Dealing with Sin

From the CLC Bible Companion

By his death, Jesus dealt with the sin that has so devastatingly disrupted the life of God’s world and its fellowship with him.


The early Christians expressed their understanding of the significance of Jesus’ death with a simple summary statement: “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). This short summary, however, called to mind a whole world of meaning from the Old Testament, which helped the first Christians to understand what Jesus had done for them. For a start, Jesus had done something about “sin”.

  • A history of sin.

In the Old Testament, sin was not a vague term referring to general moral failings, as it is sometimes used today. Sin could only be named as “sin” within a particular context: the context of relationship with God. God had established the world as a place where humans could flourish in life as they remained in constant, obedient fellowship with him (Genesis 2:15-17). But, no sooner had this relationship been established, than humans stepped outside its boundaries by disobeying God’s command (3:6), and so losing the blessings of life with him (3:16-24). From then on, sin was always “lurking at the door” (4:7), disrupting the peace of God’s creation, and turning humans away from him.

Throughout the Old Testament, God called a particular people to come back into fellowship with him. He rescued the nation of Israel from slavery in the land of Egypt so that there would once again be people who would enjoy life as he had intended. He made a covenant with them, committing himself to them and asking them to commit to him. To help them live constantly within this covenant, he gave them the gift of a law, known as the Torah, which described the kind of life that remained within the boundaries of his covenant. Obeying God’s Torah was not supposed to be a heavy burden, but a joyful delight – it affirmed that God wanted his creation to be blessed. As Israel stayed close to him, they would show the rest of the world what God’s life-giving holiness looked like (Exodus 19:5-6). However, sin was still “lurking at the door”, and the people of Israel were quick to go out to it, and let it into their midst. Time after time, sin disrupted God’s covenant, and turned his people away from him.

  • A definition of sin.

Simply put, sin is missing the way of life that God intends. Within the context of Israel, this way of life had been clearly described by God’s good commands in the Torah (see Psalm 119, a song of praise to God for his law). Sin in Israel, therefore, was to disobey God’s law and step outside his holy way of life. It could happen deliberately, as God’s people intentionally turned away from him, or unintentionally, as they were simply caught up in the waywardness of the world around them (see Leviticus 4). Importantly, sin is not simply an action – failing to live up to a list of do’s and don’ts – but an attitude of the heart: human life that is out of step with God from the very centre of its being.

  • The result of sin.

The Old Testament had many different ways to describe the consequences of sin, all of them negative. It caused banishment from God’s blessing (Genesis 3:24); it created uncleanness that spread like a malicious virus through society (see Leviticus 5:2); it brought guilt and shame and despair (Psalm 6:1-7); it grew unchecked into whole systems of evil and injustice (eg Amos 1–2); and it resulted in the ultimate banishment from God’s presence – death. God’s constant judgement about sin was that it had to be removed if people were to live. If it were not removed, then they would die, both now and eternally.


The first Christians proclaimed that Jesus had “died for sin”. The background to this was the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Through sacrifice, God had provided a way for sin to be dealt with, so that his people would not be swept away by his judgement about sin and its disastrous consequences, but rather be restored to life and fellowship with him.

  • The sin offering.

Leviticus 4:1–5:13 describes the procedure for presenting a sacrifice for sin to God. To us today, the amount of bloodshed involved in these sacrifices may seem excessive, but in the ancient context where animals were sacrificed by all societies in their thousands and millions, God’s instructions were in fact restrained and gracious – there was a standard procedure and by following it closely the worshipper could know that they were back in fellowship with God. They did not need to sacrifice for the same sin twice. The procedure was clear: if a person sinned, they were to bring an animal to the priest, confess the sin and lay their hand on the head of the animal as it was slaughtered. This signified that this costly sacrifice had died in the place of the sinner. Blood was sprinkled inside the sanctuary, signifying that God had accepted the offering and the carcass of the animal was completely burned up. The sin had been removed from the sinner, so that it could no longer riddle the fellowship of God’s people with its devastating consequences. The priest would declare the sin “forgiven”, which meant that God and his people were once again “at one” (atonement, Leviticus 4:20,26,31, etc.). The death of the sacrifice meant the life of the worshipper.

  • The Day of Atonement.

