The following are the key events in the life of Christ and the Bible books where each is described (Part 1):
Birth: (Luke 2:1-20) – Within this passage are all the elements of the well-known Christmas story. Mary and Joseph, no room at the inn, the babe in the manger, the shepherds with their flocks, wise men from the East following the star to Bethlehem and bearing gifts for the Christ child, a multitude of angels rejoicing—all these things make up the amazing story of the birth of the Savior two thousand years ago. But the story of God coming to earth as a man began many years earlier with the prophecies of the coming Messiah. Isaiah foretold of a virgin who would conceive and bear a son and call His name Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). The first of the key events in the life of Christ is the humble beginning in a stable, when God came to be with us, born to set His people free and to save us from our sins.
Baptism: (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23) – Jesus’ baptism by John at the Jordan River is the first act of His public ministry. John’s was a baptism of repentance, and although Jesus did not need such a baptism, He consented to it in order to identify Himself with sinners. He would soon bear their sins on the cross where He would exchange His righteousness for their sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). The baptism of Christ symbolized His death and resurrection, prefigured and lent importance to Christian baptism, and publicly identified Christ with those for whom He would die. In addition, His identity as the long-awaited Messiah was confirmed by God Himself who spoke from heaven: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Finally, Jesus’ baptism was the scene of the very first appearance of the Trinity to man. The Son was baptized, the Father spoke, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. The Father’s command, the Son’s obedience, and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment present a beautiful picture of the life and ministry of Christ.
First miracle: (John 2:1-11) – It is fitting that John’s gospel is the only one that records Jesus’ first miracle. John’s account of the life of Christ has as its theme and purpose to reveal the deity of Christ. Surely, this first miracle of creating something from nothing proves that Jesus was God in flesh, the Creator, through whom all things came to be (John 1:30). Only God can create something from what does not exist, in this case, wine from water. This event shows His divine power over the elements of the earth, the same power that would be revealed again in many more miracles of healing and the control of the elements such as wind and the sea. John goes on to tell us that this first miracle had two outcomes—the glory of Christ was manifest and the disciples believed on Him (John 2:11). The divine, glorified nature of Christ was hidden when He assumed human form, but in instances such as this miracle, His true nature burst forth and was made manifest to all who had eyes to see (Matthew 13:16). The disciples always believed in Jesus, but the miracles helped to strengthen their faith and prepare them for the difficult times that lay ahead of them.
Sermon on the Mount: (Matthew 5:1-7:29) – Perhaps the most famous sermon of all time was preached by Jesus to His disciples early in His public ministry. Many memorable phrases that we know today came from this sermon, including “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” “salt of the earth,” “an eye for an eye,” “the lilies of the field,” “ask and you will receive,” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” as well as the concepts of going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, and the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Also in the sermon is the Lord’s Prayer. Most importantly, though, the Sermon on the Mount dealt a devastating blow to the Pharisees and their religion of works-righteousness. By expounding the spirit of the law and not just the letter of it, Jesus left no doubt that legalism is of no avail for salvation and that, in fact, the demands of the law are humanly impossible to meet. He ends the sermon with a call to true faith for salvation and a warning that the way to that salvation is narrow and few find it.
Feeding of the 5000: (Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-13) – We learn several important lessons from this miraculous event. As with the miracle of the water and wine at Cana, we see Jesus’ absolute power over the elements of nature. Only God can create something from nothing and from five small loaves and two fish, Jesus created enough food to feed many more than 5,000 people. The Gospels tell us there were 5,000 men present, but Matthew adds that there were women and children there besides. Estimates of the crowd are as high as 20,000. But our God is a God of abundant provision, and little is much in the hands of the Lord. A poignant lesson is learned by seeing that before He multiplied the loaves and fishes, Jesus commanded the multitude to sit down. This is a beautiful picture of the power of God to accomplish what we cannot, while we rest in Him. There was nothing the people could do to feed themselves; only He could do that. They had only a pittance, but in God’s hands it became a feast that was not only sufficient—it was bountiful.
Transfiguration: (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:26-36) – This event is referred to as the “Transfiguration,” meaning “a change in form,” because Jesus was changed before the eyes of Peter, James and John into a reflection of His true nature. His divine glory radiated from Him, changing His face and clothing in such a way that the gospel writers had trouble relating it. Just as the Apostle John used many metaphors to describe what he saw in the visions of Revelation, so, too, did Matthew, Mark and Luke have to resort to images like “lightning,” “the sun” and “light” to describe Jesus’ appearance. Truly, it was other-worldly. The appearance of Moses and Elijah to converse with Jesus shows us two things. First, the two men represent the Law and the Prophets, both of which foretold Jesus’ coming and His death. Second, the fact that they talked about His upcoming death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31) shows their foreknowledge of these events and the sovereign plan of God that was unfolding just as He had foreordained. God spoke from heaven and commanded the disciples to “Hear Him!” thereby stating that Jesus, not Moses and Elijah, now had the power and authority to command them.
