story
Introduction & Background Life of Jesus— Birth Life of Jesus— Beginning Ministry Life of Jesus— Miracles & Healings
Life of Jesus— Parables & Teachings Life of Jesus— In Jerusalem, Last Supper, Betrayal, Arrest, Trials, Death, & Burial
Around 400 years have passed since the close of the Old Testament. The special people of God are living in the land promised to them by God, but they are not in charge— the Romans are. Israel is allowed to follow their God as long as they don’t get out of control. The Israelites believe that a Messiah, deliverer, will rescue them from the evil Roman Empire and re-establish control over their land. Meanwhile, God is working out a plan to rescue His special people, but it won’t look like the way they think it will look. God picks a young woman named Mary to give birth to the Messiah. God’s angel Gabriel tells Mary to name the special baby, Jesus, because he will save many people from their sins (Jesus is the Greek way of saying the Hebrew name Joshua). Mary is engaged to a man named Joseph who is reassured that his soon-to-be wife hasn’t been sleeping around on him. When the Roman Empire required everyone to pay taxes in their hometown, Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem. It was in this town in a stable where the animals stayed that Jesus the Messiah was born. Shepherds had received words from a heavenly host of singing angels and came to see what the angels were so excited about. Wise men from the East had followed a star and visited baby Jesus bearing unique gifts. King Herod, a governor over Israel for the Romans, heard about this Messiah baby and wanted him dead. Herod gave an order to kill all baby boys born in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus escaped to Egypt until it was safe. When they returned to Israel, they lived in a town called Nazareth. The account of Luke says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men” (2:52).
taught that if someone hurts you then you must let it go and not get even. What is the greatest commandment, Jesus was asked once. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And then to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus spoke about kindness, mercy, forgiveness, loving your enemies, taking up a cross and following him. The things Jesus spoke about really angered the “perfect” religious leaders of the day. They taught that people had to obey everything in the law a certain way and that was the way to bring about God’s kingdom. Others taught that you had to take the kingdom by force by being a sort of God terrorist and killing Romans. Others thought that by joining what the Romans did would keep people safe. Still others thought that by removing themselves out of society and living in the desert, they wouldn’t have to worry about it. Meanwhile, Jesus kept on teaching. He told parables like the sower sowing seed which is the word of God. The story of the prodigal son in which a rebellious son wants to come home and his father joyfully welcomes him. Jesus said that in three days he would rise. Jesus talked about Judgment Day. Jesus told about the master of a vineyard who had wicked tenants who would not pay their bill and eventually killed the master’s son. This story foreshadows what is going to happen to Jesus (who is the “master” of the world’s Son). Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on an unridden donkey to people shouting: “Hosanna!” This was nothing less than a coronation ceremony for a king. The people thought that Jesus was going to set himself up as king, kick out the Romans, and take control of Israel. Instead, Jesus went into the Temple and knocked over some tables because the house of God had been turned into a crooked marketplace instead of a house of prayer. Jesus told his disciples that he would soon die and then be raised to life after three days. This statement really confused the 12 disciples because they thought they were going to be Jesus’ right hand men when he became king and kicked out the Romans. As the time for Jesus to “be exalted as king” drew near, he gathered his disciples for a private meal during the Jewish Passover. During the supper, Jesus broke bread and said that it was his body that would be broken for them and they were supposed to eat it. Jesus also took the wine and said that this was his blood that would be shed for the forgiveness of sins and they were supposed to drink it. We know this to be communion today, but it was really confusing to the disciples what Jesus meant. After supper, Jesus took Peter, James and John to a garden to pray. Jesus prayed so hard that his sweat turned into drops of blood. He prayed that what he was about to suffer (being exalted as king) could be done another way. But alas, Jesus was the perfect lamb that needed to be sacrificed for the sins of Israel (thus the world). As Jesus finished praying, one of the Twelve, Judas, approached and kissed him. This kiss was the signal for the soldiers that accompanied Judas to take Jesus into custody. Jesus was betrayed with a kiss from a close friend. Jesus was put on trial before the Jewish religious leaders and found guilty. Jesus was sent before the Roman judge Pilate, who found nothing wrong with him. But to quiet the Jewish mob that were bent on killing this Jesus, Pilate washed his hands of the matter and gave Jesus over to the Jewish religious leaders to be crucified. After a ferocious beating and many lashes with a whip, Jesus was forced to carry the rough wooden cross that he would be hung on up a hill just outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha. It was there that Jesus was nailed to the cross and where the Son of God was exalted as king. Jesus suffered a most horrible death to take upon himself (the perfect sacrifice) the sins of the world. After about six hours, Jesus died. Those standing as witnesses when Jesus died later testified that he truly was the Son of God. Friends of Jesus asked permission to take His body and bury it in a tomb. After preparing the body for burial, the body was placed in its final resting place and the tomb was sealed with a stone. Roman guards were placed at the entrance of the tomb to prevent anyone from stealing or disturbing the body. The disciples were terrified that they would suffer the same fate as Jesus and so they hid in an upper room. The disciples were bummed because their hopes for God’s kingdom on this earth to come
Around the same time as Jesus’ birth, a cousin was born named John. He became known as John the Baptist because he was the one chosen to prepare Israel to be ready for Jesus to come and minister and teach. John lived in the wilderness, ate wild honey and locusts and baptized people in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of sins. One day, John’s cousin, Jesus showed up to be baptized by John. When John immersed Jesus in the water and brought him out of the water, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove and a voice declared from heaven: “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The voice was from God. Right after he was baptized, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. And while Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, He was tempted by Satan three times. Unlike the people of Israel in the wilderness back in the Old Testament, Jesus did not give in to temptation. Upon his return, Jesus gathered some followers, twelve to be exact—Peter, Andrew, John, James, Matthew, James, Simon, Thomas, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Phillip, and Judas. Do you think the number twelve is significant? Yes. Jesus is re-gathering the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus is re-living Israel’s story. While Jesus had twelve disciples that followed Him, many others followed Him, too. Jesus performed many miracles and healings. He turned water to wine at a wedding. He healed many people who were blind and deaf. Jesus fed 5,000 people, calmed a violent storm, walked on water, delivered people who were possessed by demons, and raised some people to life. He touched those who were paralyzed and had leprosy. He healed those who were sick and afflicted with illness. Jesus show the miraculous and healing power of God in the lives of those who most needed His help. Jesus also taught many lessons and told many stories. Jesus was proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand—meaning God’s rule was happening right now. Well, the people of Israel looked around and saw the Romans still in charge and thought to themselves, “Then why are we still under the Roman rule? It doesn’t look like God has delivered us yet!” Jesus knew that the special people of God wanted him to take over the country by force. He knew that Israel wanted a General Messiah who would kick the Romans out of Israel. But God had a different plan. You see, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was here right now wherever people lived like God wanted people to live—in love. Jesus taught that if you want to be great then you have to serve others. He
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