Once a year, all Israel observed the Day of Atonement, on which the whole nation was cleansed (Leviticus 16:34). Central to the proceedings were two goats. On this day alone, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, with a bowl of blood from one of the goats. He came out of the Most Holy Place and made atonement for each area of the sanctuary in turn, in order to show clearly that forgiveness and cleansing had been initiated by God himself (16:15-19). Then the high priest laid hands on the second goat and confessed over it all the sins of Israel. It would be sent out into the wilderness, where it would die, signifying that God had removed sin from the people completely – the goat had borne it away (16:22). Free of sin, God’s people were re-established in their relationship with him, and could go in peace to live out his covenant in their lives. Once again, a sacrifice had died in order to let God’s people live.


The first Christians understood Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin against this Old Testament and contemporary Jewish background.

  • The sacrifice of the new covenant.

Jesus’ death brought God’s covenant with Israel to its climactic end (Romans 10:4) and ushered in a new, better covenant. The old covenant, which included the sacrificial system, had been intended to cleanse Israel from their sin so that they could demonstrate to the nations what it meant to live in intimate fellowship with God. But throughout their history, God’s people had struggled to stay in fellowship with him, time and again being overwhelmed by sin and its consequences. The constant sacrifice of animals was not working – sin was still rampant among God’s people.

The writer of Hebrews had grasped the profound significance of Jesus’ death. Unlike the sacrifices in the temple, which had to be offered time after time because they never really cleansed the worshipper (10:4), Jesus “has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself ” (9:26). Jesus was the reality of atonement, of which all the Old Testament sacrifices had just been shadows and anticipations (“sketches of heavenly things”, 9:23). His sacrificial death had brought about a new covenant relationship with God.

  • The universal sacrifice.

As part of the new covenant, Jesus’ sacrifice was not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John the Baptist had said, recalling the imagery of the Day of Atonement, that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Certainly, he had been crucified as a direct result of the sin of those who rejected him; but in a profound sense, he had died with the weight of the whole world’s sin on his shoulders. The world is the sort of place where the Son of God, who brings only grace and truth, can be crucified (John 1:10-11,17). But because of Jesus’ sacrifice, it is also the sort of place that can be freed to live with God.

  • A liberating and cleansing sacrifice.

As Jesus explained to his disciples at the Last Supper, he was going to his death to bring about the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). He would bear the devastating agony of sin’s true consequences in his own body, so that others would not have to. At the moment he died, the curtain into the Most Holy Place in the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:50-51). The way in to fellowship and new life with God – the way that had been blocked by sin – had now been opened for all (see Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 10:19-20; 1 Peter 3:18). But also, as pictured by the Day of Atonement, God’s cleansing power could sweep out of the temple into the world. Through Jesus, all can be cleansed and purified, so that they may worship God with the life he always intended (Hebrews 9:14).

Jesus’ sacrificial death is, in fact, central to his announcement of the kingdom. Without being set free from sin, it would be impossible for his followers to share in the life of God’s promised kingdom. Without a sacrifice for sin, God’s judgement about sin would remain over them – their lives would end in death (Romans 6:23). However, because he died “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3), bearing them away in his own body (1 Peter 2:24), people who come to him are set free from sin to live in God’s new covenant, looking forward to the fulfilment of their salvation in his new creation. Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin enables a great, gracious exchange to take place: he took our sin, so that we might share in his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-26)!


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit:


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Knowing Jesus 1

Knowing Jesus: Jesus, the Son of God

From the CLC Bible Companion.

Jesus’ understanding of his mission and the events of his life reveal his unique relationship with God and his true identity as the Son of the Father.


The declaration of Jesus as the Son of God was central to the faith and preaching of the first Christians, and continues to be so to this day. Mark tells his readers at the beginning of his Gospel that the Jesus whose story he is about to recount is “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). The first message preached by Paul after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was that “he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). In 1 John, the confession that Jesus is God’s Son is seen as the key to the whole Christian life (1 John 4:15; 5:5,10,12). However, the first Christians did not invent this belief; it is grounded in the life, teaching and mission of Jesus himself.


Jesus’ disciples would already have been familiar with the term “son of God” from two main contexts.

  • The Old Testament.

The people of Israel knew that they had a special relationship with the true God. When God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, he had sent a message to Pharaoh through Moses, saying, “Israel is my firstborn son. Let my son go so that he may worship me” (Exodus 4:22-23; see also Hosea 11:1). In the ancient Middle East, as in many places today, the firstborn son had a special status within family life: he enjoyed the closest relationship with his father and often spoke and acted on the father’s behalf. Among all the nations of the world, Israel was God’s firstborn son, enjoying his lavish love and blessing and being called to act on his behalf in the world (eg Deuteronomy 7).

