Agitator for the Jews, Prophet 'Issa among the Muslims, Son of God for the Christians, Jesus of Nazareth,who will become Jesus christ, is certainly the person who has marked the most in the history of mankind. The religion from which he originated has spread throughout the world and, in many countries, the liturgical feasts which trace his life punctuate the life of societies. A central figure in the Christian faith, the pacifist and charitable message he brings lastingly permeates mentalities. Yet the supremacy of his teaching has so caught the attention of the scribes that it has eclipsed the life of man, many passages of which remain obscure to us.
Childhood of Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth is considered by the New Testament to be the founder of Christianity. The existence of Jesus (Yehoshuah in Aramaic) is attested by historians including Flavius Joseph. This Jewish preacher from Galilee would have rebelled against the current practices of his religion, which will be worth to him to be condemned to death. The announcement by his faithful of his Resurrection is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity: by resurrecting, Jesus gave humanity the hope of an afterlife in the Kingdom of Heaven. After his death, his followers received the name of Christians and Christianity became a religion with a missionary vocation.
Jesus born in Bethlehem about five to seven years before our era of Mary, wife of Joseph, a carpenter by profession. An angel would have come to announce to Mary that she will carry within her the son of God (what Christians call the Annunciation). While Mary is pregnant Joseph must go to Jerusalem with his family to be counted. When Marie is about to give birth, they find no place to stay and end up stopping in a stable. According to the Gospels, the newborn is swaddled in a manger, always warmed by the breath of a donkey and an ox. Angels would have come to announce the news to the shepherds of the surroundings who would then come to greet the new born. Christians celebrate this event, the Nativity, at Christmas: not having a date written in the Gospels they chose the winter solstice (then December 25 in the Northern Hemisphere).
This choice is symbolic since from the solstice the days become longer, it is the return of light, symbol of the hope that Christ represents. Above Bethlehem is said to have appeared a star announcing the birth of a Jewish king to three wise men who travel from the East to bring gifts. They apply to the court of King Herod who asks them to return to him when they have found the child king. But after finding Jesus they understand King Herod's bad intentions and go back another way. The coming of the wise men is celebrated by Christians on Epiphany (January 6). For fear that this child king would one day put his throne in peril, Herod orders the execution of all the firstborn males, Joseph fled with his family to Egypt.
At his birth Jesus is circumcised, according to Jewish tradition. After the flight into Egypt the family returned to Nazareth. The Gospels also refer to his brothers and sisters, but there are several interpretations of these writings because the term “brother” could also be given to close relatives such as cousins. The early childhood of Jesus remains a mystery, it was certainly similar to that of other children of the same social background.
However, the first extraordinary manifestation of Jesus takes place during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Joseph and his family turn around when they find they have lost him, when he is just 12 years old. They end up finding him in the Temple talking to the Doctors of the Law. For the first time he evokes in a subliminal way his link to the Divine when he answers the questions of his parents by saying: "Didn't you know that I owe myself to my father's business ».
The divine mission of Jesus
However, Jesus of Nazareth does not reveal his true mission until his baptism by John the Baptist. He was then about 30 years old and John would immediately have recognized that he was the Messiah that everyone was waiting for. Jesus insisting he still accepts to baptize him and then the Holy Spirit would have descended on Jesus, this is the real beginning of his mission. He would then have retired for forty days in the desert to meditate. It is in memory of this event that Christians fast for 40 days during Lent (40 days before Easter, from Ash Wednesday). During this period of reflection the Devil would have come to tempt him to invite him to join him and to deny God in exchange for power and wealth. Having resisted the temptation, Jesus put an end to his exile and gathered around him, in Galilee, a band of faithful.
