WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?
BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY
Although Jesus is the Son of God, he is also the Son of man for he was born of the virgin Mary. St. John says, ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14) It was as a human child and a human man that he was known. The virgin birth was known by Mary and those who were nearest and dearest to her, and who believed her story of how Jesus was conceived in her womb and how the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced to her that a child would be conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit and he was to be called Jesus, Son of God. (Luke 1:30-33)
However, from the very start of his earthly life the identity of Jesus was hidden from but a few who were given the knowledge of his birth and identity. (Luke 2:25-26) And as Jesus grew up, who he was could not be fathomed by either his brothers or his neighbours. He grew up in Nazareth, a small village in Judea.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Moreover, his coming was eclipsed by John the Baptist who, according to the prophet Isaiah, was the one chosen to announce the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ. John the Baptist was the talk of all Judea and the surrounding countryside. The whole of Jerusalem and Judea went out into the wilderness to hear John the Baptist speak and were baptised by him in the river Jordan confessing their sins.
There was no apparent link between John and Jesus save that they were related by birth. John was Elizabeth’s son and Elizabeth was the cousin of Mary. The news of the coming Messiah had all Jerusalem in a state of expectancy and fever. Of all the hopes that Israel had, oppressed as they were by the Roman Empire, the hope of a deliverer and a king who would restore the kingdom of Israel, was their wildest and greatest. It was written in their Scriptures that the Messiah’s kingdom would be everlasting and rule the world. This then was the state of affairs and the state of mind that Israel was in before Jesus appeared to announce the kingdom of heaven.
It may sound coarse and Philistine for the Jews to believe and expect God to wipe out their enemies but that is how they foresaw their future in a world of gods who were no gods, and kings who called themselves gods. They were humiliated by centuries of suzerainty to foreign nations. Israel believed in the One true God, who delivered them from their slavery in Egypt by miraculous signs and wonders. Their ancestors were the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel whom God lead out of the wilderness by the hand of Moses to the promised land. They knew that God’s judgment meant to make them repent and when they did God always rescued and delivered them from their enemies. So it was good news to hear John the Baptist calling upon Israel to repent of their sins and be baptised in the river Jordan in preparation for the coming Messiah. But even the name of Jesus the Christ, was hidden from the majority of the Jewish people. Unlike when Moses openly addressed the people of Israel and chastised Pharaoh for his refusal to ‘Let my people go’, the origin and name of the Messiah was a mystery. For whilst his birth was announced and his title ‘king’ by the Maggi, the three wise men who appeared in Jerusalem looking for the child born to be king, they had no idea where the child born to be king was. And Herod only saw the birth of this king as a rival to his own throne, not as a God’s Son. His birthplace was known by the Scribes for it was predicted in their Scriptures but no one appeared to them or told them to expect the Messiah. They were as much in the dark as King Herod who wanted to destroy the child.
Clearly the events surrounding the birth of Jesus was an enigma, mysterious and perplexing.
The very nature of the birth defied reason and natural law. ‘How shall this be?’ Mary asked the angel, ‘seeing I know not a man?’ (Luke 1:34) From the very beginning of his life on earth Jesus was a child born to be the king, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary. His lineage or seed was from heaven for he was begotten of the Father. He was therefore a heavenly divine being. Nevertheless, he was from Abraham’s seed by Mary for she gave him birth. This miraculous event had no precedent and no recognition, either in the law of nature or the law of society. He became human by his mother’s reproductive cells. A virgin can now conceive a child out of the womb. That was once thought impossible. If that is the case with man, what about God? As the angel told Mary, ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’ (Luke 1:37)
JESUS THE BOY
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a village in the hills of northern Galilee, about twelve miles from the sea of Galilee. Estimates of the population of Nazareth at that time vary but the largest estimate is two thousand, whereas the smallest is just four hundred, or so. There are no details of his education in Nazareth but his knowledge of the Scriptures may be assumed from the astonishment of the doctors of the law in Jerusalem where he was found by his parents discussing deep questions with them. (Luke 2:46 ) Every Jewish household would be well versed in the Scriptures for it was a parents duty to pass on the Word of God to their children but the education of Jesus was not confined to human parents. His knowledge was already beyond the education of the doctors of the law since his own Father in heaven had taught him as Jesus later acknowledged. ‘I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.’ (John 8:28 KJV) His boyhood was therefore spent in God’s school as was his pre existence in heaven. There is evidence that he was taught and learned carpentry in Joseph’s shop. Many years passed before he appeared in public. There are no records in the Scriptures of his life in Nazareth during that time. Mary, however, knew Jesus intimately and her knowledge of the child and man was revealed when Jesus and his mother were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The disciples of Jesus were also there. The wine ran out which created an embarrassing crisis for the governor in charge of the reception. Mary appealed to Jesus, saying, ‘They have no wine.’ (John 2:3) Jesus understood perfectly what she implied and answered her with words that she understood too, for she said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ (John 2:5) The exchange between May and Jesus was spoken with complete understanding not shared by anyone else, and Mary’s expectation was that Jesus would provide the wine by a miracle. The story is too well known for me to repeat it but the point I am making is that during those years when the mother and the Son shared their lives together, Mary knew what Jesus was capable of doing that no one else could possibly know.