Later, the king of Israel was also seen as the “son of God”, because of God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:14. The king represented in one individual what the whole nation was supposed to be. Psalm 2, which was possibly sung at the coronation of kings in Israel, mentions the close relationship with God that the king enjoyed, as well as his special responsibilities to act on God’s behalf (see also Psalm 89:19-37). Of course, it soon became clear that neither the nation of Israel nor the king were fulfilling their responsibilities as God’s “son”. Passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that at least some Jews expected the coming Messiah to be the true “son of God”.

  • Pharaohs, kings and emperors.

Israel was not the only nation to use the term “son of God” to describe their ruler. In the ancient Near East, both Egypt and Babylon also gave this title to their pharaohs and kings. For them, it highlighted the special relationship the king was thought to enjoy with the gods, and so underlined his authority to rule. Whereas in Israel the use of the term did not mean that either the king or the nation was in any sense divine (but merely a human representative of God), this distinction was not as clear for other nations, who thought that the gods might adopt heroic leaders as divine sons.

For instance, in the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great declared himself to be a son of the god Zeus, and expected actually to become a god after his death. He asked his subjects to worship him as divine during his lifetime! In the Roman Empire it was commonly believed that an emperor became a god at his death; his successor was then called a “divine son”, or a “son of god”.

This belief was inscribed on some Roman coins, which have been discovered by archaeologists. For instance, the penny that Jesus asked to see in Mark 12:13-17 was probably marked with the inscription “Augustus Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus”. The early Christians proclaimed Jesus to be the true “son of God” written about in the Old Testament. They did so in a world where the term was used as a political title for emperors who demanded worship. However, they also knew that Jesus had transformed the meaning of the term, because he was the Son of God in a new and unique way.


In one of his parables, Jesus tells the story of a man who owned a vineyard. He leased the vineyard to some tenants and then went away for a long time. When it came to the harvest, he sent servants back to the vineyard to collect his share of the produce. However, the tenants attacked his servants and chased them away. Eventually, the man sent his own son, thinking the tenants would respect him. But instead they murdered the son, and so faced the owner’s judgement (Matthew 21:33-39). Jesus’ hearers knew from the Old Testament that the nation of Israel was the vineyard (see Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:8-18), and the Jewish leaders could tell that they were the tenants who were supposed to care for it (Matthew 21:45). The owner was, of course, God himself; his servants were the prophets who had been sent to warn Israel to produce a crop of righteousness for God (see John the Baptist’s message in Luke 3:8). In the parable, Jesus is the owner’s son: he has been sent after all the prophets to turn the tenants from their wicked ways and make the vineyard productive once more.

Just as the Old Testament background suggests, Jesus as the Son of God came to accomplish the Father’s work. The Son is the Father’s chief representative who can act with the Father’s authority. Peter recognised that Jesus was not just another prophet, but that he was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) – Peter had recognized that Jesus had a unique role in bringing God’s plan to its climax. Jesus was the Father’s Son!

Sometimes people called Jesus the “son of David”, which is a reminder of God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:14 that the great coming king in the line of David would be the son of God (eg Mark 10:47). In John 1:49 Jesus is declared to be both “the king of Israel” and “the Son of God”, showing the clear connection between these two terms. From the earliest days of his earthly life, Jesus was aware that he had been sent to work in his Father’s business, just as a firstborn son would be (Luke 2:49; John 8:42). To call Jesus “the Son of God” is a recognition that Jesus acts completely on his Father’s behalf (John 10:36-37), so that whatever he does, it is what the Father wants (John 5:19). As God’s Son, Jesus fulfils all God’s promises from the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).


Jews have always been careful about the terms they use to speak to and about God. Although God’s personal name (in Hebrew, YHWH) was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, Jews tended to avoid using it in case they broke the third commandment (see Exodus 20:7). In Jesus’ day, they used other less personal terms, such as “God”, “Lord”, “the Blessed One” (Mark 14:61), or simply “Heaven” (Mark 11:30).

Jesus, however, used the most intimate language to speak about his relationship with God. In the four Gospels, he consistently speaks of God as “Father” around 150 times (around 100 times in John’s Gospel alone). In the garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest, Jesus prayed using the term “Abba”, which is an everyday Aramaic term meaning “Daddy” that expresses the closest relationship of love and trust between a child and his father (Mark 14:36). As the Son of God, Jesus has seen the Father (John 6:46), and so is able to make him known to others (Luke 10:22; John 1:18).

Just as Jesus trusts the Father, so the Father trusts Jesus as his Son to do his will (Matthew 11:27). At two key points in Jesus’ ministry, God’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased”: at his baptism (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) and his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35).


Key aspects of Jesus’ life helped the first Christians to realise that he was the “Son of God” in a new and unique way.

