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Jesus Christ As The Door To Understanding
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds. . . Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. . .
—The Nicene Creed (AD 325)
What’s past is prologue. —William Shakespeare, The Tempest
What’s Past Is Prologue
Our theology will always determine our understanding of history. If Jesus came to save the world and bless all nations… then most of history lies before us. And that means what’s past is prologue. Ancient history comes to its climax in the Advent of Jesus Christ. The rest of history flows out of Jesus’ finished and ongoing work. According to Jesus, His kingdom has already come and continues to come as He puts all enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25). Only when He is finished will the end come. Resurrection and final Judgment follow.
For the Christian history teacher, this has some very practical implications. First, the Bible, particularly the gospels, gives us the historical data we need. God Himself has selected the details He wishes us to work with. He has communicated them to us infallibly and authoritatively. What the gospels tell us about Jesus is historically and theologically true. These facts then, are not open to massaging, spinning or redaction.
Second, God also explains the meaning of the historical data contained in the gospels. The gospels don’t hand us “brute” facts. Instead, they give us God-interpreted facts. The interpretation is just as authoritative and infallible as the facts themselves. But unlike the historical data, God’s interpretation is spread throughout the whole of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. So to explain Christ’s role in history, it’s crucial that we bring to bear all the truth contained in Scripture. (Not merely teaching the parts we like)
Third, unlike God, we aren’t omniscient. We are limited by intention, energy, our own ability to read and understand the text, as well as something mundane like hours in the day.
So, we’ll never be able to say everything. But we do have to start somewhere. That said, what follows below is an attempt to outline the appearance and life of Jesus Christ.
Whether you’re a pastor, small group leader, Christian school teacher or parent that wants to teach important and foundational pillars regarding the single most important person and event in human history… consider the outline below. It was written and is used in the history classroom by my good friend Greg Uttinger. Greg’s a great thinker and certainly a master teacher. This is his outline:
An Outline For Teaching Jesus Christ As The Door To Understanding
I. The history of the ancient world reaches its climax in Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God.
A. The Son of God came to earth as a human baby, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born in a stable in Bethlehem of Judea (c. 5 BC).
1. Jesus Christ is true God, the Second Person of the eternal Trinity.
2. Jesus Christ is a real man, the lineal descendant of Abraham and David through His mother Mary (Luke 2—3). B. Jesus grew to manhood in Nazareth of Galilee, where He began work as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).
C. At the age of 30, during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Jesus began His public ministry; He labored for three and a half years.
1. He received public baptism from His herald, John the Baptist, and the Spirit’s anointing from His Father (Matt. 3). 2. He challenged Satan in the wilderness and came away victorious (Matt. 4).
3. He preached the gospel (good news) of the kingdom of God with authority and power: “Never man spake like this man.”
4. He healed the sick; He raised the dead; He cast out demons.
5. He gathered about Himself a band of disciples, 12 of whom He appointed apostles, patriarchs of a new Israel (Matt. 10).
6. He ministered with compassion to the outcasts of Israel—the poor, the publicans, the prostitutes—and here He received His greatest hearing.
D. But Israel, as a nation, did not receive her King (John 1:11).
1. The Jewish leaders, with few exceptions, actively opposed Christ’s ministry, and in the end called for His execution.
a. The Pharisees saw Him as a challenge to their moralism, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy.
b. The Sadducees saw Him as a threat to their position and power.
2. The Jewish people, though they were intrigued by His ministry, particularly by His miracles, eventually turned away from Him.
3. Only a faithful remnant within Israel believed in Him, and those godly Israelites became the nucleus of the New Covenant Church.
E. During the Passover season of AD 30, Jesus entered Jerusalem to finish His work, to lay down His life.
1. He entered triumphantly, on a donkey rather than a horse— evidence of the sort of kingdom He brought (Matt. 21:1-11).
2. He cleansed the Temple, pronounced its destruction, and instituted a new sacrament for a New Covenant, holy communion (Matt. 21—26).
