Story 11 of 12: JESUS
“Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!” This was the message that the Jewish carpenter Jesus took over from his cousin, the prophet John the Baptist. The prophetic silence had ended, and word of Jesus' miracles spread far and wide. The Zealots hoped this would be their military Messiah, the Son of David who would deliver Israel from her enemies, but they were soon disappointed when he started saying things like "Love your enemies" and "Turn the other cheek"! They were not understanding that he came to bring a larger freedom, a freedom from the bondage of sin.
Jesus taught his followers using parables to teach the simple, not the so called “wise”. He came to heal the sick, not the so called "well". Turning all human judgments upside down, he taught that the Kingdom belonged to the childlike and the poor, not the self-righteous elite who were proud of their wealth and showy religious practices, like the Pharisees and Sadducees. These had become "blind leaders", hypocrites following the letter of the Law but not the spirit of the Law. Jesus did things that weren't exactly kosher to them, like healing on the Sabbath, or hanging out with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans and Romans. But Jesus found a faith in these that he often found greater than he found in Israel, to whom his message was originally intended! God's message was indeed destined to become an open invitation to any who would come to believe in him. "Come to me, you who are burdened, and I will give you rest!"
At the same, though, Jesus insisted that he came to fulfill, not abolish, the Law of Moses, which in fact could be summed up in 2 commands: "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Teaching with unprecedented authority, he not only healed (there were other healers around), but he claimed to forgive others' sins, something only God could do. When Jesus asked his apostles who people thought he was, Simon said that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of the living God. Jesus told him that this had been revealed to him by his Father in heaven. He then renamed him Peter, "the rock" and would build his church on that rock.
Offended (or more likely, threatened) at the way this self-proclaimed "Son of Man" took the Mosaic Law into his own hands, they tried tricking him wherever he taught, but he had a way of turning the tables on them (once literally so!), so they finally set out to kill him. On the night of the Passover meal with his apostles, he handed them bread and wine, telling them to eat and drink what were his body and blood, the blood of a "new, everlasting covenant". Later that night the apostle Judas Iscariot led the Jewish leaders to the place Jesus was. They arrested him, convicted him of blasphemy, and handed him over to the Roman authorities to be crucified. Hanging on the cross, he asked his Father to forgive them for not knowing what they were doing, commended his spirit into his Father's hands, and died, having accomplished what he came to do.
On the third day he appeared - bodily - to his disciples, confirming their belief in Resurrection. He told them that he would send the Holy Spirit to explain everything, and commissioned them to take his message to the ends of the earth, baptizing, teaching, and forgiving sins. "And behold, I am with you until the end of time."
Did God show his face?
When one considers how absurd it is to call any human "God", it is easy to understand what led the Jewish and Roman authorities to execute him.
Jesus is never presented as a "son" of God in the sense that we are all sons and daughters of God, but as God's only "begotten", born of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit." Nothing less.
The posters, billboards, and signs with "Mk 3:16" on them do effectively summarize the gospel: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that those who believe in him might have eternal life."
Jesus was obsessed with doing his father's will, often drawing away from the crowds to pray in private. Often referring to God as "Abba" (which is closer to "Dad" than to "Father"), the way he transformed their legalistic religion into a genuine relationship with God was more than the religious establishment at the time could handle.
Still, it is not right to blame Jesus' death on either the Jews or the Romans, since from both came his first followers. His own stated purpose was to lay down his life for the sins of the "whole world".
What 2 rules sum up the whole Law of Moses and all the Prophets?
Why is it inaccurate to blame the Jews or the Romans as a whole for Jesus' death, and what was his own stated purpose?