The Reverend Charles Harper wrote:|
Jesus said, “The wind blows where it
wills and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or
whither it goes. So it is with everyone born of the spirit.”
Whatever else this passage may say, what it says to me is that change is
possible -- change is always possible. It says that no matter what your genes
no matter what kind of personal hell you were brought up in, no matter what
life may have been like
for you as a child, no matter what oppressive political regime you may be a
victim of, the human spirit is such that radical change is possible.
Jesus himself was an illustration of this principle. He was an example of
the unpredictability of the human spirit. Sarcastically, the Pharisees,
speaking of Jesus, said, “Study the scriptures and you will find the
prophets do not come from Galilee.” Operating under their own brand of
theological determinism, the Pharisees believed that nothing good could come
from Nazareth. Frankly, to them, Nazareth was on the wrong side of the
tracks. Surely a prophet would have gone to the best schools that money
could buy. There were no prestigious schools in Nazareth. Besides, it was
written in the scriptures where a Messiah would come from; it was right down
there in black and white, and Jesus didn’t have the right credentials. His
heritage, His environment, His nuturing attitude, His nature, His genetics were all
wrong for a messiah. But I, for one, am glad Jesus was born on the wrong side
of the tracks.
I’m glad His birthplace was a manger and not a castle. I’m glad that He
conquered Jerusalem on a donkey and not on a stealth bomber. I’m glad His
mother and father had a rough beginning of it. I’m glad that He was trained
as a carpenter and not as a high-priced theologian. I’m glad His life was a
contradiction to the written word and the expectations of the people of
Israel. I’m glad His life was an example of freedom, an example that with the heroic spirit that lives in each and everyone of us
absolutely anything is possible. No matter what your genes and no matter
what your environment, Jesus’ life is a statement of the impossible
possibilities that are true for all of us.
HEROES OF FAITH HERO:
Jesus was a teacher and
prophet who lived about two thousand years ago. Over one third of the
world's population call themselves Christians, or those
who follow the teachings of Jesus. There are about 10 million Christians in China alone. Christians believe that Jesus
is the Son of God and the Messiah, or the Savior promised by the Bible.
"The Christ" literally means "the anointed one," another word for the
The importance of Jesus is evident is many ways. The common calendar uses his birth as a starting point, with "2002 A.D.", or Anno Domini, being Latin for "in the
year of our lord." Dates reckoned before Christ's birth are "B.C.," or
"before Christ." Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, is still
regarded as a day of rest. Other Christian holidays are also
by millions, especially Christmas and Easter, the days when Jesus'
and resurrection are remembered. Thousands of Christian churches can
found throughout the western world. The Bible,
in which the story of Christ's life can be found, is one of the best-selling
books of all time, and has been translated into over 2,000 languages.
The story of Jesus' life is told in the New Testament of the Bible. His mother Mary was a poor Jewish woman. Her husband Joseph was a carpenter. Mary was still a virgin when she conceived Jesus. The holy spirit came to the Virgin Mary
and the "King of Israel" was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
This is a small village near Jerusalem in Israel. Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt to escape from King Herod, who had heard prophecies about Jesus and was jealous of anyone who might take away
power. The three wise men, learned sages from the Middle East, also
knew the prophecies and came to give gifts to the baby Jesus in Egypt.
Jesus spent most of his years in Nazareth, a city in Israel, where he
learned his father Joseph's trade of carpentry. Jesus waited until the
age of 30 before starting his ministry of prophecy, miracles, and
Most of the four Gospels in the Bible focus on this phase of Jesus'
life. Gospel means "good news," and these four books were written by
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, four of the earliest followers of Jesus.
After gathering a group of twelve disciples, Jesus spent the next three
years traveling in Israel, teaching and doing miracles, including
healing and raising of the dead. His teachings emphasized loving God
and following God's laws rather than adhering to the rules imposed by
human society. Jesus also prophesied that he was the Son of God and
ultimate path of salvation. "I am the way, the truth, and the life,"
said Jesus; "no one comes to the Father except through me." Because
appeared to be the savior and because of his care for the common people,
Jesus attracted a large following.
|The Statue of Jesus at Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro|
After three years of this ministry throughout Israel, Jesus had begun
make enemies among the established religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Especially opposed to Jesus' work were the groups known as the scribes
and Pharisees, who objected to Jesus' challenges to their highly
ritualistic traditions. After recruiting Judas, one of Jesus' own
disciples, to betray him, the enemies of Jesus had him arrested by the
local Roman authorities. After a trial, Jesus was condemned to death
a cross. This was also known as crucifixion, a painful form of capital
punishment practiced by the Romans, in which the victim was nailed to a
wooden cross and hung there until dead. The signs that accompanied
Jesus' death made many more believers, especially when Jesus' body
disappeared after having been buried for three days, and it was
that Jesus had risen from the dead. Soon afterwards, Jesus appeared to
his former disciples and many others, and he was seen ascending into
Christians believe that Jesus lived a blameless life while on earth,
that his death was thereby a suffering on their behalf of the ultimate
consequences of their own wrongdoing. Jesus' resurrection, the most
important belief of Christians, is a symbol that human wrongs have been
overcome once and for all, and that salvation is now available for
everyone who believes. Christians celebrate these truths in the
sacraments, or holy rituals of remembrance. The most important
sacraments are baptism and communion. Baptism, or being submerged in
water, is a sign that the Christian has followed Christ into the grave
(the water) and has now entered into a new life. Communion, in which
Christians eat bread and wine, symbolizes the sacrifice of the body and
blood of Christ.
After Christ's ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God,
came down and filled Jesus' disciples. The disciples now became known
as apostles, and spent the rest of their lives doing miracles and
spreading the teachings of Jesus to many countries. Wherever they
the apostles taught the sacraments and formed groups of believers, or
fellowships. These fellowships eventually became the different
churches, or denominations, that most Christians identify with today.
The largest Christian groups are Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant,
which includes such denominations as Anglican, Episcopal, Methodist,
Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Unitarian, as well as many others. But although
Christians belong to many different churches, live in many different
countries, and speak many different languages, they are united in their
common belief in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.