Who is Jesus? Did he exist at all? What do Christians believe? What do you ‘need’ to believe?
We’re discovering that by looking at Jesus, we’re gaining valuable insights into some of the most profound and deep issues of being human.
There seems to be little reason to doubt that there was a real historical figure, that we know as Jesus of Nazareth, who lived in the first century and travelled around Roman occupied Galilee and Judea. He spoke against the political and religious authorities and ultimately was executed. Whatever you believe happened next, it is certain that his movement survived, preserving and developing his teachings as it spread across the Roman world; His followers became known as Christians.
So far, so fairly uncontroversial. But as Christians we believe that the truth goes much deeper.
- The central idea that Jesus proclaimed was what he called ‘the kingdom of God’, or ‘the kingdom of Heaven’. We might define this as ‘the rule and reign of God’ or in other words, ‘what things would look like if God had his way’. Jesus seems to contrast this with ‘the kingdoms of this world’ - we might say ‘the way things are’. So straight away, Jesus is raising a challenge: the way things are does not have to be the way things are. Things can be different; there is another way. If you have ever looked at the world and thought ‘that’s not right, it shouldn’t be like that’, then Jesus would probably agree with you! The kingdom of God is a beacon of hope and a challenge to do what we can to make the world a better place.
- Much of Jesus’ message and teaching were unique in human history: The deeper we look into it, the more we are convinced that it reveals and unlocks some revolutionary truths that can change our lives. Jesus rejected rigid obedience to religious systems; rather than ‘brainwashing’ or mindless obedience, Jesus invited his listeners to think deeply, to wrestle with mysteries and discover truths not just expressed in abstract ideas, but lived out in flesh and blood. Often Jesus articulates a ‘third way’ that avoids and transcends the tired, black and white debates of his day and ours. Even if you are sceptical of metaphysical claims, or disillusioned by religious dogma, we’d encourage you to have another look at the teachings of Jesus.