3. He was betrayed by his friend, deserted by His disciples, arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities, and subjected to sixtrials (Matt. 26—27; Luke 22—23).
a. The Jewish leaders condemned Jesus and handed Him over to the Roman governor Pilate, hoping for a summary execution.
b. While Pilate hesitated, the Jewish leaders and the crowds present openly denounced their covenant with God and submitted themselves for final judgment:
“And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.'(John 19:14-15). Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children (Matt. 27:25).”
4. Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent and then ordered Him crucified as “The King of the Jews.”
5. On Calvary, Jesus gave up His life amid darkness and earthquake (Matt. 27:33-54).
6. He was buried in a borrowed tomb; at the insistence of the Jewish leaders, Pilate set a Roman guard to keep it sealed (Matt. 27:62-66).
F. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, physically and bodily, and presented Himself to His frightened disciples as the Lord of life (Matt. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20—21).
G. After meeting with them for 40 days, Jesus ascended into the heavens and sat down on the right hand of God as King of heaven and earth (Act 1; cf. Eph. 1:20-23).
II The history of the ancient world—and of the modern world—finds its meaning in Jesus Christ.
A. Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the eternal Word (Logos) of God manifest in true humanity (John 1:1-18).
1. He is the full and final revelation of the Father (Heb. 1).
2. He is the unique link between Heaven and Earth, the only Mediator between God and men (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5).
B. Jesus Christ is the Second Adam, the covenant Representative of a new humanity (Rom. 5:11-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-49).
1. Jesus took up the obligations of the covenant where Adam failed and fulfilled them completely for the sake of His people (1 Cor. 15:21-22).
a. He obeyed all of God’s Law, all the requirements of the covenant, perfectly (Rom. 5:18-19).
b. He bore upon the cross the wrath and curse of God, the covenant judgment that Adam had brought upon the world (Gal. 3:13-14).
2. Jesus rose from the dead in His perfect humanity to be the source of life and salvation for His people (Rom. 6 and 8).
C. Jesus Christ is the saving King, who reigns in truth and grace: in Him and through Him the kingdom of God has entered our world, our history (Matt. 12:28).
1. Through His word and Spirit, Jesus rescues His people, His Church, from guilt and sin.
a. He saves His people from the guilt of sin and restores them to fellowship with God (Rom. 3—5).
b. He saves His people from the power of sin and restores them to lives of faith, dominion, and service (Rom. 6—8).
2. As a result, He restores godly order—righteousness, peace, and joy—to a world beset by injustice, war, and sorrow (Isa. 60—61).
a. But He begins His healing work quietly and invisibly in the hearts of His people.
b. He deals with the root issue, man’s rebellion against God.
c. But what He does within men’s hearts necessarily works itself out into their society and culture (cf. Rev. 21:24—22:2; Mic. 4:1-5).
3. Therefore, the kingdom of God ultimately means God’s righteous rule in all of life.
a. This is precisely what Scripture promises again and again: 2; 110; 72; Isa. 11; 60; 65; Luke 1; Rev. 21—22.
b. As Sovereign of the universe, Jesus Christ directs all of history to these ends (Eph. 1:19-23).
We live in an age of declining faith. We also live in a world where rival beliefs systems like Islam are surpassing Christianity worldwide. There are many reasons for the situation we find ourselves in today. One primary reason is that we simply don’t take our faith seriously enough to teach it as history. We really don’t consider it worthy to build our lives around. Even Christians consider history to be limited to events like the French and Indian Wars or the Civil War.
But if we start at the center of all history and if we are to teach Jesus Christ as the door to understanding all history, we have some work ahead of us. We need a comprehensive and searchable history that relates all human history… that’s each and every event… to the center, to Christ. This is obviously a big project, perhaps the largest project or undertaking in the history of mankind. It will make Wikipedia look like a speck, a footnote as a way of comparison. So…
If you’re ready to start writing … I’m looking for help.
Greg Uttinger, Prologue: A Christian Guide to Ancient History (Sacramento, CA: Privately printed, 2016). Used here by permission. He is also the legal heir of the kings of Israel through His foster father Joseph (Matt. 1). The titles “Christ” and “Messiah” mean “The Anointed One.” Jesus was anointed to be the Prophet, King, and Priest of our redemption. Before Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again.