Sermons

Summary: How on earth did Christianity ever make it to the world stage

Greshams 17-01-04

Introduction

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we have over 600 churches here in Norfolk, dedicated to a Jewish carpenter who died two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ

Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd?

For many people today the words “Jesus Christ” are synonymous with swearing. They don’t know who he was.

But who was this man Jesus? What do we know about Him?

1. Background:

He was born in an obscure village, in the backwoods of the Roman Empire – in the little village of Bethlehem. He was born - apparently the illegitimate child of a peasant woman, in a society where illegitimacy was a terrible birthright.

He was a member of a defeated race - a second-class citizen in his own country.

He grew up in still another village, Nazareth where he worked with his stepfather in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty.

1..1 Itinerant ministry

Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He chose twelve men to be his closest associates. He trained them to preach His message. And in the end, they all deserted him.

1..2 Never wrote a book

He never wrote a book. Yet what he has said - has been preserved over two thousand years in a book, the Bible.

And the Bible has been the best seller for centuries - year in and year out.

What is it about this book that is so fascinating?

1.3 His moral teaching

His moral teaching is phenomenal.

Even non Christians, like Mahatma Gandhi – acknowledged that.

Gandhi rejected Christianity, yet was fascinated by the person of Jesus and tried to follow His teaching.

Jesus’ teaching should have been a turn off.

He preached a message of repentance from our sins. Not a message that Alistair Campbell would have recommended.

1.4 His mind

He had a brilliant, sharp and incisive mind.

Let me just give you an example. (Mt. 22:17-22)

One day, one of the finest Jewish lawyers wanted to set him up for a fall and so he asked him:

“Is it right to pay taxes the Caesar?

Jesus was in a no win situation.

If he said yes, the crowds – his main support would turn against him because Caesar was their oppressor.

If, on the other hand he said no he would be up on a charge of sedition before the Roman governor.

They had him either way. Or so they thought.

He asked for them to bring him a coin and said:

“Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s” they replied

Then he said to them: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. (Mt. 22:21,22)

1.5 Public Office

He never held a public office.

If you want to make a name for yourself, you need to get the good and the great on your side.

1.6 No family

He never had a family to pass on his family name and, so far as we know he never owned a house.

1.7 University

He never went to University or college. Galileans, of which He was one, were the country bumpkins of Israel.

1.8 Travelling

If you wanted to get your message about the civilised world, you had to go to the big cities of the Roman Empire to find a following.

Jesus never visited any of those big cities - Rome, Alexandria or Athens.

In fact the only big city he ever visited was Jerusalem, which was in Roman terms - the back of beyond.

Indeed, He never travelled more than 200 miles from the place where he was born.

1.9 Conclusion

In short, He did none of the things we associate with greatness.

1.10 His death

And then to cap it all – when he was only thirty-three years of age, the tide of public opinion turned against him.

His friends all deserted Him.

He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.

He was crucified, - an ignominious and painful death - hanging on a cross between two thieves.

While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.

And even when he was dead - He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

2. Political and Religious support

Jesus didn’t have any religious or political support.

The “Good and the Great” in the land did not flock to his gospel.

In fact quite the reverse. They rejected his message.

Only the common people took him to heart – and at the end they deserted him.

2.1 Contrast with Islam and Buddhism

Let’s contrast Jesus with the founders of two of the other great religions: Mohammed and Buddha

2.1.1. Powerful Army

When Mohammed died - he left an empire and a powerful army in place to defend it.

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