  • His incarnation.

Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, rather than by a human father (Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35). Jesus also consistently spoke of how he had “come from the Father” (eg John 16:28). Whereas for other humans, birth is the beginning of life, Jesus’ birth was an incarnation – he had existed as the Son of God before his human birth. Unlike the pagan rulers, Jesus was not an adopted son of the gods, but the eternal Son of God.

  • Recognition by Satan and demons.

Whereas Jesus’ true identity was hidden from his disciples during his earthly ministry, it was recognised by Satan (Matthew 4:3,6; Luke 4:3,9) and by demons (eg Luke 8:28).

  • His resurrection and ascension.

Jesus was put to death because of his claim to be speaking and acting as the Son of God (see Luke 22:70-71). His resurrection was God’s confirmation that Jesus had spoken the truth about himself. Paul pointed to the resurrection as the revelation, or declaration, of Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God (Romans 1:4). After his resurrection, Jesus returned to the Father (John 16:28; 20:17) to be in the place of honour at his right hand (Acts 7:56; Hebrews 1:2-3).

  • His work of salvation.

The first Christians knew that Jesus had given them a new, intimate relationship with God (eg Galatians 4:4-6). As they made sense of this, they realised Jesus could only do this if he himself were God’s Son in a unique way – if he fully shared the same divine nature as his Father. When they looked back over his life and teachings, they saw that this was in fact what Jesus was all along. The term “Son of God” had been enriched and transformed. Jesus the Son is to be trusted and worshipped just like his Father.


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit:


Download Free PowerPoint Resources for your Bible Studies:

Knowing Jesus 1

Knowing Jesus: Jesus, the True Human

From the CLC Bible Companion

Jesus was fully human in every way; in fact, he shows us what it really means to be human.


From the second century AD, some people claimed that Jesus had not really been human, but that he had only seemed to do human things, suffer and die. This idea may be reflected in 2 John 7. They could not understand how Jesus, the divine Son of God, could ever have been a man with flesh and blood. These views are known as “Docetism”, from the Greek word “to appear” or “to seem”. Early church leaders, such as Ignatius and Irenaeus, argued against Docetism, and the church’s creeds clearly affirmed that Jesus was a human. It is important to note that Docetism arose around the second century, well after the events of Jesus’ life. The people who met Jesus during his earthly life had no reason to doubt that he was a human being, just like them. The New Testament consistently describes Jesus in human terms:

  • Birth and early years.

Although Jesus was conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35), he still had a very human birth (Luke 2:6) and required his mother’s care and attention (Luke 2:7) and Joseph’s protection (Matthew 2:13-15). Over the following years, Jesus grew up in age, strength and wisdom, just like any child would (Luke 2:40,52). We do not know very much about Jesus’ family life; however, it is clear from the Gospels that his parents, brothers and sisters were well known in their home town of Nazareth (Matthew 13:54-56; Mark 6:1-3). Jesus’ early years were so normal that the people who had seen him grow up were surprised that he could teach about God with authority (see also Luke 2:46-47) and do great miracles – they thought he was just a carpenter, as Joseph had been before him.

In the mid-second century AD, imaginative stories began to be written about Jesus’ early life, claiming he had superhuman powers. For instance, in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, he moulds some birds out of clay and then brings them to life! While these stories were quite popular at the time, the church never accepted them as true. As the New Testament suggests, until the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus seems to have grown up just like any other first-century Jewish boy.

  • Physical, emotional and spiritual life.

Jesus was fully human in every way. He had bodily needs for food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18; Luke 4:2), water (John 4:7; 19:28), and rest (Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23; John 4:6). He accepted the hospitality of others during his ministry (John 12:1-2, also Luke 8:1-3), and was often found at a party! He experienced the full range of human emotions, including joy (see Luke 7:34), friendship and love (John 15:12-15), compassion (Matthew 9:36; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13), grief (John 11:33-35), anger (Mark 3:5; John 2:13-17) and anguish (Luke 22:44). In his spiritual life, Jesus had to draw strength from God in prayer (Luke 6:12; 9:28) and resist the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, also Luke 4:13). The first Christians knew that Jesus’ work of salvation was effective for them because he had been completely human, just like them in every way except for sin (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15).

  • Jesus’ miraculous power.

Sometimes we think that Jesus’ miracles prove that he was divine. However, the people who saw them did not automatically think this. They presumed he was a human who was able to use heavenly or demonic power (Luke 11:15-16). Jesus explained that he worked miracles by “the finger of God” (Luke 11:20); he was a human being filled with the Holy Spirit of God (Luke 4:18-21). Other humans also performed miracles (eg 1 Kings 17:17-24; Acts 3:1-10).

