Beliefs and Practices of Christians


We now come, my friend, to the most important part of our explanation the Christian faith, namely, the consideration of who Jesus Christ is, and His relationship to God and to mankind. But first I will narrate to you briefly the history of His life on earth, which is found in the fourfold Gospels.

One day the angel Gabriel announced to a virgin named Mary that she would have a son whom she should name Jesus. He would be called the Son of the Most High, and would be the Everlasting king. This was a fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken more than 700 years before the event, which said: "A young woman shall conceive and bear a son...."(Isaiah 7:14). Later the birth of Jesus occurred in Bethlehem, a small town near Jerusalem, where David had been born a thousand years earlier. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem had been predicted by Micah the prophet who, like Isaiah,, lived more than 700 years before Christ. "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathat, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days." (Micah 5:2). At the time of His birth an angel announced the event to shepherds near Bethlehem, saying: "....I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11). Mary became the wife of Joseph, a carpenter, who acted as a father to Jesus. In His youth Jesus also worked as a carpenter in the town of Nazareth where He grew up.  Until the age of thirty He gave no teaching and performed no miracle, and the people did not know that He was the Messiah whom they were expecting.

When Jesus was about thirty years of age the time came for Him to begin the work for which He had come to earth. He, therefore, left Nazareth and went to John the Baptist who was then speaking God's message to many people who had gathered about him. He bade them repent, and baptized them in the river Jordan whey they repented, as a symbol of cleansing from sin. Though Jesus had never once in all His life committed any sin He told John the Baptist to baptize him, and John obeyed. When Jesus came out of the water the Spirit of God descended from heaven on Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of God was heard by both John and Jesus saying: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17). (I will later explain for you the meaning of the title "Son").  Then Jesus went into the wilderness where he fasted and prayed for forty days while Satan tried in vain to tempt Him to disobey God.

After this victory over Satan, Jesus returned to John the Baptist, who, on seeing Him, spoke to his disciples: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!!!...He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God" (John 1:29-34). By calling Him "Lamb of God" John was saying that Jesus would die as the sacrifice for the sins of all men. Jesus then began choosing His disciples from whom He later selected the Twelve Apostles. They were not great or learned men, for Peter and John and others were fishermen, and Matthew was a tax-collector. But theft realized that Jesus was the Messiah, and they left their various occupations and, without any promise of money or material gain, followed their Master for three years or so as He went about the country on foot. During this time Jesus trained them for the work they must do, as His apostles, after His going to heaven.

Jesus then began to preach to the people as John had done, saying: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel". (Mark 1:15). He spoke God's Word to the people in their places of worship or in their homes and when they gathered about Him on the hillsides or by the Lake of Galilee. All who heard Him were amazed at the wisdom and authority with which He taught, for He spoke not as a prophet would speak, but like God. The prophets all said, "Hear what God says to you". But when Jesus spoke to the people He said, "I say to you."

Soon Jesus began to heal by a word or with a touch of His hand the sick people who came to Him. A leper fell at His feet and said, "if you will, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will, be clean." At once he was fully healed. Many people possessed with unclean spirits came to Him, and He cast out the demons with a word. He touched the eyes of the blind and they received their sight. He even raised several dead people to life. Naturally, great crowds of people followed Him, and sometimes Jesus was so busy teaching and healing them that He had no time to eat food. He forgot His own needs as He showed His love for others. Never once did He perform a miracle for His own benefit, or show His power to make people marvel (or, wonder). All His mighty works were done to comfort and save sick and suffering ;people, and in this was reveal God's love to them. Once when He saw the poor and needy people about Him, Jesus spoke to them this gracious and comforting invitation: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). None who came to Him were ever turned away.

Once a paralytic (crippled man) was carried by four men to Jesus and laid before Him. Jesus, knowing that the man needed both physical and spiritual healing, said to him, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Some of the religious teachers who were present thought in their hearts, "Why does the fellow talk like that? This is blasphemy!! Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus knew their thoughts, and told them that by healing the man He would prove to them that He had not blasphemed, and that He had authority to forgive sins. Then He said to the crippled man, "I say too you, rise, take up your pallet (bed) and go home." And the man at once did so (Mark 2:1-13).

From that time many of the religious leaders of the Jews began to oppose Jesus, for they were jealous of His great popularity with the people.  They criticized Him for associating with sinful people, whom Jesus wanted to save, and for healing the sick on the Sabbath (Saturday, which was their holy day. Soon their hatred became so great that they determinedto destroy Him. Jesus knew this. He might have used His divine power by which He raised the dead to life to destroy His wicked enemies but He never did. He taught His disciples to love their enemies and to pray for them, and He set them an example by the way He treated those who opposed Him.

At that time the Jewish people were not free, for the Romans ruled over them. they longed to cast off the Roman rule. when they saw how Jesus fed more than 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, in the wilderness, they tried to take Him by force and make Him their king.  They were sure that if He left their armies no one could defeat them.  But Jesus refused to become an early king, for His kingdom was a spiritual one. He wanted to rule, not from a throne in Jerusalem but in men's minds and hearts. When the people saw that they could not make Him their tool in a political revolution, many of them turned against Him and became His enemies. Jesus always refused to plead men, and obeyed God only.

About two and one-half years after the baptism of Jesus, when the opposition of the religious rulers had become fierce, Jesus one day asked His twelve apostles: "Who do men say that the Son of Man is?" They replied that people thought He was one of the great prophets of the past who had come back to earth. then Jesus said: "Who do you say I am?"  Peter at once replied: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."  Jesus then blessed Peter for his answer, and told him it was God who had revealed this truth to him and said that on this truth He would build His church, and nothing could destroy it. Then He announced to His apostles that He must go to Jerusalem, and there be condemned to death by the religious rules, and be crucified, and on the third day be raised again to life. The apostles who loved their Master were horrified, and Peter said to Jesus: "Heaven forbid"? No, Lord, this shall never happen to you". But Jesus rebuked Peter, and told him that this thought of his, that Christ must not die, was from Satan. For Jesus knew that it was God's will that He should die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of men, and anyone who tried to keep Him from going to the cross was a tool of Satan. Then Jesus warned His apostles that they also must be ready to take up the cross, that is, they must be ready to die for Him. It must have been very difficult for the apostles to stay with Jesus after He told them that He must die, and they too would have to suffer for His sake. However, they did not leave Him, and six months later went with Him to Jerusalem where He was to suffer death.

It was springtime in Palestine, and many Jews from near and far began the journey to Jerusalem to be present at their greatest yearly religious festival, the Passover. This festival was to help them to remember the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. So Jesus and His disciples joined the crowds, and went up to Jerusalem for the festival. The events of this last week in the earthly life of Jesus are recorded at length in all four of the Gospels, and I can give you here only a very brief summary.

On a Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on an ass, as had been promised by the prophet Zechariah hundreds of years before. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an all." (Zechariah 9:9). He went to God's Temple, and cast out those who were making it unclean by buying and selling in that Holy House, and who were also stealing from the people who had come to worship, He severely condemned the religious rulers for their unbelief and their hypocrisy and wickedness. He alsoforetold the complete destruction of the Temple by their enemies as God's punishment for their sins. He warned the people not to be deceived by the false prophets who would come and try to lead them astray. He said He was going to return from heaven with great power and glory, and would judge all the nations, welcoming some people to God's Kingdom, and condemning others to eternal punishment.