Notes for Life of Christ

Go To Lesson: One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen Sixteen

Lesson One: The Birth of Jesus (two class periods)

Date of Jesus' Birth

Jesus was born before Herod the Great passed away
It is now thought that Herod passed away in the spring of 4 B.C.
At one time it was thought he passed away in 1 B.C. Thus Jesus would have been one year old in A.D. 1.
Jesus was probably born sometime in the period 7 B.C. to 5 B.C.
Some suggest the star the Magi (the word for astrologers) saw was an event in 7 B.C.

Time of the visit of the Magi (astrologers)

When living in a house (Matt. 2:11)
After the visit to the temple for purification sacrifice (Luke 2:22)
That happened 40 days (41 days as Jews counted) after birth (Lev. 12:2-4)
Within the age of two years according to the time the baby boys were killed (Matt. 2:16)
Thus sometime between 40 days old and two years old.

Killing the Baby Boys in Bethlehem.

Source: Morton Scott Enslin's Christian Beginnings

Secular history does not record the killing of the baby boys in Bethlehem.
However, it does tell us that Herod killed the 10 closest people around him.

  1. His brother-in-law Aristobulus the high priest ((drowned by repeated "baptizing" in a Roman bath)
  2. His uncle Joseph
  3. His wife's grandfather Hyrcanus (the former high priest)
  4. His minister Sohemus (29 B. C.)
  5. His favorite wife Mariamne (29 B. C.)
  6. His mother-in-law Alexandra
  7. His sister's husband Costobarus
  8. His son Alexander (7 B. C.) (plus 300 supporters were stoned)
  9. His son Aristobulus (7 B. C.) (the father of Herod Agrippa I)
  10. His son Antipater
One of Herod's last acts was to execute 40 pious Jews who torn down the Roman eagle from the east gate of the temple.
           Hyrcanus (High Priest) (3)         Antipas
               |                              |    |
           Alexandra (6)     Cypros = Antipater__  Joseph (2)
           |       |                  |          |
  Aristobulus (1)  Mariamne (5) = Herod = Doris  Salome = Costobarus (7)
  (H.P. drowned)   |      |    (9)    |     |           |
           Alexander (8)  Aristobulus | Antipater (10) Bernice (= Aristobulus)
  Sohemus (4)            _____________|________             ____|_____
  (minister)            |        |     |       |           |     |    |
                    Archelaus    |     | Herod Philip = Herodias | Herod Agrippa I
                                 |    Herod Antipas = |      Herod of | Chalcis
                                Philip = = = = = Salome        _______|______
                              the Tetrarch                    |     |        |
                                                        Bernice  Agrippa II  Drusilla

The four Herods mentioned in the New Testament are in bold; others named in the NT are in italics. Herod the Great (who had the baby boys killed) and his son Herod Antipas (who had John the Baptist killed) are in the Gospels, while Herod Agrippa (who had James the brother of Jesus killed) and his son Agrippa and daughters Bernice and Drusilla are in the book of Acts.

Lesson Two: Baptism and Temptations

Date of John the Baptist's Preaching

John began preaching in the wilderness around the Jordan River in the fifteenth year of the reign of emperor Tiberius Caesar.
Augustus died and Tiberius became Caesar on August 19, AD 14.
In the Roman way of counting years, the 15th year was from August 19, AD 28 to August 18, AD 29).
In the Syrian way of counting years, the 15th year was from Sept/Oct 27 to Sept/Oct 28.
We don't know which system Luke was using, but we do know that John started preaching sometime between Sept/Oct AD 27 and August 18, AD 29.


The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptizō, which means "dip, immerse, sink."

The Three Temptations of Jesus

John's Kinds of Sins Eve's Temptations Jesus' Temptations (Luke's order)
desire of the flesh good to eat turn stones to bread
desire of the eyes good to look at have all the kingdoms you can see
pride in things of life it will make one wise prove you are the Son of God by jumping off the temple
The devil tempted Jesus by quoting scripture (Psalm 91:11-12). However, the left out "in all your ways." Jumping off the temple was NOT one of the "ways" of Jesus; it was not what he came to do.
Jesus quoted scripture to overcome the temptations. Prayer is always good, but when one is praying, one thinks about the temptation. Quoting scripture drives the temptation out of the mind.