  • Death and burial.

The Gospels describe the agony Jesus endured on the cross (Matthew 27:33-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46). John records that he saw blood and water flowing out of Jesus’ side after his death, proving that he really was dead (John 19:33-35). Jesus was buried in a tomb, and everyone expected that his body would rot away (the women brought spices for it on the third day, Luke 24:1).

  • Bodily resurrection.

After his resurrection, Jesus remained a real human being, even though his resurrected body was able to do extraordinary things (Luke 24:31,36). He ate with his disciples and invited them to touch his body to prove he was not a ghost (Luke 24:37-43; John 20:27). The message of the first Christians was grounded in the knowledge that Jesus, who had brought God’s life and salvation, was a real human being (1 John 1:1-3), both before and after his resurrection (Acts 17:31; 1 Corinthians 15:17).


Jesus knew that he had a special status among other humans. In the Gospels, he refers to himself over fifty times as “the Son of Man” (eg Mark 2:10; 10:45). The Aramaic phrase that stands behind this title can simply mean “a human being”, but it has special significance because of its use in Daniel 7:13.

There, Daniel sees a vision of “one like a son of man” approaching the throne of heaven and being given authority by God to rule the whole world. By calling himself “the Son of Man”, Jesus is referring both to the fact that he belongs to the family of humanity and to his unique status within that family. When Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man”, he claims that he is the one human being to whom God has given authority over everything (see Mark 14:62). Jesus uses this power and authority to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He brings salvation through the weakness of his humanity – ultimately through his suffering and death in Jerusalem (Mark 8:31; 14:41). In the future, as the Son of Man, Jesus will be the standard of judgment for all other humans (Luke 18:8).


The role of the Son of Man – to exercise responsible authority over the earth – was nothing new. In Genesis 1, humans were created on the sixth day, after everything else, as the pinnacle of God’s work. God gave humans a task appropriate to their lofty status – he instructed them to act as good stewards of his world (Genesis 1:28). Adam (whose name simply means “man”) and his wife Eve were supposed to be role models for the rest of humanity, living with God in fellowship and obedience. However, through their distrust of God’s word (Genesis 3:1-5) and disobedience (Genesis 3:6), this good order was disrupted (Genesis 3:14-19). The Old Testament does continue to speak of God’s vision for humanity (eg Psalm 8); however, in reality, humans are now incapable of living in the way God intended. Sin and death get in the way. If the story of Adam reveals what went wrong, the story of Jesus is the story of humanity as it should be. Jesus lived in constant fellowship with his heavenly Father. He exercised responsible authority over the world around him (eg calming the storm, Mark 4:39; feeding the crowds, Matthew 14:19-20). Jesus was not just another member of the human race; he was the one true human, the one who revealed human life as God had always intended it.

One of the ways the first Christians expressed this was by calling Jesus “the second Adam” or “the last Adam”. Paul contrasts the disobedience of Adam with the obedience of Jesus, and then he contrasts the effects of their lives: whereas Adam’s disobedience brought death to all, Jesus’ obedience brought life to all! (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 5:12-21). It is sometimes suggested that John’s Gospel envisages Jesus as the second Adam too. Just before his crucifixion, at the climax of John’s Gospel, Jesus is presented by Pilate to the crowds with the words, “Here is the man!” (John 19:5). Whatever Pilate himself may have thought about Jesus, Christians have rightly seen a deeper level of meaning in these words: “Here is the true man! Here is the second Adam!”


Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This means that among all creatures, humans were to embody the kind of life that God has, and reflect his glory in the rest of creation (Psalm 8:5). Since the fall, the image of God in humanity has been broken and marred by sin. However, Jesus is the perfect and complete image of God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), fully reflecting God’s glory in his humanity (John 1:14).

Of course, Jesus is much more than the perfect human being. But we must remember that Jesus resists sin and reflects God’s glory because he is being truly human, not superhuman. Jesus reveals that sin is not a normal part of humanity as God intended it; it is abnormal. As a human being, Jesus lived in dependence on God’s Holy Spirit, and was raised from the dead. This is what it means for us to be human too (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus’ perfect humanity is the hope of our salvation – we can be truly human as we join his family and are made in his image, which is the image of God (Romans 8:29).


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit:


Download Free PowerPoint Resources for your Bible Studies:

Knowing Jesus 1

Knowing Jesus: Jesus the Messiah

From the CLC Bible Companion

Jesus is called “the Messiah” or “Christ” because of his unique role in fulfilling the promises that God made to the Jewish people long ago.


