Life and Teachings of Jesus


1.      God is the sovereign of history, present and active in historical events, directing history to its culmination

2.      Christianity is a revealed religion, its scriptures divinely inspired.  Jesus is a revelation of God.


I. Roman context, Jewish worldview


1.      The Romans

a.       Palestine was a Roman province -- Rome controlled entire Mediteranian area

b.      Pax Romana = “peace of Rome,” enforced by military might, the result was meant to be order and harmony

c.       Cult of the emperor bound Roman society together - reverence for tradition and custom;

d.      The divine guiding spirit of the emperor leads to celestial peace on earth

2.      Jesus’ Jewish roots

a.       He believed in a personalized, monotheistic God who judges and rewards human action. 

b.      Cf. Roman polytheism, which was considered by Jews as wicked.  Jews believed that only God's law (Torah) is absolute and true, not the law of the Romans

c.       Hope that God would save the Jewish people.  The new order = kingdom of God, expected to come with cataclysmic upheaval (eschaton), ushered in by a messiah, or savior

3.      Hebrew scriptures: revealed word of God, ethical teachings.  Belief should pervade one's whole life > acts of justice, mercy, and compassion

a.       Christian additions: God had sent a son, who is also God -- born as a humble human being, to share life

b.      Notion of Jesus as incarnation of God results in a reinterpretation of promised Kingdom of God

c.       Jesus as “Christ”: the "anointed one," Greek for "messiah"


II. Life of Jesus


1.      Political context

a.       Herod the Great (ruled 37-4 B.C.E.): ruled Judea.  Rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, claimed right to appoint the high priest of Judaism and to oversee Jewish activities. His son Archelaus was incompetent so Herod appointed imperial governors.

b.      Pontius Pilate (governed 26-36 C.E.): used temple funds, brutal treatment of protesters

c.       Varied Jewish response to Rome's oppression: Sadducees placated Roman rulers; Pharisees adhered to Law of Torah and resisted Roman control of religious matters; Essenes withdrew to monastic life in desert near Dead Sea; Zealots (fanatic nationalists) worked to overthrow Roman rule militarily.

                                                   i.      All hope for coming messiah to save the situation.

2.      Basic facts of Jesus's life

a.       Born at Bethlehem in 6-7 B.C.E., lived in northern province of Galilee, working as a carpenter. Baptized by John in 27 C.E.  Withdrew to the solitude of the desert, emerged to preach the good news -- Kingdom of God dawning

b.      Preaching, healing, exorcism, miracles

                                                   i.      Kept company with poor people and social outcasts, special kindness toward women and children

                                                 ii.      Small band of followers. Wandered northern districts of Palestine

                                                iii.      Religious leaders felt that Jesus's teaching invited social chaos, stir up discontent -- subordinated the Law to love of God and love of neighbor

c.       Jesus’ death

                                                   i.      King Herod Antipas has John beheaded, Jesus left Galilee for Jerusalem. 

                                                 ii.      Confronts merchants doing business in outer precincts of the Temple

                                                iii.      After a passover meal Jesus is arrested by Roman authorities.  Examined by members of the Sanhedrin (Jewish political assembly) > blasphemy. Pontius Pilate orders him scourged and crucified

                                               iv.      Jesus’ disciples claim he returned to life and appeared to them.  They begin preaching his resurrection and messiahship


III. Teachings of Jesus


1.      God as loving and protecting father

a.       Warmth, intimacy, and trust of parent-child relationship.  Cf. Lord's prayer (Luke 11:2-5)

2.      Reinterpretation of Mosaic law (Torah):

a.       Extended, intensified, internalized (Matt 5:21-23). The act and the desire are condemned

b.      The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom characterized by love of God and love of neighbor

                                                   i.      Jesus tells religious leaders that the poor, the sinful, and the social outcasts will inter kingdom of God before they will

3.      Teaching through parables: short stories drawn from everyday life designed to surprise listeners into insight

a.       Luke 15:1-11 Lost sheep; lost coin; Luke 15:11-32 Prodigal son. 

b.      God's love, generosity, and mercy accept sinners and bring them to kingdom of God

4.      Death and Resurrection

a.       Passover meal - the last supper

b.      Jesus identifies himself with the bread and wine:

                                                   i.      Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins