The name and title of the Son of God from the time of his anointing while on earth.
The name Jesus (Greek, I·e·sousʹ) corresponds to the Hebrew name Jeshua (or, in fuller form, Jehoshua), meaning “Salvation [or Help] of Jah [Jehovah].” The name itself was not unusual, many men being so named in that period. For this reason persons often added further identification, saying, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (Mark 10:47; Acts 2:22) Christ is from the Greek Khri·stosʹ, the equivalent of the Hebrew Ma·shiʹahh (Messiah), and means “Anointed One.” Whereas the expression “anointed one” was properly applied to others before Jesus, such as Moses, Aaron and David (Heb. 11:24-26; Lev. 4:3; 8:12; 2 Sam. 22:51), the position, office or service to which these were anointed only prefigured or typified the superior position, office and service of Jesus Christ. Jesus is therefore preeminently and uniquely “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”—Matt. 16:16; see CHRIST; MESSIAH.
The person who became known as Jesus Christ did not begin life here on earth. He himself spoke of his prehuman heavenly life. (John 3:13; 6:38, 62; 8:23, 42, 58) John 1:1, 2 gives the heavenly name of the one who became Jesus, saying: “In the beginning the Word [Greek, Loʹgos] was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god [“was divine,” AT; Mo; or “of divine being,” Boehmer; State (both German)]. This one was in the beginning with God.” Since Jehovah is eternal and had no beginning (Ps. 90:2; Rev. 15:3), the Word’s being with God from the “beginning” must here refer to the beginning of Jehovah’s creative works. This is confirmed by other texts identifying Jesus as “the first-born of all creation,” “the beginning of the creation by God.” (Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:1; 3:14) Thus the Scriptures identify the Word (Jesus in his prehuman existence) as God’s first creation, his firstborn Son.
That Jehovah was truly the Father or Life-giver to this firstborn Son and, hence, that this Son was actually a creature of God, is evident from Jesus’ own statements. He pointed to God as the Source of his life, saying, “I live because of the Father.” According to the context, this meant that his life resulted from or was caused by his Father, even as the gaining of life by dying men would result from their faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.—John 6:56, 57.
If the estimates of modern-day scientists as to the age of the physical universe are anywhere near correct, Jesus’ existence as a spirit creature began thousands of millions of years prior to the creation of the first human. (Compare Micah 5:2.) This firstborn spirit Son was used by his Father in the creation of all other things. (John 1:3; Col. 1:16, 17) This would include the millions of other spirit sons of Jehovah God’s heavenly family (Dan. 7:9, 10; Rev. 5:11), as well as the physical universe and the creatures originally produced within it. Logically, it was to this firstborn Son that Jehovah said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) All these other created things were not only created “through him” but also “for him,” as God’s Firstborn and the “heir of all things.”—Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2.
Not a co-Creator
The Son’s share in the creative works, however, did not make him a co-Creator with his Father. The power for creation came from God through his holy spirit or active force. (Gen. 1:2: Ps. 33:6) And since Jehovah is the Source of all life, all animate creation, visible and invisible, owes its life to Him. (Ps. 36:9) Rather than a co-Creator, then, the Son was the agent or instrumentality through whom Jehovah, the Creator, worked. Jesus himself credited God with the creation, as do all the Scriptures.—Matt. 19:4-6; see CREATION.
The revelation of this information concerning the Word in the Scriptures fits remarkably the description given at Proverbs 8:22-31. There wisdom is personified, represented as though able to speak and act. (Prov. 8:1) Many professed Christian writers of the early centuries of the Common Era understood this section to refer symbolically to God’s Son in his prehuman state. In view of the texts already considered, there can be no denying that that Son was “produced” by Jehovah “as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago,” nor that the Son was “beside [Jehovah] as a master worker” during earth’s creation, as described in these verses of Proverbs. It is true that in Hebrew, which assigns gender to its nouns (as do many other languages), the word for “wisdom” is always in the feminine gender. This would continue to be the case even though wisdom is personified and so would not rule out wisdom’s being used figuratively to represent God’s firstborn Son. The Greek word for “love” in the expression “God is love” (1 John 4:8) is also in the feminine gender but that does not make God feminine. Solomon, the principal writer of Proverbs (Prov. 1:1), applied the title qo·heʹleth (congregator) to himself (Eccl. 1:1) and this word is also in the feminine gender.
Wisdom is manifest only by being expressed in some way. God’s own wisdom was expressed in creation (Prov. 3:19, 20) but through his Son. (Compare 1 Corinthians 8:6.) So, too, God’s wise purpose involving mankind is made manifest through, and summed up in, his Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, the apostle could say that Christ represents “the power of God and the wisdom of God,” and that Christ Jesus “has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom.”—1 Cor. 1:24, 30; compare 2:7, 8; Proverbs 8:1, 10, 18-21.
How he is the “only-begotten Son”
Jesus’ being called the “only-begotten Son” (John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) does not mean that the other spirit creatures produced were not God’s sons, for they are called sons as well. (Gen. 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7) However, by virtue of his being the sole direct creation of his Father, the firstborn Son was unique, different from all others of God’s sons, all of whom were created or begotten by Jehovah through that firstborn Son. So “the Word” was Jehovah’s “only-begotten Son” in a particular sense, even as Isaac was Abraham’s “only-begotten son” in a particular sense (his father already having another son but not by his wife Sarah).—Heb. 11:17; Gen. 16:15.
Why called “the Word”
The name (or, perhaps, title) “the Word” (John 1:1) apparently identifies the function that God’s firstborn Son performed after other intelligent creatures were formed. A similar expression is found at Exodus 4:16, where Jehovah says to Moses concerning his brother Aaron: “And he must speak for you to the people; and it must occur that he will serve as a mouth to you, and you will serve as God to him.” As spokesman for God’s chief representative on earth, Aaron served as a “mouth” for Moses. Likewise with the Word or Logos, who became Jesus Christ. Jehovah evidently used his Son to convey information and instructions to others of his family of spirit sons, even as he used that Son to deliver his message to humans on earth. Showing that he was God’s Word or Spokesman, Jesus said to his Jewish listeners: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality.”—John 7:16, 17; compare 12:50; 18:37.
Doubtless on many occasions during his prehuman existence as the Word, Jesus acted as Jehovah’s Spokesman to persons on earth. While certain texts refer to Jehovah as though directly speaking to humans, other texts make clear that he did so through an angelic representative. (Compare Exodus 3:2-4 with Acts 7:30, 35; also Genesis 16:7-11, 13; 22:1, 11, 12, 15-18.) Reasonably, in the majority of such cases God spoke through the Word. He likely did so in Eden, for on two of the three occasions where mention is made of God’s speaking there, the Record specifically shows someone was with Him, undoubtedly his Son. (Gen. 1:26-30; 2:16, 17; 3:8-19, 22) The angel who guided Israel through the wilderness and whose voice the Israelites were strictly to obey because ‘Jehovah’s name was within him,’ may therefore have been God’s Son, the Word.—Ex. 23:20-23; compare Joshua 5:13-15.
This does not mean that the Word is the only angelic representative through whom Jehovah has spoken. The inspired statements at Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19 and Hebrews 2:2, 3 make clear that the Law covenant was transmitted to Moses by angelic sons of God other than his Firstborn.
Jesus continues to bear the name or title “the Word of God” since his return to heavenly glory.—Rev. 19:13, 16.
Some translations render John 1:1 as saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Literally the Greek text reads: “In beginning was the word, and the word was toward the god, and god was the word.” The translator must supply capitals as needed in the language into which he translates the text. It is clearly proper to capitalize “God” in translating the phrase “the god,” since this must identify the Almighty God with whom the Word was. But the capitalizing of the word “god” in the second case does not have the same justification.
The New World Translation renders this text: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” True, there is no indefinite article (corresponding to “a” or “an”) in the original Greek text. But this does not mean one should not be used in translation, for the koi·neʹ Greek had no indefinite article. Hence, throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, translators are obliged to use the indefinite article or not according to their understanding of the meaning of the text. All English translations of those Scriptures do contain the indefinite article hundreds of times; yet most do not use it at John 1:1. Nevertheless, its use in the rendering of this text has sound basis.
First, it should be noted that the text itself shows that the Word was “with God,” hence could not ‘be God,’ that is, be the Almighty God. (Note also verse 2, which would be unnecessary if verse 1 actually showed the Word to be God.) Additionally, the word for “god” (Greek, the·osʹ) in its second occurrence in the verse is without the definite article “the” (Greek, ho). Regarding this fact, Bishop Westcott, coproducer of the noted Westcott and Hort Greek text of the Christian Scriptures, says: “It is necessarily without the article (theʹos not ho theʹos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person.” (Quoted from page 116 of An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, by Professor C. F. D. Moule, 1953 ed.) Other translators, also recognizing that the Greek term is used as an adjective to describe the nature of the Word, therefore render the phrase: “the Word was divine.”—AT.
The Hebrew Scriptures are consistently clear in showing that there is but one Almighty God, the Creator of all things and the Most High, whose name is Jehovah. (Gen. 17:1; Isa. 45:18; Ps. 83:18) For that reason Moses could say to the nation of Israel: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. And you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.” (Deut. 6:4, 5) The Christian Greek Scriptures do not contradict this teaching that had been accepted and believed by God’s servants for thousands of years, but instead support it. (Mark 12:29; Rom. 3:29, 30; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:5) Jesus Christ himself said, “The Father is greater than I am,” and referred to the Father as his God, “the only true God.” (John 14:28; 17:3; 20:17; Mark 15:34; Rev. 1:1; 3:12) On numerous occasions Jesus expressed his inferiority and subordination to his Father. (Matt. 4:9, 10; 20:23; Luke 22:41, 42; John 5:19; 8:42; 13:16) Even after Jesus’ ascension into heaven his apostles continued to present the same picture.—1 Cor. 11:3; 15:20, 24-28; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 2:1; 4:9, 10.
These facts give solid support to a translation such as “the Word was a god” at John 1:1. The Word’s preeminent position among God’s creatures as the Firstborn, the one through whom God created all things, and as God’s Spokesman, gives real basis for his being called “a god” or mighty one. The Messianic prophecy at Isaiah 9:6 foretold that he would be called “Mighty God,” though not the Almighty God, and that he would be the “Eternal Father” of all those privileged to live under him as his subjects. The zeal of his own Father, “Jehovah of armies,” would accomplish this. (Isa. 9:7) Certainly if God’s adversary Satan the Devil is called a “god” (2 Cor. 4:4) because of his dominance over men and demons (1 John 5:19; Luke 11:14-18), then with far greater reason and propriety is God’s firstborn Son called “a god,” “the only-begotten god” as the most reliable manuscripts of John 1:18 call him.