Throughout the Old Testament, God made it clear that his people Israel were to play a special part in his plan to rescue and restore the world. When God called Abraham, he promised him that his descendants would be a blessing to everyone on the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). As the prophet Isaiah said over 1,000 years later, Israel were supposed to be a light to the nations, revealing the way to worship and serve the true God (eg Isaiah 60:1-3).

Through Israel, God would invite the whole world to discover his salvation. However, the people of Israel kept wandering away from the true God. Instead of being a light to the nations, they copied the practices of the nations around them and worshipped idols. Because they were not faithful to him, God allowed the Israelites to be defeated by their enemies and eventually carried into exile. It was clear that Israel needed to be saved too.

In the Old Testament, God used many individuals to rescue his people from their difficulties: for example, Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 1–15); wise and brave leaders like Deborah and Gideon helped the Israelites to defeat their enemies (see Judges); kings like David and Solomon brought honour and wealth to the nation (see 1 Chronicles 29); prophets called on the people to repent and follow the ways of God; and after the exile, a governor named Nehemiah and a priest called Ezra helped to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

Despite these, it was never long before Israel needed to be saved again. The great leaders in Israel’s history were not able to bring about permanent salvation and blessing for Israel and the world. But still God promised that a day would come when Israel would be saved once and for all. Some of these prophecies spoke about a wonderful leader who would be sent by God to accomplish this salvation. This leader would be greater than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) and David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Isaiah’s prophecy describes this mysterious person as a just and wise ruler (Isaiah 9:6-7), and as a faithful servant of God (42:1-9) who will deal with Israel’s sin (52:13–53:12) and so reveal God’s light and salvation to the whole world (42:6; 49:6), just as God had promised.

This servant will be able to accomplish all these things because he will be anointed with God’s Spirit (Isaiah 61:1). In the Old Testament, a person was anointed with oil in order to be set apart to do special tasks for God, particularly as a king or priest (eg 1 Samuel 16:13; Leviticus 8:12). Prophets too were set apart by God (eg Jeremiah 1:5). At the end of the Old Testament period, some people in Israel were looking for the greatest prophet, priest and king – the greatest “anointed one” – to come to establish God’s permanent kingdom of peace (Zechariah 9:9-10).


In the years between the Old and New Testaments, the expectation that an “anointed one” would come to save Israel grew. Ever since their return from exile, apart from the short period between 140 and 63 BC, the people of Israel had been ruled by a succession of foreign empires: first Persian, then Greek, then Egyptian, then Syrian and finally Roman. Jews longed to be free to rule themselves, and some began regularly using the Hebrew term for “anointed one” – our word Messiah – to describe a coming leader who would liberate them and restore their former glory.

There were many different ideas about what this Messiah would be like. Generally, people thought he would be a king greater than King David, who would lead a successful revolt against foreign powers. In the Dead Sea Scrolls two different Messiahs are expected, one a king and the other a priest. The priestly Messiah would clean out and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This was necessary because the temple had been defiled by Israel’s foreign rulers – particularly by Antiochus Epiphanes the Syrian, who had built a pagan altar in the temple in 167 BC. Even though Judas Maccabaeus had led a successful military revolt and had reconsecrated the temple in 164 BC, other Jews still looked for the true Messiah to come and bring God’s salvation once and for all. What connected these expectations was a belief that the Messiah would fulfil Jewish dreams of greatness.


The New Testament declares that Jesus is the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament (Mark 1:1; John 20:31; Acts 18:28). However, while Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (eg Matthew 1:21-23), he also challenged some Jewish expectations.

  • The birth of Jesus.

Jesus’ birth clearly pointed to his unique role as Messiah. The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to the great king of Israel (Luke 1:32-33). The birth itself took place in Bethlehem, to fulfil the prophecy of Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:3-6). Angels told some shepherds that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:11), and wise men from the east travelled to find the “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-11). When Jesus was first taken to the temple in Jerusalem, Simeon and Anna recognised that he was the Messiah of Israel (Luke 2:25-38), although Simeon also spoke of unexpected suffering (34,35).

  • John the Baptist.

John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1:67-79), by his preaching and baptism (Matthew 3:1-6). He was so popular that people began asking if he was the Messiah, but John told them that the Messiah was coming after him, and pointed them to Jesus (John 1:19-31).

  • Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus knew that his ministry of preaching and healing was a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21; 7:18-23). He spoke with greater authority than the leaders of the day (Matthew 7:28-29), and declared that he was greater than the prophet Jonah and King Solomon (Matthew 12:38-42). Just like the expected Messiah, he spoke about establishing God’s kingdom (Mark 1:14-15).

