Learning From Jesus and His Community
A mother and her small son are talking.
“Mother, where did you live when Jesus was a boy?”
“Why, I wasn’t alive then, son. Jesus lived a long time ago—almost 2,000 years ago.”
“Oh, I thought He lived when you were little. You always seem to be talking about Him.” It is a wonderful thing to be known as someone who is always talking about Jesus. It is clear that the things we talk about the most are the things that are closest to our hearts.
In this lesson you will study about the childhood, ministry, and influence that Jesus had when He lived on earth, and the influence He is still having. He is the greatest teacher of community who ever lived. Following Him closely will help us to live more like Him.
The Childhood of Jesus
Even as a child Jesus was involved in the activities of His community. His parents were Jewish people who followed Jewish customs. Luke 2:21 tells how they took Jesus to be circumcised and named when He was a week old. By doing this, they conformed to the teaching of the Old Testament. Circumcision was an important tradition in the Jewish community. It was a physical sign of God’s covenant (agreement) with the nation of Israel (Genesis 17:9-14). It was right for Jesus’ parents to follow this tradition.
The time of Jesus’ dedication was a happy time for His parents, Mary and Joseph. They made the trip to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. You can read about the history of this ceremony in Exodus 13:1, 2 and Leviticus 12:3, 8. While in Jerusalem, Jesus’ parents sacrificed two doves or pigeons according to the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22-24). Again, we see that His parents did what was expected of them as devout Jewish people. They identified with their community.
At the time of Jesus’ dedication, an old man named Simeon was waiting for the Lord to send the Messiah. In Luke 2:27 it says, “when the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, Simeon took the child in his arms.” He blessed Him, saying that Jesus was the Messiah and light to the Gentiles. He also prophesied about Jesus’ ministry.
Next a woman named Anna came into the temple, and she also began to praise the Lord for sending this child to lead and show the way to freedom. Their expressions of joy at seeing Jesus confirm that God’s will was done. God was pleased by this act of following the culture and religious tradition.
Joseph and Mary were ordinary people chosen by God to be the earthly parents of Jesus. We are told very little about Jesus’ childhood. It appears that He was raised in a normal way. The Bible does not tell us anything more about Jesus until He was 12 years old. At that time, as they did each year, Jesus’ family took a long journey to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, which was a sacred Jewish holy day.
Read the entire story of Jesus in the temple in Luke 2:41-51. When the feast ended, Jesus’ family started home, along with others of their community. After a day of traveling, they realized that Jesus was not with them. Mary and Joseph were very tired and worried as they searched for Jesus. When they found Him, they still did not understand why He had stayed behind. But He explained, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Even at this early age, Jesus was aware of His mission to His community and the world.
Jesus returned to Nazareth with His parents and “was obedient to them” (Luke 2:5l). Jesus submitted to the authority of His parents—the Creator submitting to part of His creation. Truly this is amazing! Luke 2:52 is the key verse to understanding Jesus in His community: “Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favor with God and men.” He grew physically, mentally, and socially. He gained favor with God and people. He was in touch with God and with His community.
JESUS’ RELATIONSHIP TO HIS COMMUNITY
Ministering to Needs
Jesus’ ministry began when He was about 30 years old. During His three years of ministry, He was constantly involved with other people in His community.
Jesus had His closest fellowship with His 12 disciples. He spent much time training them. The disciples and Jesus lived in very close communion during the three years of His ministry. They even shared a common purse or expense fund (John 12:6). They experienced true community living.
Jesus also had other followers who were in communion with Him. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were His close friends. On one occasion Jesus sent out about 70 men into the towns around Him to prepare people for His visit (Luke 10:1-12). Many others are mentioned in the Scriptures who loved Him and had community with Him.
It is important to note that Jesus began His public ministry in His home province, Galilee. He ministered to the needs of people and healed the sick. Blind, lame, deaf, demon possessed, and people with every other sickness were completely cured. “As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Many times Jesus told lepers who were healed to go and show themselves to the priests and offer the proper sacrifices according to the Law. He said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true” (Matthew 5:17).
We know that Jesus associated with people in all levels of society and in all aspects of life. He attended a wedding along with His mother and disciples in Cana of Galilee. There He began to show an interest in the problems of others, and He performed a miracle to help them (John 2:1-11). In Matthew 9:9-11 it is recorded that Jesus sat to eat with tax collectors and sinners. At other times He sat with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 11:37). The Gospel of John tells us about a Samaritan woman with whom Jesus talked (John 4:1-30).
Jesus Himself expressed His ministry with these words from the book of Isaiah. (See Isaiah 61:1-2.)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save people (Luke 4: l8-19).
On two occasions Jesus fed the multitudes. (See Matthew 14 and 15.) He was concerned with the earthly condition of mankind. He pitied mankind in their poverty. In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus talked about the final judgment. He said that as often as you have helped the poor and visited the sick and imprisoned, you did it for Him. If you have failed to do this, you have failed to minister unto Him.
We can say then that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. He came to bring a new day to His people, and to all people who would follow Him. His purpose was not to enforce a list of laws. He came to write the Spirit of the Law on the hearts and minds of people. His death and resurrection completed this. Has Jesus’ ministry affected your life? Are you in fellowship with Him? Pray and ask Him to take your life into His control. He will help you to minister in your community just as He did in His.
Submitting to Authority
Although Jesus was the Son of God, He accepted the authority or rule of those in power in His community. For example, we read in Matthew 17:24-27 that He submitted to payment of the temple tax. To submit means “to surrender or yield.” Note that Jesus did not really feel obligated to pay this tax. We know this because of the way He discussed the matter with His disciple Peter. But He did not want to offend the people. He told Peter to go fishing and he would find enough money in the mouth of a fish to pay the tax.
On another occasion, Jesus did not accept a custom that was contrary to the will of God. Moneychangers were doing business in the temple court known as the Court of the Gentiles (Matthew 21:12). This was the only place a seeking Gentile could worship God. How could people pray when the buyers and sellers were making all kinds of noise? They couldn’t. Also, the moneychangers were taking advantage of the poor. They were charging too much interest to change foreign money for money used in the temple. They were also keeping sincere seekers from finding God. They had violated Isaiah 56:7: “My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations.” In this instance Jesus was more concerned that His Father’s will be accomplished. He acted against human customs because He was obeying a higher authority (Acts 5:29).
Jesus is the perfect example of one who showed the spirit of community. Yet He did not allow people’s customs to overrule God’s will.
The Influence of Jesus
True Christianity brings freedom. Jesus said, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:36). Christianity frees people from superstitions and bondage to sin. It puts within them the desire and ability to live above sin.
The ministry of Jesus still has an influence on our world. Jesus raised women to new heights of respect. He highly honored His mother. Even on the cross, He was concerned about her. He said to Mary, “He is your son,” and to John, “She is your mother” (John 19:26-27). After that, John took Mary to live in his home and cared for her.
Luke 7:36-39 tells us of a woman who came and anointed the feet of Jesus. He did not turn her away even though she had been a sinful woman. Instead, Jesus forgave her sin and changed her life.
He honored her for her ministry to Him. Another time, in Samaria, He ministered to a woman who was an outcast, and her life was changed. Today, in many places where the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, women are given great love, respect, and honor.
The life and ministry of Jesus has greatly influenced the whole world. Think of the way the western world measures time. Years are numbered in B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (after Christ).
God started the seven-day week. In His creation of the world, He rested on the seventh day and commanded that it be kept holy and used as a day of rest. The day of rest changed after Jesus came. He arose from the dead on the first day of the week. Now many people in the world accept Sunday as their day of rest and worship.
Many of the highest standards of living in the world are enjoyed where the gospel can be preached freely. Our modern system of law has its roots in the Scriptures. The desire that moves many people to work hard is based on biblical teaching.
One of the most important concerns of Bible believing Christians has been to teach people to read. Why? So that they could read the Bible for themselves. Christian missionaries have put many languages into writing for the first time. Missionaries in many countries of the world have started schools, so that boys and girls could learn to read. These schools have blessed many communities throughout the world.
The influence of Christianity has been great upon modern people and their world. Religion enslaves people; true Christianity frees them. When Christ died, His teaching did not stop. You are an extension of His ministry—you represent Christ to the world. When you show true Christian community, the world is better. In the next lesson we will discuss some ways you can extend Christ’s ministry in your community.