Je’sus Christ. “The life and character of Jesus Christ,” says Dr. Schaff, “is the holy of holies in the history of the world.” I. Name.—The name Jesus signifies saviour. It is the Greek form of Jehoshua (Joshua). The name Christ signifies anointed. Jesus was both priest and king. Among the Jews priests were anointed, as their inauguration to their office. 1 Chron. 16:22. In the New Testament the name Christ is used as equivalent to the Hebrew Messiah (anointed), John 1:41, the name given to the long-promised Prophet and King whom the Jews had been taught by their prophets to expect. Matt. 11:3; Acts 19:4. The use of this name, as applied to the Lord, has always a reference to the promises of the prophets. The name of Jesus is the proper name of our Lord, and that of Christ is added to identify him with the promised Messiah. Other names are sometimes added to the names Jesus Christ, thus, “Lord,” “a king,” “King of Israel,” “Emmanuel,” “Son of David,” “chosen of God.”
II. Birth.—Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, God being his father, at Bethlehem of Judea, six miles south of Jerusalem. The date of his birth was most probably in December, b.c. 5, four years before the era from which we count our years. That era was not used till several hundred years after Christ. The calculations were made by a learned monk, Dionysius Exiguus, in the sixth century, who made an error of four years; so that to get the exact date from the birth of Christ we must add four years to our usual dates; i.e., a.d. 1882 is really 1886 years since the birth of Christ. It is also more than likely that our usual date for Christmas, December 25, is not far from the real date of Christ’s birth. Since the 25th of December comes when the longest night gives way to the returning sun on his triumphant march, it makes an appropriate anniversary to mark the birth of him who appeared in the darkest night of error and sin as the true Light of the world. At the time of Christ’s birth Augustus Cæsar was emperor of Rome, and Herod the Great king of Judea, but subject to Rome. God’s providence had prepared the world for the coming of Christ, and this was the fittest time in all its history.
1. All the world was subject to one government, so that the apostles could travel everywhere: the door of every land was open for the gospel. 2. The world was at peace, so that the gospel could have free course. 3. The Greek language was spoken everywhere with their other languages. 4. The Jews were scattered everywhere with synagogues and Bibles.
III. Early life.—Jesus, having a manger at Bethlehem for his cradle, received a visit of adoration from the three wise men of the East. At forty days old he was taken to the temple at Jerusalem; and returning to Bethlehem, was soon taken to Egypt to escape Herod’s massacre of the infants there. After a few months stay there, Herod having died in April, b.c. 4, the family returned to their Nazareth home, where Jesus lived till he was about thirty years old, subject to his parents, and increasing “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” The only incident recorded of his early life is his going up to Jerusalem to attend the passover when he was twelve years old, and his conversation with the learned men in the temple. But we can understand the childhood and youth of Jesus better when we remember the surrounding influences amid which he grew.
1. The natural scenery was rugged and mountainous, but full of beauty. He breathed the pure air. He lived in a village, not in a city. 2. The Roman dominion was irksome and galling. The people of God were subject to a foreign yoke. The taxes were heavy. Roman soldiers, laws, money, ever reminded them of their subjection, when they ought to be free and themselves the rulers of the world. When Jesus was ten years old, there was a great insurrection, Acts 5:37, in Galilee. He who was to be King of the Jews heard and felt all this. 3. The Jewish hopes of a Redeemer, of throwing off their bondage, of becoming the glorious nation promised in the prophets, were in the very air he breathed. The conversation at home and in the streets was full of them. 4. Within his view, and his boyish excursions, were many remarkable historic places—rivers, hills, cities, plains—that would keep in mind the history of his people and God’s dealings with them. 5. His school training. Mr. Deutsch, in the Quarterly Review, says, “Eighty years before Christ, schools flourished throughout the length and the breadth of the land: education had been made compulsory. While there is not a single term for ‘school’ to be found before the captivity, there were by that time about a dozen in common usage. Here are a few of the innumerable popular sayings of the period: ‘Jerusalem was destroyed because the instruction of the young was neglected.’ ‘The world is only saved by the breath of the school-children.’ ‘Even for the rebuilding of the temple the schools must not be interrupted.’ ” 6. His home training. According to Ellicott, the stages of Jewish childhood were marked as follows: “At three the boy was weaned, and wore for the first time the fringed or tasselled garment prescribed by Num. 15:38-41 and Deut. 22:12. His education began at first under the mother’s care. At five he was to learn the law, at first by extracts written on scrolls of the more important passages, the Shemà or creed of Deut. 2:4, the Hallel or festival psalms, Ps. 114, 118, 136, and by catechetical teaching in school. At twelve he became more directly responsible for his obedience to the law; and on the day when he attained the age of thirteen, put on for the first time the phylacteries which were worn at the recital of his daily prayer.” In addition to this, Jesus no doubt learned the carpenter’s trade of his reputed father Joseph, and, as Joseph probably died before Jesus began his public ministry, he may have contributed to the support of his mother.
(IV. Public ministry.—Jesus began to enter upon his ministry when he was “about thirty years old”; that is, he was not very far from thirty, older or younger. He is regarded as nearly thirty-one by Andrews (in the tables of chronology referred to above) and by most others. Having been baptized by John early in the winter of 26–27, he spent the larger portion of his first year in Judea and about the lower Jordan, till in December he went northward to Galilee through Samaria. The next year and a half, from December, a.d. 27, to October or November, a.d. 29, was spent in Galilee and northern Palestine, chiefly in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee. In November, 29, Jesus made his final departure from Galilee, and the rest of his ministry was in Judea and Perea, beyond Jordan, till his crucifixion, April 7, a.d. 30. After three days he proved his divinity by rising from the dead; and after appearing on eleven different occasions to his disciples during forty days, he finally ascended to heaven, where he is the living, ever-present, all-powerful Saviour of his people.
Jesus Christ, being both human and divine, is fitted to be the true Saviour of men. In this, as in every action and character, he is shown to be “the wisdom and power of God unto salvation.” As human, he reaches down to our natures, sympathizes with us, shows us that God knows all our feelings and weaknesses and sorrows and sins, brings God near to us, who otherwise could not realize the Infinite and Eternal as a father and friend. He is divine, in order that he may be an all-powerful, all-loving Saviour, able and willing to defend us from every enemy, to subdue all temptations, to deliver from all sin, and to bring each of his people, and the whole Church, into complete and final victory.
Jesus Christ is the centre of the world’s history, as he is the centre of the Bible.—Ed.)