Jesus’ Biography and Character

The Life of Christ

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” (John 1:1).

by Joe Megacz

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The story of the Life of Christ (from the Greek christos, meaning “anointed”) technically begins at Jordan, when Jesus was baptized and begotten, or anointed, with the holy Spirit at age thirty. At that moment, Jesus became Jesus Christ, Jesus the anointed. But in a very real sense, the Life of Christ began much earlier, long before even his birth as a babe in Bethlehem. The story of the Life of Christ began in the past unfathomably remote when God Himself was alone, and His creative work had not yet begun.

Jesus’ Pre-Human Existence

Proverbs 8:22-30 speaks of Jesus’ pre-human existence. The one speaking these words is identified in verse 12 as, “I, wisdom,” a metaphor for Jesus in his pre-human existence (1 Corinthians 1:30). These verses give us an important insight into the very beginnings of all creation. Namely, that Jesus was the very first creation of God, but that he was not co-eternal with God (of the same lifespan). Therefore, Jesus could not be God. In that very beginning, Jesus’ name was not yet Jesus. He was given that name when he was born on earth.

John 1:1-3 tells us of Jesus’ earliest title and what his role was in the creative work. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” The Greek word translated “word” in verse one is logos, and its meaning signifies “representative” or “agent.”

The expression in verse one, “and the Word was God” seems to contradict Proverbs 8, which says the Logos was brought forth, or created by God. The resolution of this seeming contradiction requires a little knowledge of Greek grammar. The Greek language does not put the indefinite article “a” in front of nouns. But the Greek does put the definite article “the” in front of nouns when the speaker or the writer uses it. In Greek, “the” is ho but is written as o with an accent mark above it. In the Greek, “the God” would be ho Theos. Where the King James Version says, “the Word was God,” the definite article ho is not present, so John 1:1 should read “the Word also was a God,” meaning, the word was a mighty one, but not, the God.

The logos’ role in the creative work was as a contractor, building the universe and all its inhabitants according to the design, or blueprints, developed by the great architect, Jehovah.

Jesus’ Boyhood

We move forward to the time when Jesus was twelve years old. The account is in Luke 2:4052. “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he
was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast” (verses 41,42).

Deuteronomy 16:16 states, “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.” The verses in Luke tell us that Joseph and Mary were careful to observe the requirements of the Mosaic Law as well as they could and also taught their children, including Jesus, the Hebrew history, culture, and responsibilities to God and the Law from an early age.  Age thirteen (twelve for girls) is considered an important milestone in the lives of Jewish children today. Then, a boy becomes a “Son of the Law” (Hebrew, bar mitzvah) and thenceforth is responsible for keeping the commandments
on his own. Although Bar-Mitzvah ceremonies were instituted centuries after our Lord’s First Advent, no doubt he took his responsibilities under the Law seriously. This prompted him
to seek out the scholars and doctors of the Law who could teach him.

Luke 2:49 gives us Jesus’ reply to his distraught parents who discovered he was missing from the caravan returning home and found him only after three anxious days of searching, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” The sense of the boy’s reply was, “You have brought me to the age at which I am now, independently, a Son of the Law. Did you not realize that I would be in the place where I could best learn about that Law?” (A better translation for “Father’s business” is “the things of my Father.”)

There are two important lessons in this account. First, those who are parents should likewise follow Joseph and Mary’s example by instilling in our children a knowledge of, and respect for, God’s Truth in the Divine Plan of the Ages, and especially instilling in them God’s standards of righteous conduct. Second, those who are still young should follow Jesus’ example and seek to associate with those who can expand our knowledge of the things of God.

Jesus’ Baptism

At the age of thirty, another important milestone took place in the maturing of Jesus into a man, fully qualified to serve in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple (see Numbers 4:1-3). The account is found in Matthew 3:13-17. John the Baptist had been active in baptizing errant Israelites for the repentance of sin. Baptism demonstrated one’s recognition that they had sinned in not obeying the Law. It also expressed repentance and desire to do better and come into harmony with God. When Jesus came to be baptized, John at first refused to baptize him, correctly discerning that Jesus was perfect and had no need to repent of any sin, since he had committed none.

Jesus’ gentle insistence showed that Jesus’ baptism was different from all the others John had performed. It was different in that (1) it showed his own decision to voluntarily submit his will to God’s and to sacrifice his life for the sins
of others, and (2) it established water baptism as a symbol of consecration for his followers to use. It is important to recognize the difference between John’s baptism for the repentance of sin, and Jesus’ baptism unto death in sacrifice.

