What Does the Bible Really Teach? Who Is Jesus Christ?
What is Jesus’ special role?
Where did he come from?
What kind of person was he?
1, 2. (a) Why does knowing about someone famous not mean that you truly know him? (b) What confusion is there about Jesus?
THERE are many famous people in the world. Some are well-known in their own community, city, or country. Others are known worldwide. However, just knowing the name of someone famous does not mean that you truly know him. It does not mean that you know details about his background and what he is really like as a person.
2 People around the world have heard something about Jesus Christ, even though he lived on earth some 2,000 years ago. Yet, many are confused about who Jesus really was. Some say that he was merely a good man. Others claim that he was nothing more than a prophet. Still others believe that Jesus is God and should be worshipped. Should he?
3. Why is it important for you to know Jehovah God and Jesus Christ?
3 It is important for you to know the truth about Jesus. Why? Because the Bible says: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Yes, really coming to know Jehovah God and Jesus Christ can lead to everlasting life on a paradise earth. (John 14:6) Furthermore, Jesus sets the best example of how to live and how to treat others. (John 13:34, 35) In the first chapter of this book, we discussed the truth about God. Now let us consider what the Bible really teaches about Jesus Christ.
THE PROMISED MESSIAH
4. What do the titles “Messiah” and “Christ” mean?
4 Long before Jesus was born, the Bible foretold the coming of the one whom God would send as the Messiah, or Christ. The titles “Messiah” (from a Hebrew word) and “Christ” (from a Greek word) both mean “Anointed One.” This promised One would be anointed, that is, appointed by God to a special position. In later chapters of this book, we will learn more about the Messiah’s important place in the fulfillment of God’s promises. We will also learn about the blessings that Jesus can bring us even now. Before Jesus was born, however, many no doubt wondered, ‘Who will prove to be the Messiah?’
5. Of what were the disciples of Jesus fully convinced regarding him?
5 In the first century C.E., the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were fully convinced that he was the foretold Messiah. (John 1:41) One of the disciples, a man named Simon Peter, openly said to Jesus: “You are the Christ.” (Matthew 16:16) How, though, could those disciples be sure—and how can we be sure—that Jesus really is the promised Messiah?
6. Illustrate how Jehovah has helped faithful ones to identify the Messiah.
6 The prophets of God who lived before Jesus foretold many details about the Messiah. These details would help others to identify him. We might illustrate things this way: Suppose you were asked to go to a busy bus depot or a train station or an airport to pick up someone you had never met before. Would it not help if someone gave you a few details about him? Similarly, by means of the Bible prophets, Jehovah gave a rather detailed description of what the Messiah would do and what he would experience. The fulfillment of these many prophecies would help faithful ones to identify him clearly.
7. What are two of the prophecies that were fulfilled in connection with Jesus?
7 Consider just two examples. First, over 700 years in advance, the prophet Micah foretold that the promised One would be born in Bethlehem, a small town in the land of Judah. (Micah 5:2) Where was Jesus actually born? Why, in that very town! (Matthew 2:1, 3-9) Second, many centuries in advance, the prophecy recorded at Daniel 9:25 pointed to the very year when the Messiah was to appear—29 C.E. * The fulfillment of these and other prophecies proves that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
At Jesus’ baptism, God’s spirit descending like a dove to identify Jesus as the Messiah
At his baptism, Jesus became the Messiah, or Christ
8, 9. What proof that Jesus was the Messiah became clear at his baptism?
8 Further proof that Jesus was the Messiah became clear near the end of 29 C.E. That is the year when Jesus went to John the Baptizer to be baptized in the Jordan River. Jehovah had promised John a sign so that he could identify the Messiah. John saw that sign at Jesus’ baptism. The Bible says that this is what happened: “After being baptized, Jesus immediately came up from the water; and look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw God’s spirit descending like a dove and coming upon him. Look! Also, a voice from the heavens said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’” (Matthew 3:16, 17) After seeing and hearing what happened, John had no doubt that Jesus was sent by God. (John 1:32-34) At the moment when God’s spirit, or active force, was poured out upon him that day, Jesus became the Messiah, or Christ, the one appointed to be Leader and King.—Isaiah 55:4.
9 The fulfillment of Bible prophecy and Jehovah God’s own testimony plainly show that Jesus was the promised Messiah. But the Bible answers two other important questions about Jesus Christ: Where did he come from, and what kind of person was he?
WHERE DID JESUS COME FROM?
10. What does the Bible teach about Jesus’ existence before he came to earth?
10 The Bible teaches that Jesus lived in heaven before he came to earth. Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and also said that His origin was “from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2) On many occasions, Jesus himself said that he lived in heaven before being born as a human. (Read John 3:13; 6:38, 62; 17:4, 5) As a spirit creature in heaven, Jesus had a special relationship with Jehovah.
11. How does the Bible show that Jesus is Jehovah’s most precious Son?
11 Jesus is Jehovah’s most precious Son—and for good reason. He is called “the firstborn of all creation,” for he was God’s first creation. * (Colossians 1:15) There is something else that makes this Son special. He is the “only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16) This means that Jesus is the only one directly created by God. Jesus is also the only one whom God used when He created all other things. (Colossians 1:16) Then, too, Jesus is called “the Word.” (John 1:14) This tells us that he spoke for God, no doubt delivering messages and instructions to the Father’s other sons, both spirit and human.