When charged by opposers with ‘making himself a god,’ Jesus’ reply was: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said: “You are god”’? If he called ‘gods’ those against whom the word of God came, and yet the Scripture cannot be nullified, do you say to me whom the Father sanctified and dispatched into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, I am God’s Son?” (John 10:31-37) Jesus there quoted from Psalm 82, in which human judges, whom God condemned for not executing justice, were called “gods.” (Ps. 82:1, 2, 6, 7) Thus, Jesus showed the unreasonableness of charging him with blasphemy for stating that he was, not God, but God’s Son.
This charge of blasphemy arose as a result of Jesus’ having said: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) That this did not mean that Jesus claimed to be the Father or to be God is evident from his reply, already partly considered. The oneness to which Jesus referred must be understood in harmony with the context of his statement. He was speaking of his works and his care of the “sheep” who would follow him. His works, as well as his words, demonstrated that there was unity, not disunity and disharmony, between him and his Father, a point his reply went on to emphasize. (John 10:25, 26, 37, 38; compare 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; 8:16-18.) As regards his “sheep,” he and his Father were likewise at unity in their protecting such sheeplike ones and leading them to everlasting life. (John 10:27-29; compare Ezekiel 34:23, 24.) Jesus’ prayer on behalf of the unity of all his disciples, including future ones, shows that the oneness or union between Jesus and his Father was not as to identity of person but as to purpose and action. In this way Jesus’ disciples could “all be one,” just as he and his Father are one.—John 17:20-23.
In harmony with this, Jesus, responding to a question by Thomas, said: “If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him,” and, in answer to a question from Philip, Jesus added: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:5-9) Again, Jesus’ following explanation shows that this was so because he faithfully represented his Father, spoke the Father’s words and did the Father’s works. (John 14:10, 11; compare John 12:28, 44-49.) It was on this same occasion, the night of his death, that Jesus said to these very disciples: “The Father is greater than I am.”—John 14:28.
The disciples ‘seeing’ the Father in Jesus can also be understood in the light of other Scriptural examples. Jacob, for instance, said to Esau: “I have seen your face as though seeing God’s face in that you received me with pleasure.” He said this because Esau’s reaction had been in harmony with Jacob’s prayer to God. (Gen. 33:9-11; 32:9-12) After God’s interrogation of Job out of a windstorm had clarified that man’s understanding, Job said: “In hearsay I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you.” (Job 38:1; 42:5; see also Judges 13:21, 22.) The ‘eyes of his heart’ had been enlightened. (Compare Ephesians 1:18.) That Jesus’ statement about seeing the Father was meant to be understood figuratively and not literally is evident from his own statement at John 6:45 as well as from the fact that John, long after Jesus’ death, wrote: “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him.”—John 1:18; 1 John 4:12.
“My Lord and my God”
On the occasion of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas and the other apostles, removing Thomas’ doubts of Jesus’ resurrection, the now-convinced Thomas exclaimed to Jesus: “My Lord and my God! [literally, “The Lord of me and the God (ho The·osʹ) of me!”].” (John 20:24-29) Some scholars have viewed this expression as an exclamation of astonishment spoken to Jesus but actually directed to God, his Father. However, others claim the original Greek requires that the words be viewed as being directed to Jesus. Even if this is so, the expression “My Lord and my God” would still have to harmonize with the rest of the inspired Scriptures. Since the record shows that Jesus had previously sent his disciples the message, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God,” there is no reason for believing that Thomas thought Jesus was the Almighty God. (John 20:17) John himself, after recounting Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Jesus, says of this and similar accounts: “But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”—John 20:30, 31.
So, Thomas may have addressed Jesus as “my God” in the sense of Jesus’ being “a god” though not the Almighty God, not “the only true God,” to whom Thomas had often heard Jesus pray. (John 17:1-3) Or he may have addressed Jesus as “my God” in a way similar to expressions made by his forefathers, recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, with which Thomas was familiar. On various occasions when individuals were visited or addressed by an angelic messenger of Jehovah, the individuals, or at times the Bible writer setting out the account, responded to or spoke of that angelic messenger as though he were Jehovah God. (Compare Genesis 16:7-11, 13; 18:1-5, 22-33; 32:24-30; Judges 6:11-15; 13:20-22.) This was because the angelic messenger was acting for Jehovah as his representative, speaking in his name, perhaps using the first person singular pronoun, and even saying, “I am the true God.” (Gen. 31:11-13; Judg. 2:1-5) Thomas may therefore have spoken to Jesus as “my God” in this sense, acknowledging or confessing Jesus as the true God’s representative and spokesman. Whatever the case, it is certain that Thomas’ words do not contradict the clear statement he himself had heard Jesus make, namely, that “the Father is greater than I am.”—John 14:28.
HIS BIRTH ON EARTH
Prior to Jesus’ birth on earth, angels had appeared on this planet in human form, apparently materializing suitable bodies for the occasion, then dematerializing them after completing such assignments. (Gen. 19:1-3; Judg. 6:20-22; 13:15-20) They thus remained spirit creatures, merely employing a physical body temporarily. This, however, was not the case with the coming of God’s Son to earth to become the man Jesus. John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh and resided among us.” For that reason he could call himself “the Son of man.” (John 1:51; 3:14, 15) Some draw attention to the expression “resided [literally, “tented” or “tabernacled”] among us” and claim this shows Jesus was, not a true human, but an incarnation. However, the apostle Peter uses a similar expression about himself, and Peter was obviously not an incarnation.—2 Pet. 1:13, 14.
The inspired Record says: “But the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way. During the time his mother Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, she was found to be pregnant by holy spirit before they were united.” (Matt. 1:18) Prior to this, Jehovah’s angelic messenger had informed the virgin girl Mary that she would ‘conceive in her womb’ as the result of God’s holy spirit coming upon her and His power overshadowing her. (Luke 1:30, 31, 34, 35) Since actual conception took place, it appears that Jehovah God caused an ovum or egg cell in Mary’s womb to become fertile, accomplishing this by the transferral of the life of his firstborn Son from the spirit realm to earth. (Gal. 4:4) Only in this way could the child eventually born have retained identity as the same person who had resided in heaven as the Word, and only in this way could he have been an actual son of Mary and hence a genuine descendant of her forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and King David and legitimate heir of the divine promises made to them. (Gen. 22:15-18; 26:24; 28:10-14; 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:8, 11-16; Luke 3:23-34; see GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST.) It is likely, therefore, that the child born resembled its Jewish mother in certain physical characteristics.
Mary was a descendant of the sinner Adam, hence herself imperfect and sinful. The question therefore is raised as to how Jesus, Mary’s “first-born” (Luke 2:7), could be perfect and free from sin in his physical organism. While modern geneticists have learned much about laws of heredity and about dominant and recessive characteristics, they have had no experience in learning the results of uniting perfection with imperfection, as was the case with Jesus’ conception. From the results revealed in the Bible, it would appear that the perfect male life force (causing the conception) canceled out any imperfection existent in Mary’s ovum, thereby producing a genetic pattern (and embryonic development) that was perfect from its start. Whatever the case, the operation of God’s holy spirit at the time guaranteed the success of God’s purpose. As the angel Gabriel explained to Mary, “power of the Most High” overshadowed her so that what was born was holy, God’s Son. God’s holy spirit formed, as it were, a “protective wall” so that no imperfection or hurtful force could damage or blemish the developing embryo, from conception on.—Luke 1:35.
Since it was God’s holy spirit that made the birth possible, Jesus owed his human life to his heavenly Father, not to any man, such as his foster-father Joseph. (Matt. 2:13-15; Luke 3:23) As Hebrews 10:5 states, Jehovah God ‘prepared a body for him,’ and Jesus, from conception onward, was truly “undefiled, separated from the sinners.”—Heb. 7:26; compare John 8:46; 1 Peter 2:21, 22.
The Messianic prophecy at Isaiah 52:14, which speaks of “the disfigurement as respects his appearance,” therefore must apply to Jesus the Messiah only in a figurative way. (Compare verse 7 of the same chapter.) Though perfect in physical form, the message of truth and righteousness that Jesus Christ boldly proclaimed made him repulsive in the eyes of hypocritical opposers, who claimed to see in him an agent of Beelzebub, a man possessed of a demon, a blasphemous fraud. (Matt. 12:24; 27:39-43; John 8:48; 15:17-25) In a similar way the message proclaimed by Jesus’ disciples later caused them to be a “sweet odor” of life to receptive persons, but an odor of death to those rejecting their message.—2 Cor. 2:14-16.
TIME OF BIRTH, LENGTH OF LIFE AND OF MINISTRY
Jesus evidently was born in the month of Ethanim (September-October) of the year 2 B.C.E., was baptized about the same time of the year in 29 C.E., and died about 3 p.m. on Friday, the fourteenth day of the spring month of Nisan (March-April), 33 C.E. The basis for these dates is as follows:
Jesus was born approximately six months after the birth of his relative John (the Baptist), during the rule of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (27 B.C.E.-14 C.E.) and the Syrian governorship of Quirinius (see REGISTRATION for the probable dates of Quirinius’ administration), and toward the close of the reign of Herod the Great over Judea.—Matt. 2:1, 13, 20-22; Luke 1:24-31, 36; 2:1, 2, 7.
His birth in relation to Herod’s death
While the date of Herod’s death is a debated one, there is considerable evidence pointing to the late winter or early spring of 1 B.C.E. or, possibly, early 1 C.E. (See HEROD No. 1 [Date of His Death]; CHRONOLOGY [Astronomical Calculations].) A number of events intervened between the time of Jesus’ birth and Herod’s death. These included Jesus’ circumcision on the eighth day (Luke 2:21); his being brought to the temple in Jerusalem forty days after birth (Luke 2:22, 23; Lev. 12:1-4, 8); the trip of the astrologers “from eastern parts” to Bethlehem (where Jesus was no longer in a manger but in a house—Matt. 2:1-11; compare Luke 2:7, 15, 16); Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt with the young child (Matt. 2:13-15); followed by Herod’s realization that the astrologers had not followed his instructions, and the subsequent slaughter of all boys in Bethlehem and its districts under the age of two years (indicating that Jesus was not then a newborn infant). (Matt. 2:16-18) Jesus’ birth taking place in the fall of 2 B.C.E. would allow for the time required by these events intervening between his birth and the death of Herod, either in early 1 B.C.E. or early 1 C.E. There is, however, added reason for placing Jesus’ birth in 2 B.C.E.
