Jesus of Nazareth is one of the most impressive persons from world history. (We tend to think he is the most impressive person.) He was born in Galilee, a peripheral area of the Roman Empire. Although we hardly have any knowledge of the first thirty years of his life, quite a lot has been passed on about the three years of his ministry. His own people came to despise him, the Romans condemned him, he died on a cross, and rose from the dead on the third day.
Ever since countless people have skeptically or curiously wondered what exactly had happened and who this Jesus really was. A wise teacher? A rebel? A charismatic leader? A cynic? Just a human like us all? God himself?
The first disciples of Jesus, eye witnesses to his ministry, firmly believed that in Jesus God had revealed a wonderful secret. God they knew from the books of the Jewish bible. They believed that something had gone fundamentally wrong in the relation between God and the human race. The rich history of the Jewish people, as related to us in the Bible, continuously shows how the people turn away from God. Let him down, feel they can go their own way. Do not need a migthy God. However, the same Bible also continuously reminds us of God’s promise that it will not always be like that. A time will come when everything will be okay. There will be peace. Justice will reign. God will wipe every tear from our eyes.
In Jesus’s ministry, death and resurrection his disciples recognised an important, even decisive act of God. Jesus preached the gospel – the good news: ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ Expectations were high. And Jesus lived a life as God intended. Prevailing norms and practices he turned upside down. He ate with the outcasts. He showed how a leader and teacher ought to be a servant to his people and pupils. He lived a life close to God. His love for others never dwindled. He forgave others. Even gave his live for them. Us.
At first his disciples were puzzled by his death. Not because they believed Jesus could not die, but because they had expected Jesus to become king. If possible, his resurrection and reappearance to them caused even more puzzlement. However, the accounts in the Bible show that during his ministry Jesus had already, at several occasions, spoken openly about his death and resurrection.
The good news Jesus brought about the coming kingdom cannot be stopped by death. In fact, the disciples came to understand that Jesus’s death and resurrection were somehow part of that coming kingdom of God. Mysterious as it may sound, it had to happen. Jesus did not just bring the good news. He is the good news.
The gospel started to spread across the globe and today it still touches the hearts of millions. Millions who believe Jesus’s promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NIV translation). It is an outright invitation to get to know Jesus.