  • Peter’s declaration.

Jesus’ twelve disciples had followed him more closely than any others during his ministry. One day, Jesus asked them who they thought he was. Peter exclaimed, “You are the Messiah!” (Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20). People followed Jesus because they believed he was the one God had promised to send to rescue Israel (Luke 24:21).

  • The Messianic secret.

In the Gospels, when people recognised that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus often told them not to tell anyone else (Matthew 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 4:41; 9:21). He referred to himself as “Son of man” rather than as “messiah”. Jesus knew that people would misunderstand what he had come to do. They thought that the Messiah would be a great political leader who would deal with the Romans and set up a new national government (John 6:15). Instead, Jesus taught his disciples that, as the Messiah, he would suffer humiliation and death and then rise again in order to deal with Israel’s greatest enemy: not Rome, but sin and death (Mark 8:31; John 12:31-36; Matthew 26:26-28). The disciples did not fully understand this until after the resurrection.

  • Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

In the week before his death, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem as a king (Luke 19:29-40), and he cleared the temple of merchants and money-changers (19:45-46). He was acting as God’s promised Messiah! However, the Jewish authorities saw him as a threat to their way of life (see John 11:47-53), so they worked out a way to get rid of him. They arrested and tried him for pretending to be the Messiah (Luke 22:66-71). They accused him of trying to lead a revolt against the Roman emperor (23:2), and asked the Roman governor Pilate to crucify him. On the cross, a notice was placed over Jesus’ head that read, “This is the King of the Jews”. Many people mocked Jesus, because they could not believe that God’s true Messiah would be killed on a cross. (23:35-39).

  • The resurrection.

The disciples thought that the crucifixion was the end of their hope that Jesus was the Messiah. But on the third day, Jesus was raised from the dead. When he appeared to them, he explained that they had misunderstood the prophecies of the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27,44-47). Jesus had not failed in his role as Messiah; rather, by his death and resurrection, Jesus had accomplished what God had promised!


After Pentecost, the disciples proclaimed the good news that Jesus is God’s Messiah (eg Acts 2:36; 18:5). Jesus sent his disciples into all the world, not just to Jews (Matthew 28:19). The message for Jews is that their Messiah has come to fulfil all God’s promises, even if he has done so in a surprising way (2 Corinthians 1:20). The message to non-Jews is that because the Messiah has come, God’s light and salvation are now available to everyone (Ephesians 2:11-22). The Greek form of Messiah – our word “Christ” – became the most common way for early believers to refer to Jesus. But remember that “Christ” is a title, not a surname. Followers of Jesus Christ were soon called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit:


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Knowing Jesus 1

Knowing Jesus: Jesus in History

From the CLC Bible Companion

Jesus lived in a specific time and place in history, so we can discover many reliable facts about his life, death and resurrection.


Jesus was born into the Jewish world of first century Israel. Although some aspects of the first century world were similar to life in today’s world, other aspects now seem strange and unfamiliar. To understand Jesus and his message better, it is important to get to know this time and place. Helpfully, it is well documented in various historical sources.

Jewish writings after the Old Testament.

At the end of the Old Testament, some of the Jews had returned to their land after exile in Babylon (see Nehemiah and Ezra). The period of time before the start of the New Testament is known as the intertestamental period. A number of Jewish books written during this time can be found in the Apocrypha section of some Bibles. These include the two books of Maccabees, written around 100 BC. 1 and 2 Maccabees tell the story of Judas Maccabeus and his companions, who led a Jewish revolt in 167–164 BC against Antiochus Epiphanes, their Syrian ruler. Later, when the Romans took over the region in 63 BC, many Jews longed for another revolutionary leader like Judas to rescue them from foreign power. These writings record some of the stories and events from the Jews’ recent history that would have been well-known and important in Jesus’ day.

Dead Sea Scrolls.

In 1947, a shepherd found a collection of ancient scrolls in a cave near the Dead Sea. The scrolls from this and ten other caves (also known as the Qumran texts, because the caves are near the site of Qumran) include copies of every book of the Old Testament except Esther. There are also some commentaries on the Old Testament and other writings that describe the beliefs of some Jews, a group often known as the Essenes. They wrote about a great Messiah who they believed would save them from their troubles. The scrolls help us to understand the beliefs of some Jewish people at the time of Jesus, and remind us that there were many different groups believing different things in the ancient world, much like in society today.