These individuals join the one who presents himself as the "son of man" to listen to his teaching and see the exorcisms, healings and miracles he is said to have performed. Every time he teaches a crowd gathers, but around him a small community revolves permanently composed of men but also of women like Marie-Madeleine. Among these disciples twelve have a special status, it is the twelve apostles who form the most intimate circle of Christ. Among these twelve apostles, Jesus would have entrusted the pursuit of his mission in particular to one, Peter. The fact is taken from a famous phrase: "And me, I tell you than you are Pierre, and that on this stone I will build my Church ". The Popes consider themselves to be the heirs of Saint Peter, who died martyred in Rome.
The teaching of Jesus calls into question the application of the rites and prohibitions that define Jewish culture and which he sees most often as pretense, hypocrisy. His teaching is intended to be deeply pacifist ("The one who lives bysword, will perish by thesword ") and based on respect and love among men, which he considers the one and only way to honor God. So when we ask him about the most important commandment Jesus synthesizes his message:
« Here is the first one: Hear, Israel: the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Here is the second: You will love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater command than these».
His thinking pushes to reject the logic of the world (based on interest, the quest for fortune and prestige) in favor of that of God (based on love and sharing). This path may seem hard to those who listen to it, but Jesus promises a reward after death for good deeds carried out during earthly life. The essence of this compromise can be found in the discourse known as the Beatitudes.
The message of Jesus pushes to deny the riches which tend to move away from God. It is understandable that such a speech meets with a certain success with the most humble, whereas the priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem sees a danger in it, criticized for its foundations and its economic interests. Unaware of the danger, he went to Judea for Easter and entered Jerusalem on a donkey. But his reputation preceded him, and the locals cheer him on, flaunting clothes and fins under the hooves of his modest steed. This entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is celebrated by Christians on Palm Sunday (which replace palms in our regions) a week before Easter. At the Temple in Jerusalem he lost his temper at the many merchants settled in the holy place, among other things to sell animals for sacrifice. He drives them away and earns the disapproval of Jewish elites. On this occasion he would have announced in a subliminal way his imminent death and his resurrection: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up! ". No one would then have understood that the Temple he was talking about was his own body.
Muslims also believe in the mission of Jesus (Issa), but unlike Christians they consider that he received from God a revealed book, the Gospel, which has now disappeared.
The passion of Christ
In Jerusalem, Jewish religious authorities want to seize the agitator. They find a traitor within the very heart of the Twelve Apostles: Judas. During a meal with the twelve Jesus reveals his imminent death, reveals the traitor and urges him to do his work. During this last meal, the Last Supper (commemorated on Holy Thursday), he breaks the bread which he assimilates to his flesh and shares the wine which he assimilates to his blood. He invites his faithful to reproduce this gesture in his memory, which Christians do at every Mass during the Eucharist. During the night Jesus and the eleven apostles retire to the Mount of Olives to pray. Only Jesus could resist sleep would have entered into communication with God, whom he calls his Father. After a moment of doubt he would have come to accept his own death for a greater purpose. It was then that he was stopped by the soldiers led by Judas.
He is then transferred to the Jewish authorities who accuse him of having blasphemed by saying that he could rebuild the Temple in three days. Judea being under Roman occupation, the accused was transferred to the prefect Pontius Pilate who found no reason for his conviction. During Jewish holidays it was customary to release a prisoner, Pontius Pilate then proposed to release Jesus but the crowd would have ordered that he be crucified and that Barabbas be freed in his place, who could perhaps be better than Jesus to take the head of the struggle against the Roman occupier. To satisfy the crowd Pontius Pilate then resolves to condemn Jesus to death. His soldiers whip him, and make fun of him. Accusing him of having declared themselves king of the Jews, they cover him with a purple cloak, give him a specter of a reed, and braid a crown of thorns for him, which they drive over his skull. In the face of hatred, mockery, violence, spitting, Jesus remains impassive. He must then carry his cross to Mount Golgotha. On the way he meets his mother and falls several times (Christians commemorate each stage of the Passion by following a Stations of the Cross, visible in all churches).