Raising of Lazarus: (John 11:1-44) – Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany, was a personal friend of Jesus, which is why Jesus was sent for by the family when Lazarus was sick. Jesus delayed several days before going to Bethany, knowing that Lazarus would be dead long enough by then to verify this amazing display of divine power. Only God has the power over life and death, and by raising Lazarus from the grave, Jesus was reiterating His authority as God and His supremacy over death. Through this incident, the Son of God would be glorified in an unmistakable way. As with many other miracles and incidents, one of the goals was that the disciples—and we—“may believe.” Jesus is who He said He was and this most astounding of His miracles testifies to that fact. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25) and asked her if she believed what He was saying. This is the basis of the Christian life. We believe that Jesus is the very power of resurrection, and we trust in Him to give us eternal life through that power. We are buried with Him and raised by His authority over death. Only through His power can we be truly saved.
Triumphal entry: (Matthew 21:1–11, 14–17; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:29–44; John 12:12–19)— Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before the crucifixion is the basis of what is known as Palm Sunday. The multitudes who greeted Him laid palm branches in the road for Him, but their worship of Him was short-lived. In just a few days, these same crowds would be calling for His death, shouting “Crucify! Crucify!” (Matthew 27:22-23). But as He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt—signifying His lowliness and humble state—He received the adoration of the crowd and their acknowledgement of His messianic claim. Even the little children welcomed Him, demonstrating that they knew what the Jewish leaders did not, that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah repeated in John 12:15: “See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
Last Supper: (Matthew 26:1-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-20; John 13:1-38) – This poignant last meeting with His disciples, whom He loved, begins with an object lesson from Jesus. The disciples had been arguing about who among them was the greatest (Luke 22:24), displaying their distinctly ungodly perspective. Jesus quietly rose and began to wash their feet, a task normally performed by the lowest, most menial slave. By this simple act, He reminded them that His followers are those who serve one another, not those who expect to be served. He went on to explain that unless the Lamb of God cleanses a person’s sin, that person will never be clean: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). During the Last Supper, Jesus also identifies the traitor, Judas, who would betray Him to the authorities and bring about His arrest. It is indicative of the disciples’ weak faith that each of them considered the possibility that he himself might be the traitor. But Jesus confirmed that it was none other than Judas, whom He instructed to leave and do quickly what he had to do. After Judas’ departure, Jesus instituted the New Covenant in His blood, a new command that those who follow Him are to love one another and live by the power of the Holy Spirit. We remember this act each time we enter into the Christian ordinance of communion, celebrating Christ’s body which was broken for us and His blood, which was shed for us.
Arrest at Gethsemane: (Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-54; John 18:1-12) – After the Last Supper, Jesus led the disciples to the garden of Gethsemane , where several things took place. Jesus separated Himself from them in order to pray, asking them to watch and pray as well. But several times He returned to find them sleeping, overcome with fatigue and grief at the prospect of losing Him. As Jesus prayed, He asked the Father to remove the cup of wrath He was about to drink when God poured out on Him the punishment for the sins of the world. But, as in all things, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father and began to prepare for His death, strengthened by an angel sent to minister to Him in His last hours. Judas arrived with a multitude and identified Jesus with a kiss, and Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas for the first of a series of mock trials.
Crucifixion and burial: (Matthew 27:27-66; Mark 15:16-47; Luke 23:26-56; John 19:17-42) – The death of Jesus on the cross was the culmination of His ministry on earth. It is the reason He was born as a man—to die for the sins of the world so that those who believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). After being found innocent of all charges against Him, Jesus was nevertheless handed over to the Romans to be crucified. The events of that day are recorded as including His seven last sayings, the mocking and taunting by the soldiers and the crowd, the casting of lots among the soldiers for His clothing, and three hours of darkness. At the moment Jesus gave up His spirit, there was an earthquake and a resurrection of some of the believers who had died. At that moment, the huge, heavy curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn from top to bottom, signifying that access to God was now open to all who believe in Jesus. The body of Jesus was taken down from the cross, laid in a borrowed tomb, and left until after the Sabbath. When women came to prepare the body for burial, they found the tomb empty. Jesus had risen from the dead in His glorified state and would appear to many to prove that death had no hold over Him.
Post-resurrection appearances: (Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-21:25; Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:6) – During the forty days between the crucifixion and His ascension, Jesus appeared several times to 500 of His disciples and others. He first appeared to the women near the tomb who came to prepare His body for burial, then to Mary Magdalene, to whom He declared that He had not yet ascended to the Father. He walked through a wall and appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem where “doubting Thomas” was given proof and again in Galilee where they saw another miracle. Though they had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus told them to lower their nets one more time, and their nets were filled with fish. Jesus cooked breakfast for them and taught them many important truths. Peter was told to feed the Lord’s sheep and was told the manner of death he would suffer. At this time, they also received the Great Commission. Jesus appeared again to two men on the road to Emmaus and, as He ate with them and talked with them, they recognized Him. The men returned to Jerusalem, found the disciples, and testified of their encounter with Jesus.
Ascension: (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12) – Jesus’ final act on earth was His ascension into heaven in the presence of the disciples. He was taken up in a cloud which hid Him from their view, but two angels came to tell them that He would return one day in a similar manner. For now, Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father in heaven. The act of sitting down signifies that His work is done, as He affirmed before dying on the cross when He said, “It is finished.” There is nothing more to be done to secure the salvation of those who believe in Him. His life on earth is over, the price is paid, the victory is won and death itself has been defeated. Hallelujah!
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Recommended Resource: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All by Charles Swindoll.