If you are a Jew, you probably think of Jesus as the one
Christians claim to be the Jewish Messiah, but whom Jews see as a pretender to
that role. If you are a Muslim, you likely
recognize Jesus as the one spoken of in the Islamic holy book, the Koran, as “Isa, son of Miriam.”
If you are non-religious, you no doubt recognize Jesus as the one whose
birth was originally celebrated by the Christmas holiday, even though the
holiday has since become centered around a fictitious
Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and retail sales.
But, who is Jesus
according to his original followers who spent years living with him and
listening to his teachings?
“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 through him. Without him was not anything made that
has been made.
“The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw
his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace
and truth.” —John
The Apostle John, who wrote the above, was one of Jesus’
earliest followers. He explains that
Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who was with God the Father from the
beginning. God sent his Son to save us
from our sins and to give us eternal life:
“For God so loved the world, that he
gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but
have eternal life.
“For God didn’t send his Son into
the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” —John
Matthew and Luke—also early followers of Jesus—tell the
story of how Jesus came into the world:
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to
a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
to a virgin . . .
“The angel said to her, ‘Don’t
be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive
in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name “Jesus.” He will be great, and will be called the Son
of the Most High.’” —Luke
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was like this;
for after his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together,
she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
“Joseph, her husband, being a righteous
man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away
secretly. But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream, saying,
“‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid
to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of
the Holy Spirit. She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus,
for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.’
“Now all this has happened, that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Behold, the virgin
shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son. They shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being
interpreted, “God with us.’”
“Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel
of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself; and didn’t know her sexually until she
had brought forth her firstborn son. He named him Jesus.” —Matthew 1:18-24
“A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the
world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up
from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth,
into Judea, to the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem, because
he was of the house and family of David; to enroll himself with Mary, who was
pledged to be married to him as wife, being pregnant. It happened, while they were there, that the
day had come that she should give birth. She brought forth her firstborn son,
and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
“There were shepherds in the same
country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.
Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone
around them, and they were terrified.
“The angel said to them, ‘Don’t
be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the
people. For there is born to you, this day, in the city of David,
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” —Luke
The familiar Christmas story, above, is not the whole story
of Jesus, of course, but just the beginning.
Peter, another very early follower, summarizes here Jesus’ life and
ministry—and the work Jesus assigned to his followers:
“Peter opened his mouth and said,
“‘Truly I perceive that God doesn’t show
favoritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is
acceptable to him. The word which he
sent to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ—he
is Lord of all—you yourselves know what happened, which was proclaimed
throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John
Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power,
who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for
God was with him.
“‘We are witnesses of everything he did
both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem;
whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree.
God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, not to all
the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and
drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that this is he
who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that
through his name everyone who believes in him will receive remission of sins.’” —Acts 10:34-43
Jesus’ followers faithfully preached the message he taught
them, and they trained others to do the same.
Some of them wrote down the history of Jesus’ life and ministry,
resulting in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These, together with letters to the early
churches, make up the New Testament that we have today as part of God’s
inspired Word, the Bible.
The first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, tells the
story of God’s dealings with mankind before the birth of Christ, while the New
Testament continues on from there.
This book quotes extensively from the Bible, but there is
no substitute for reading the Bible itself.
As you consider the invitation to “Come, follow Jesus!” you would do
well to pick up the Bible itself and begin reading it—perhaps starting with
Matthew at the beginning of the New Testament.
This book highlights important Bible passages, and they should serve to
whet your appetite for reading God’s complete message to mankind, where you
will learn much more about who Jesus is and how he can
change your life. After all, he is not
just an historical character in a book; rather, he is alive, and he is active
in the lives of those who follow him. Jesus
“‘One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and
I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.’” —John 14:21
Jesus reveals himself to us as our Savior who cares about
each one of us personally and intimately:
sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never
die, and no one can steal them out of my hand.
My Father gave my sheep to me. He is greater than all, and no person can
steal my sheep out of my Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.’” —John