Welcome to our study of the life and ministry of Jesus. We will begin with His pre-existence, His birth and childhood and continue through His atoning death, resurrection and ascension to heaven. We will also discuss His ministry today.
Our goal in this series is not merely to learn about Jesus, though that in itself is of great value. But more, we desire to grow in the grace and knowledge and likeness of Christ. As we focus our hearts and minds on Him, He progressively conforms us to His heart and mind. This is, after all, the goal of discipleship — to become like our Lord.
Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that the glory of the Lord is the expression of God’s person: His character, His attributes. Anytime God discloses Himself, whether it is His justice or mercy, His holiness or wisdom, His power or eternity, there is a manifestation of His glory.
The universe exists to show forth God’s glory. The heavens declare the glory of God. We see His glory disclosed in the smallest flower, in a star, in everything God has created. All creation speaks of His nature, of His essence — all creation is a revelation of God’s glory. We see God’s glory when He executes judgment or pours out kindness. Creation and history reveal Him and therefore, are reference points for His glory.
Beyond this general revelation of God's glory in His works, God has revealed His glory in particular, personal ways. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the cool of the day. His presence may have manifested in a cloud of light for they saw His glory.
In the wilderness, the glory of the Lord covered Israel by day and night. In Exodus 16:7, God fed the people with manna and as the manna was provided, the glory of the Lord was seen. At Mount Sinai, when Moses went up to commune with God, the glory of the Lord covered the mountain (Ex. 24:15-17).
At the completion of the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord filled the tent (Ex. 40:34). In Leviticus 9 when the priesthood was initiated and set apart unto God, the glory of the Lord was seen. In 1 Kings 8:11, as the temple was completed, the glory of the Lord came and filled it.
God has revealed His glory through general revelation in creation, in history and in particular times and places, God has manifested His glorious presence. But listen to Isaiah 40:5, “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh will see it together.”
Isaiah said to the people of his day that there is a manifestation of the glory of God coming and all flesh will see it together. It's interesting that he says, “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,” as if this had never happened before, as if there is a fulness of glory coming that will outshine everything that has been seen on earth before, a greater disclosure, a fuller, clearer, brighter revelation.
More than a cloud by day or pillar of fire by night
more than smoke on a mountain and the blaring of trumpets
more than an awesome presence in the temple
glory far more glorious than all of that would be manifest on earth:
the glory of God would be revealed in human form.
And so it was. The writer to the Hebrews begins his epistle with these words:
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance (brightness) of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
The birth, life and ministry of Jesus is the great revelation of the glory of God. Every time Jesus taught the truth, every time He healed a lame man or gave sight to the blind, every time He forgave sin, raised the dead or pronounced woe upon His persecutors, He was revealing the glory of God.
This is why we are exhorted, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebr. 12:2). What is the value of focusing our attention on Jesus, studying His life? As we look to Him, we are changed into His likeness: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we gaze into the life of Jesus revealed in the Bible, we are being progressively transformed into His glorious likeness. This is discipleship.
Discipleship is not just a process of learning facts about something or someone. It is a molding, a shaping of lives according to the heart and mind of the discipler. A follower of Jesus is not simply memorizing information about the Lord. We are called to grow in the grace and knowledge and likeness of our Lord.
This is important because we are living in a day of heresy, error and blasphemy even in the church; a day when false religions and deceptive philosophies are multiplying and many are falling prey to their deceptions. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6a). The Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth that glorifies Jesus (John 16:13). But we must apply ourselves in a disciplined manner to study the truth.
The Lord promises to keep us (John 10:28 Jude 1:24) but we are exhorted to contend earnestly for our faith (Jude 1:3). Contending for the faith begins with diligent study. We are able to study the life of Jesus because He is not hiding!
In the garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve fell from grace, they hid themselves. But God came walking through the garden, searching, calling to His lost children. Through the centuries God continued to call through prophets and psalmists. In the fulness of time, God spoke as clearly as He possibly could: Jesus, eternal Son of God, took on flesh, was born in human form.
How could Jesus, existing from eternity, be born into time?
How could the Creator become a creature?
How could God become Man and this Man remain God?
How could the Son of God become Son of Mary?
This is a holy mystery. But here is the truth: to worship Jesus is to fulfill the deepest reason for our being. To look at Him is to be transformed. To know Him is to possess eternal life.
Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
To this day the replies are various.
A rock star with some cool ideas, a politically correct social commentator, a wise philosopher among many, a prophet, angel, misguided martyr, deceived religious fanatic, good teacher. Islam says He is a prophet but did not die an atoning death for the sins of the world. One cult says He is a created spirit being. Another says He is Michael the archangel which would make Him a created being, not Creator.
There are many wrong answers.
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked and continues to ask.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16).
Thomas, meeting the risen Christ, replied, “My Lord and my God,” (John 20:28).
John the Baptist testified, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Martha said, “I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God,” (John 11:27).
Peter, preaching to the Jewish rulers, proclaimed, “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:11,12).
God the Father testified of Jesus at His baptism, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” (Luke 3:22). Again, on the Mount of transfiguration, a voice spoke from the cloud of glory, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him,” (Matt. 17:5).
Jesus made exclusive claims: “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30).
“I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:6)
“Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,” (John 8:58).
“For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day,” (John 6:44).
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9).
These are only a few of many exclusive claims made by Jesus. If they are untrue, then we should not listen to anything Jesus says for He was either insane, deceived or the worst of deceivers. In that case, He was not a good teacher or moral example and we should neither study His life nor worship Him.
However, if these claims are true, if Jesus spoke the truth about Himself, then He was and is the revelation of God’s glory in human flesh, Lord of lords and King of kings, eternal Beloved of the Father born into time. What other response is there but to humbly, diligently examine every word He spoke and fall at His feet in rapturous, grateful wonder and worship?
Our goal in this series is not merely to learn about Jesus, though as we said, that in itself is of great value. But more, we desire to grow in the grace and knowledge and likeness of Christ. As we focus our hearts and minds on Him, He progressively conforms us to His heart and mind. This is, after all, the goal of discipleship — to become like our Lord.
So come and let us journey together in this most wonderful of all studies — the life and ministry of Jesus. Ponder with me these sacred mysteries:
The eternal God was born into time
the infinite Creator of all life took on the limitations of flesh
the sinless holy One bore the sin of many
the Lord of life embraced our death
the slain Lamb rose from the dead
Let us behold His ascension to the right hand of the majesty on high and may we respond with the only worthy response of true disciples. Let us crown Him with our worship.
1. What exclusive claims did Jesus make about HImself?
2. What is the value of studying the life and ministry of Jesus?