We begin the New Testament story by looking at Jesus’s birth and life, and His ministry and teaching until He enters Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion. And we’ll see how each of the four Gospels gives us a unique view of Jesus’s life and character and ministry.
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Leader’s Guide for group study
This Group Study Guide contains three questions, with Bible passages to read, together with some notes to help the group leader to guide the discussion.
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J I Packer writes (in his book Knowing God): “It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1.14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. . . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.”
By His Spirit, through a miraculous creative act, we must assume that God fertilised Mary’s ovum with the human component normally contributed by the male. So Jesus was fully Human. And at the moment of that creative act, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took human nature into union with His divine nature. So Jesus was fully Divine. Jesus wasn’t merely a Human indwelt by God’s Spirit (as a true Christian is). He was fully God as well as fully Man. He possessed both a divine nature and a human nature, but He was a single Person.
●The virgin birth shows that salvation can only come from God. God miraculously intervened to provide our Saviour, Jesus Christ, God made Man.
●It shows that Jesus was fully divine and fully human.. God was Jesus’s Father. Mary was Jesus’s true biological mother. It seems that Luke 3.23-38 gives Jesus’s genealogy through Mary; the most likely explanation is that Mary is Heli’s daughter, but Joseph (as head of the household) is named as Heli’s offspring instead. Mary was of King David’s line. Jesus was a true descendant of David. And, through Mary, He was descended from Adam (see Luke 3.38). Jesus is biologically related to you and me, and to every person who has ever lived. It is vital that He should be. Only then could He be our Saviour.
●It shows that Jesus was sinless.. Jesus was conceived “from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1.20). Jesus’s conception was overshadowed by the Spirit in such a way that – though Mary, a sinner, was His mother – He was entirely without sin (see John 8.46, 2 Corinthians 5.21, 1 Peter 2.22, 1 John 3.5).
After His baptism, Jesus was tempted by Satan. This links back to Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve.
●Would He meet His natural bodily desire for food, and eat what God had not given Him to eat? Jesus refused to do this. In contrast, Adam and Eve ate what God had forbidden them to eat.
●Would Jesus test God’s protection of Him (promised in Psalm 91.11-12) through a presumptuously reckless act – to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple? Satan tempted Jesus to test whether God was with Him and would protect Him from harm – in effect, to be like the Israelites in the desert, who said, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17.7). But, as R.T. France observes, “The Son of God can live only in a relationship of trust which needs no test.” Satan tempted Adam and Eve to distrust God. They fell to that temptation.
●Thirdly, would Jesus take the easy crossless short-cut to His Messianic goal and grasp the kingdoms of this world? If He had done so, He would have transferred His allegiance from God to Satan. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to grasp power, too ‒ power to be “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3.5), in other words, power to decide for themselves what was good for them, and what wasn’t. This, too, meant transferring their allegiance from God to Satan (though deceitful Satan didn’t tell Eve that grasping this power would mean coming under his dominion).
All three temptations boiled down to this: would Jesus trust God and obey Him? The temptation in the Garden also boiled down to this same issue – would Adam and Eve trust God and obey Him?
Notice that God’s written words – the Scriptures – are a foundation for Jesus’s life. Satan tempted Adam and Eve by questioning God’s word – “Did God actually say, . . . .” (Genesis 3.1). But Jesus obeyed God’s word (He responded to Satan’s temptations by quoting God’s word from Deuteronomy 6.13,16, 8.3).
Adam and Eve sinned under conditions that were supremely favourable to obedience – a paradise where all their needs were met bountifully. In contrast, Jesus obeyed God in conditions that were highly unfavourable – 40 days of hunger in a desert.
Jesus is a Second Adam. The first Adam fell to Satan’s temptation. Jesus, the Second Adam, resisted Satan’s temptation.
The Kingdom of God is the reign or rule of God in His creation. God’s goal is that His Kingdom comes on Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6.10). God’s Kingdom on Earth can be expressed in this way: it is God’s people in God’s paradise in God’s presence. From the creation of mankind, God began to act to establish His Kingdom on Earth. Mankind’s sin has not deflected Him from this purpose. Jesus Christ’s conception and birth was a new phase in His plan to establish His Kingdom on Earth. Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom God’s Kingdom is being established.
And since the Day of Pentecost, God’s Kingdom has been advancing across the globe. God’s Kingdom will come in its final glory when Jesus returns to Earth. This Earth will be transformed, Heaven and Earth will merge and the New Jerusalem will come down out of Heaven from God. This city represents God’s Kingdom come on Earth – God’s people in God’s paradise in God’s presence.
Only those who are born again by the Spirit of God can enter God’s Kingdom. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3.5). Jesus here refers to spiritual birth, which cleanses from sin and brings spiritual transformation and renewal. The water therefore seems to picture spiritual cleansing (rather than baptism). We might paraphrase what Jesus is saying here in this way: “To enter God’s Kingdom, you need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. He will cleanse you and renew you. You will be a new creation.” Ezekiel prophesied: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. . . . . And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36.25-27).
Other Bible passages reinforce the truth that we must be cleansed from sin to enter God’s Kingdom – see Matthew 13.41-43, and compare Revelation 21.8. Only God can cleanse us. He does that on the basis of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, and through His Spirit. Our part is to repent of sin, and trust in Christ (compare Mark 1.15).
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.