Jesus’ Temptations in the Wilderness

(1) In Matthew 4:1-4, we read: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, ‘If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.’ But he answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’”

Jesus was tempted to use spiritual favors and powers for personal profit. Satan said to Jesus, “you are hungry. Use your power to perform miracles to satisfy your fleshly hunger; turn the stones into bread.” The temptation for us is from the opposite direction — ease up on your spirituality, or else you will lose some of the material and fleshly benefits and advantages you already enjoy: popularity in school, the esteem
of neighbors and co-workers who think you are a great person and lots of fun to be with. Note the positiveness of Jesus’ reply. This is a key to winning the battle against the
adversary. He is persistent and will try again. We must dismiss the tempter once and for all with firmness in our refusal.

Underlying this temptation was a challenge by Satan for Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God. In other words, “Show me what you’ve got … prove to me that you are the Messiah.” But Jesus did not need to prove anything to Satan. He needed only to prove himself to his Father. We, too, can be challenged by the world and distracted from proving ourselves to our Father and His Son. We need not prove our dedication to anyone but them.

(2) Jesus’ second temptation in the wilderness is found in Matthew 4:5-7: “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, ‘If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ Jesus said unto him, ‘It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’”

This temptation has echoes of the first. The same underlying challenge is there: “If thou be the Son of God.” This time the challenge was to prove it to the people in general. “Make a
big scene that everyone will either see or hear about, and you will be accepted by the nation as Messiah. That is what you want, is it not?”  The second similarity of this temptation to the first is the suggestion for Jesus to use his powers for his own well-being and protection. We learn from this that we should not force God to respond according to our actions and choices. We should not put ourselves in a situation where God has to take an action that we design, that we want. Jesus skillfully responded that we should not test God. We are to humbly follow the path God has laid out for us, not trying to direct our own lives and exercise our own wills.

(3) Jesus’ third temptation in the wilderness is found in Matthew 4:8-10: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, ‘all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’ Then saith Jesus unto him, ‘Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’”

This time Satan gave up asking Jesus to prove that he was the son of God. Instead, he offered to “cooperate” with Jesus and make his mission much easier to accomplish, but for a price which Jesus dismissed out of hand. The price was a compromise to use improper means to accomplish a proper result. Jesus declared that only God is to be worshipped and acknowledged as the ruler of the universe, no one else. The lesson for us is to follow the path God has laid out for us and not try to make it easier on ourselves.

A common theme in all of Satan’s temptations was to “Use your powers to make it easier on yourself.” If you are hungry, turn stones into bread. You need to gain a following, so force
God to miraculously save you and you will have one overnight. You are to be the King of Israel; I can help you with that if you pay my price.

Common to all of Jesus’ replies were the words, “It is written.” Jesus did not match wits with Satan by forming his own arguments. Instead, he drew upon his recollection of Scriptures and selected an appropriate one to counter Satan’s ploys.

Jesus’ First Miracle

In Jesus’ first miracle (John 2:1-11), the turning of water into wine at a marriage in Cana of Galilee, we find several lessons. First, Jesus attended what was a non-religious ceremony, which tells us that we need not refrain from attending gatherings with our non-consecrated family and friends for celebrations that we determine are not too worldly. We can attend, with a clear conscience, as Jesus did. Nevertheless, we must maintain our Christian dignity and demeanor.

After Mary told Jesus, “They have no wine,” Jesus’ reply in verse four is worth noting. The King James translation says, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” On the surface, this sounds like a rather disrespectful rebuke. But the sense of the wording is more like, “Beloved lady, do not concern yourself. I will do the appropriate thing at the right time.” Jesus indeed did the appropriate thing, turning ordinary water into the best wine served that day.

We also find symbolic meaning in this account. Jesus told the household servants to gather vessels, most likely clay pots, and fill them with water.  We are like empty earthen clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7). When we first hear the truth of God’s plan and the part we may play in it, we become filled with the water of truth and subsequently the wine of redemption becomes available to the world.

A final question is, why did Jesus perform miracles? There are at least two reasons. (1) To reward the faith of those receiving the miracles (for example, Mark 5:34, the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment). This would help solidify their faith in God and Jesus, and the faith of the early Church, that he was the Son of God, sent by the Father, while all of the other “miracle workers,” faith healers and fortune-tellers of the time, were frauds.

(2) To illustrate the coming blessings of the kingdom, when all mankind will be raised from the dead and be brought to perfection. (See John 5:28. After Jesus healed a lame man at
the pool of Bethesda, he declared, “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his [Jesus’] voice and come forth.”) Jesus could have raised hundreds from the dead and healed thousands, but he did not, because it was not yet the time for the resurrection of mankind.

We should not expect miracles to be performed for our benefit simply because we want them or need them. The Lord decides how and when a demonstration of His providence on our behalf is appropriate. As Jesus said to his mother on the occasion of his first miracle, do not concern yourself. I will do the appropriate thing at the right time. How blessed we are that it is so!

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