Yeshua is the Mashiach, Saviour and founder of the Christian Church. Some know Him by a more personal Name. To Christians, He is the Lord of their lives. Regardless of His title, Yeshua HaMashiach is the most interesting figure in human history. Although He lived on earth only 33 years, He has had the greatest impact of any person who ever lived: even on those who do not believe He is YHVH’s Son. The Bible describes Yeshua HaMashiach in detail: His life, His work and His teachings; in the four books called the Gospels. Each of the four Gospels has a distinctive purpose. Matthew, for instance, presents Yeshua as the long-awaited King of the Jewish people. Mark focuses more on Yeshua as the Servant of all. Luke tends to present Yeshua in a softer light, showing His amazing compassion for the poor. Finally, John describes a love relationship with Yeshua. Each author wrote about Yeshua for a different reason. They arranged the events of Yeshua’s life slightly differently. A picture of the same person from four different angles is the result. Yet all of the Gospels agree on one thing: Yeshua is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.
THE LIFE OF YESHUA
The following sections present the main events in what may be regarded as the chief stages in the life of Yeshua. These stages show a definite progression from HaMashiach’s incarnation or entrance into the world to His dying moments on the cross. The Gospels do not read like an ordinary biography. Their story is not so much about the life of Yeshua as it is about YHVH’s story. The whole presentation of HaMashiach’s life centres on the cross and His triumphant resurrection. It is YHVH’s message to humanity rather than a plain historic account of the life of Yeshua.
The major event of this initial stage was the Incarnation. Only Matthew and Luke give accounts of Yeshua’s birth. John reflects on what preceded the birth.
It may seem strange that John began his Gospel with a reference to the Word (John 1:1), but it is in this way that he delivers to the reader an exalted view of Yeshua. John saw Yeshua as existing even before the creation of the world (1:2). In fact, he saw Him as having a part in the act of creation (1:3). Therefore, when Yeshua was born, it was both an act of humiliation and an act of illumination. The light shone, but the world preferred to remain in darkness (1:4-5, 10). Therefore, anyone reading John’s records of the life of Yeshua would know at once, before even being introduced to the man named Yeshua that this was no ordinary man. The account of His life and teachings could not be properly understood except by acknowledging that Yeshua had always existed.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF YESHUA
Yeshua was surrounded by controversy even from the time of His birth. The birth stories in Matthew 1 and Luke 1-2 say that Yeshua HaMashiach was conceived of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and born of the Virgin Mary. In order for Yeshua to be fully YHVH and fully man, He could not have been naturally conceived. His miraculous birth is no side note; it is central to the story of Yeshua. At the same time, many critics deny this miracle, stating that the early Christians created a rumour.
THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY
Isaiah 7:14 (King James Version) says that a “Virgin” shall “conceive and bear a son…Immanuel.” Matthew 1:22-23 expressly states that this was fulfilled in Yeshua’s birth. This passage has been greatly debated, especially since another credible translation, the Revised Standard Version, changed the King James Version “virgin” to “young woman,” based on the ambiguity of the term in the original manuscripts. The Hebrew ‘Almah refers generally to a young girl who has passed puberty and thus is of marriageable age. Another Hebrew word (Bethulah) specifies a woman who is a virgin. The early translators, nevertheless, translated ‘Almah as parthenos, which denotes a virgin. The following are four popular interpretations concerning the “virgin” prophecy:
The “virgin” (Isaiah 7:14) was Ahaz’s new wife and the son was Hezekiah: contemporary characters of Isaiah. But Hezekiah was nine years old when Ahaz began to reign, so this prophecy must look to the future.
She was Isaiah’s wife and the son was Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Many scholars support this interpretation because the definite article with ‘Almah seems to indicate that “the woman” was known to Isaiah and Ahaz. Also, Isaiah 7:14-16 seems to indicate that the prophecy was to be fulfilled in Isaiah’s time. The difficulty here is that Isaiah’s wife already had a son and so she could not be called a virgin, ‘Almah.
The prophecy is purely about Yeshua HaMashiach. This is the traditional evangelical position, based on the Name of the Child; Immanuel, “God with us”; and the reference (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5), which points to a divine person.
Still, there is a fourth interpretation, which says the prophecy refers to both Isaiah’s day and a future day. This view takes into account the historical fulfilment intended in Isaiah 7:15-16 while seeing the future as being fulfilled through the virgin birth of Yeshua, as indicated in Matthew 1:22-23
THE TEMPTATION OF YESHUA
Yeshua’s baptism showed the nature of His mission. The temptation showed the nature of the environment in which He was to Minister (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1-2). Confrontation with adverse spiritual forces characterized Yeshua’s whole Ministry. Only Matthew and Luke record details of the temptations to which Yeshua was subjected by the devil. All these temptations presented spiritual shortcuts to Yeshua’s Mission. However, Yeshua gained the victory. Both Gospels show that He accomplished this by appealing to Scripture. Yeshua leading by example shows us the proper weapon against temptation. Yeshua is also seen in this event as a genuine human who, like all other humans, was subject to temptation. The writer of the Hebrews notes that this fact qualified Yeshua to act as High Priest and to intercede on behalf of His people (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). He was fully YHVH and fully man. He was like us in every way, except that He never sinned. As a result, He was the perfect, innocent sacrifice required for our sins.
THE EARLY MINISTRY OF YESHUA IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA
Only John’s Gospel tells of the work of Yeshua in Judea following His baptism. It first describes His calling of two disciples, John and Andrew (John 1:35-39). This event is set against the background of John the Baptist’s announcement of Yeshua as the Lamb of YHVH who was to take away the sin of the world (1:29). Three others soon joined these first two disciples: Peter, Philip and Nathanael (1:41-51). These five formed part of the nucleus of Yeshua’s followers who came to be known as the Twelve. One feature of John’s account is the early recognition by the disciples of Yeshua as HaMashiach (1:41) and Son of YHVH (1:49). Soon after Yeshua began His Ministry in Jerusalem, John relates an incident at Cana in Galilee in which water was turned into wine (John 2:1-10). This event is important in John’s account because it is the first of the “signs” that he records (2:11). He saw Yeshua’s miracles as signs of the truth of the Gospel rather than as mere wonders. John sets two incidents at Jerusalem in this initial period. The first is the cleansing of the temple (2:13-16). Matthew, Mark and Luke all place this event just before Yeshua’s trial, but John places it at this early stage. The moral intention of Yeshua’s work is seen in His driving out the moneychangers who were inappropriately profiting from worshipers. This was apparently acceptable in Judaism but was unacceptable to Yeshua. The other Gospel writers imply that this authoritative act was the event that sparked the final hostility of His opponents. John tells the story for a theological reason; to him, the cleansing of the temple was a parable telling of what Yeshua had come to do. The other incident in Jerusalem is the meeting between Yeshua and Nicodemus (3). Nicodemus was closely associated with Judaism, yet he was also searching for truth. He was unable to understand however, the spiritual truth about being born again through the Spirit. Christians receive a new start in life; as if they had been born again. Their spiritual rebirth marks the moment they accept Yeshua HaMashiach as Lord and Saviour and receive the Ruach HaKodesh. John’s story then moves from Judea to Samaria and the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Yeshua used her physical thirst to point to her deeper spiritual thirst. She realized that Yeshua had something to offer her that she had not previously known. As a result of this woman’s experience and testimony, many of the Samaritan people came to believe in Yeshua as the Saviour of the world (4:42). In this case, John appreciates the fuller significance of the words of Yeshua by viewing them in the light of the resurrection.