Relationship between John’s ministry and that of Jesus
Further basis for the dates given at the start of this section is found at Luke 3:1-3, which shows that John the Baptist began his preaching and baptizing in the “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” That fifteenth year ran from August 17, 28 C.E. to August 16, 29 C.E. At some point in John’s ministry, Jesus went to him and was baptized. When Jesus thereafter commenced his own ministry he was “about thirty years old.” (Luke 3:21-23) At the age of thirty, the age at which David became king, Jesus would no longer be subject to his fleshly relatives.—2 Sam. 5:4, 5; compare Luke 2:5.
According to Numbers 4:1-3, 22, 23, 29, 30, those going into sanctuary service under the Law covenant were “from thirty years old upward.” It is reasonable that John the Baptist, who was a Levite and son of a priest, began his ministry at the same age, not at the temple, of course, but in the special assignment Jehovah had outlined for him. (Luke 1:1-17, 67, 76-79) The specific mention (twice) of the age difference between John and Jesus and the correlation between the appearances and messages of Jehovah’s angel in announcing the births of the two sons (Luke chap. 1) give ample basis for believing that their ministries followed a similar timetable, that is, the start of John’s ministry (as the forerunner of Jesus) being followed six months later by the commencement of Jesus’ ministry.
On this basis, John’s birth occurred thirty years before he began his ministry in Tiberius’ fifteenth year, hence somewhere between August 17, 3 B.C.E. and August 16, 2 B.C.E., with Jesus’ birth following about six months later.
Evidence for a three-and-a-half-year ministry
Through the remaining chronological evidence an even more definite conclusion can be reached. This evidence deals with the length of Jesus’ ministry and time of death. The prophecy at Daniel 9:24-27 (discussed fully in the article SEVENTY WEEKS) points to the appearance of the Messiah at the start of the seventieth “week” of years (Dan. 9:25) and his sacrificial death in the middle or “at the half” of the final week, thereby ending the validity of the sacrifices and gift offerings under the Law covenant. (Dan. 9:26, 27; compare Hebrews 9:9-14; 10:1-10.) This would mean a ministry of three and a half years’ duration (half of a “week” of seven years) for Jesus Christ.
For Jesus’ ministry to have lasted three and a half years, ending with his death at Passover time, would require that that period include four Passovers in all. Evidence for these four Passovers is found at John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; and 13:1. John 5:1 does not specifically mention the Passover, referring only to “a [“the,” according to certain ancient manuscripts] festival of the Jews.” There is, however, good reason to believe this refers to the Passover rather than any other of the annual festivals.
Earlier, at John 4:35, Jesus is mentioned as saying that there was “yet four months before the harvest.” The harvest season, particularly the barley harvest, got under way about Passover time (Nisan 14). Hence Jesus’ statement was made four months before that or about the month of Chislev (November-December). The postexilic “festival of Dedication” came during Chislev but it was not one of the great festivals requiring attendance at Jerusalem. (Ex. 23:14-17; Lev. 23:4-44) Celebration was held throughout the land in the many synagogues, according to Jewish tradition. (See FESTIVAL OF DEDICATION.) Later, at John 10:22, Jesus is specifically mentioned as attending one such festival of Dedication in Jerusalem; however, it appears that he had already been in that area since the earlier Festival of Booths, hence had not gone there especially for that purpose. Different from this, John 5:1 clearly implies that it was the particular “festival of the Jews” that caused Jesus to go from Galilee (John 4:54) to Jerusalem.
The only other festival between Chislev and Passover time was that of Purim, held in Adar (February-March), about one month before Passover. But the postexilic feast of Purim was likewise celebrated throughout the land in homes and synagogues. (See PURIM.) So, the Passover seems to be the most likely “festival of the Jews” referred to at John 5:1, Jesus’ attendance at Jerusalem then being in conformity to God’s Law to Israel. It is true that John thereafter records only a few events before the next mention of the Passover (John 6:4), but a consideration of the chart of the Main Events of Jesus’ Earthly Sojourn will show that John’s coverage of Jesus’ early ministry was very abbreviated, many events already discussed by the other three evangelists being passed over. In fact, the great amount of activity effected by Jesus as recorded by these other evangelists (Matthew, Mark and Luke) lends weight to the conclusion that an annual Passover did indeed intervene between those recorded at John 2:13 and 6:4.
Time of his death
The death of Jesus Christ took place in the spring, on the Passover Day, Nisan (or Abib) 14, according to the Jewish calendar. (Matt. 26:2; John 13:1-3; Ex. 12:1-6; 13:4) That year the Passover occurred on the sixth day of the week (counted by the Jews as from sundown on Thursday to sundown on Friday). This is evident from John 19:31, which shows that the following day was a “great” sabbath. The day after Passover was always a sabbath, no matter on what day of the week it came. (Lev. 23:5-7) But when this special sabbath coincided with the regular sabbath (the seventh day of the week) it became “a great one.” So Jesus’ death took place on Friday, Nisan 14, about 3 p.m. (during “the ninth hour”).—Luke 23:44-46
Summary of evidence
Summing up, then, since Jesus’ death took place in the spring month of Nisan, the start of his ministry, which began three and a half years earlier according to Daniel 9:24-27, must have begun in the fall, about the month of Ethanim (September-October). That would require that John’s ministry (initiated in Tiberius’ fifteenth year) have begun in the spring of the year 29 C.E. John’s birth therefore would be placed in the spring of the year 2 B.C.E., Jesus’ birth would come six months later in the fall of 2 B.C.E., his ministry would start thirty years later in the fall of 29 C.E. and his death would come in the year 33 C.E. (on Nisan 14 in the spring, as stated).
No basis for winter date of birth
The popular date of December 25 as the day of Jesus’ birth therefore has no basis in Scripture nor in history. As most encyclopedic works show, it stems from a pagan holiday. Thus, The Encyclopedia Americana (1956 ed., Vol. 6, p. 622) says of the “Christmas” date and customs: “The celebration was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church . . . a feast was established in memory [of Jesus’ birth) in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western church ordered the feast to be celebrated on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia [resulting in the December 25 date] . . . Most of the customs now associated with Christmas . . . were pre-Christian and non-Christian customs taken up by the Christian church. Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas.”
Perhaps the most obvious evidence of the incorrectness of the December 25 date is the Scriptural fact that shepherds were in the fields tending their flocks on the night of Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2:8, 12) Already in the autumn month of Bul (corresponding to part of October and part of November) the rainy season was starting (Deut. 11:14), and flocks were brought in to protected shelters at night. The next month, Chislev (the ninth month of the Jewish calendar, including part of November and part of December) was a month of cold and rain (Jer. 36:22; Ezra 10:9, 13), and Tebeth (December-January) saw the lowest temperatures of the year, with occasional snows in the highlands area. The presence of shepherds in the fields at night therefore harmonizes with the evidence pointing to the early autumn month of Ethanim as the time of Jesus’ birth.—See BUL; CHISLEV.
Also weighing against a December date is that it would be most unlikely for the Roman emperor to choose such a wintry, rainy month as the time for his Jewish subjects (often rebellious) to travel “each one to his own city,” to be registered.—Luke 2:1-3; compare Matthew 24:20; see TEBETH.
For a consideration of Jesus’ genealogy and its importance, see GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST.
The record of Jesus’ early life is very brief. Born in Bethlehem of Judea, King David’s native city, he was taken to Nazareth in Galilee after the family returned from Egypt—all this in fulfillment of divine prophecy. (Matt. 2:4-6, 14, 15, 19-23; Mic. 5:2; Hos. 11:1; Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5) Jesus’ foster father, Joseph, was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55) and evidently of little means. (Compare Luke 2:22-24 with Leviticus 12:8.) Thus Jesus, who had been born in a stable, evidently spent his childhood in quite humble circumstances. Nazareth was not historically prominent, though near to several principal trade routes. It may have been looked down upon by many Jews.—Compare John 1:46; see, however, NAZARETH.
Of the first years of Jesus’ life nothing is known except that “the young child continued growing and getting strong, being filled with wisdom, and God’s favor continued upon him.” (Luke 2:40) In course of time the family grew as four sons and some daughters were born to Joseph and Mary. (Matt. 13:54-56) So, Mary’s “first-born” son (Luke 2:7) did not grow up as an “only child.” This doubtless explains why his parents could begin a return journey from Jerusalem without realizing for a while that Jesus, their oldest child, was missing from the group. This occasion, with Jesus’ visit (as a twelve-year-old) to the temple, where he engaged in a discussion with the Jewish teachers that left them amazed, is the only incident of his early life recounted in some detail. Jesus’ reply to his worried parents when they located him there shows that Jesus knew the miraculous nature of his birth and realized his Messianic future. (Luke 2:41-52) Reasonably, his mother and foster father had passed on to him the information obtained through the angelic visitations as well as through the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, spoken when the first trip was made to Jerusalem forty days after Jesus’ birth.—Matt. 1:20-25; 2:13, 14, 19-21; Luke 1:26-38; 2:8-38.
There is nothing to indicate that Jesus had or exercised any miraculous powers during his childhood years, as the fanciful stories recorded in certain apocryphal works, such as the so-called “Gospel of Thomas,” pretend. The changing of water to wine at Cana, performed during his ministry, was “the beginning of his signs.” (John 2:1-11) Likewise, while among the family in Nazareth, Jesus evidently did not make a showy display of his wisdom and superiority as a perfect human, as is perhaps indicated by the fact that his half brothers did not exercise faith in him during his ministry as a human, as well as by the disbelief most of the population of Nazareth showed toward him.—John 7:1-5; 6:1, 4-6.
Yet Jesus was evidently well known by the people of Nazareth (Matt. 13:54-56; Luke 4:22); his splendid qualities and personality must certainly have been noted, at least by those appreciative of righteousness and goodness. (Compare Matthew 3:13, 14.) He regularly attended the synagogue services each Sabbath. He was educated, as shown by his ability to find and read sections from the Sacred Writings, but he did not attend the rabbinical schools of “higher learning.”—Luke 4:16; John 7:14-16.
