The Story of Jesus in 9 Acts
We talked in this session about the story of Jesus Christ. This story is summarized well in one of the oldest statements of Christian faith that exists: The Apostles' Creed.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
For those of you who are more visual learners than verbal ones, this crudely drawn picture of the story told by the Apostles' Creed might be helpful:
It is worth noting that the whole content of the Creed has to do with God, and very little to do with us. The only statement I make about myself when I pray the Creed is "I believe". The rest of the action is God's.
God created. The Holy Spirit conceived. Jesus suffered, died, was buried, descended to hell, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will come again. Our faith is in a God who has acted in history. It is not simply a set of rules or statements of wisdom about how to live a good life.
In order to really understand Christianity, we have to understand Christ. And to understand Him, we have to know His story. The story can be basically broken into 9 acts:
1. The Kingdom of God: When Jesus began his ministry in Galilee at about 30 years old, his first words were, "Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). In fact, the main topic of Jesus' teaching is what the Kingdom of God is like ("It is like a mustard seed", "It is like a man who had two sons", etc.). In a nutshell, the Kingdom of God is what God created us to live in - a world where God is in charge, and where everyone listens to Him, loves Him, and obeys his Word. The Kingdom of God is made of free sons and and daughters, who are heirs to that Kingdom. This stands in contrast to the kingdoms of the world, which are made of mere subjects of men who are ruled by force.
2. Jesus is the Face of the Kingdom: Jesus does not simply preach the coming of the Kingdom; He is the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus is the King himself, and He has arrived. When we say that Jesus is the "Son of God", we understand that as another way of saying that "Jesus is God". The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. One God; three persons.
3. The Kingdom in word and action: Jesus proves his identity as God by what he says and what he does. He preaches with authority and he works miracles. Human beings are not typically able to heal the blind and the lame, and are certainly unable to raise the dead. Jesus does all these things. His life is the beginning of the restoration of a world torn apart by sin, and these miracles are a sign of that coming restoration.
4. Jesus embraces the cross: Jesus came to restore us to life, and in return we put Him to death. But Jesus does not reject us in our selfishness and sin. Rather He accepts our rejection of Him, which is shown in his embracing of the cross. Even in his last breath, he cries to His Father, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing" (Luke 23:24).
5. Resurrection and Ascension into heaven: Jesus' resurrection from the dead is not a metaphor or a myth. It is an historical event with dozens, if not hundreds of eye-witnesses. The ultimate sign of Jesus' divinity, the Resurrection and Ascension complete the sacrifice of Jesus' perfect life offered to the Father on the Cross, and open for us the way to the new life of the Kingdom of God.
6. Jesus asks me to follow Him: Just like all the disciples who followed Jesus during his life on earth (i.e. prior to His ascension into heaven), each one of us is called to answer the invitation to follow Him. There is no being Christian without following Christ, and following Christ means embracing the Cross with Him.
7. Personal sin and forgiveness: It is sometimes difficult for us to grasp in our age of self-esteem that we are not perfect just the way we are. Becoming a disciple of Jesus means hearing His word directed at us: "REPENT!" (Matthew 4:17). We must recognize the ways that we have rejected God in our own lives and decisions, take responsibility for those decisions, and receive God's forgiveness. Mercy is very specific, and we must understand specifically why we need it.
8. Dropping the net: This is where Jesus' story meets our own. Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Once we are ready to say with St. Peter, "You are Christ, the Son of the Living God", we are ready to be Jesus' disciples. We can echo every word of the Apostles' Creed. This means we are ready to leave behind whatever life we had before to accept the new one He wants to give us.
9. The Life of Discipleship: This is our own participation in the life and story of Jesus. As we discussed in our last class, discipleship is a lifelong, committed relationship with Jesus. Disciples live in obedience to God, and no longer simply ask, "What do I want?", but "What does God want?" They are citizens of the Kingdom of God and messengers of its coming.
- Click here for our homework reading for next time
- Memorize the "Hail Mary"
- Click here for answers and explanations to the "Catholic Pre-test"