A respected friend who does not yet know Christ or the Bible recently asked me what he was missing. These four gracEmails repeat what I shared with him in response.
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God decisively accomplished this redemptive work about 2,000 years ago, through the representative, substitutionary life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the physical son of a Jewish girl named Mary, who conceived him without human father by the power of God himself. In some mysterious sense, God was “in” Jesus in a unique way which has never been true of anyone else. Jesus is called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” The “fullness” of God lived in him. He was the eternal “Logos” or “Word” of God in human form.
Jesus lived a life of total faithfulness to his Father, the Creator and only true God. He “went about doing good.” He healed the sick, forgave sinners, made lepers whole, gave sight to the blind, restored paralyzed limbs, cast out evil spirits which tormented people, and raised the dead. He stilled storms, fed thousands of inquirers with a little boy’s lunch, and perfomed many marvelous acts of kindness and power. Jesus’ closest band of followers, the Apostles, later gave their lives as martyrs for the sake of their testimony to these things. They willingly accepted deprivation, torture and even death rather than to deny what they announced — events to which they were eyewitnesses.
Jesus matched his works of power and compassion with his teaching about the Kingdom of God. This is a kingdom which spreads quietly, he said in parables, changing the world from within the heart of one person at a time. Yet it will eventually fill the whole earth. This is a kingdom in which the greatest realities are now unseen, except through faith — but one day they will all become visible. It is a kingdom of peace, of caring, of serving rather than being served. It is a kingdom of forgiveness — by God, and then by those who have been forgiven. It is a kingdom quite contrary to the world’s values, and one which the world will never understand. But it becomes understandable to those of humble heart, who are willing to surrender their thinking and their lives to the Creator God, to be informed and taught and shaped by him.
Moved by jealousy at Jesus’ growing popularity, the corrupt Jewish establishment conspired with the Roman authorities to put him to death. The religious establishment charged Jesus with blasphemy because he said he was the Son of God. The political authorities charged him with treason because he taught concerning a kingdom other than Caesar’s, which they did not understand. He was beaten, flogged, crowned with a twisted thorn branch, spit on, mocked and finally crucified between two brigands.
One of Jesus’ Apostles had betrayed him (Judas). Another denied him three times (Peter). The rest turned tail and ran. John came back to the Cross, but he alone of the Apostles is known to have done so. The earth quaked. The sun eclipsed. God himself turned his face from his Son on the Cross.