The brevity of the record concerning these early years is certainly due to the fact that Jesus had not yet been anointed by Jehovah as “the Christ” (Matt. 16:16) and had not commenced carrying out the divine assignment awaiting him. His childhood and the ‘growing-up’ process, like his birth, were necessary, though incidental, means to an end. As Jesus later stated to Roman Governor Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
The outpouring of holy spirit at the time of Jesus’ baptism marked the time of his becoming in actual fact the Messiah, or Christ, God’s Anointed One (the use of this title by angels when announcing his birth evidently being in a prophetic sense; Luke 2:9-11; note also verses 25, 26). For six months John had been ‘preparing the way’ for the “saving means of God.” (Luke 3:1-6) Jesus, now “about thirty years old,” was baptized over John’s initial objections, voiced because John till then had been baptizing only repentant sinners. (Matt. 3:1, 6, 13-17; Luke 3:21-23) Jesus, however, was sinless; hence his baptism testified instead to his presenting himself to do his Father’s will. (Compare Hebrews 10:5-9; see BAPTISM [Jesus’ Baptism in Water].) After Jesus had ‘come up from the water,’ and while he was praying, “he saw the heavens being parted” and God’s spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily shape like a dove, and Jehovah’s voice was heard from heaven, saying: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.”—Matt. 3:16, 17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21, 22.
God’s spirit poured out upon Jesus doubtless illuminated his mind on many points. His own expressions thereafter, and particularly the intimate prayer to his Father on Passover night, 33 C.E., show that Jesus recalled his prehuman existence and the things he had heard from his Father and the things he had seen his Father do, as well as the glory that he himself had enjoyed in the heavens. (John 6:46; 7:28, 29; 8:26, 28, 38; 14:2; 17:5) It may well have been that the memory of these things was restored to him at the time of his baptism and anointing.
Jesus’ anointing appointed and commissioned him to carry out his ministry of preaching and teaching (Luke 4:16-21), and to serve as God’s Prophet. (Acts 3:22-26) But, over and above this, it appointed and commissioned him as Jehovah’s promised King, the heir to David’s throne (Luke 1:32, 33, 69; Heb. 1:8, 9), and to an everlasting kingdom. For that reason he could later tell Pharisees: “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20, 21) Similarly, Jesus was anointed to act as God’s High Priest, not as a descendant of Aaron, but after the likeness of King-Priest Melchizedek.—Heb. 5:1, 4-10; 7:11-17.
Jesus had been God’s Son from the time of his birth, even as the perfect Adam had been “the son of God.” (Luke 3:38; 1:35) The angels had identified Jesus as God’s Son from birth onward. So, when, after Jesus’ baptism, his Father’s voice was heard saying, “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you” (Mark 1:11), it seems reasonable that this declaration accompanying the anointing flow of God’s spirit was more than just an acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity. The evidence is that Jesus was then begotten or brought forth by God as his spiritual Son, “born again,” as it were, with the right to receive life once more as a spirit Son of God in the heavens.—Compare John 3:3-6; 6:51; 10:17, 18; see BAPTISM (Baptism into Christ Jesus and into His Death); ONLY-BEGOTTEN.
HIS VITAL PLACE IN GOD’S PURPOSE
Jehovah God saw fit to make his firstborn Son the central or key figure in the outworking of all His purposes (John 1:14-18; Col. 1:18-20; 2:8, 9), the focal point on which the light of all prophecies would concentrate and from which their light would radiate (1 Pet. 1:10-12; Rev. 19:10; John 1:3-9), the solution to all the problems that Satan’s rebellion had raised (Heb. 2:5-9, 14, 15; 1 John 3:8), and the foundation upon which God would build all future arrangements for the eternal good of His universal family in heaven and earth. (Eph. 1:8-10; 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4-8) Because of the vital role he thus plays in God’s purpose, Jesus could say, rightly and without exaggeration: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.
The “sacred secret”
God’s purpose as revealed in Jesus Christ remained a “sacred secret [or, mystery] . . . kept in silence for long-lasting times.” (Rom. 16:25-27) For over 4,000 years, since the rebellion in Eden, men of faith had awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise of a “seed” to bruise the head of the serpentlike Adversary and thereby to bring relief to mankind. (Gen. 3:15) For nearly two thousand years they had hoped in Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham for a “seed” who would “take possession of the gate of his enemies” and by means of whom all nations of the earth would bless themselves.—Gen. 22:15-18.
Finally, when the “full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son,” and through him revealed the meaning of the “sacred secret,” gave the definitive answer to the issue raised by God’s adversary (see JEHOVAH [The supreme issue a moral one]), and provided the means for redeeming obedient mankind from sin and death through the ransom sacrifice of his Son. (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 3:16; John 14:30; 16:33; Matt. 20:28) Thereby Jehovah God cleared away any uncertainty or ambiguity regarding his purposes in the minds of his servants. For that reason the apostle says that “no matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of [Jesus Christ].”—2 Cor. 1:19-22.
Thus, “the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ,” came to be all wrapped up in God’s Son, in whom were “carefully concealed . . . all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Col. 2:2, 3) The “sacred secret” did not simply involve an identification of God’s Son as such. Rather it involved the role he was assigned in the framework of God’s foreordained purpose, and the revelation and execution of that purpose through Jesus Christ. This purpose, so long a secret, was “for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Eph. 1:9, 10) According to Jesus’ own preaching, that administration is the “kingdom of God,” the “kingdom of the heavens.”—Matt. 13:11; Luke 8:10.
Therefore, the “sacred secret” bound up in Christ Jesus, has as one of its aspects his heading a new heavenly government, its membership to be formed of persons (Jews and non-Jews) taken from among earth’s population, and its domain to embrace both heaven and earth. Thus, in the vision at Daniel 7:13, 14, one “like a son of man” (a title later applied frequently to Christ—Matt. 12:40; 24:30; Luke 17:26; compare Revelation 14:14) appears in Jehovah’s heavenly courts and is given “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” The same vision, however, shows that the “holy ones of the Supreme One” are also to share with this “son of man” in his kingdom, rulership and grandeur. (Dan. 7:27) Jesus while on earth selected from among his disciples the first prospective members of his Kingdom government, and, after they had ‘stuck with him in his trials,’ covenanted with them for a kingdom, praying to his Father for their sanctification (or being made “holy ones”) and requesting that “where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me.” (Luke 22:28, 29; John 17:5, 17, 24) Because of being thus united with Christ, the Christian congregation also plays a part in the “sacred secret,” as is later expressed by the inspired apostle.—Eph. 3:1-11; 5:32; Col. 1:26, 27; see SACRED SECRET.
“Chief Agent of life”
To make possible this union of his chosen followers with him in his heavenly reign, as well as to make possible there being earthly subjects of his Kingdom rule, and as an expression of his Father’s undeserved kindness, Christ Jesus laid down his perfect human life in sacrifice. (Matt. 6:10; John 3:16; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 2:5; see RANSOM.) He thereby became “the Chief Agent [Prince, AV; JB] of life” for all mankind. (Acts 3:15) The Greek term here used means, basically, “chief leader,” a related word being applied to Moses (Acts 7:27, 35) as “ruler” in Israel.
Hence, Jesus is not merely the Chief Agent of life in the sense of being an intermediary or go-between, but is such in an administrative sense as well. He is God’s High Priest who can effect full cleansing from sin and liberation from sin’s death-dealing effects (Heb. 3:1, 2; 4:14; 7:23-25; 8:1-3); he is the appointed Judge into whose hands all judgment is committed, so that he judiciously administers his ransom benefits to individuals among mankind according to their worthiness to live under his kingship (John 5:22-27; Acts 10:42, 43); through him the resurrection of the dead also comes. (John 5:28, 29; 6:39, 40) Because Jehovah God so ordained to use his Son, “there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”—Acts 4:12; compare 1 John 5:11-13.
Since this aspect of Jesus’ authority is also embraced in his “name,” his disciples, as representatives of the Chief Agent of life, by that name could heal persons of their infirmities resulting from inherited sin and could even raise the dead.—Acts 3:6, 15, 16; 4:7-11; 9:36-41; 20:7-12.
The full significance of his “name”
It can be seen that, while Jesus’ death on a torture stake plays a vital part in human salvation, this is by no means all that is involved in ‘putting faith in the name of Jesus.’ (Acts 10:43) Following his resurrection, Jesus informed his disciples, “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth,” thereby showing that he heads a government of universal domain. (Matt. 28:18) The apostle Paul made clear that Jesus’ Father has “left nothing that is not subject to him [Jesus],” with the evident exception of “the one who subjected all things to him,” that is, Jehovah, the Sovereign God. (1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 1:1-14; 2:8) Jesus Christ’s “name,” therefore, is more excellent than that of God’s angels, in that his name embraces or stands for the vast executive authority that Jehovah has placed in him. (Heb. 1:3, 4) Only those who willingly recognize that “name” and bow to it, subjecting themselves to the authority it represents, will gain life eternal. (Acts 4:12; Eph. 1:19-23; Phil. 2:9-11) They must, sincerely and without hypocrisy, line up with the standards Jesus exemplified and, in faith, obey the commands he gave.—Matt. 7:21-23; Rom. 1:5; 1 John 3:23.
Illustrating this other aspect of Jesus’ “name” is his prophetic warning that his followers would be “objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.” (Matt. 24:9; also Matthew 10:22; John 15:20, 21; Acts 9:15, 16) Clearly, this would be, not because his name represented that of a Ransomer or Redeemer, but because it represented God’s appointed Ruler, the King of kings, to whom all nations should bow in submission or experience destruction.—Rev. 19:11-16; compare Psalm 2:7-12.
So, too, it is certain that when demons gave in to Jesus’ command to get out of persons they possessed, they did so, not on the basis of Jesus’ being a sacrificial Lamb of God, but on account of the authority for which his name stood as the anointed representative of the Kingdom, the one with authority to call for, not merely one legion, but a dozen legions of angels, capable of expelling any demons who might stubbornly resist the order to leave. (Mark 5:1-13; 9:25-29; Matt. 12:28, 29; 26:53; compare Daniel 10:5, 6, 12, 13.) Jesus’ faithful apostles were authorized to use his name to expel demons, both before and after his death. (Luke 9:1; 10:17; Acts 16:16-18) But when the sons of Jewish priest Sceva tried to use Jesus’ name in this way, the wicked spirit challenged their right to appeal to the authority the name represented and caused the possessed man to attack and maul them.—Acts 19:13-17.
