John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, prepared the way for the promised One. He called Israel to repent, with a baptism ministry in the River Jordan. John’s ministry decreased, however, as Jesus’ ministry increased.
Born in Bethlehem, Jesus is the most important person, and the most controversial person, in history. His person and work remain a topic of debate, at present. People around the world, today, still claim Him, while most see Him as an important historical figure.
The most published book in the history of the world tells His story. The 66 books of the Bible bear witness of His anticipated arrival, life, and the continuation of the greatest drama…ever. His life and ministry are summarily recorded in the four Gospel accounts. Following His death, burial, and resurrection, the Bible continues with the story of Christ’s church in various locations. Key apostolic contributors tell the works of the Holy Spirit, in gathering God’s elect people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.
The ministry of Jesus Christ was comprised of miracle works and wise preaching and teaching. At first, He was received very well, but His message began to disturb some people. The Gospel message from Jesus was that He was the Messiah sent from God, who He claimed was His Father. This meant that He was claiming to be God, come in the flesh, to be the exclusive Savior of sinners. His opponents were troubled by such claims. They accused Jesus of blasphemy.
At the appointed time, a successful conspiracy arrested Jesus the Nazarene and put Him on trial. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. On the third day after His death by crucifixion, His tomb was empty.
Jesus’ disciples claimed that He was raised from the dead, and several hundred witnesses soon joined them. Jerusalem was greatly troubled by the news of Jesus’ resurrection.
The transformation of fearful disciples to fearless apostles turned the world upside down. Persecution of the early church only seemed to inspire them to preach God’s story more and more. The apostles and their traveling companions went from town to town, in every direction leading away from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. The Good News spread.
As the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached in every city, gatherings of believers met in local homes. The believers in the Way were called, “Christians.” The local churches received letters from the traveling apostles, most of whom were arrested and killed by civil authorities or angry religious mobs. Still, the increased persecution of the Christians only seemed to grow the number of Christ’s followers.
The early church would convene in private homes, and the Christians would teach what they had learned from the apostles. They broke bread, together, sharing meals and remembering the Lord’s death until He comes again. They had all things in common, sharing with one another, as any had need. The churches began to appear in the further reaches of the Roman empire and beyond. The metropolitan churches would subsequently gain in power and influence, helping the rural village churches, and serving as centers where the canon of Scripture (Old and New Testament) could be ordered and agreed upon. This is also where the disagreements over doctrine and practice could be settled.
The fledgling, persecuted church of Jesus Christ seemed unstoppable. The agency of the Holy Spirit was given to them, and He served as the reason the truth claims were held, sometimes even to the point of gruesome deaths, by the followers of Jesus, at the hands of evil men. In the early centuries following the life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, enthronement, and session of the Lord Jesus Christ, then, the books of the Bible, the Nicene Creed, and other expressions of the faith were solidified.
The church that Jesus promised to build was growing, even as it still does, today. It will continue to grow into the future, until the Gospel is preached to all nations, and until all of God’s chosen people are gathered into the church, and then, the end will come, when King Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. His eternal kingdom has no end. Some will be with Him in His glory, but His enemies will be dealt with in just judgment and punishment…forever. Who are you in God’s story?
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 21, 2021