It’s an important question. Who was Jesus? We all answer this question for ourselves. Is he someone we should reject? Someone we should know about and not pay attention to? Or someone who deserves our life’s devotion? I’ve chosen the latter.
I went to seminary and learned a lot of big words about Jesus and God and the Church. But if I were asked to use simple words (the kind of words I prefer) and explain to children who Jesus is, I probably would say something like this …
God created the world. God loved the world: the trees, all the animals, and especially the people. God made the people special because God wanted friendship with them. God wanted to be like a Mother to them, or like a Father. Of course, God wanted respect from the people. God created them, after all! In order to receive true love back from the humans, God gave them the choice to love or not to love. They were not like robots!
Unfortunately, the people made bad choices. They chose not to love God. They didn’t want to obey anyone other than themselves. They hurt each other. And they ignored God. They made a big mess of things. God saw that the relationship God desired was not happening. Not only did God want a close friendship with the people, but they needed it desperately, only they didn’t know it.
God created a plan to make everything better. God decided to wait until the perfect moment to come to earth as a human! That’s just what God did! Even though it meant that God had to leave a glorious throne in heaven with all the angels and then come be a weak human being, God knew that this was the best way for the people to come to know their Creator. So God became a person. His name was Jesus, and he was born as a baby into a poor family. God wanted to show through Jesus that he had great compassion for all kinds of people. He loved them more than they understood.
So Jesus lived on earth about 2,000 years ago. That seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? But what Jesus did while he was on earth was so amazing that it changed history forever! When Jesus was a child, he probably appeared to be an average kid. He had a mom named Mary and a dad named Joseph. As he became an adult, though, people began to see that Jesus was very different. Jesus went around the countryside and in cities and taught people great lessons about how God wanted them to live and who they were created to be. Jesus did amazing miracles. He healed people who were sick and fed more than 5,000 people with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. Jesus gathered a close group of friends who followed him everywhere so they could learn about God. Jesus asked everyone to do some hard things, like love their enemies. There were some who opposed him because they did not believe what he was saying. They wanted people to obey themselves instead of Jesus and so they became angry that people were following Jesus. Still, Jesus deeply loved everyone. He also loved children and wanted to spend time with them.
After a few years of teaching and serving people, some of those who opposed Jesus got so mad they decided to get Jesus killed. Jesus had never done anything wrong, though, so they convinced some bad people to tell lies about Jesus and to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing in front of the authorities. Jesus was so powerful, he could have stopped it all from happening. But Jesus knew that there was so much evil in the world that the only way for people to have a real relationship with God was for all of their wrongdoing to be punished and gotten rid of. Jesus – because he was the perfect God – decided to take on the people’s punishment himself. In fact, this was God’s plan all along, and Jesus knew it was his mission. So Jesus allowed terrible things to be said about him, and he allowed them to give him the death sentence – even though he was innocent. They whipped his body, put a crown of thorns on his head, mocked him, and then put nails through his hands and feet, tying him to a cross so that he would die. It was terrible. Jesus died, and they put his body in a tomb.
But God is more powerful than death. After three days, Jesus came back to life, just as he told his friends he would. His hands and feet had scars in them, but he was fully present in his body again and he went to his friends and to the people who had followed him. They were so excited! They had always known he was special, but now they realized he was God! Jesus gave them instructions about what to do and how to love each other. He wanted them to spread the good news about him to everyone in the world. Because he had died for us, all people could have a special relationship with God. Every day we can talk to God, and God hears our prayers. We can know that God loves us and guides us through life. And after we each die a physical death, we can go to God’s house and live forever with God and Jesus! Our spirits live on, and God will give us new bodies. This is the best news and everyone needs to hear about it! So after Jesus told his friends to share what they had learned, Jesus went to heaven, and he waits for us there. In the meantime, Jesus sent his Spirit to us. Everyone who believes in the truth about God can have the Spirit guide them through life, because God wants to be our closest friend.
As you can see, Jesus is the most important thing to Christians. People were making lots of bad choices and they were doing things that God did not want them to do. Those evil things were separating us all from God. The Bible says that God loved us so much that he sent his only Son – Jesus – that whoever believes in him will not die but will have everlasting life. Because Jesus sacrificed himself, we do not have to suffer the consequences of our own bad decisions by being separated from God forever. This is a wonderful gift, and we will always praise God for it!
Because God loves us so much, we love God back. Christians try to love others and do things that make God happy. Because of Jesus, we all have a special purpose in life. We can participate in God’s great mission of loving others and sharing the good news. We can live as a friend of God every day, just as God wants. Jesus is important to Christians because he made all of this possible.