After seventy years of captivity, the Lord allowed His people to return to the land of Israel. Only a small group chose to return, but they as well as Jews elsewhere still lived under the rule of other nations…Five hundred years later, when Rome ruled Israel, two young Jews named Joseph and Mary, both descendants of the royal line of David, planned to marry. They lived in Nazareth, but before they came together, Mary became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit of the Most High God.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, do not worry about taking Mary as your wife: for the child in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The child is the Son of God. And when she gives birth to this son, you must name Him ‘Jesus’, which means Savior, for He will save His people from their sins.” This happened as the prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 7:14~”Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel, which means God with us.” Clearly, Mary was a virgin when she conceived baby Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and she is the much beloved mother of Jesus Christ our Lord, who is still with us today.
Joseph and Mary had to travel to the city of Bethlehem for a census, and to pay taxes. While there, she gave birth to her firstborn son whom they named Jesus. So, as prophesied, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to a descendant of King David. And in the same country, there were shepards watching over their flocks at night. And the angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very frightened. Then the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” And the child grew, becoming strong in spirit, and the grace of God was upon Him. Jesus matured, increasing in wisdom and in favor with God and man.
Now when Jesus was about thirty years of age, a man named John the Baptist came preaching and baptizing in the wilderness, saying, “Repent: prepare yourselves for the Lord.” John was the messenger the prophets had foretold would announce the coming of the Savior. Then Jesus came to the Jordan river to be baptized by John. When John saw Jesus coming, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up out of the water, and the heavens opened up to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and light on Him. And a voice from Heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then, after Jesus spent forty days in the desert, Satan, who had successfully tempted Eve in the Garden, tried ways of tempting Jesus~but Jesus would not sin. Finally, Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said to Him, “All these things I will give to You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Jesus answered, “Get thee behind Me, Satan: because God has written that , you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”
While Jesus, the Son of God, lived on earth in the form of a man, He was tempted in all the same ways we are, yet He never sinned. Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. This shows that Jesus is the Savior of mankind~the Lamb sent from God. Jesus revealed Himself as the promised Savior in many ways, including performing countless miracles. His first miracle was changing the water into wine at the Wedding Feast in Cana~John 2:1 “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there.” He healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years, a man who had leprosy, who was “untouchable.” The man fell on his face when he saw Jesus, saying, “Lord, if You want to, You can make me clean.” Jesus then reached out His hand and touched him, saying, “Be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. He brought sight to a man who had been blind since birth. One woman, who had an incurable disease, reached out and touched Jesus’ robe. He turned, saying, “Daughter, be comforted. Your faith has made you well; go in peace.” There are many, many examples of Jesus healing the infirm, the lepers, and the possessed. He traveled the country, healing, teaching, and living the example of unconditonal love to His fellow man. He gained fame, and was beloved by many.
Jesus called twelve men together, asking them to follow Him. He gave them power and authority over devils, and He sent these disciples out to preach about the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. His fame went everywhere, and great crowds came to hear Him teach and to be healed of their diseases. One day, when a gathering of five thousand people needed food, Jesus prayed over a young boy’s lunch of bread and fish. The food was miraculously multiplied, so that it fed the thousands of people there with twelve baskets left over. He raised Lazarus from the dead. There was a man who was possessed by demons, and Jesus commanded the demons into a herd of swine, who then ran into the ocean and drowned. The man who had been possessed was clean, and he wanted to follow Jesus, he was so thankful. But Jesus told him to stay, that the man had a story to tell there.
But the people kept asking for more proof that Jesus was from God. They said, “Our forefathers ate manna in the desert. It is written in the Scriptures, He gave them bread from Heaven to eat.” Jesus replied, “The bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.” The people said, “Lord, give us this bread all the time.” Jesus answered, “I am the Bread of Life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger; he that believes on Me shall never thirst.” Jesus prophesied that He must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and then be raised from the dead on the third day. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting, and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing so many miracles. If we let Him continue, everyone will believe on Him: and then the Romans revoke our right to control the people.” Meanwhile, Jesus taught with great authority. He went into the Temple and threw out the merchants who were inside, buying and selling. He said to them, “It is written in the Scriptures, My house is the house of prayer: but you have made it a den of thieves.” He taught saying, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who believes on the Son shall have everlasting life, and I will raise up from the grave those who believe. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
So there was a split among the people because of Him. Many of the chief rulers believed on Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess their belief since they were afraid they would be expelled from their religious meeting places. They loved the praise of men more than they loved the praise of God. Most of the religious leaders looked for ways to destroy Jesus but were unable, because He had so many followers who were anxious to hear Him speak. After three years of teaching, Jesus instructed His disciples to bring Him a certain young donkey, one that had never been ridden, and He sat on it, and rode into Jerusalem on it. A huge crowd began to rejoice and loudly praise God for all the mighty works they had seen, calling out, “Hosanna! Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in Heaven and glory in the Highest.” But when Jesus neared the city, He looked at it and cried over it because the people still did not recognize Him as the promised Savior.
When Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Jesus knew that His hour to die was growing near. He gathered together His disciples for a Passover dinner, and as they ate, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “Take, eat, this is My body, broken for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. But I say unto you, I will not any more drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it again with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Jesus said unto them, “Do not let yourselves be upset: you believe in God: believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions, and I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again to get you, so that you can be with Me. And you know where I am going and you know the way to get there.” But Thomas said, “But Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how could we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man comes to the Father except through Me.”
That evening, Jesus warned His disciples of difficult times to come. He said, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me before it hated you. He that hates Me hates My Father also.” He went up to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, where He pleaded with His Father, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thy will be done.” After His prayer, the chief priests and captains of the Temple, and the elders arrived there looking for Jesus. Judas approached Him with the kiss of betrayal. Suddenly Jesus identified Himself to the mob by saying, “I AM.” The crowd went backwards and fell to the ground. Afterwards, Jesus allowed Himself to be tied up and brought into the high priest’s house. Early the next morning, the crowd led Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate. They accused Him, saying, “We found this fellow corrupting our Jewish nation.” But after questioning Jesus, Pilate told the chief priests, rulers, and the people, “He has done nothing worthy of death. I’ll just order Him to be beaten and release Him.” But they called out all at once, “Get rid of this man. Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” Pilate, wanting to satisfy the people, had Jesus brutally whipped and then turned over to be crucified. The people made Him a crown of thorns and made Him carry a wooden cross to a place called Calvary, also known as Golgotha, or place of the skull. Simon from Cyrene, or Libya, carried it part of the way. As they nailed Jesus to the cross, He cried, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For three hours, as Jesus was nailed to the cross, dying, they mocked Him, and spit on Him. Then a darkness came on the land which stayed for three more hours as the prophet’s words were fulfilled: “The Lord laid the sins of us all on Him.” Jesus then cried out, and said, “Adonai. Adonai, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Jesus, knowing that everything was now accomplished, fulfilled Scripture when He said, “I thirst.” The soldiers ridiculed Jesus as they offered Him vinegar by saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Jesus tasted the vinegar, then called out, “It is finished. Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” Then He bowed His head, and let His Spirit go.
As He died, the sun darkened and the earth quaked, and the thick veil of the Temple ripped down the middle. When the Roman captain in charge saw what happened, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two thieves who were hanging on crosses beside Jesus. But when the soldiers saw that Jesus was already dead, one of them pierced His side with a spear instead of breaking His legs, fulfilling the Scriptures, “None of His bones will be broken,” and “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” Afterwards, two believers, Joseph and Nicodemus, took Jesus’ body, wound it in linen grave clothes dipped in spices, and laid His body in a tomb. Then, as requested by the Jewish leaders, the tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. Now after three days, there was a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord rolled back the stone from the tomb’s door. Frightened, the Roman soldiers trembled and ran away. When followers of Jesus came to the tomb and saw the stone moved, they were confused. Suddenly, two men stood by them in shining garments, saying, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen. Remember how He told you before that He must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again?” Then they remembered His words. That evening, Jesus came to the disciples and said, “Peace be unto you.” But they were terrified, thinking they had seen a spirit. So He said, “Look at My hands and My feet. It is really Me. Touch Me and see Me, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, like you see I have. Everything happened as I told you it would because all the writings that described Me in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, had to be fulfilled.” Then He opened their understanding, saying, “It is written in the Scriptures that Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. And you have seen these things.”
Jesus continued appearing to many people, showing that He was still alive, which gave infallible proof of His resurrection. And He instructed His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” At the end of forty days, Jesus announced to His disciples, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall tell others about Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” As they watched, Jesus was taken up into the air, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. Two men in white clothing said, “Why are you standing there staring up into Heaven? This same Jesus, who was just taken up into Heaven, shall come back again in the same manner as you saw Him go.” God sent the Comforter to us, the Holy Spirit, to comfort as while Jesus is in Heaven with His Father.
So the followers of Jesus went throughout the land, preaching and baptizing, telling everyone that Christ the Savior was risen from the dead. They showed in the Scriptures how by Adam came sin and death, but by Jesus Christ came forgiveness and resurrection from the dead. They told how one day all the new bodies of those who have trusted God and believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be raised from the dead and, together with those who are alive, will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. In the new Heaven and new Earth, God will be with His people. He will wipe away all the tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And there shall be no night and no need for candles, nor light from the sun, because the glory of God and the Lamb will be the light; and They shall reign for ever and ever. Jesus says, “Let those who are thirsty come. Let them freely drink the water of life. Behold, I come quickly; blessed are they who obey My words.”
“He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, shall have everlasting life, and shall not be condemned, but is passed from death unto life.”
The picture above is Jesus. My mom worked as a customer service representative at the Miramar Navy Exchange in San Diego for over 20 years, and a loyal customer of hers took a picture of a thunderstorm one day from the window of an airplane in the 1970s. This is what came out on the picture, and I know with every single fiber of my being that it is Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I remember when my mom brought this picture home; it still gives me chills. It reminds me of the Scripture in Revelation 1:7~”Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him…”