When Jesus’ followers referred to his “name” they frequently employed the expression “the Lord Jesus” or “our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 8:16; 15:26; 19:5, 13, 17; 1 Cor. 1:2, 10; Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17) They recognized him as their Lord, not only because he was their divinely appointed Repurchaser and Owner by virtue of his ransom sacrifice (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:22, 23; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Jude 4), but also because of his kingly position and authority. It was in the full regal, as well as priestly, authority represented by Jesus’ name that his followers preached (Acts 5:29-32, 40-42), baptized disciples (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; compare 1 Corinthians 1:13-15), disfellowshiped immoral persons (1 Cor. 5:4, 5), and exhorted and instructed the Christian congregations they shepherded. (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Thess. 3:6) It follows, then, that those approved for life by Jesus could never put faith in, or render allegiance to, some other “name” as representing God’s authority to rule but must show unbreakable loyalty to the “name” of this divinely commissioned King, the Lord Jesus Christ.—Matt. 12:18, 21; Rev. 2:13; 3:8; see APPROACH TO GOD.
HIS MINISTRY: ‘BEARING WITNESS TO THE TRUTH’
To Pilate’s question, “Well, then, are you a king?”, Jesus replied: “You yourself are saying that I am a king: For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) As the Scriptures show, the truth to which he bore witness was not just truth in general. It was the all-important truth of what God’s purposes were and are, truth based on the fundamental fact of God’s sovereign will and His ability to fulfill that will. By his ministry Jesus revealed that truth, contained in the “sacred secret,” as being God’s kingdom with Jesus Christ, the “Son of David,” serving as King-Priest on the throne. This was also the essence of the message proclaimed by angels prior to and at the time of his birth in Bethlehem of Judea, the city of David.—Luke 1:32, 33; 2:10-14.
The accomplishment of his ministry in bearing witness to the truth required more of Jesus than merely talking, preaching and teaching. Besides shedding his heavenly glory to be born as a human, he had to fulfill all the things prophesied about him, including the shadows or patterns contained in the Law covenant. (Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 10:1) To uphold the truth of his Father’s prophetic word and promises, Jesus had to live in such a way as to make that truth become reality, fulfilling it by what he said and did, how he lived and how he died. Thus, he had to be the truth, in effect, the embodiment of the truth, as he himself said he was.—John 14:6.
For this reason the apostle John could write that Jesus was “full of undeserved kindness and truth,” and that, though “the Law was given through Moses, the undeserved kindness and the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 17) By means of his human birth, his presenting himself to God by baptism in water, his three and a half years of public service in behalf of God’s kingdom, his death in faithfulness to God, his resurrection to heaven—by all these historical events God’s truth arrived or “came to be,” that is, came to realization. (Compare John 1:18; Colossians 2:17.) The whole career of Jesus Christ was therefore a ‘bearing witness to the truth,’ to the things to which God had sworn. Jesus was thus no shadow Messiah or Christ. He was the real one promised. He was no shadow king-priest. He was, in substance and fact, the true one that had been prefigured.—Rom. 15:8-12; compare Psalm 18:49; 117:1; Deuteronomy 32:43; Isaiah 11:10.
This truth was the truth that would ‘set men free’ if they showed themselves to be “on the side of the truth” by accepting Jesus’ role in God’s purpose. (John 8:32-36; 18:37) To ignore God’s purpose concerning his Son, to build hopes on any other foundation, to form conclusions regarding one’s life course on any other basis, would be to believe a lie, to be deceived, to follow the leading of the father of lies, God’s adversary. (Matt. 7:24-27; John 8:42-47) It would mean ‘to die in one’s sins.’ (John 8:23, 24) For this reason Jesus did not hold back from declaring his place in God’s purpose.
True, he instructed his disciples, even with sternness, not to broadcast his Messiahship to the public (Matt. 16:20; Mark 8:29, 30) and rarely referred to himself directly as the Christ except when in privacy with them. (Mark 9:33, 38, 41; Luke 9:20, 21; John 17:3) But he boldly and regularly drew attention to the evidence in the prophecies and in his works that proved he was the Christ. (Matt. 22:41-46; John 5:31-39, 45-47; 7:25-31) On the occasion of talking to a Samaritan woman at a well, Jesus, “tired out from the journey,” identified himself to her, perhaps so as to excite curiosity among the townsfolk and draw them out from the town to him, which was the result. (John 4:6, 25-30) The mere claim of Messiahship would mean nothing if not accompanied by the evidence, and, in the end, faith was required on the part of those seeing and hearing if they were to accept the conclusion to which that evidence unerringly pointed.—Luke 22:66-71; John 4:39-42; 10:24-27; 12:34-36.
TESTED AND PERFECTED
Jehovah God demonstrated supreme confidence in his Son in charging him with the mission of going to earth and serving as the promised Messiah. God’s purpose that there be a “seed” (Gen. 3:15), the Messiah, who would serve as the sacrificial Lamb of God, was foreknown to Him “before the founding of the world” (1 Pet. 1:19, 20), an expression considered under the heading FOREKNOWLEDGE, FOREORDINATION (Foreordination of the Messiah). The Bible record, however, does not state at what point Jehovah designated or informed the specific individual chosen to fill such role, whether at the time of the rebellion in Eden or at some later time. The requirements, particularly that of the ransom sacrifice, ruled out the use of any imperfect human but not of a perfect spirit son. Out of all his millions of spirit sons, Jehovah selected one to take on the assignment: his Firstborn, the Word.—Compare Hebrews 1:5, 6.
God’s Son knew beforehand that he would be sent to earth to become a human and he willingly accepted the assignment. This is evident from Philippians 2:5-8; he “emptied himself” of his heavenly glory and spirit nature and “took a slave’s form” in submitting to the transferral of his life to the earthly, material, human plane. The assignment before him represented a tremendous responsibility; so very much was involved. Proving faithful, he could give the lie to Satan’s claim that God’s servants will deny him under privation, suffering and test, a claim recorded in the case of Job. (Job 1:6-12; 2:2-6) As the firstborn Son, Jesus, of all God’s creatures, could give the most conclusive answer to that charge and the finest evidence in favor of his Father’s side in the larger issue of the rightfulness of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Thereby he would prove to be the “Amen . . . , the faithful and true witness.” (Rev. 3:14) If he failed, he would reproach his Father’s name as none other could.
In selecting his only-begotten Son, Jehovah, of course, was not ‘laying his hands hastily upon him,’ with the risk of being ‘a sharer in possible sins,’ for Jesus was no novice likely to get “puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.” (Compare 1 Timothy 5:22; 3:6.) Jehovah ‘fully knew’ his Son from his intimate association with him during countless ages past (Matt. 11:27; compare Genesis 22:12; Nehemiah 9:7, 8), and could therefore assign him to fulfill the unerring prophecies of his Word. (Isa. 46:10, 11) Thus God was not arbitrarily or automatically guaranteeing “certain success” for his Son simply by placing him in the role of the prophesied Messiah (Isa. 55:11), in the manner that the theory of predestinarianism claims.
While the Son had never undergone a test like that now before him, he had demonstrated his faithfulness and devotion in other ways. He had already had great responsibility as God’s Spokesman, the Word. Yet he never misused his position and authority, as did God’s earthly spokesman Moses on one occasion. (Num. 20:9-13; Deut. 32:48-51; Jude 9) Being the One through whom all things were made, the Son was a god, “the only-begotten god” (John 1:18), hence held a position of preeminence and glory among all others of God’s spirit sons. Yet he did not become haughty. (Contrast Ezekiel 28:14-17.) So, it could not be said that the Son had not already proved his loyalty, humility and devotion in many respects.
To illustrate, consider the test placed upon God’s first human son, Adam. That test did not involve enduring persecution or suffering, but only obedient respect for God’s will in regard to the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Gen. 2:16, 17; see TREES.) Satan’s rebellion and temptation were not part of the test as originally given by God, but came as an added feature, from a source foreign to God. Nor did the test, when given, call for any human temptation, as resulted from Eve’s deflection. (Gen. 3:6) This being so, then Adam’s test could have been effected without any outside temptation or influence toward wrongdoing, the whole matter resting with Adam’s heart—his love for God and his freedom from selfishness. (Prov. 4:23) Proving faithful, Adam would have been privileged to take fruit of the “tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite” as a tested, approved human son of God (Gen. 3:22), all this without having been subjected to vile influence and temptation, persecution or suffering.
It may also be noted that the spirit son who became Satan by defecting from God’s service did not do so because anyone had persecuted him or tempted him to do wrong. Certainly not God, for ‘He does not try anyone with evil things.’ Yet that spirit son failed to maintain loyalty, allowed himself to be “drawn out and enticed by his own desire,” and sinned, becoming a rebel. (Jas. 1:13-15) He failed the test of love.
The issue raised by God’s adversary, however, required that the Son, as the promised Messiah and future King of God’s kingdom, now undergo a test of integrity under new circumstances. This test, and the sufferings it entailed, were also necessary for his being “made perfect” for his position as God’s High Priest over mankind. (Heb. 5:9, 10) To meet the requirements for full installation as the Chief Agent of salvation, God’s Son was “obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ [those who became his anointed followers] in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” He must endure hardships and sufferings, that he might be “able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test,” able to sympathize with their weaknesses as one who had “been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” Though perfect and sinless, he would still be “able to deal moderately with the ignorant and erring ones.” Only through such a High Priest could imperfect humans “approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, [to] obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Heb. 2:10-18; 4:15–5:2; compare Luke 9:22.
Still a free moral agent
Jesus himself said that all the prophecies concerning the Messiah were certain of realization, “must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44-47; Matt. 16:21; compare Matthew 5:17.) Yet this certainly did not relieve God’s Son of the weight of responsibility, nor eliminate his freedom of choice—either to be faithful or unfaithful. The matter was not one-sided, resting solely with the Almighty God, Jehovah. His Son must do his part to make the prophecies come true. God assured the certainty of the prophecies by his wise choice of the one to fill the assignment, the “Son of his love.” (Col. 1:13) That his Son still retained and exercised his own free will while a human on earth is clear. Jesus spoke of his own will, showed that he was voluntarily submitting himself to his Father’s will (Matt. 16:21-23; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38), consciously working toward the fulfillment of his assignment as laid out in his Father’s Word. (Matt. 3:15; 5:17, 18; 13:10-17, 34, 35; 26:52-54; Mark 1:14, 15; Luke 4:21) The fulfillment of other prophetic features, of course, was not under Jesus’ control, some taking place after his death. (Matt. 12:40; 26:55, 56; John 18:31, 32; 19:23, 24, 36, 37) The record of the night preceding his death strikingly reveals the intense personal effort it took on his part to subject his own will to the superior will of the One wiser than himself, his Father. (Matt. 26:36-44; Luke 22:42-44) It also reveals that, though perfect, he keenly recognized his human dependence upon his Father, Jehovah God, for strength in time of need.—John 12:23, 27, 28; Heb. 5:7.
