James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.
Everyone should want to learn about Jesus. No one ever loved people as much as he did, especially people prone to do bad things or people who were sick or sad. No other person ever changed the world as much as he did. Jesus is not only the most famous man who ever lived; he is also the most beloved. No honest person ever found fault with Jesus or with his teachings.
Without understanding who Jesus is, you cannot grasp the story of us over the last 2,000 years. Two billion souls call themselves Christians today, and at least that many have died in the faith. We date our calendars by the coming of Jesus, B.C. meaning ‘Before Christ’ and A.D. standing for—not ‘After Death’ but Anno Domini—The Year of Our Lord, which means the year of his birth. According to Jesus, history is going somewhere.
We could never count the number of sermons preached, prayers prayed, songs sung, and pictures painted because of who Jesus is. His story has been told billions of times. There is no other narrative known to man that is as compelling. It is hard to imagine anyone fabricating such a strange tale.
The Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary, a pure and humble teenage girl, gave birth to Jesus. She had been visited by the angel Gabriel, who explained that God had chosen her to bear His Son, whom God told her to name Jesus, which means 'God saves.' Jesus became the seventh and last person in the Bible to be given his name by God before he was born.
Mary had been engaged to an older man, Joseph, who married her after being with child. They lived among two hundred Israelite families in Nazareth, a town in Galilee, about 100 miles north of Bethlehem. Mary had to walk that distance while nine months pregnant because the Emperor of the Roman Empire—Caesar Augustus—required Joseph to go to Bethlehem, the place of his family origins, to be counted in a census. They had to cross rough terrain, including the Judean Desert, which was full of bandits, as well as scorpions, vipers, and mountain lions. So it was that Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, inside a cave that shepherds used to stable their livestock at night.
The Holy Family
Just six miles south of Israel's capital city—Jerusalem—in a mountainous region called Judea, Bethlehem (House of Bread) is King David's ancient hometown. The Messiah would come from there, according to Jewish priests and scribes. A scribe was a secretary, lawyer, and teacher rolled into one, who copied and interpreted the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and kept all records for the Jewish nation. 'Messiah' means 'deliverer' or 'anointed one' and translates into 'Christ.' The Jews expected him to be a prophet, a priest, and a king.
The ruler over the Jews was a wicked man named Herod the Great. A year or two after the birth of Jesus, Herod heard rumors that a rival to his throne had been born, and he ordered his soldiers to execute all male toddlers, an operation known today as ‘the Massacre of the Innocents.’ God warned Joseph about the impending slaughter and instructed him to take Jesus to Egypt until King Herod died.
During this sojourn, the Holy Family was sustained by precious gifts received, just before they left Nazareth, from strange visitors. The Magi (wise men) came from Persia, a huge and wealthy country to the east, where they widely anticipated that a king would be born in Judea who would one day rule the world—and whom everybody would love.
The Wise Men searched for quite some time to find Jesus, and when they did, they worshiped him—extraordinary because worship is reserved only for God. The men presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and oil of myrrh, which happened to be the three most valuable items small enough to sew into one’s garments. Therefore, if you dressed modestly, the marauders who swarmed the highway through Gaza to Egypt would not suspect you had anything worth stealing.
After the particularly ghastly death of King Herod, Jesus would grow up in Nazareth. The family home overflowed with love; Joseph and Mary were devout Jews, deeply religious and ever obedient to God. God chose Joseph to be His Son’s earthly father because He knew him to be kind and morally upright. Joseph adopted Jesus and taught him his trade of carpentry, which in those days would involve working not only with wood but also stone and metal. Saint Joseph—San Jose in Spanish—is the most common place name in the world today.
When he turned twelve, Jesus began to teach, amazing his elders with incredible intelligence and wondrous wisdom. His first recorded words show that he was determined to take care of God's business; his last words tell us that he finished the business of God for which he came.
Jesus' Earthly Ministry
To set an example for us, Jesus was baptized when he was about thirty years old. Baptism is a public ceremony wherein you are immersed in living (free-flowing) waters. For Jesus's followers, it symbolizes washing away your sins, leaving your old bad habits behind in a watery grave, and dedicating your life to God. As he was baptized, the Holy Spirit endued him with supernatural power. God spoke to claim Jesus as His own Son. God's audible voice has been heard many times. In the Bible, there are over 3,000 occasions where God speaks to men.
The Spirit of God drove Jesus out into the solitude of the desert, where he stayed for forty days without eating anything (fasting). Then, at his weakest moment, Satan tempted him. The Devil—who rules the hearts of most persons and will continue to do so until Christ returns—promised Jesus the whole world and all its splendors if he would renounce God. Satan even quotes from the Bible (as demonic men still do today), but he (and they) always distorts the text's true meaning. Jesus wasn't about to do a deal with the Devil. He relied on Scripture for power during this spiritual struggle, just as we must do.
