That Jesus is an actual historical person cannot be overemphasized. His life, ministry, and execution are well-documented historical facts. Even his miracles are spoken of in historical writings outside the Bible.
When we talk about placing faith in Jesus, we are talking about placing faith in him for forgiveness and salvation, but we are also talking about believing the facts about him. He was a lower-class Jewish man who would have been called Yeshua, or Iesous to Greek-speaking individuals. He was born approximately 4 BC in Bethlehem to a young woman who was a biological descendant of David, the warrior-king of Israel. He was raised in Nazareth by Mary his mother, and Joseph his adoptive father. He learned the carpenter’s trade from Joseph and lived in obscurity for most of his life. Jesus (Yeshua) was an actual person. He most likely would have had a favorite food, a unique personality, and a circle of personal friends growing up. Jesus (Yeshua) was a person who existed on earth and left his footprints wherever he went. At the approximate age of 30, Jesus (Yeshua) was baptized by an eccentric prophet/preacher named John and subsequently began a preaching and miracle ministry that lasted over three years. He acquired many followers, most famously, the twelve disciples, eleven of whom would continue Jesus’ ministry after his death. Jesus’ ministry was brought to a sudden end when he was arrested during the Jewish Passover week in Jerusalem. He was convicted of blasphemy and executed by Roman crucifixion, perhaps the cruelest means of execution ever devised.
In addition to these facts, the Christian Gospel maintains the following to be equally true based on the witness recorded in the New Testament by eyewitnesses and Jesus’ own personal testimony recorded in the four Gospels. Jesus’ lack of a biological father on earth is due to the fact that he is the Son of God. His mother was a virgin when she conceived and when she bore Jesus. Jesus (Yeshua) fulfilled many ancient prophecies from the Old Testament and is in fact the foretold Jewish Messiah. Jesus had existed for eternity before being born in Bethlehem for he was and is God. Jesus is God, specifically the second person of the Trinity. His biological link to David through Mary is not incidental as he was of Davidic descent by divine direction and design, his lineage being before promised in the Old Testament writings. Jesus’ death was and is a vicarious atonement for the human race, particularly the elect – those who respond to the Gospel and are saved. Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion. This resurrection was testament to his identity as the Son of God, the sinless one. The body of Jesus was glorified, that is, repaired from its damage and restored from any curse of sin. His body was raised eternal and glorious, that is, it is similar in appearance to a normal human body, but is of a supernatural and eternal quality. It is with this body that Jesus ascended back to heaven and is soon returning bodily to reign over creation as the King over all kings and Lord over all lords. Through Jesus’ incarnation as a man, his death, and his resurrection; God became man. God is now both God and man and will be so for all eternity. It is through this “adoption” of the human nature by God, that God and men will be able to fellowship throughout eternity.
This is Jesus as the Bible presents him. This is what all true Christians confess about Jesus Christ. I pray this is your confession as well.
What do you know about Saint Patrick? Did you know…
- that the color first associated with Saint Patrick was blue?
- that Saint Patrick was from England, not Ireland?
- that Saint Patrick was a slave for six years?
- that Saint Patrick was a devout Christian missionary?
- that Saint Patrick was NOT a leprechaun? Ok, you probably knew that one…
Born somewhere on the main English Island (approximately 383 – 415 A.D.), Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders at 16 years old and enslaved by a warrior chief to feed pigs. Patrick was a Christian and prayed constantly during this time. After six years of enslavement, Patrick escaped and ran 200 miles to a harbor and sailed back to England. Only to be called by God to return as a missionary to Ireland.
Ireland was populated by pagans and barbarians. Patrick faced opposition by the druids, an religious group of men who practiced magic and were educated in matters of history and law. Opposed both by Druids and Arian priests, he planted orthodox churches and monasteries, mostly on the northern and western sides of the island. During his ministry Patrick wrote: “Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty who rules everywhere.” By the end of his life (493 A.D.), he was said to have baptized ten thousand, and planted over a hundred churches. Patrick strongly opposed slavery; having been a slave himself and having witnessed many of his Christian converts being abducted and sold as slaves. Within Patrick’s lifetime, the entire Irish slave trade had ended.
There is much that is legendary about the life of Patrick and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. One legend of Patrick is that on the night of Samhein (or Bealtine), when all fires were to be extinquished on the island, he lit a bonfire on a mountain in protest! Another legend explains the absence of snakes in Ireland by stating that Patrick drove away all the snakes, chasing them into the sea. Most notable of all is the shamrock legend. It is said that in order to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish pagans, Patrick used a three-leaf shamrock to illustrate God’s triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later, Christians identified the three leaves with the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13); and in the event you found a four-leaf clover, the fourth represents luck (hardly a Christian concept).
Many details of Patrick’s life are lost to us and we can’t be sure about some of the particulars. What we do know is that Patrick of Ireland was a courageous Christian missionary who followed God’s call to share Christ in a difficult, pagan culture. So if you want to celebrate in the true spirit of Saint Patrick of Ireland, take some time to tell your non-Christian friends and acquaintances about the unique, triune God of the Bible… and get rid of any snakes you may run across in the process.