Jesus therefore had much to meditate on and to fortify himself for during the forty days he spent fasting (like Moses) in the wilderness following his baptism and anointing. (Ex. 34:28; Luke 4:1, 2) He there had a direct encounter with the serpentlike adversary of his Father. Using tactics similar to those in Eden, Satan the Devil tried to induce Jesus to display selfishness, to exalt himself and to deny his Father’s sovereign position. Unlike Adam, Jesus (the “last Adam”) kept integrity and, by consistently citing his Father’s declared will, caused Satan to withdraw, “until another convenient time.”—Luke 4:1-13; 1 Cor. 15:45.
HIS WORKS AND PERSONAL QUALITIES
Since both “the undeserved kindness and the truth” were to come to be through Jesus Christ, he had to get out among the people, let them hear him, see his works and qualities. Thus they might recognize him as the Messiah and put faith in his sacrifice when he died for them as the “Lamb of God.” (John 1:17, 29) He personally visited Palestine’s many regions, covering hundreds of miles on foot, there being no mention of his riding anything except boats until his final entry into Jerusalem. He talked to people on lakeshores and hillsides, in cities and villages, synagogues and temple, marketplaces, streets and houses (Matt. 5:1, 2; 26:55; Mark 6:53-56; Luke 4:16; 5:1-3; 13:22, 26; 19:5, 6), addressing large crowds and individuals, men and women, old and young, rich and poor.—Mark 3:7, 8; 4:1; John 3:1-3; Matt. 14:21; 19:21, 22; 11:4, 5.
The accompanying chart presents a suggested manner in which the four accounts of Jesus’ earthly life can be coordinated chronologically. It also gives an understanding of the various “campaigns” or tours he carried out during his ministry of three and a half years.
Jesus set a hardworking example for his disciples, rising early, serving on into the night. (Luke 21:37, 38; Mark 11:20; 1:32-34; John 3:2; 5:17) More than once he spent the night in prayer, as he did the night before giving the “Sermon on the Mount,” followed by other work. (Matt. 14:23-25; Luke 6:12–7:10) Another time, after serving during the night, he rose while it was still dark and headed for a lonely place to pray. (Mark 1:32, 35) His privacy often interrupted by the crowds, he, nevertheless, “received them kindly and began to speak to them about the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:10, 11; Mark 6:31-34; 7:24-30) He experienced tiredness, thirst and hunger, at times forgoing food for the sake of the work to be done.—Matt. 21:18; John 4:6, 7, 31-34; compare Matthew 4:2-4; 8:24, 25.
Balanced view of material things
He was not, however, an “ascetic,” practicing self-denial to an extreme degree without regard for the circumstances at hand. (Luke 7:33, 34) He accepted many invitations to meals and even banquets, visiting the homes of persons of some wealth. (Luke 5:29; 7:36; 14:1; 19:1-6) He contributed to the enjoyment at a wedding by changing water into fine wine. (John 2:1-10) And he appreciated good things done for him. When Judas expressed indignation at Lazarus’ sister Mary’s use of nearly fifty dollars’ worth of costly oil (equal to about ten months’ wages of a laborer) to anoint Jesus’ feet, and professed concern for the poor who could have benefited from the sale of the oil, Jesus said: “Let her alone, that she may keep this observance in view of the day of my burial. For you have the poor always with you, but me you will not have always.” (John 12:2-8; Mark 14:6-9) The inner garment he wore when arrested, “woven from the top throughout its length,” was evidently a quality garment. (John 19:23, 24) Nevertheless, Jesus always gave spiritual things first place, was never overly concerned about material things, even as he counseled others.—Matt. 6:24-34; 8:20; Luke 10:38-42; compare Philippians 4:10-12.
Great courage, manliness and strength are evident throughout his ministry. (Matt. 3:11; Luke 4:28-30; 9:51; John 2:13-17; 10:31-39; 18:3-11) Like Joshua, King David and others, Jesus was a fighter for God’s cause and on behalf of lovers of righteousness. As the promised “seed” he had to face the enmity of the ‘seed of the serpent,’ doing battle with them. (Gen. 3:15; 22:17) He waged offensive warfare against the demons and their influence on men’s minds and hearts. (Mark 5:1-13; Luke 4:32-36; 11:19-26; compare 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4; Ephesians 6:10-12.) Hypocritical religious leaders showed they were actually in opposition to God’s sovereignty and will. (Matt. 23:13, 27, 28; Luke 11:53, 54; John 19:12-16) Jesus thoroughly defeated them in a series of verbal encounters. He wielded the “sword of the spirit,” God’s Word, with strength, perfect control and strategy, cutting through subtle arguments and traplike questions that his opposers advanced, putting them ‘in a corner’ or on the ‘horns of a dilemma.’ (Matt. 21:23-27; 22:15-46) He fearlessly exposed them for what they were: teachers of human traditions and formalisms, blind leaders, a generation of vipers, and children of God’s adversary, the prince of the demons and a murderous liar.—Matt. 15:12-14; 21:33-41, 45, 46; 23:33-35; Mark 7:1-13; John 8:40-45.
In all this Jesus was never foolhardy, sought no trouble and avoided unnecessary danger. (Matt. 12:14, 15; Mark 3:6, 7; John 7:1, 10; 11:53, 54; compare Matthew 10:16, 17, 28-31.) His courage was based on faith. (Mark 4:37-40) He did not lose control of himself but remained cool when vilified and mistreated, “committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:23.
By his courageous fight for the truth, and by bringing light to the people concerning God’s purpose, Jesus fulfilled the prophetic role of Liberator, as one greater than Moses, proclaiming freedom to the captives. (Isa. 42:1, 6, 7; Jer. 30:8-10; Isa. 61:1) Though many held back for selfish reasons and out of fear of the element in power (John 7:11-13; 9:22; 12:42, 43), others gained courage to break free of their chains of ignorance and slavish subservience to false leaders and false hopes. (John 9:24-39; compare Galatians 5:1.) As faithful Judean kings had waged campaigns to eliminate false worship from the realm (2 Chron. 15:8; 17:1, 4-6; 2 Ki. 18:1, 3-6), so, too, the ministry of Jesus, God’s Messianic King, had a devastating effect on false religion in his day.—John 11:47, 48.
Depth of feeling and warmth
But Jesus was also a man of great feeling, a requirement for serving as God’s High Priest. His perfection did not make him hypercritical nor arrogant and overbearing (as were the Pharisees) toward the imperfect, sin-laden persons among whom he lived and worked. (Matt. 9:10-13; 21:31, 32; Luke 7:36-48; 15:1-32; 18:9-14) Even children could feel at ease with him, and when using a child as an example he did not merely stand the child before his disciples but also “put his arms around it.” (Mark 9:36; 10:13-16) He proved himself a real friend and affectionate companion to his followers, ‘loving them to the end.’ (John 13:1; 15:11-15) He did not use his authority to be demanding and to add to the people’s burdens, but, rather, said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling . . . I will refresh you.” His disciples found him “mild-tempered and lowly in heart,” his yoke kindly and light.—Matt. 11:28-30.
Priestly duties included care for the physical and spiritual health of the people. (Lev. chaps. 13-15) Pity and compassion moved Jesus to help the people suffering from illness, blindness and other afflictions. (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 20:34; Luke 7:11-15; compare Isaiah 61:1.) The death of his friend Lazarus and the resulting grief to Lazarus’ sisters caused Jesus to ‘groan and give way to tears.’ (John 11:32-36) Thus, in an anticipatory way, Jesus the Messiah ‘carried the sicknesses and bore the pains’ of others, doing so at the cost of power from himself. (Isa. 53:4; Luke 8:43-48) He did so not only in fulfillment of prophecy but because ‘he wanted to.’ (Matt. 8:2-4, 16, 17) More importantly, he brought them spiritual health and forgiveness of sins, being authorized to do so because, as the Christ, he was foreordained to provide the ransom sacrifice, in fact was already undergoing the baptism unto death that would terminate on the torture stake.—Isa. 53:4-8, 11, 12; compare Matthew 9:2-8; 20:28; Mark 10:38, 39; Luke 12:50.
The priest was responsible for the education of the people in God’s law and will. (Mal. 2:7) Also, as the royal Messiah, the foretold “twig out of the stump of Jesse [David’s father],” Jesus must manifest the ‘spirit of Jehovah in wisdom, counsel, mightiness, knowledge, along with the fear of Jehovah.’ Thereby God-fearing persons would find “enjoyment by him.” (Isa. 11:1-3) The unparalleled wisdom found in the teachings of Jesus, who was “more than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42), is one of the most powerful evidences that he was indeed the Son of God, and that the gospel accounts could never be the mere product of imperfect men’s minds or imagination.
Jesus proved himself to be the promised “Wonderful Counselor” (Isa. 9:6) by his knowledge of God’s Word and will, by his understanding of human nature, his ability to get at the heart of questions and issues, and to show the solution to problems of daily living. The well-known “Sermon on the Mount” is a prime example of this. (Matt. chaps. 5 through 7) In it he counseled on the way to true happiness, the settling of quarrels, how to avoid immorality, how to deal with those showing enmity, the true practice of righteousness free from hypocrisy, the right attitude toward the material things of life, confidence in God’s generosity, the golden rule for right relationships with others, the means for detecting religious frauds, how to build for a secure future. The crowds were “astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.”—Matt. 7:28, 29.
His manner of teaching was remarkably effective. (John 7:45, 46) He presented matters of great weight and depth with simplicity, brevity and clarity. He illustrated his points with things well known to his listeners (Matt. 13:34, 35)—to fishermen (Matt. 13:47, 48), shepherds (John 10:1-17), farmers (Matt. 13:3-9), builders (Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 14:28-30), merchants (Matt. 13:45, 46), slaves or masters (Luke 16:1-9), housewives (Matt. 13:33; Luke 15:8), or anyone else. (Matt. 6:26-30) Simple things like bread, water, salt, wineskins, old garments, were used as symbols of things of great importance, even as they were so used in the Hebrew Scriptures. (John 6:31-35, 51; 4:13, 14; Matt. 5:13; Luke 5:36-39) His logic, often expressed through analogies, cleared away misguided objections, put matters in their proper perspective. (Matt. 16:1-3; Luke 11:11-22; 14:1-6) He aimed his message not merely at men’s minds but primarily at their hearts, using penetrating questions to cause them to think, arrive at their own conclusions, search their hearts, make decisions. (Matt. 16:5-16; 17:24-27; 26:52-54; Mark 3:1-5; Luke 10:25-37; John 18:11) He did not strive to win over the masses but to awaken the hearts of those sincerely hungering for truth and righteousness.—Matt. 5:3, 6; 13:10-15.