The public ministry of Jesus would last only a few years. As he began to preach and teach—preaching is to call attention to the truth; teaching is to explain it—he chose a dozen men from ordinary walks of life to be his dearest disciples. A disciple is a pupil who, after proper training, helps spread the teachings of the Master. They were being prepared to continue his work after he was gone.
Jesus the Person
Jesus loved to pray. He constantly prayed, sometimes all night, often by himself. There is no record of him praying with his eyes closed. Jesus usually began his prayers with "Father . . ."
Prayer is fellowship with God. Our prayers should offer thanks for the many blessings we have received, sorrowful confession of the things we have done wrong, asking Him to forgive us. We should pray to God for those whom we know need His help, as well as to act on our behalf when we are in need.
The Lord Jesus never accumulated anything, never saved up for a rainy day. He lived in absolute faith that God would provide. Along with his closest confidants, later called the Twelve Apostles, he walked the dusty roads from village to village, stopping to preach in synagogues, which were places of worship and instruction for Jews, as well as their courts of justice. Sin was a crime, and crime was a sin.
Since Jesus came to save the lost, he naturally went where they were and mingled with them. It became well known that he would sit and sup with anyone, even the physically ill or morally depraved. We often find him around the dinner table, when men are most relaxed, explaining the truth. The host of many meals, he welcomed all to come and get to know him, even those shunned by society: the disabled, tax collectors, prostitutes, and public sinners.
Jesus readily accepted women into his entourage, too, which was revolutionary. Before Jesus came along, men would not speak to women in public; virtuous Jews would have nothing to do with habitual sinners, and Jews did not socialize with Gentiles (all people who are not Jews). Jesus broke these rules.
Teachings of Jesus
Jesus's fiery condemnations of hypocrisy electrified audiences. Hypocrites are actors: people who pretend to be someone they are not; who act as if they feel what they don't feel; who pretend to believe what they do not believe. The innermost secrets of every man and woman will be made known to all at Judgment Day. Jesus's message offended some but attracted others. He called for real repentance—not merely to abandon bad behavior but to change your attitude towards it: Stop loving it.
Jesus taught that we must examine our motives and learn to govern our thoughts before harmonizing our behavior with God's moral expectations. He wanted to help men and women to be better. He gave us delicately and delightfully beautiful insights for living. The message is love.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the 'Blessed' are much more than happy or fortunate—they are favored by God and have spiritual well-being. The 'Poor in Spirit' are those who acknowledge that they have spiritual needs. To be 'Meek' is to be humble and submissive to God. 'Those who mourn' do so over sin, evil, and the failure of men to honor God properly.
Jesus spoke as an authority on Truth. His words are undeniably profound and powerful. His teachings answer the most important questions of life.
Using words of immeasurable elegance, he knew how to paint vivid pictures that would permanently impress his hearers' memory. Time and again, we hear him speak of planting and harvesting, of flowers, birds, rain, clouds, and the sun; from this, we can gather that he loved nature very much. When asked a question, Jesus often gave surprising answers that steered the conversation to a deeper level to enlighten us and correct our misunderstandings. The Lord also had a knack for illuminating people’s minds by asking them questions.
Because only the teachings of and about Jesus have the power to save you for eternity, it could not be more important for you to understand those teachings correctly. For instance, Jesus said to turn the other cheek—not the same cheek. This does not mean it is wrong to defend yourself. A backhanded slap on your right cheek was an insult and a challenge to fight. The meaning of this saying is that we should not return disrespect for disrespect.
Another example is; Jesus told his followers to be salt, but he did not mean to give the world flavor. Throughout almost all of human history (before refrigeration), salt was not so much a food flavoring as a food preservative. It preserved food; a Christian is to help preserve society from decay and corruption.
Jesus never said that rich men would not get into heaven, nor did he ever imply that to be saved, the rich must give away all their wealth. They only must be willing to give it up if God should ask it of them. In our hearts, we must love God more than we love our worldly treasures. "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil," not the money itself. Of course, it is hard to be humble if you are rich, and far more temptations are available. Wealth provides so many pleasing benefits that if asked to surrender it for God, most people would say no. Therein lies the rub.
Do Not Judge!
We are commanded to judge wicked deeds and doctrines. "Let the one without sin cast the first stone" means we are not to be vigilantes who go around killing adulterers—especially if we have committed the same sin ourselves. It does not mean we are to say adultery is good. Jesus told the woman who was a habitual sinner, "Go! And Sin no more." He never taught us that we should keep on sinning and be proud of it. Christ believed in right and wrong and taught us the difference.
