Jesus’ family was from Nazareth, a city in Israel, and he was born in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago. His mother’s name was Mary, and Joseph his adoptive father was a carpenter by trade. Yet despite this mundane setting, Joseph could trace his genealogy to a long line of important relatives.
In the first of four memoirs about Jesus, the Gospel according to Matthew highlights Abraham and David as Joseph’s ancient ancestors to show that Jesus fulfills two important promises. To Abraham, God promised that he would bless the entire world in Abraham’s offspring. To David, God promised that a great king would come through his lineage.
So Matthew names both Abraham and David in the first verse of his memoir about Jesus to make the point that Jesus is the promised one. Jesus would bless the nations, and Jesus would become king. Jesus did both of those things. He also became a great prophet.
After spending years learning the trade of carpentry and Israel’s holy writings, Jesus gathered around himself twelve disciples who symbolized the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. He also gave a new law to his disciples and other followers during his famous Sermon on the Mount.
It looked like he was about to win the hearts of the whole nation. Then he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death on a Roman cross. The cross was two slabs of wood fixed together in the shape of “T.” Romans nailed criminals to such crosses for public executions. And after being scourged, Jesus died with his arms spread open on the cross as a common criminal.
His death, however, was not tragic. Jesus intended to live the life he did and to die the death he did. Matthew records Jesus sayings, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). Jesus came to serve and to give his life “as a ransom for many.”
Jesus did not stay dead. After three days, he rose from the grave and appeared to many people. On one occasion, “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time” (1 Cor 15:6). Then after forty days, he rose up to heaven where he now sits at the right hand of God.
Amazingly, many disciples of Jesus testified to his resurrection despite being cast out of synagogues, losing home and possessions, and even dying for their testimony. In fact, the word “martyr” means testifier.
Christians maintained that Jesus through his death and resurrection blessed the nations just as he promised Abraham he would. They also affirmed that Jesus fulfilled God’s promise of a Davidic king.
By dying for the world, Jesus paid its ransom (Matt 20:28). All of us were held under the power of sin and death. As a just judge, God punishes sin, and death comes to all because all people sin. Mercifully, Christ’s death atones for our sins, so that we might be forgiven of them. And Christ rose from the dead so that death is not the final word. Eternal life awaits those who trust in Jesus. In Jesus our king, all the nations are blessed.
Jesus’ Divine Birth
The resurrection of Jesus shocked his disciples. Like today, rising from the dead was not a common occurrence! Yet Jesus spent time explaining to his disciples before he ascended to heaven who he was and what his mission was.
What became clear is that Jesus had a divine origin. He was not just a human being. He was also divine. Remember, Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father. According to Matthew, Mary bore Jesus while still a virgin. God’s Spirit, by miraculous fiat, created a human being in Mary’s womb while Mary remained a virgin (Matt 1:18).
Amazingly, God visited Israel and the world in Jesus of Nazareth. As one of Jesus’ other disciples wrote, “the Word was God” (John 1:1) and “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Here, the term “Word” is a title for Jesus who John asserts “became flesh.” In other words, the divine Word became a human being.
Through the power of an incorruptible and divine life lived out by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, and conquered death. He did all of this for us.
Now, when we live an imperfect life, by faith God credits us the perfect life of Jesus. When we die and appear before God for judgment, by faith God will say that our sins were covered by Christ. When death comes to us, it will not be the end; by faith, we will rise from the dead to newness of life.
Jesus was an Israelite from Nazareth. He also came from God. And he died on the cross and rose from the grave to grant us forgiveness and to give us eternal life.