A certain Simon of Cyrene was allegedly requisitioned to help him carry his cross. Arrived at the top, Jesus is crucified with two other condemned to death. On his cross is inscribed the reason for the condemnation: "This is the King of the Jews" (the abbreviation INRI is found on the crucifixes:Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, ie "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews"). Some Jews are said to have taken offense to asking that we write " This one calls himself the king of the Jews But Pilate would have refused to have the text changed. On the cross Christ would have entrusted his mother Mary to John, and would have asked them from now on to maintain a mother / son relationship. By extension, Catholics consider Mary as their mother. At the death of Jesus, a great storm would have occurred, one even speaks of an earthquake and some evoke the curtain of the Temple which would have been torn. To hasten death, the Roman soldiers broke the legs of the crucified, but seeing that Jesus was already dead they contented themselves with piercing his side with a lance. Water and blood are said to have gushed out of the wound. Christians commemorate the death of Christ on Good Friday. Muslims consider that the prophet Jesus (Issa) was not crucified.
A rich man attracted to the teaching of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea, obtains from Pontius Pilate to recover the body of Jesus. He takes him to his own tomb which had never been used before. A stone was rolled away to seal the entrance to the sepulcher.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Three days later, after the feast of Easter, Marie and Marie-Madeleine go to the tomb to embalm the body there. But when they arrived the stone was rolled away and an angel would have announced the Resurrection of Jesus to them. The women thus announced the news to the apostles, who would also have had the opportunity to see him again when he was resurrected. So if the Jewish Easter commemorates the departure of the Hebrew people from Egypt, the Christian Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. This is the biggest holiday for Christians.
During the apparitions Jesus is not physically recognizable, so on the roads to Emmaus he discusses his life with the apostles and provides answers to his own story by rereading the Scriptures. It is only when he breaks the bread (as at the Last Supper) that they recognize him and he disappears. The departure of Jesus is celebrated by Christians on the feast of the Ascension (40 days after Easter). Muslims also agree that Jesus was lifted up to God. Not knowing how to react after the departure of the risen Jesus, the apostles shut themselves up in a house. There the Holy Spirit would have descended on them, giving them the capacity and the strength to evangelize the world. It is this event that Christians celebrate on Pentecost (seventh Sunday after Easter).
For Christians Jesus is not just a prophet, he is the Son of God. Of the same nature as his Father, he would nevertheless have perfectly incarnated in human nature. He is supposed to return at the end of time, in the Apocalypse, to judge the living and the dead.
The beginnings of Christianity
Following the teaching of Jesus, communities come together, based among other things on the sharing of wealth. Disciples of Christ are leaving to convert more and more faithful to the four corners of the Roman Empire. Among the most bitter there was Saint-Paul. The latter was however one of the greatest persecutors of Christians, but an apparition would have brought about the capital turning point in his life. Towards the end of the first century the life and message of Jesus are written down in the Gospels. The Gospels retained by the Christian Churches are attributed to John, who was one of the twelve apostles, and to authors who rubbed shoulders with witnesses such as Matthew, Mark and Luke. The other writings, not recognized by the Christian Churches, are called apocrypha. However, they feed a certain tradition and folklore from which, for example, the names of the Three Wise Men and the history of Mary's parents are derived.
In the first century the Roman historian Flavius Josephus attests to the presence of Christian communities in his Testimonium Flavianum :
« At that time Jesus appears, a wise man, [if at all events it is to be called a man, for]; he was a doer of wonders, a master of people who joyfully received the truth. He trained many Jews and also many Greeks; That was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the denunciation of the first among us condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease. [For he appeared to them after the third day alive again; the divine prophets had said these things and ten thousand other wonders about it]. Until now, the group of Christians [so named after him] has not disappeared. »
- Frédéric Lenoir, How Jesus became God, Editions Fayard, 2010.
- Didier Long, Jesus of Nazareth, Jew of Galilee, Presses de la Renaissance, 2011.
- Jean-Christian Grandson, Jesus, Editions Fayard, 2011.
- The Four Gospels, by Olivier Clément. Classic Folio, 1998.
- The Old Testament, by Thomas Römer. What do I know, 2019.