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UCG-A Bible Insights Thursday, November 25 2021

Two things you don't know about Jesus

Few would dispute Jesus lived 2,000 years ago and that He was a great teacher, but many are amazed to discover He is also the God in the Old Testament. The Being who interacted with Israel is the one who became Jesus Christ.

by Steve Myers

Paul wrote something remarkable to the Corinthians when he was talking about the Israelites coming out of Egypt. He says those Israelites “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” referring to the Israelites going through the Red Sea as a kind of a baptism. He then adds, “... For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), making it clear the Rock that was with Israel, was the one who would become Jesus Christ.

John 1:18 adds to this by clearly stating, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” And in John 6:46 Jesus Christ says the same thing, “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.” Then in John 8:58 Jesus declares, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” stating that He was the I AM that was with Israel. The crowd that heard Jesus say this then tried to stone him for blasphemy (verse 59).

The One who became Jesus Christ talked to Abraham and spoke with Moses. He was in the burning bush, caused the plagues to come upon Egypt, and was the Lawgiver on mount Sinai. He is revealed as a God of love, caring and patience in both the Old and New Testaments, but is also a God who will not tolerate sin.

The second thing most don’t know about Jesus is the true Gospel message He actually taught. Mark 1:14-15 tells us, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” This is the same, consistent message we find in both the Old and New Testaments.

A familiar section of Scripture in Isaiah 9:6-7 says this: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end...” This is speaking of God’s plan to bring His Kingdom to earth.

When Paul was a prisoner in Rome he also addressed this subject: “...many came to him at his lodging...and he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23). Paul was showing them, from the books of the Old Testament, that the Kingdom of God is a literal Kingdom Jesus Christ will establish on earth. He will be King and all things will be restored. The kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

God wants to give us eternal life in the Kingdom of God when we repent, believe the Gospel and change our lives to follow the example of Jesus Christ. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The idea of a harsh God of the Old Testament and a kind, loving God in the New Testament misrepresents God. Hebrews 13:8 is absolutely correct. It tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” .

Herod the Great




Herod had ruled the province of Judea, which encompassed most of the geographical areas of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for almost 40 years at the time Jesus Christ was born, with secular history and archaeology confirming his reign (Matthew 2:1-3, 7-8).




He was a great builder, initiating construction projects in at least 20 cities or towns in Israel and more than 10 in foreign cities: "Archaeological excavations have uncovered a surprisingly large amount of evidence pertaining to Herod the Great ....an Idumean who, in 41 B.C., was granted provisional rule of Galilee by Mark Antony [the friend of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra´s last lover] .... In 30 B.C. Octavian (Caesar Augustus) affirmed Herod's rule over Judea, Samaria, and Galilee .... Herod remained in power until his death in 4 B.C…." (Archaeology and the New Testament, 1997, p. 91).




But Herod was not just known for his great building, political and military skills, but also for his great cruelty. The Bible records his utter disregard for human life by describing his reaction to the birth of Jesus. When his scheme to identify the newborn Messiah failed (verses 7-8, 12), Herod lashed out with great violence: "Then Herod … sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under [the approximate age of Jesus], according to the time which he had determined from the wise men" (verse 16).




This massacre in Bethlehem was not out of character for Herod, who also had many members of his family put to death: “Herod in his rage over his family rivalries and jealousies put to death the two sons of Mariamne [his wife] (Aristobulus and Alexander), Mariamne herself, and Antipater, another son and once his heir, besides the brother and mother of Mariamne (Aristobulus, Alexandra) and her grandfather John Hyrcanus." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Bible Explorer Software, 1997).




The New Testament description of Herod the Great is thus confirmed by what historians and archaeologists have found concerning his rulership, building projects, political strength and uncontrollable wrath toward anyone threatening his kingship.




The Census of Caesar Augustus




Luke, a meticulous historian, introduces other famous personages in his account of the birth of Christ. "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered … So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city" (Luke 2:1-3).




Ancient papyrus census decrees have been found for the years 20, 34, 48, 62 and 104. These show a wide-ranging census normally took place every 14 years, although local counts were, at times, taken more frequently. A papyrus in the British Museum describes a census similar to Luke's account, taken in 104, in which people were ordered to return to their birthplaces: "Gaius Vibius Mazimus, Prefect of Egypt: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those ... to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments" (Frederick G. Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, 1907, plate 30).




Joseph's Occupation in Nazareth




Joseph was a skilled craftsman who worked not only with wood, but with stone masonry. The usual term translated as "carpenter" in the Bible (Mark 6:3) is from the Greek term ‘tekton’, which has the broader meaning of 'artisan,' referring to a skilled worker who works on hard material such as wood or stone or even horn or ivory. “In Jesus' day construction workers were not as highly specialized as in today's workforce. For example, the tasks performed by carpenters and masons could easily overlap" (Richard A. Batey, Jesus & the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus, p. 76).




Although Nazareth was a small village in Galilee of no more than a few hundred inhabitants, Joseph and Jesus likely found steady work in the city of Sepphoris four miles away, where huge construction projects were transforming the city into a large, regional centre.




Recent archaeological excavations in Sepphoris show it to have been a bustling, prosperous city during the years Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth. Shirley Jackson Case, professor of New Testament at the University of Chicago, remarks “.... It requires no very daring flight of the imagination to picture the youthful Jesus seeking and finding employment in the neighboring city of Sepphoris. But whether or not he actually labored there, his presence in the city on various occasions can scarcely be doubted..." (Batey, pp. 70-71).




These historical records help us better understand the background of Christ's teachings, which included illustrations drawn not just from farming and animal husbandry, but also construction, rulers and nobility, the theater, government, finance and other aspects of city life.

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