12. How do we know that the firstborn Son is not equal to God?
12 Is the firstborn Son equal to God, as some believe? That is not what the Bible teaches. As we noted in the preceding paragraph, the Son was created. Obviously, then, he had a beginning, whereas Jehovah God has no beginning or end. (Psalm 90:2) The only-begotten Son never even considered trying to be equal to his Father. The Bible clearly teaches that the Father is greater than the Son. (Read John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 11:3) Jehovah alone is “God Almighty.” (Genesis 17:1) Therefore, he has no equal. *
13. What does the Bible mean when it refers to the Son as “the image of the invisible God”?
13 Jehovah and his firstborn Son enjoyed close association for billions of years—long before the starry heavens and the earth were created. How they must have loved each other! (John 3:35; 14:31) This dear Son was just like his Father. That is why the Bible refers to the Son as “the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15) Yes, even as a human son may closely resemble his father in various ways, this heavenly Son reflected his Father’s qualities and personality.
14. How did Jehovah’s only-begotten Son come to be born as a human?
14 Jehovah’s only-begotten Son willingly left heaven and came down to earth to live as a human. But you may wonder, ‘How was it possible for a spirit creature to be born as a human?’ To accomplish this, Jehovah performed a miracle. He transferred the life of his firstborn Son from heaven to the womb of a Jewish virgin named Mary. No human father was involved. Mary thus gave birth to a perfect son and named him Jesus.—Luke 1:30-35.
WHAT KIND OF PERSON WAS JESUS?
Jesus preaching to people in a home
15. Why can we say that through Jesus we come to know Jehovah better?
15 What Jesus said and did while on earth helps us to get to know him well. More than that, through Jesus we come to know Jehovah better. Why is this the case? Recall that this Son is a perfect reflection of his Father. That is why Jesus told one of his disciples: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) The four Bible books known as the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell us much about the life, activity, and personal qualities of Jesus Christ.
16. What was Jesus’ primary message, and where did his teachings come from?
16 Jesus was well-known as “Teacher.” (John 1:38; 13:13) What did he teach? Primarily, his message was “the good news of the Kingdom”—that is, God’s Kingdom, the heavenly government that will rule over the entire earth and will bring endless blessings to obedient humans. (Matthew 4:23) Whose message was this? Jesus himself said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him who sent me,” namely, Jehovah. (John 7:16) Jesus knew that his Father wants humans to hear about the good news of the Kingdom. In Chapter 8, we will learn more about God’s Kingdom and what it will accomplish.
Jesus preaching to a fisherman
17. Where did Jesus do his teaching, and why did he go to great lengths to teach others?
17 Where did Jesus do his teaching? Everywhere he found people—in the countryside as well as in cities, in villages, in marketplaces, and in their homes. Jesus did not expect people to come to him. He went to them. (Mark 6:56; Luke 19:5, 6) Why did Jesus go to such lengths and spend so much of his time preaching and teaching? Because doing so was God’s will for him. Jesus always did his Father’s will. (John 8:28, 29) But there was another reason why he preached. He felt compassion for the crowds of people who came out to see him. (Read Matthew 9:35, 36.) They were neglected by their religious leaders, who should have been teaching them the truth about God and his purposes. Jesus knew how much the people needed to hear the Kingdom message.
18. What qualities of Jesus do you find most appealing?
18 Jesus was a man of tender warmth and deep feelings. Others thus found him to be approachable and kind. Even children felt at ease with him. (Mark 10:13-16) Jesus was impartial. He hated corruption and injustice. (Matthew 21:12, 13) At a time when women received little respect and had few privileges, he treated them with dignity. (John 4:9, 27) Jesus was genuinely humble. On one occasion, he washed the feet of his apostles, a service usually performed by a lowly servant.
Jesus reaching out to touch and heal the sick
Jesus preached wherever he found people
19. What example shows that Jesus was sensitive to the needs of others?
19 Jesus was sensitive to the needs of others. This was especially evident when, under the power of God’s spirit, he performed miracles of healing. (Matthew 14:14) For example, a man with leprosy came to Jesus and said: “If you just want to, you can make me clean.” Jesus personally felt this man’s pain and suffering. Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the man, saying: “I want to! Be made clean.” And the sick man was healed! (Mark 1:40-42) Can you imagine how that man must have felt?
FAITHFUL TO THE END
20, 21. How did Jesus set an example of loyal obedience to God?
20 Jesus set the finest example of loyal obedience to God. He remained faithful to his heavenly Father under all kinds of circumstances and despite all types of opposition and suffering. Jesus firmly and successfully resisted Satan’s temptations. (Matthew 4:1-11) At one time, some of Jesus’ own relatives did not put faith in him, even saying that he was “out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21) But Jesus did not let them influence him; he kept right on doing God’s work. Despite insults and abuse, Jesus maintained self-control, never trying to harm his opposers.—1 Peter 2:21-23.
21 Jesus remained faithful until death—a cruel and painful death at the hands of his enemies. (Read Philippians 2:8.) Consider what he endured on the last day of his life as a human. He was arrested, accused by false witnesses, convicted by corrupt judges, laughed at by mobs, and tortured by soldiers. Nailed to a stake, he took his last breath, crying out: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) However, on the third day after Jesus died, his heavenly Father resurrected him back to spirit life. (1 Peter 3:18) A few weeks later, he returned to heaven. There, he “sat down at the right hand of God” and waited to receive kingly power.—Hebrews 10:12, 13.
22. What did Jesus accomplish by remaining faithful until death?
22 What did Jesus accomplish by remaining faithful until death? Jesus’ death actually opens to us the opportunity for eternal life on a paradise earth, in harmony with Jehovah’s original purpose. How Jesus’ death makes that possible will be discussed in the next chapter.