The Life of Jesus Christ: Birth, Childhood, Adolescence, Adult Years, Death and Resurrection
The main source of the life history of Jesus is from the four Gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. The first three gospels are called the “synoptic gospels” because they share common material. They were written between 70-100CE, that is, some 40-70 years after the death of Jesus. The fourth gospel, John, was written about 100-150 years after Jesus’ death.
2. The birth of Jesus Christ
Jesus was born in Nazareth, a small village in Galilee in the north of Palestine, during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE). His parents were Joseph and Mary. According to the gospel stories, an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to a son who would be called the ‘Son of God’. At that time, Mary was betrothed (engaged) to Joseph, but they had not yet married.
When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he wanted to divorce her quietly, but an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The angel also told Joseph that Mary’s child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and that he should name him Jesus.
When Augustus decreed that a census should be taken of the whole Roman Empire, Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home, because he was a descendant of King David.
While they were in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
That night some shepherds were guarding their flocks in the nearby fields when an angel appeared to them and announced that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem and told them where they could find him. The shepherds went into Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus lying in the manger.
When Jesus was eight days old he was circumcised according to Jewish law and then named Jesus, as the angel had instructed Joseph.
Three wise men or magi from the east came to Jerusalem asking where they could find the ‘King of the Jews’ who had been born. Herod, who was king of Judea at that time, was alarmed at this news as he feared that a new king might try to take his throne away from him. Herod asked the wise men when they had seen this ‘star’ and then consulted with his advisors. He was told that according to prophecy, the Messiah or Anointed One would be born in Bethlehem.
Herod asked the wise men to come back and tell him where they found baby Jesus so he could go and worship him too. But God warned them in a dream not return to Herod so they went back home by another route without telling Herod where baby Jesus was. When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the wise men, he gave orders for all baby boys under two years old who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding area to be killed. But an angel appeared again to Joseph in a dream warning him about Herod’s plan so he got up during the night and took Mary and baby Jesus away secretly into Egypt until Herod died sometime later.
When it was safe to do so, Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt and settled in Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus grew up.
3. The childhood of Jesus Christ
Apart from the stories of Jesus’ birth, we know very little about his childhood. The gospels tell us that he grew up like any other Jewish boy of his time, learning to read and write, and being taught the Jewish religion by his parents.
4. The adolescence of Jesus Christ
There is also very little information about Jesus’ adolescence. The only incident recorded in the gospels happened when he was twelve years old. His parents took him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival, as was the custom. After the festival was over they started home to Nazareth but realized that Jesus was not with them when they stopped for the night. They went back to Jerusalem and found him in the Temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. His parents were astonished at finding him there and asked him why he had stayed behind without telling them. He replied that he must be about his ‘Father’s business’. Joseph and Mary then took him home with them to Nazareth and ‘he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man’.
5. The adult years of Jesus Christ
At about the age of thirty, Jesus began his public ministry. He began preaching throughout Galilee, telling people that the Kingdom of God was near and calling them to repent of their sins and be baptized. He gathered around him a group of disciples or followers who became his close friends and helpers during his ministry.
He also performed many miracles such as healing the sick, casting out demons and even raising people from the dead. On one occasion he fed five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. People flocked to hear him preach and to see him perform miracles, and many came to believe that he was indeed the Messiah or Savior that had been promised by Jewish prophets in the Old Testament.
Jesus then went on a journey towards Jerusalem where he knew he would be put to death. On the way he stopped at a town called Bethany where he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead after he had been buried for four days. This miracle increased the number of people who believed in him but it also made the authorities more determined to get rid of him as they feared that he would cause an uprising against Roman rule if he entered Jerusalem alive.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he rode into town on a donkey as crowds shouted ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of Jehovah!’ (Hosanna is a Hebrew word meaning ‘save us’). Some of his disciples went into Jerusalem ahead of him and spread their cloaks on the ground for him to ride over while others cut palm branches from trees and waved them as they shouted ‘Hosanna!’.
Jesus then went into the Temple where he caused a disturbance by driving out traders who were selling animals for sacrifice, and money changers who were changing Roman money into local currency so people could pay their temple taxes. He said that his Father’s house should be a ‘house of prayer’, not a den of thieves’. This led to further hostility against him from both Jewish religious leaders and Roman authorities.
The last week of Jesus’ life began with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem as people celebrated what they thought was the beginning of a rebellion that would overthrow Roman rule. But Jesus knew that this was not his mission. He had come to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
On the night before he died, Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem. This meal is now called the ‘Last Supper’. During the meal, Jesus took bread and wine and said that these were his body and blood which would be given up for them. He told his disciples that from then on they should eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him. Christians still do this today in what is called the ‘Eucharist’ or ‘Holy Communion’.
After the meal, Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives where Jesus said he would soon return. Then he prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane before being arrested.
Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, where he was accused of blasphemy because he had claimed to be the Son of God. He was then sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, who pronounced him guilty of sedition against Rome and sentenced him to be crucified.
6. The death of Jesus Christ
Jesus died by crucifixion sometime between 30-33CE. Crucifixion was a method of execution practiced by the Romans in which the victim’s hands and feet were tied or nailed to a wooden cross and then left to hang there until they died from exhaustion or from being pierced by a spear.
Before dying, Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’. These words show us that even at the moment of his death, Jesus was thinking about others and not himself. After he had died, his body was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two secret followers of Jesus who had not dared to openly acknowledge their belief in him during his lifetime for fear of persecution. They wrapped his body in linen cloths and laid it in a rock tomb cut out of a hillside. A large stone was then placed over the entrance to the tomb.
7. The resurrection of Jesus Christ
On the third day after Jesus’ death, Mary Magdalene and other women went to the tomb to prepare his body for burial according to Jewish custom. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance and when they went inside they found that the body was gone. Two angels then appeared to them and said that Jesus had risen from the dead just as he had said he would. The women went back and told the disciples what had happened but they did not believe them.
Later that day Jesus himself appeared to some of his followers while they were walking towards Emmaus. He also appeared to Peter and then to all the disciples together on a mountain in Galilee as they were eating a meal. After this he ascended into heaven where he sits at God’s right hand side interceding for us today.