The Jewish historian Josephus lived from AD 37 to shortly after AD 100. He wrote The Jewish War, which recounts what happened to the Jews after the Maccabean revolt. Josephus is the most important source of information outside the New Testament about life in Palestine during the time of Jesus.

Roman historians.

During the time of Jesus, Palestine was under the control of the Roman Empire. Roman historians, such as Tacitus and Suetonius, record how the empire viewed the Jewish people, and also occasionally mention the early Christian movement.


Jesus lived alongside other people with homes and jobs. Archaeologists have found buildings and other items of interest that show what life was like in first-century Palestine. They have also discovered specific locations that match the record of the New Testament, such as the village of Bethany (e.g. John 11:18) or the Praetorium, the official residence of the Roman governor in Jerusalem (e.g. John 18:28).


It is essential to remember that the story of Jesus’ life is grounded in real history. By comparing the historical information given by the Gospels (e.g. Luke 2:1; 3:1) with what is known about the officials they mention, Jesus’ birth can be dated about the year 4 BC. He was born in Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, but spent his early years in Nazareth, near the Sea of Galilee, in the north. When he was around thirty years old, he began a ministry of teaching and healing, which took him all over the land. He had many followers, but there were twelve special disciples who were with him throughout his ministry. Jesus’ teaching and actions frustrated the Jewish leaders, who were afraid he would disrupt the fragile peace they had with the Romans. In AD 30 or 33, Jesus was arrested by the Jewish authorities and handed over to the Romans to be crucified. On the third day after his burial, some of his followers found that his tomb was empty, and met with him again, alive from the dead (see especially 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). This account of Jesus’ life, drawn from the Gospels, can be matched with other ancient historical sources. For instance, the Jewish historian Josephus recorded the following information about Jesus:

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders.”

Josephus’ work was written around AD 90, so it was within living memory of the life of Jesus. Josephus also tells his readers about John the Baptist and James, the brother of Jesus. The life of Jesus, and the other people and events recorded in the Gospels, were not closely kept secrets, but public knowledge.


Most of our information about Jesus comes from the New Testament, and especially from the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. “Gospel” means “good news”. These books were written to tell the world what was important about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They are not complete biographies of Jesus, and they do not give us all the information that we might wish we had. However, they contain all that we need to know in order to understand the significance of Jesus and what he has done for us.

The Gospels in the New Testament can be relied upon as accurate pictures of Jesus. Many of the people and places mentioned in the New Testament Gospels have been verified by other historical documents and archaeology. Luke points out that he had spent much time researching his Gospel and speaking to eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4).

All the Gospels were written within living memory of Jesus’ life, and so the first readers would have been able to check that they were accurate. It is interesting to note that later on, many years after Jesus’ time, other stories containing imaginative and fanciful ideas were written about Jesus, such as the Gospel of Thomas, from the second century AD.

However, the early Christians refused to believe them and these documents did not become part of the New Testament. On the other hand, the four Gospels were accepted because they gave a clear and unembellished account of Jesus’ life and ministry. It is significant that there are four Gospels in the New Testament, rather than only one. This can sometimes seem confusing, especially when the Gospels contain differences in detail about the same event. For instance, John says that Jesus overturned the money-changers’ tables in the temple when he began his preaching and healing ministry (John 2:13-21). Matthew, Mark and Luke say it happened shortly before the end of his life (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). Did the event happen twice? Or did one or more of the Gospel writers put it in the wrong place?

We must remember that the Gospels do not intend to give us a diary of the events of Jesus’ life. The authors arranged their material about Jesus in their own ways in order to help their readers understand the significance of these events. John placed this episode at the beginning of his Gospel because it illustrates how Jesus’ ministry was replacing the religion of the temple. Matthew, Mark and Luke want to show how this event led the Jewish authorities to put Jesus to death (see, e.g., Luke 19:47).

However, this difference does not make their writing less accurate. Good history is not simply a list of facts, but is also a knowledge of why the facts are important. Sometimes the facts need to be arranged in a certain way, or particular elements need to be stressed, so that the significance of Jesus can be understood. The Gospel writers are like film editors, who cut and paste the story of Jesus so that we too can understand him in the way they did.

Because Jesus was a living historical figure, we should not be surprised that his life cannot be confined by a single account (see John 21:25). The fact that there are four accounts of his life is something to be celebrated, not ignored. Each Gospel writer provides a unique perspective on Jesus’ person and work.

Together, the four Gospels help us to meet with the Jesus who lived, died and rose again two thousand years ago.


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit:


Download Free PowerPoint Resources for your Bible Studies: Knowing Jesus