‘Do not judge’ is the Bible phrase most often quoted by those who do not believe in the Bible. God does disapprove of some kinds of judging but approves and actually commands others. We are not to pick on the faults of our brothers and sisters. But we are to correct those who spread lies about God, Jesus, or the Bible; those who misrepresent or deviously take Scripture (sacred writings) out of context; people who are proud of their sins; and especially people who call evil good.
‘Judge not’ applies to people who denounce others publicly for doing the same things they do secretly—where they think no one sees. God sees. It never meant ‘Do not confront evil’ or ‘Do not denounce sin.’
When Jesus says that it would be better for us to pluck out our eyes and cut off our hands—the most valuable non-vital parts of our bodies—rather than go to Hell, he means we need radical surgery of a spiritual nature. He says we must be 'born again,' literally reborn from above—a spiritual rebirth of your heart, which is baptism by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God comes to live inside you, with your body as the Temple of God, conjoined to Christ, abundant life eternal.
There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament, so it is not ALL about being non-judgmental. It is not true that God is nothing but love and expects nothing from us morally. Jesus sternly warned against those who know better, leading the innocent and the ignorant into wickedness. 'Keep my Commandments' is written 359 times in the Bible. These commands cover every phase of your relationship with God and your fellow man. It would be best if you were interested enough to study them to learn what they say and mean.
We are to seek God, first and foremost. We should come to God like little children, not because we are innocent but because we are dependent and should not pretend otherwise. To serve God and your fellow man—not the pursuit of personal pleasure—is the purpose of life. To a man, it is great to be served; in God's eyes, a man who serves is great.
We are instructed to forget insults, forgive without even being asked, and continue to do good even to ungrateful people. But be courageous in standing up for the Truth—which is eternal and never changes. If you hear and obey, the Lord will give more light (understanding) to you. If you fail to heed what you have learned, your mind will be darkened to the truth. You are always spiraling in one direction or the other.
The Parables of Jesus
Jesus often taught by using parables—little stories that illustrate timeless moral truths. Forty of them recorded in the Gospel, some so deep that entire books have been written about them. A parable is literally 'a comparison' that imparts understanding and wisdom. This is Jesus's way of challenging people to consider the meaning of his words carefully.
The most famous parable is the Prodigal Son. It teaches that even the most licentious—immoral, especially sexually immoral; having no respect for good behavior standards—wastrel who rejects God can be reconciled with Him if he comes with a humble, contrite heart, asking for forgiveness. In the story, the Prodigal Son asks his father for his inheritance, which is another way of expressing that he wished his father was dead—the only way to acquire one's inheritance. He takes it and blows it all on sinful pleasures. All of his friends,' who seemed to adore him during the fat times, abandon him once the money is gone. He ends up stuck in the lowest of all jobs—feeding pigs. Overcome by hunger, he eats swine food—carob pods—that is fit for no man.
He comes to his senses and decides to go home—not to his former place of honor as his father's son, but as the lowest servant in his father's house. After he confesses his sins and declares his unworthiness, the Father not only forgives him—He treats him like a dignitary!
The big brother of the Prodigal Son has always done the right thing. He is jealous of the attention lavished on his younger brother. Why, his brother ought to be punished—not granted grace. The older brother brags on his own goodness. He figures he has earned his good position while his little brother has not. So angry does he become with his father that he forgets his father has given him everything he has.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a great example of true repentance—confession of doing wrong, genuine sorrow, with heartfelt humility. It is also a striking illustration of God's love for wayward human beings, of how willing God is to forgive.
Jericho, sitting at 800 feet below sea level, was an enormous city with 100,000 residents. One of the oldest settlements in the world, it was known as the 'City of Priests' because 12,000 of them lived there. The walk from Jerusalem to Jericho is twenty miles, during which the elevation drops 3500 feet. Through rugged desert country, the route was called the 'bloody way' because highwaymen infested it. This is the setting of another marvelous parable, the Good Samaritan. No, it does not call for a government program. In fact, the Bible talks about caring for the poor in over 100 places but never once mentions the government or civil authorities in that context. Jesus declares that we will never eradicate poverty in this world. But the Good Samaritan sees a stranger in need, and because he is aware of the need, and he has the means to provide for that need, the stranger is his neighbor.
The moral of the parable of the Unmerciful Servant is that if we want to be forgiven for our sins by God, we must make it a habit to forgive those who sin against us. In this story, a man owes his king about $600,000,000 that he will never be able to repay. He begs for mercy. Astonishingly, the king forgives his debt in full. This same man then runs across someone who owes him a mere $35, and he strangles him over it! He will not forgive or extend mercy. The king hears of this and revokes the mercy he previously granted: God will not forgive unforgiving men and women.
