In this Compendium Clip, I would like to consider the life of Jesus in more detail, this time looking at not only his birth and hidden life, but also his public ministry.
First, we need to recall that the entire life of Jesus is a revelation, meaning that everything human and visible in Jesus reveals to us the divine and invisible God. Jesus himself said that “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Moreover, even though our salvation comes fully through Jesus’ cross and resurrection, nevertheless, the entire life of Jesus, everything he said and did, contributes to our redemption and our restoration as children of God.
Yet, the life and revelation of Jesus is not something that happened all of a sudden 2,000 years ago but rather it is something for which God prepared the world. This was true not only among the pagans in whom God awakened a dim expectation of a savior, but it is especially true of his people Israel whose whole history in the Old Testament can be understood as a preparation for the coming of Jesus. Every year the church recalls this period of expectation in a special way during the season of Advent.
But now let’s look through what the gospels teach us about the life of Jesus, beginning with his birth and infancy. When Jesus was born, God revealed his glory in the tenderness and weakness of a baby. At the epiphany, the wise men acknowledged this glory, the glory of a messiah king. At the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Simeon and Anna also recognized this glory, the glory which would bring salvation.
Yet even as an infant, the life of Jesus was under the shadow of persecution and suffering as we can see in the holy family’s flight into Egypt and Herod’s massacre of the innocent children in Bethlehem.
But now let’s briefly consider Jesus’ hidden life, that is his life growing up at Nazareth. During this time Jesus stayed in the silence of an ordinary existence. We learn in the gospel that he was obedient to Mary his mother and Joseph his foster father, this being a reflection of his perfect obedience to the will of God, his true Father. Moreover, the mystery of Jesus’ hidden life enables us to discover the holiness and fellowship that we can have with him in our own family love, in daily prayer, and in our ordinary work and difficulties.
Next let’s look at Jesus’ public ministry which began when he was baptized by John in the Jordan. Here Jesus was showing us that, though sinless, he wanted to be identified with sinful humanity. His being plunged into the water, which was a sign of death, anticipated his death on the cross, which is what truly brings about the forgiveness of sins. This is why John the Baptist said, “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29).
Further, at the Lord’s baptism, the Father proclaimed him to be his beloved Son and the Holy Spirit descended upon him; thus, showing forth the life of the Trinity. It is precisely this life into which one is sacramentally baptized; and so, Jesus’ baptism is also a prefiguration of our baptism.
Yet, immediately after Jesus’ baptism he is led into the dessert to undergo temptation. Here, by Satan’s activity, Jesus experiences the temptations that have affected humanity since the time of Adam, primarily the temptation to disobey God and so disfigure his plan. Yet, where Adam failed, Jesus is victorious thus enabling the Church to unite herself to his battle and victory which she does in a special way during the 40 days of Lent.
However, the core of Jesus’ public ministry consisted in his proclamation of the kingdom of God, which through Jesus Christ is the beginning of God’s heavenly reign on earth. All of humanity, even those furthest away from God and entrenched in sin, are invited to his kingdom, by receiving God’s boundless mercy. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:14-15). Indeed, it is to those who humbly receive Jesus and his teaching that this kingdom already belongs.
Jesus accompanied his teaching with many signs and miracles which bear witness to the truth of his words and to the fact that the kingdom is present in him, the Messiah. For example, in healing some who were physically ill he shows his power over the greater illness of sin. Also, in casting out demons, Jesus demonstrates his power over evil in all of its forms.
Further, as a part of establishing the kingdom of God, Jesus chose the 12 apostles and made them sharers in his mission and authority to teach, forgive sins, and govern. This is what the gospel means by the “keys of the kingdom” (Mt 16:19) which Jesus entrusted to Peter, who is the head of the apostles. By the power of these keys Peter preserves, builds up, and strengthens the Church which is the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth.
During the transfiguration, Jesus gave the apostles who were present there a foretaste of the glory of God’s kingdom, for it was at the transfiguration where Jesus revealed his glorious light, where the Father’s voice was heard and where a bright cloud, which symbolized the Spirit, overshadowed them. However, during this mysterious event Jesus also spoke of “his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” that is, his departure through the suffering of the cross. Thus, in this event Jesus reveals that the glory of the resurrection comes by way of the cross.
Finally, before Jesus’ passion and resurrection he made his entry into the city of Jerusalem amid shouts of joyful praise with the crowds exclaiming “Hosanna” (Mk 11:9-10) that is, ‘bring salvation!’ In this event Jesus confirms that he is the messiah king who has come to inaugurate the kingdom of God.
To summarize, Jesus’ whole life reveals the mystery of God to us. His infancy and hidden life, his baptism and temptations, his proclamation of the kingdom and his entry into Jerusalem all carry forth God’s plan of salvation which is brought to its fullness in the paschal mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. In our next “Compendium Clip” we will begin to consider this great mystery, and focus on Jesus’ passion.
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