About one-third of the people on earth today are Christians. They base their lives on the teachings and promises of Jesus Christ. For 2000 years Christians have spread the news about Jesus, and many have even been put to death because of faith in him. Who is this man who has made such an impact on the world?
Jesus was a historical person, as real as Julius Caesar, Florence Nightingale, or Albert Einstein. Historical records refer to Jesus Christ. For instance, Josephus, a Jewish historian, mentioned him in his writings in about A.D. 95. Another historian, Tacitus, in about A.D. 115 reported on the Roman fire thought to have been started by Nero but blamed on Christians. He wrote: “Christus, from whom the name [Christian] has its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”
Jesus lived from 6 or 4 B.C. to A.D. 30 or 33 in Palestine, a Mideast country that was occupied by Rome during his lifetime. His hometown was Nazareth, a village in the northern part of Palestine called Galilee. He spoke Aramaic and probably also Hebrew and Greek. We know him by his Greek name (Iesous) and not his Jewish name (Jeshua). Jesus was Jewish. He attended the local synagogue, observed the Sabbath and Jewish feast days, and prayed three times a day: in the morning, at three in the afternoon, and at sunset. Because Jesus was Jewish, he most likely had dark hair, brown eyes, and olive-colored skin. His mother was Mary (or Miriam). She was married to Joseph, known as the foster father of Jesus. Joseph was of the tribe of Judah, the family of King David. He was a carpenter, which can mean a craftsman or a builder.
In his early thirties Jesus became a teacher and gathered disciples around him. As Jesus and his followers journeyed throughout Palestine, he taught people about God and God's kingdom. He was known as a healer and a worker of miracles. After about three years, the Gospels report that Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Some Jewish leaders believed Jesus blasphemed by saying he was the Son of God. A sign posted on his cross to declare his crime read “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” Three days later, his followers saw him alive and present to them in a new and transformed way.
Scripture states that as a man Jesus was like us in all things except sin. The Gospels, which contain the story of his life, show this. Jesus experienced growth and temptations. He had friends and enjoyed parties. Jesus had emotions. He showed compassion for the widow whose only son had died, and he cried at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He delighted in blessing the children and became angry at the people who did not show respect for the Temple, God's house. He felt pain and knew death.
We believe that Jesus is truly God and truly human. He is the Son of God who became one of us, our brother. He had a human body and loved with a human heart. In the Angelus we declare this marvelous mystery of our faith: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
† Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! †