Though considerate of the limited understanding of his audience and even of his disciples (Mark 4:33), and though using discernment in how much information to give them (John 16:4, 12), he never ‘watered down’ God’s message in an effort to gain popularity or curry favor. His speech was straightforward, even blunt at times. (Matt. 5:37; Luke 11:37-52; John 7:19; 8:46, 47) The theme of his message was: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 4:17) As did Jehovah’s prophets of earlier times, he plainly told the people of “their revolt, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1; Matt. 21:28-32; John 8:24), pointing them to the ‘narrow gate and the cramped road’ that would lead them back to God’s favor and life.—Matt. 7:13, 14.
Leader and Commander
Jesus demonstrated his qualifications as a “leader and commander” as well as a “witness to the national groups.” (Isa. 55:3, 4; Matt. 23:10; John 14:10, 14; compare 1 Timothy 6:13, 14.) When the time came for it, several months after beginning his ministry, he went to certain ones already known to him and gave them the invitation: “Be my follower.” Men abandoned fishing businesses and tax office employment to respond without hesitation. (Matt. 4:18-22; Luke 5:27, 28; compare Psalm 110:3.) Women contributed time, effort and material possessions to supply the needs of Jesus and his followers.—Mark 15:40, 41; Luke 8:1-3.
This small group formed the nucleus of what would become a new “nation,” spiritual Israel. (1 Pet. 2:7-10) Jesus spent an entire night praying for his Father’s guidance before selecting twelve apostles, who, if faithful, would become pillars in that new nation, like the twelve sons of Jacob in fleshly Israel. (Luke 6:12-16; Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14) As Moses had seventy men associated with him as representatives of the nation, Jesus later assigned seventy more disciples to the ministry. (Num. 11:16, 17; Luke 10:1) Thereafter Jesus concentrated special attention on these disciples in his teaching and instruction, even the “Sermon on the Mount” being delivered principally for them, as its contents reveal.—Matt. 5:1, 2, 13-16; 13:10, 11; Mark 4:34; 7:17.
He fully accepted the responsibilities of his headship; took the lead in every respect (Matt. 23:10; Mark 10:32); assigned his disciples responsibilities and tasks in addition to their preaching work (Luke 9:52; 19:29-35; John 4:1-8; 12:4-6; 13:29; Mark 3:9; 14:12-16); encouraged and reproved. (John 16:27; Luke 10:17-24; Matt. 16:22, 23) He was a commander, chief of his commands being that they ‘love one another even as he had loved them.’ (John 15:10-14) He was able to control crowds numbering into the thousands. (Mark 6:39-46) The steady, helpful training he gave his disciples, men for the most part of humble position and education, was extremely effective. (Matt. 10:1–11:1; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 8:1) Later, men of high station and learning were to wonder at the apostles’ forceful, confident speech; and as “fishers of men” they enjoyed amazing results, persons by the thousands responding to their preaching. (Matt. 4:19; Acts 2:37, 41; 4:4, 13; 6:7) Their grasp of Bible principles, carefully implanted in their hearts by Jesus, enabled them to be real shepherds of the flock in later years. (1 Pet. 5:1-4) Thus, Jesus, in the short span of three and a half years, laid the sound foundation for a unified international congregation with thousands of members drawn from many races.
Able Provider and righteous Judge
That his rule would bring prosperity surpassing that of Solomon’s was evident from his ability to direct the fishing operations of his disciples with overwhelming success. (Luke 5:4-9; compare John 21:4-11.) The feeding of thousands of persons by this man born in Bethlehem (meaning “House of Bread”), and his converting water into fine wine, was a small foretaste of the future banquet that God’s Messianic kingdom would provide “for all the peoples.” (Isa. 25:6; compare Luke 14:15.) His rule not only would end poverty and hunger but would even result in the ‘swallowing up of death.’—Isa. 25:7, 8.
There was every reason, as well, to trust in the justice and righteous judgment his government would bring, in harmony with the Messianic prophecies. (Isa. 11:3-5; 32:1, 2; 42:1) He showed the utmost respect for law, particularly that of his God and Father, but also that of the “superior authorities” allowed to operate on earth in the form of Caesar governments. (Matt. 5:17-19; 22:17-21; John 18:36) He rejected the effort to inject him into the current political scene by ‘making him king’ through popular acclaim. (John 6:15; compare Luke 19:11, 12; Acts 1:6-9.) He did not overstep the bounds of his authority. (Luke 12:13, 14) No one could ‘convict him of sin,’ not merely because he had been born perfect, but because he exercised constant care to observe God’s Word (John 8:46, 55), righteousness and faithfulness girding him like a belt. (Isa. 11:5) His love of righteousness was coupled with a hatred of wickedness, hypocrisy and fraud, and indignation toward those who were greedy and callous toward the sufferings of others. (Matt. 7:21-27; 23:1-8, 25-28; Mark 3:1-5; 12:38-40; compare verses 41-44.) Meek and lowly ones could take heart that his rule would wipe out injustice and oppression.—Isa. 11:4; Matt. 5:5.
He showed keen discernment of principles, of the real meaning and purpose of God’s laws, emphasizing the “weightier matters” thereof, “justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matt. 12:1-8; 23:23, 24) He was impartial, displayed no favoritism, even though feeling particular affection for one of his disciples. (Matt. 18:1-4; Mark 10:35-44; John 13:23; compare 1 Peter 1:17.) Though one of his last acts while dying on the torture stake was to show concern for his human mother, his fleshly family ties never took priority over his spiritual relationships. (Matt. 12:46-50; Luke 11:27, 28; John 19:26, 27) As foretold, his handling of problems was never superficial, based on “any mere appearance to his eyes, nor [his reproof) simply according to the thing heard by his ears.” (Isa. 11:3; compare John 7:24.) He was able to see into men’s hearts, discern their motives. (Matt. 9:4; Mark 2:6-8; John 2:23-25) And he kept his ear tuned to God’s Word and sought, not his own will, but that of his Father; this assured that, as God’s appointed Judge, his decisions would be always right and righteous.—Isa. 11:4; John 5:30.
Jesus fulfilled the requirements of a Prophet like, but greater than, Moses. (Deut. 18:15, 18, 19; Matt. 21:11; Luke 24:19; Acts 3:19-23; compare John 7:40.) He foretold his own sufferings and manner of death, the scattering of his disciples, the siege of Jerusalem and the utter destruction of that city and its temple. (Matt. 20:17-19; 24:1–25:46; 26:31-34; Luke 19:41-44; 21:20-24; John 13:18-27, 38) In connection with these latter events, he included prophecies to be fulfilled at the time of his second presence, when his kingdom would be in active operation. And, like the earlier prophets, he performed signs and miracles as evidence from God that he was divinely sent. His credentials surpassed those of Moses, as he calmed the stormy sea of Galilee, walked on its waters (Matt. 8:23-27; 14:23-34), healed the blind, deaf and lame and those with sicknesses as grave as leprosy, and even raised the dead.—Luke 7:18-23; 8:41-56; John 11:1-46.
Superb example of love
Throughout all these aspects of Jesus’ personality the predominant quality is that of love—for his Father above all, and love for his fellow creatures. (Matt. 22:37-39) Love was therefore to be the distinguishing mark identifying his disciples. (John 13:34, 35; compare 1 John 3:14.) His love was not sentimentality. Though he expressed strong feeling, Jesus was always guided by principle (Heb. 1:9); his Father’s will was his supreme concern. (Compare Matthew 16:21-23.) He proved his love for God by keeping his commandments (John 14:30, 31; compare 1 John 5:3), by seeking to glorify his Father at all times. (John 17:1-4) On his final night with his disciples, he spoke of love and loving over thirty times, three times repeating the command that they “love one another.” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17) He told them that “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:13, 14; compare John 10:11-15.
In proof of his love for God and for imperfect mankind, he then let himself be “brought just like a sheep to the slaughtering,” submitting to trials, being slapped, hit with fists, spit on, scourged with a whip, and, finally, nailed to a stake between criminals. (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 26:67, 68; 27:26-38; Mark 14:65; 15:15-20; John 19:1) By his sacrificial death he exemplified and expressed God’s love toward men (Rom. 5:8-10; Eph. 2:4, 5), and enabled men to have absolute conviction of his own unbreakable love for his faithful disciples.—Rom. 8:35-39; 1 John 3:16-18.
If the portrait of God’s Son obtainable through the written record, admittedly brief (John 21:25), is grand, far grander must have been the reality. His heartwarming example of humility and kindness, coupled with strength for righteousness and justice, gives assurance that his Kingdom government will be all that men of faith through the centuries have longed for, in fact, will surpass their highest expectations. (Rom. 8:18-22) In all respects he exemplified the perfect standard for his disciples, one far different from that of worldly rulers. (Matt. 20:25-28; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Pet. 2:21) He, their Lord, washed their feet. Thus, he set the pattern of thoughtfulness, consideration and humility due to characterize his congregation of anointed followers, not only on earth, but also in heaven. (John 13:3-15) Though heaven-high on their thrones, sharing in Jesus, ‘all authority in heaven and earth’ during Christ’s thousand-year reign as a “royal priesthood,” they must humbly care for and lovingly serve the needs of his subjects on earth.—Matt. 28:18; Rom. 8:17; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:5, 6; 20:6; 21:2-4.
DECLARED RIGHTEOUS AND WORTHY
By his entire life course of integrity to God, Jesus Christ accomplished the “one act of justification” that proved him qualified to serve as God’s anointed King-Priest in heaven. (Rom. 5:17, 18) By his resurrection from the dead to life as a heavenly Son of God he was “declared righteous in spirit.” (1 Tim. 3:16) Heavenly creatures proclaimed him “worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing,” as one who was both lionlike in behalf of justice and judgment and lamblike in self-sacrifice for the saving of others. (Rev. 5:5-13) No mere humanitarian, he had accomplished his primary purpose of sanctifying his Father’s Name. (Matt. 6:9; 22:36-38) This he did, not just by using that Name, but by revealing the Person it represents, displaying his Father’s splendid qualities, his love, wisdom, justice and power, enabling persons to know or experience what the Name stands for. (Matt. 11:27; John 1:14, 18; 17:6-12) And, above all, he did it by upholding Jehovah’s universal sovereignty, showing that his Kingdom government would be based solidly on that Supreme Source of authority. Therefore it could be said of him: “God is your throne forever.”—Heb. 1:8.
