Caring About the Life of Jesus
To be sure, some throughout history have neglected (Jesus’) real life, paying attention only to His teachings.
The authors of the biblical Gospels, on the contrary, cared about the life of Jesus. They meticulously gathered oral and written traditions about Jesus that had been preserved by the early Christian community, weaving these remembrances into tapestries that present historically credible accounts of Jesus’ ministry even as they portray Him as Messiah.
The Life of Jesus Shows Us God the Father
What difference does the life of Jesus make for us? First of all, His life shows us God the Father. The Gospel of John explains, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14, NIV). Jesus, as the Word Incarnate, “who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18, NIV).
Thus, Jesus can say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, NIV).
Jesus reveals God through His words, to be sure. For example, He teaches us to address God as Abba, an Aramaic term that means both “father” and “daddy.” Jesus also speaks to God as Abba, modeling the content of His instruction. Moreover, in His exemplary love for people, including the downtrodden and the outcasts, Jesus embodies the love of the Father.
Ultimately, Jesus reveals the Father’s love by choosing the cross. In the stirring image of the crucified Son, we see the love of the God who “so loved the world” (John 3:16, NIV).
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The Life of Jesus Shows Us How to Live
Through words and deeds, Jesus teaches us how to live. The One who called us to forgive others is the same One who forgave the Roman soldiers who crucified Him.
Wherever Jesus was, God’s reign was present and active. Jesus healed the sick, ate with sinners, cast out demons, welcomed children and preached the Good News of the Kingdom, not only because these were right things to do, but also because they reflected the presence of God on earth.
Thus, when we imitate Jesus, we do more than tally up His commands so we can be sure to obey them. We also learn what it means to offer our life fully to God our King, seeking His will, ministering in His power, announcing His presence and inviting people to experience His salvation–just as Jesus did.
The Life of Jesus Helps Us Experience His Compassion
Hebrews 4:15 explains, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (NIV). Why can Jesus sympathize with us this way? Because He was fully human, even as He was also fully divine.
Hebrews reveals the theological truth of Jesus’ full humanity. The Gospels illustrate this truth in living color. Here we watch Jesus weep (John 11:35), get angry and thirsty (Mark 3:5, John 19:28) and be deeply grieved (Mark 14:34). We see Him moved with compassion (Mark 6:31) and tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). In one of the most stirring scenes in all of Scripture, we observe Jesus struggling with the knowledge of His impending crucifixion yet wanting God’s will to be done (Mark 14:32-42).
So when we’re struggling, aching or doubting–when we’re going through all the challenges of human life–we have in Jesus One who truly understands, One who knows our sorrows and our joys.
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Immanuel–God With Us
His humanity wouldn’t be remarkable, since all babies are fully human, except for the fact that Jesus was also fully divine. The Baby laid in a manger was not just an inspired human being, but also Immanuel, which means in Hebrew, “God with us.”
To be sure, Jesus was a great teacher, a miracle worker and the Savior who bore our sin on the cross. He was fully man, whose perfect human life helps us know God as our Father. And He was really God with us. His life shows us who God is and how God wants us to live. When we wonder what God is like, we need to look only to Jesus.
Moreover, in the One called Immanuel, God has drawn near to us. Therefore, we have confidence to draw near to God, assured that He understands our weaknesses, forgives our sins and welcomes us into His presence.
As you celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, may you also remember His fully-human, fully-divine life. May you know God more deeply, so that you might live more fully–not just in this joyous season–but all year long.
- »Read the full text of this article online in the December 2007 issue of Decision magazine.Bible verses marked NIV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colo. ©Billy Graham Evangelistic Association