The man from Nazareth is not what most
of us think. Let's take a closer look at him.
Jesus from Nazareth was the child of a peasant woman from an obscure town in Palestine. He worked as a carpenter until late in his twenty-ninth year, then became an itinerant preacher for the last few years of his life.
He never bought a home, never raised a family of his own, never wrote a book or went to college. He never held a political office, had only a few close followers, and stayed in a comparatively small area. He had no credentials, but became the most controversial figure of his time.
Who was this man? An incredible number of people claim they have had a spiritual experience with this prophet although he lived 2,000 years ago. What is it about Jesus from Nazareth that has so affected our world?
Jesus was not born between B.C. and A.D. Modern scholarship has revealed he was probably born somewhere between 4 to 6 B.C. He was raised in a small village called Nazareth in the province of Galilee. He lived a short life and probably never saw his thirty-fourth birthday. He was crucified by the Romans somewhere near A.D. 29 (or shortly afterward).
Like most Jews of the era, this man did not possess a last name. A Jew was usually known by his father. Thus, Simon was called Simon bar-Jona. "Christ" is not Jesus' last name. It is the Greek word for "Messiah" and was a title used extensively by the early Christian church.
Jesus was probably suntanned and physically rugged. Anyone who has walked under Palestine's hot sun knows the prophet could not possibly have remained fair-skinned for long. He lived in an age when men had to be physical. As the firstborn son, he no doubt was taught to work in his stepfather's carpentry shop early in life. He had to walk almost everywhere he went, and he traveled considerable distances during his last three and a half years.
Jesus did things only a man who had control of himself could do. Shortly before beginning his public ministry, he walked into the blazing desert near the Dead Sea and spent forty days without food. Many would have died from exposure and starvation, but he thrived.
We often think of the Nazarene as gentle, meek, and mild; the personification of patience; a man who was always serious; one who never said an unkind word. This is not, however, the man as he is found in history.
Jesus was not endlessly patient. It is often recorded that he reached the end of his endurance with those who would not believe in him. His look often showed both anger and sorrow at the obstinance of those who questioned him. When angry, he never concealed the emotion.
Jesus' personality was forceful and his message straight-forward. He was not mild in his approach to the excesses of the Jewish religion during that day and he sharply rebuked the corrupt religious leaders of his day.
They condemned him for associating with drunks, tax-collectors, and prostitutes. He responded by saying, "Those who are well don't need a physician, only those who are sick. I didn't come to call people who think they are righteous; I came to call those who know they're sinners." (Mark 2:7).
Because he didn't often perform fasts or wear sackcloth like the religious men of the day, but ate and drank like other men, they called him a glutton and a drunk. They accused him of breaking the law, of blaspheming God, and of being in league with the devil.
He in turn called them a brood of vipers. He said they were like whitewashed tombs which had the appearance of cleanliness on the outside, but inside were filled with dead men's bones. He said they didn't know God and were only going through the motions of religion.
Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." He went on to declare that he would set the members in families against each other. Sons would be divided against their fathers and daughters would disagree with their mothers over him. He declared that if you love your father, your mother, or your children more than you loved him, you weren't worry of him. (Matthew 10:34-37).
True to his teachings, Jesus brought division wherever he went. While he may have brought inner peace to a few, there seems to be a great deal of hostility that erupted whenever this man showed up. His teachings polarized men and he drove wedges between people. No one who carefully reads the gospel accounts should ever describe him as being wishy-washy.
But we cannot assume Jesus never laughed or found anything funny. The Nazarene was not so carried away with himself that he failed to see the humor in life. At the height of his sharpest denunciation of the Jewish leaders, called the Pharisees,* (Matthew 23:24, 25) he told his listeners these men carefully strained what they were going to drink to remove gnats, but when they went to drink they swallowed camels without even realizing it! Of course he was referring to their inconsistency and hypocrisy, and although he did not tell an out-and-out joke, he did reveal a crisp wit.
Jesus turned his back on material possessions. No crisis caused this decision. Right from the beginning he contended there were more important things in life than possessions.
Jesus did not shy away from the sins and excesses of the world like an ascetic. Rather, he challenged them like a modern-day revolutionary. He didn't recommend salvation as a great experience: he taught it as a necessity—for everyone but himself. He wanted to liberate men, but was insistent it be done his way.
We cannot dispose of Jesus in our minds as a weak crutch for those who need a religious faith. The man presented in the New Testament may not be what we have imagined, but he was definitely not weak. He possessed a powerful and demanding personality.
take a fresh look at this man. Were his so-called miracles the product of a
magician's skill? Was he the child of an illegitimate relationship? Could
he have been perfect and sinless? Where his claims those of a rational mind?
It is our goal to expose the real Jesus, as he existed in history.
*The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect of the day who believed strongly in the Hebrew Scriptures and a system of man-made laws which they had created.