Jesus Christ: his life and teaching

Jesus Christ, from whom Christianity gets its name, lived in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. The story of his life is documented in the Bible, in writings known as the Gospels, but he was also written about by historians of the time. The Gospel accounts focus mostly on his birth and the last three years of his life.

Christians believe Jesus was God in human form, someone who came to show us who God is, how much he loves human beings and how he wants a personal relationship with each one of us. Christians believe that the death of Jesus made it possible for anyone to be forgiven for all their wrongdoings and begin a new life and new relationship with God with a clean slate.

Jesus’ birth, celebrated every year at Christmas, took place around 6-4 BCE in the town of Bethlehem near Jerusalem.

A view of ruins within the town of Bethleham, Israel.
Berthold Werner at wikivoyage (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The town of Bethlehem, Israel.

'This is a historical figure upon which we have a great deal of evidence for his existence and his teachings and even his rising from the dead in a literal way.'   
Prof. Francis Collins, leading geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, USA

Jesus worked as a carpenter in Nazareth like his mother Mary’s husband, Joseph, until he was about 30. He then spent three years travelling the region with a group of hand-picked followers known as his disciples, teaching about God and healing sick people.

In around 30 CE, Jesus was arrested, put on trial and executed by crucifixion. Three days later he rose from the dead – an event celebrated by Christians every year at Easter. After this, he appeared to hundreds of people over six weeks before rising up to heaven. Christianity teaches that he will return in the future – an event known as the Second Coming.

Jesus’ teaching

Jesus’ teaching touched all aspects of human experience and shows God’s concern for all parts of our lives. Many Bible passages describe Jesus meeting and helping individuals, often those on the margins of society. Other stories document him teaching people in synagogues, private homes or the open air. There are also parables, such as the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told to make a particular point.

The Sea of Galilee, northern Israel.
Zachi Evenor (CC BY 2.0)
The Sea of Galilee, northern Israel - the setting of the Sermon on the Mount.

One of the most famous passages of Jesus’ teaching is his Sermon on the Mount. It is like a wide-ranging introduction to what it means to live as a Christian. It touches on issues such as generosity and handling money; and dealing with anger, worry, lust and retaliation. One passage even encourages people to love their enemies.

Jesus was practical too. He performed more than 30 documented miracles such as healing a blind man, raising a dead friend back to life and calming a storm. These demonstrated his power and authority but also his deep love for humanity.

‘Jesus is the true friend... despite all my big failures in this friendship.’