“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6)
These extraordinary words were spoken 2,000 years ago. The “Father” being referred to here is God–the uncreated, all-powerful, all-knowing, just and holy Creator of the universe. The man speaking these words is Jesus, the most famous person to ever live.

Born in a time of great upheaval as the newly formed Roman Empire asserted its domination over the eastern Mediterranean, Jesus’ birth was no ordinary occasion. First, He was not born in a proper house, but rather in some stables in the town of Bethlehem, the hometown of the famous King David. His parents were not influential, or rich, or powerful. One of the strangest facts of all was that His father and mother had never slept together. In fact, His mother, a young woman by the name of Mary, had never had sexual relations with any man! Instead, she had been visited by a supernatural being named Gabriel, a messenger from God Himself, and was told that she had been chosen to carry in her womb a living miracle–God’s own son.

Joseph, of course, initially doubted Mary’s story and planned to call off their marriage, but everything changed when he, too, became the recipient of a supernatural message confirming all that Mary had told him.

At Jesus’ birth, the fields around Bethlehem were ablaze with supernatural wonders as angels visibly celebrated the birth of God’s son. The many shepherds, who were out in the fields caring for their flocks, heard the commotion and ran to find the little manger where the baby was laid–just as the angels had told them.

Eight days after His birth, the baby was taken to the Temple of God in Jerusalem, where He was confirmed into the people of Israel and given the name ‘Jesus,’ which means “God saves.”

All this was marvelous, but as he grew into a man, Jesus never spoke of the beginning of His life as Him having been “born,” but rather He would say, “I was sent,” or “I came.” One might have been tempted to think He was crazy, but everyone who knew Him instantly recognized His absolute moral goodness, His unmatched wisdom, and His clarity of thought and speech.

Around His 30th year, however, everything changed. A man named John had created an uproar in Israel by crying out to the people of the land to come and be immersed in water as a symbol of turning away from the evil in their lives and turning their hearts back towards God. Jesus Himself went to be immersed, and John, who knew well that Jesus had nothing for which to say sorry to God, tried to dissuade Him.

But Jesus convinced John that, while it was true that He was not guilty of any wrongdoing for the whole of His life, being immersed in water was the right thing to do in God’s sight.
Then it happened. As Jesus came up from the water, the crowds heard a voice that sounded like thunder reverberate through the Jordan River Valley. The words that rang from the heavens said this:
“This is my son, the one I love. I am very pleased with him.”
(Matthew 3:17)
John himself, in this moment, saw the Spirit of God, looking something like a dove, come down from the sky and rest upon Jesus.

From this time on Jesus not only was an extraordinary person, but He began to do extraordinary things. Hundreds, even thousands of people were healed of sicknesses and oppression at His touch or command over the subsequent three years. His teachings, so convicting and wise, cut to the heart of multitudes. He spoke of the Kingdom of God. He spoke of turning from evil. He spoke of mercy, compassion and love. And yet, He also spoke very frequently of His own impending death.

It was His absolute conviction that He would be betrayed and murdered that most upset His students. It was His absolute confidence that He would live again after these grizzly events that most confused them. But despite all the good He did in healing, comforting and teaching the crowds, it was this knowledge of His coming death that seemed to be central in His thinking.

In time, this came to pass. One of His students betrayed Him to the religious authorities who were envious of His popularity with the people and angry that he consistently and publicly challenged them for their hypocrisy and greed. They concocted false crimes and arranged to have the Roman occupiers execute Him on a cross–an excruciating method of death where a person’s hands and feet are nailed to two boards, and then left to slowly die of thirst, starvation or suffocation.

Yet, He would not allow His students to fight to defend Him from this fate. He said nothing at His trials, even when false accusations and slanders were leveled at Him. In fact, weeks prior to these events, He had told a large crowd of people, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

While on the cross He suddenly cried out something unexpected, something the likes of which he had never said before. He cried in despair to God: “My God! My God! Why are you forsaken me?”

He then said, “It is finished.” And there, on the cross, He died.

For His students, who loved Him greatly, this was a calamity. All their hopes and dreams died with Jesus on that cross. What made it worse was that in His time of greatest need most of them had run off to save their own lives when the mob came to arrest Him.

They took Jesus down from the cross, and one His followers, a very wealthy man, offered his own tomb for Him to be buried in. They washed his body, wrapped Him in cloth and placed Him in the tomb and sealed it. The religious authorities convinced the Roman governor to place guards at the tomb to prevent any interference.

The following days were special holidays for the Jewish people, where they were not permitted to travel or go about. But on the third day, early in the morning, some of Jesus’ female students went to the tomb, hoping to be able to more properly care for His body after the rushed burial days before. When they arrived, they were astonished. The guards had fled! The massive stone in front of the tomb was rolled away. And two strange looking men told them that Jesus was no longer dead, but alive!

Bewildered, the women rushed away from the tomb and found the gardener and begged him to help them. But it was not the gardener–it was Jesus!

His hands and feet still bore the holes that had been driven into them at the cross, but He was the picture of life and vitality. But they had seen Him dead. They had touched His cold, lifeless body. He had been beaten beyond recognition. How could this be?

God had raised Jesus from the dead, just as He said he would, and in doing so had validated all that Jesus had ever done and said. It was not just these two women to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Over the subsequent 40 days, He appeared to hundreds of people who had known Him well prior to his death. Sometimes He appeared to them individually. Sometimes He appeared to them in groups.

He ate with them, spoke with them, and He made it very clear to them that He had, in fact, died and rose again. And with this, He explained to His followers why He had to die. The greatest problem that mankind faces is their separation from God due to the evil things they think, say and do. God’s goodness and justice means that all bad, all wrong, all evil must be punished. And yet, God is merciful and loving and hates to bring judgement on people He loves.

Now we understand why Jesus didn’t say, “I was born,” but rather, “I came” or “I was sent.” Before He was born in a stable in Bethlehem He had already existed. For all eternity Jesus existed as God’s only Son–His partner, His co-equal in all things. He had volunteered to become a human being and to take on Himself God’s righteous anger and the sentence of death against sin. He offered his eternal life on our behalf to God, so that those who allow Him to take their place can be innocent in God’s eyes. As a human, He could stand in our place. As God, Jesus had the eternal value to pay the price for all the evil and wrongs committed throughout the long history of mankind.

He explained all this and more to His students for forty days after His death and resurrection. Then He told them that it was time for Him to return to His Father. He did not say how long He would be gone, but He did promise that He would return and, when He did, He would transform the entire world for good.

In the meantime, His students would receive help from God’s Spirit, the same Spirit that had come to Jesus when He was immersed in the water by John. The Spirit would help them to love each other the same way He loved them, but would also help them to persuade as many people as possible to put their trust in Him and the price He paid on the cross. This trust would make them, too, the recipients of God’s forgiveness and the new life He offered them through His son.

These students went out into the world and could honestly swear that Jesus had died and rose from the dead and that they were first-hand witnesses of the fact. They did not merely claim to believe that it happened, but that they had personally witnessed His death, and met Him again after He rose. They proved their sincerity by never renouncing their testimonies, even with they faced humiliation, poverty, torture and death because of it. Thousands and thousands believed their message, and those multitudes added their testimonies of experiencing God’s forgiveness and new life through Jesus.

And we, too, add our testimonies to theirs. We have found new life, forgiveness and freedom in Jesus, the Son of God. And it is our sincere prayer that you too will come to know and trust Him as we have. We end this article with the invitation that Jesus Himself offered to all of us during His earthly life:
“Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest. Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to rest. Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.”
(Matthew 11:25-30)