The Lord Jesus Christ is thus the “Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith.” By his fulfillment of prophecy and his revelation of God’s future purposes, by what he said and did and was, he provided the solid foundation on which true faith must rest.—Heb. 12:2; 11:1.
[Chart on page 928-930]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
MAIN EVENTS OF JESUS’ EARTHLY SOJOURN
As Recorded in the Four Gospels, and Set in Chronological Order
Abbreviations used: Beth., Bethlehem; Cap., Capernaum; J., Jordan; Jer., Jerusalem; Naz., Nazareth; NE, northeast; S.G., Sea of Galilee; SE, southeast.
Time Place Event
3 B.C.E. Temple, Birth of John the Baptist foretold
Jerusalem to Zechariah
c. 2 B.C.E. Nazareth; Birth of Jesus foretold to Mary,
Judea who visits Elizabeth
2 B.C.E. Judean Birth of John the Baptist; his
hill desert life (later)
country Lu 1:57-80
Genealogies of Jesus
2 B.C.E., Bethlehem Birth of Jesus
c. Oct. 1 Mt 1:18-25 Lu 2:1-7
Near Angel announces good news; shepherds
Bethlehem visit babe
Bethlehem, Jesus circumcised (8th day),
Jerusalem presented in temple (40th day)
1 B.C.E. Jer.; Astrologers; flight to Egypt; babes
or 1 C.E. Beth.; killed; Jesus’ return
Naz. Mt 2:1-23 Lu 2:39, 40
12 C.E. Jerusalem Twelve-year-old Jesus at the
Passover; goes home
29, spring Wilderness, Ministry of John the Baptist
Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry
29, fall Jordan River Baptism of Jesus
Wilderness Fasting and temptation of Jesus
of Judea Mt 4:1-11 Mr 1:12, 13
Upper Jordan First disciples of Jesus
Valley Joh 1:35-51
Cana of Jesus’ first miracle; he visits
Capernaum Joh 2:1-12
30, Passover Jerusalem Passover celebration; drives traders from temple
Jerusalem Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus
Judea; Aenon Jesus’ disciples baptize; John to
Tiberias John imprisoned; Jesus goes from
Judea to Galilee
Mt 4:12; 14:3-5 Mr 1:14; 6:17-20
Sychar, in En route to Galilee, Jesus
Samaria teaches the Samaritans
Great Galilean Ministry
Galilee First announces, “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near”
Cana; Heals boy; reads commission;
Naz.; rejected, he moves to Capernaum
Cap. Mt 4:13-16 Lu 4:16-31
S.G., Call of Simon and Andrew,
near James and John
Cap. Mt 4:18-22 Mr 1:16-20
Capernaum Heals demoniac, Peter’s
mother-in-law, many others
Galilee First tour of Galilee, with the four now called
Galilee Leper healed; multitudes flock to
Capernaum Heals paralytic
Capernaum Call of Matthew; feast with tax
Judea Preaches in Judean synagogues
31, Passover Jerusalem Jesus attends feast; heals man; rebukes Pharisees
Returning Disciples pluck ears of grain on from the sabbath
Jerusalem? Mt 12:1-8 Mr 2:23-28 Lu 6:1-5
Galilee; Heals hand on sabbath; retires
S.G. to seashore; heals
Mountain near The twelve are chosen as apostles
Capernaum Mr 3:13-19 Lu 6:12-16
Near The Sermon on the Mount
Capernaum Mt 5:1–7:29 Lu 6:17-49
Nain Raises widow’s son
Galilee John in prison sends disciples to
Galilee Cities reproached; revelation to
babes; yoke kindly
Galilee Feet anointed by sinful woman;
parable of debtors
Galilee Second preaching tour of Galilee,
with the twelve
Galilee Demoniac healed; league with
Galilee Scribes and Pharisees seek a sign
Galilee Christ’s disciples his close
Sea of Parables of sower, weeds, others;
Sea of Windstorm stilled in the crossing
Galilee of the lake
Gadara, SE Two demoniacs healed; swine
of Sea of possessed by demons
Galilee Mt 8:28-34 Mr 5:1-20
Probably Jairus’ daughter raised; woman
Capernaum? Heals two blind men, and a dumb
Nazareth Revisits city where reared, and is
Galilee Third tour of Galilee, expanded as
Tiberias John the Baptist beheaded; Herod’s
Passover of Cap. (?); Apostles return from preaching 32 near NE side Sea tour; 5,000 fed
(John 6:4) of Galilee Mt 14:13-21 Mr 6:30-44
NE side S.G., Attempt to crown Jesus; he walks on
Gennesaret sea; cures
Capernaum Identifies “bread of life”; many
disciples fall away
32, after Probably Traditions that make void God’s Word
Passover Capernaum Mt 15:1-20 Mr 7:1-23 Joh 7:1
Phoenicia; Near Tyre, Sidon; then to Decapolis;
Decapolis 4,000 fed
Magadan Sadducees and Pharisees again seek a
NE side S.G.; Warns against leaven of Pharisees;
Bethsaida heals blind
Caesarea Jesus the Messiah; foretells death,
Probably Transfiguration before Peter, James,
Mt. Hermon and John
Caesarea Jesus heals demoniac disciples Philippi could not heal
Galilee Jesus again foretells his death and
Capernaum Tax money miraculously provided,
Capernaum Greatest in Kingdom; settling
Galilee; Leaves Galilee for festival of
Samaria booths; everything set aside for
Later Judean Ministry
32, Festival Jerusalem Jesus’ public teaching at festival
of booths of booths
Jerusalem Teaching after festival; cures blind
Probably The seventy sent to preach; their
Judea return, report
Judea; Tells of good Samaritan; at
Bethany home of Martha, Mary
Probably Again teaches model prayer;
Judea persistence in asking
Probably Refutes false charge; shows
Judea generation condemnable
Probably At Pharisee’s table, Jesus denounces
Probably Discourse on God’s care; minister’s
Probably Heals crippled woman on sabbath;
Judea three parables
32, Festival Jer.; beyond Jesus at dedication; Fine Shepherd
of dedication Jordan Joh 10:1-39
Later Perean Ministry
Beyond Many put faith in Jesus
Jordan Joh 10:40-42
Perea (or, Teaches in cities, villages, moving
Jordan) Lu 13:22
Perea Kingdom entrance; Herod’s threat;
Probably Humility; parable of grand
Perea evening meal
Probably Counting the cost of discipleship
Perea Lu 14:25-35
Probably Parables: lost sheep, lost
Perea coin, prodigal son
Probably Parables: unrighteous steward,
Perea rich man and Lazarus
Probably Forgiveness and faith;
Perea good-for-nothing slaves
Bethany Lazarus raised from the dead by
Jerusalem; Caiaphas’ counsel against Jesus;
Ephraim Jesus withdraws
Samaria; Heals and teaches en route through
Galilee Samaria, Galilee
Samaria or Parables: importunate widow,
Galilee Pharisee and tax collector
Perea Swings down through Perea; teaches
Perea Jesus receives and blesses children
Perea Rich young man; parable of
laborers in vineyard
Probably Third time Jesus foretells his
Perea death, resurrection
Probably Request for James and John’s
Perea seating in Kingdom
Jericho Passing through Jericho, he heals
two blind men
Outskirts Jesus visits Zacchaeus; parable
of Jericho of the ten minas
Final Public Ministry in and Around Jerusalem
Nisan 8, 33 Bethany Jesus arrives at Bethany six days
Nisan 9 Bethany Jews come to see Jesus and Lazarus
Bethany- Christ’s triumphal entry into
Nisan 10 Bethany- Barren fig tree cursed; second temple
Mt 21:18, 19, 12, 13 Mr 11:12-17
Jerusalem Chief priests and scribes scheme to
Jerusalem Discussion with Greeks; unbelief of
Nisan 11 Bethany- Barren fig tree found withered
Jerusalem Mt 21:19-22 Mr 11:19-25
Jerusalem, Christ’s authority questioned;
temple parable of two sons
Jerusalem, Parable of wicked cultivators,
temple marriage feast
Jerusalem, Catch questions on tax,
temple resurrection, commandment
Jerusalem, Jesus’ silencing question on
temple Messiah’s descent
Jerusalem, Scathing denunciation of scribes
temple and Pharisees
Jerusalem, The widow’s mite
temple Mr 12:41-44 Lu 21:1-4
Mount of Jerusalem’s fall; second presence;
Olives end of system
Mount of Parables of ten virgins, talents;
Olives sheep and goats
Nisan 12 Jerusalem Religious leaders plot Jesus’ death
Bethany Feast at Simon the leper’s house;
Mary anoints Jesus
Jerusalem Judas bargains with priests for
Nisan 13 Near and in Arrangements for the Passover
(Thursday Jerusalem Mt 26:17-19 Mr 14:12-16
afternoon) Lu 22:7-13
Nisan 14 Jerusalem Passover feast eaten with the twelve
Jerusalem Jesus washes the feet of his
Jerusalem Judas identified as traitor and he
Jerusalem Memorial supper instituted with
Jerusalem Denial by Peter and dispersion of
Jerusalem Helper; mutual love; tribulation;
Gethsemane Agony in the garden; Jesus’
betrayal and arrest
Mt 26:30, 36-56 Mr 14:26, 32-52
Jerusalem Trial by Annas, Caiaphas,
Sanhedrin; Peter denies
Jerusalem Judas the betrayer hangs himself
Jerusalem Before Pilate, then Herod, and then
back to Pilate
Jerusalem Delivered to death, after Pilate
seeks his release
Died c. Golgotha, Jesus’ death on the stake,
3 p.m. Jerusalem and accompanying events
Friday Mt 27:31-56 Mr 15:20-41
Jerusalem Jesus’ body removed from the
stake and buried
Nisan 15 Jerusalem Priests and Pharisees get guard for
Nisan 16 Jerusalem Jesus’ resurrection, and events of
and vicinity that day
Jerusalem; Subsequent appearances of Jesus
Ziv Mount of Jesus’ ascension, 40th day of
(Iyyar) 25 Olives, near resurrected living
Bethany [Acts 1:9-12] Luke 24:50-53
[Map on page 922]
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Sites Associated With JESUS’ EARLY LIFE AS A HUMAN
[Map on page 925]
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SITES MENTIONED IN CONNECTION WITH JESUS’ MINISTRY
Cities of the Decapolis—*
Wilderness of Judah
Bethany across the Jordan(?)
Sea of Galilee