In the East, it was well known that some people would plant poisonous seeds or weeds—tares—in fields of wheat that belonged to those they hated. Darnel is a plant that looks exactly like wheat until it is fully grown when the grains turn black and poisonous. The Parable of the Weeds warns us against false teachers, false teachings, and false religions that may hide behind or mingle with the Christian faith. These 'tares' will be weeded out and burned by Christ when he comes back at Judgment Day.
Two of my favorite parables are the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. If you misplaced a dollar in your home, would you not look for it even if you had quite a few others? If one of your animals wanders off, will you not look for it even if you have ninety-nine others? Thus, it is explicated how God cares for each and every human being even though He has no shortage of them.
The Kingdom of God
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Shepherds in the East name their sheep as we do our dogs and horses. Sheep know their own names and come when called. Sheep always follow their shepherd but ignore strangers.
Jesus came to launch the Kingdom of God, a society that men and women must join as individuals. To belong, we must recognize our true condition: lost without God; doomed without His deliverance. Those who reject the Kingdom are the walking dead.
Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God is so important people should seek it first before all other things. God will slowly transform us into men and women who are pure in heart, clean in thought, without guile, merciful by nature, eager to do what God says is good, and loving even to our enemies—if we stick with the program.
The miracles performed by Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom of God has come. It is to spread slowly around the globe through the dissemination of the Gospel. It is about the redemption of humankind.
Jesus in the World
This article is an excerpt from my first book, Jesus in the World: The First 600 Years, which is about the Origin of Christianity. Topics Include the Life of Jesus, the Apostles, the Gospel, the Bible, the Church, Worship, Doctrine, Saints, Monks, Relics, Martyrs, Jews, Heresy, Church Fathers, Constantine, Rome, Byzantium, Church Councils, Creeds, Paul, Augustine, and Gnosticism
James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 11, 2021:
KC KcGee ~ You made my day with your awesome accolades. Thank you for reading my work. I appreciate your blessings. May God bless you and yours.
KC McGee from Where I belong on March 10, 2021:
One of the best and amazing articles I have read in a very long time on the subject of Jesus Christ. If I had the authority (which clearly I don't) to add this to the first four Gospels it would be titled;..........The Book of James.
Outstanding job on this one.
James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 09, 2021:
Lisa Tippette ~ Thank for reading my article. I am so glad you liked it and I appreciate your gracious compliments. As for your most excellent questions, there is no record in the Bible where Jesus prays with his eyes closed. I mean, in no verse does it say, "Jesus closed his eyes to pray." It seems most people do today, and almost deem it necessary somehow.
That Jesus was born in a cave I got from an extraordinary book that I summarized in this hub: https://discover.hubpages.com/literature/The-Everl...
Upon further research, I found that Justin Martyr mentions Jesus having been born in a cave in AD 150, as does Origen maybe 100 years later. The Church of the Nativity was built over a cave in the 4th century. Ancient historical records show it was common for livestock in that area to be kept in caves at night.
James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 06, 2021:
Christofer French ~ You are too kind sir. I am a mere conduit, through whom these words flowed. If it inspired you, then Lord be praised brother. I appreciate your graciousness. Thank you for reading my work. God bless.
James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 06, 2021:
Frank Rooks ~ You are quite welcome. I thank you for reading my piece. Goosebumps, eh? In that case, I have gone beyond my expectations. Your lovely laudations made my day.
Lisa Tippette from North Carolina on March 06, 2021:
Another well written and informative article! Did not know Jesus was born in a cave, or that he never closed his eyes when he prayed! (Couod you show me these references?) Always interesting to read your hubs!
James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 06, 2021:
Pamela Oglesby ~ I sure appreciate your visit. Thank you for reading my work, and leaving such warm, encouraging words.
Christofer French from Denver on March 04, 2021:
I admire you so much that it almost creates envy in me. But alas, I must let you be the fashioner of your excellent march and simply proceed along my way. And thus you create in me the urge to go forward on my path. More strength to you!
fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on March 04, 2021:
James, a truly glorious article. I agree with every part of it and had goosebumps just reading. Thank you for your article.
James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 04, 2021:
T ~ Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I am well pleased by your response to it. And you are quite welcome. Your gracious compliments are well received, and I am happy for you that your grandchildren will be visiting you for a long time.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2021:
This is a beautifully written article about Jesus, James. I don't think I realized that Jesus never closed his eyes when praying. I think you thoroughly covered the life of Jesus, and I have read the Bible many times. I always learn something new to apply to my life.
T on March 03, 2021:
Well done James.
My grandchildren spend half of the summers with me (except last summer because of covid). It gives their parents a break and me a chance to be part of their lives as they all live in a state 14 hours from me.
Thank you for the excerpt, your narrative of Jesus is the perfect thing for me to share with my grandchildren when they visit. You are a great story teller.