Christians are followers of Jesus Christ, who was put to death on a Roman cross in the first century A.D. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and rose from the dead. Christians read about the life and teachings of Jesus in the gospels written by four of his followers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospels were written 30 to 70 years after Jesus died. The gospels were statements of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, a savior that Jews believed had been promised to them by God. The gospels describe Jesus as working miracles, healing the sick, and befriending the friendless. They also tell about his preaching of God’s mercy and love, and urged his followers to love one another.
What are the gospels? The gospels are accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings written by four of his followers. Who wrote the gospels and when did they write them? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels. They were written 30 to 70 years after Jesus died.
According to the gospels, an angel appeared to Jesus’ mother, Mary, to tell her that she would bear God’s son. Mary and her husband, Joseph traveled to Bethlehem in Judea around 6 B.C. to be counted in the census ordered by King Herod. Mary had Jesus during that time in Bethlehem which was called “the city of David”. It is likely that Jesus grew up in Nazareth and learned carpentry, his father’s trade. Like other boys, he probably spent long hours studying Jewish law and religious writings. When Jesus was about 30, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist who identified Jesus as the savior the Jews had been waiting for. After spending 40 days praying in the wilderness, he returned to Galilee and began to preach.
According to the Gospels, where was Jesus born? Jesus was born in Bethlehem. What did Jesus learn about and study as a child? Jesus studied and learned about Jewish law and religious writings, and carpentry. Why was Jesus baptism a turning point in his life? John the Baptist identified him as the savior the Jews had been waiting for.
As Jesus began preaching, he called 12 men to follow him called his disciples. They were simple fisherman and laborers. Jesus taught his information by telling stories, performing miracles and giving sermons. Of all the Jewish laws, Jesus said the two greatest commandments were “You shall love your God with all your heart and all your soul. The second was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus preached that God’s kingdom was not an earthly kingdom of power and riches, but a kingdom when people would live according to God’s will and would know his love. While the Jews focused attention on the law, Jesus focused on what was in people’s hearts. Some Jews worried that this way of thinking was wrong and dangerous. Others worried that Jesus’ followers would stir up trouble with the Romans.
According to the gospels, what did Jesus say were the most important of all the Jewish laws? The most important Jewish laws were “You shall love your God with all your heart and all your soul.” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Why did Jesus’ teachings upset some Jews? Jesus’ teachings upset some Jews because Jesus seemed to care more about what was in people’s hearts than about people’s obedience to Jewish law. Also, some feared that his followers would stir up trouble with the Romans. How did Jesus spread his message? By telling stories, performing miracles and giving sermons.
After much teaching, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. After supper with his disciples, Jesus went to a garden to pray. Judas told some Jewish leaders where Jesus could be found. Jesus was led away under guard. Brought before the Jewish council, the high priest accused him of claiming to be the Son of God. Under Jewish law, the penalty for blasphemy was death. The Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate had to approve the penalty and could find no fault with Jesus. Eventually Pilate was convinced and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion. Jesus was buried. According to the gospels, Jesus rose the third day from the dead. He appeared to the disciples, convincing them that he is the Son of God. He then joined his Father in Heaven. The disciples then began spreading the news of his life and teaching.
According to the gospels, why was Jesus sent to die on the cross? Jesus was condemned to die on the cross because he claimed to be king of the Jews and their Messiah. Why was belief in Jesus’ resurrection so important to his disciples and other followers? The resurrection was important because it convinced them that he was the Son of God.
A time after Jesus’ death, a Jewish tax collector named Saul became a leader in the early persecution of Christians. He was a Greek-speaking Jew and a Roman citizen. One day he was traveling to a city called Damascus. He was blinded by a light from Heaven and heard Jesus’ voice calling, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” He was blinded and taken by his followers to a Christian who healed him. From that point on, he was convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the Son of God. He became a tireless missionary for Jesus Christ. As an educated man who spoke Greek, Saul made it his mission to convert non-Jews, known as Gentiles. He was called Paul; his name in Greek. Paul stressed the need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. He taught that all people are God’s children and that they did not have to adopt such Jewish customs as not eating pork or shellfish. Paul wrote many letters to churches in the Roman empire. Tradition says that the Romans cut off his head in about 65 A.D. after being jailed in Rome.
What caused Paul to stop persecuting Christians and become a missionary? Saul stopped persecuting Christians and became a missionary because he believed he had heard the voice of the risen Jesus. How did Paul’s work help spread Christianity? Paul helped spread Christianity by traveling through the empire preaching. While in jail, he wrote letters to other Christians.
By the 60’s A.D., the Christians were beginning to attract the attention of the Romans. Rome was tolerant of other religions as long as the conquered people worshipped Roman gods and emperors as well. Christians refused to worship Roman gods or admit that the emperor was a god. Many Christians refused to serve in the army. These ideals were insulting to the Romans. Eventually, Christianity was declared illegal. Christians who refused to honor the Roman gods were sentenced to die. Some were crucified, some were burned to death, others were hauled into arenas where they were devoured by wild animals. Persecution failed to destroy the new religion. Instead Christians won new admirers by facing death bravely. Christianity offered many people in the empire a sense of purpose and hope. As time went on, people of all classes were won over to the new faith. By the early 300’s, the emperor Constantine became a Christian and allowed Christians to worship freely. In 395, Christianity became the official Roman religion.
Why were Christians considered a threat to Rome? Christians were a threat to Rome because they refused to worship Roman gods, would not admit the emperor was a god, preferred a life of simplicity, and refused to serve in the army. How did Rome’s persecution of Christians help Christianity grow and spread? People admired the bravery of the Christians who faced death. Also, Christianity offered hope to the poor and slaves and offered all people a sense of purpose.