For Faith Explorers
This website is intended primarily for Church Leaders and Christians. But if you've stumbled across it and you wouldn't call yourself either, then you are most welcome and here's something just for you, all about Jesus, the focus of the Christian faith.
Jesus lived at a time, 2000 years ago, when very few would have self-designated as ‘nones’. Most people had some belief in God. Jesus came to reveal God more fully, and to tell people about a new kind of community (the 'Kingdom of God').
His teaching was unsettling for those who felt they had ‘arrived’ in terms of faith and practice, and who were confident of a place in God's community. Jesus challenged outward observance of religion when it wasn't a reflection of what was going on in the heart. He was looking for authenticity, and criticised the religious leaders of his day for hypocrisy.
Jesus was always looking out for those who had no confidence in their own goodness, who felt disqualified from the favour of God. He said of himself that he had come to ‘seek and save the lost’. He had a reputation for hanging out with those whom society rejected or looked down on.
Jesus’ teaching reveals much about his heart for those who were not actively religious. The story of the lost son speaks of God’s welcome to those that have gone off the rails. He compares God's community to a party, where the invited guests make excuses, but the host throws the doors wide open inviting everyone to come in. He tells of the joy of the shepherd who leaves the 99 safe sheep, going off in search of the one who has gone its own way.
Jesus’ teaching was compelling and full of hope for those who felt God was not for them. Crowds of thousands turned up to hear him speak, and followed him from town to town. We are told that the crowds ‘were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law’. Again Jesus’ teaching was backed up by his lifestyle and actions.
Jesus performed many miracles, wherever he went and whenever he saw need. Those powerful acts were not reserved for the religious elite – he reached out to heal and deliver children, old people, beggars, sinners, the mentally ill, the outcasts, the rich, the Jew, the Roman and the Syrophoenician, his opponents and his friends. He fed the poor, spoke out for the marginalised and we are told that he ‘went about doing good, and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him’.
And yet, his clashes with the authorities, and the resentment and jealousy that they carried towards him, meant that for much of his life Jesus was a wanted man. The Bible is clear, though, that he was no victim, walking towards the danger and death that awaited him in Jerusalem. This was his greatest act of love: his self-sacrifice, his death, which opens up the possibility of peace with God. One of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, explains: ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still far off Christ died for us’. Three days after Jesus died, God raised him from the dead. This means that we can know him today. He sent His Holy Spirit on those who followed him - his continued presence with them and within them.
Christians believe that God’s invitation of love, issued by Jesus, is just as real today. Millions of Christians the world over have their own story of how they have encountered him.
If you’re interested to know more look up Christianity.org.uk, watch one of the many amazing films about Jesus, read the accounts of his life (and death) in the Bible (try Mark’s gospel), consider doing an Alpha course (Alpha.org) and ask him to make himself real to you. We don’t think you’ll regret it!