Lesson Three: Early Encounters in John

Misunderstood Metaphors

When Jesus said that one must be born again/from above, Nicodemus thought he was talking about re-entering his mother's womb. Jesus said that a birth of flesh only produces flesh. He was talking about a birth of the Spirit which produces spirit. So he clarified that one must be born of water and the Spirit. In Acts 2:38 Peter says that when one is baptized [in water] he or she receives forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Some people want to say that the birth of water refers to the breaking of the bag of waters in physical birth rather than talking about baptism. However, the Greek word used here is hydatos "of water." If Jesus had been referring to the breaking of the bag of waters in physical birth, he would have used the Greek word hydropos "of the breaking of the bag of waters" (see LSJM lexicon, p. 1845).
When Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He could give her "living water," she thought He was talking about running water, not that which leads to eternal life.

The Samaritan's Mountain

The Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim, where they had previously built a temple. That temple had been destroyed in the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament by the Jewish king John Hyrcanus.

Lesson Four: Sermon on the Mount (#1)

Salt Loose Its Flavor

Salt in the ancient world was impure, a mixture of several substances. When it picked up mosture, the pure salt disolved, leaving "salt" that was tasteless.

Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law

In context, the statement of Jesus that he came to fulfill the Law (that is, of Moses) means that he came to give the Law its full meaning. The command "You shall not murder" is not just about killing but also about getting angry and calling names. Anger leads to murder. The command "You shall not commit adultery" is not just about the sex act but also about the lust that leads to the act. And so forth with the other commands and sayings he lists. The full meaning of the Law starts with the heart and mind.

Lesson Five: Sermon on the Mount (#2)

Single and Wicked Eye

In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus refers to the eye as the lamp of the body. He makes a distinction between the single eye and the wicked eye. A number of English translations render this as healthy eye and bad eye, as if it has to do with eyesight. This is to miss the Hebrew idom. The term "wicked eye" was used to refer to someone who was stingy or grudging in his sharing and giving. The word "singleness" is used in scripture with the meaning "liberality" or "generosity." So a person with a "single eye" is a generous person, while a person with a "wicked eye" is stingy. Thus in the next verse, the stingy person is serving "mammon" (the word for wealth), while the generous person is serving God. Jesus says that a person cannot serve both at the same time.

Lesson Six: Various Miracles and the Sending Out of the Twelve

The Faith of the Centurion

Jesus said that the centurion (military commander over 100 men) had great faith because he did not believe that Jesus had to be present to perform a healing. When he exercised his authority to go and do something, he did not have to be present for it to be done. In the same way, he believed that Jesus did not have to be present because He had authority. Most Israelites wanted Jesus to be present for a healing.

The Question of the Disciples of John the Baptist

When John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He were the Christ (that is, the Messiah, the Anointed One), Jesus did not answer directly. Rather, He pointed out all the miracles that He was doing that Isaiah had prophecied that the Messiah would do.

The Unforgivable Sin

The unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, that is insulting the Holy Spirit. The Jewish leaders had just accused Jesus of casing out demons by the power of Beelzebul (that is, master prince, referring to the devil; also called Beelzebub, master of flies). They were in effect calling the Holy Spirit the devil.

Lesson Seven: Various Miracles

The Size of the Baskets

When Jesus fed the 5000, there were 12 handbaskets of leftovers taken up. When He fed the 4000, there were 7 large baskets of leftovers taken up. So actually there was more leftover food from the feeding of the 4000 than from the feeding of the 5000 because the baskets were larger.

The Reference to Dog

When Jesus speaks to the Syrophonecian woman, he refers to the children (meaning Jews to which He was sent) and the dogs (meaning non-Jews). In English this sounds like a great insult. However, the word that is translated "dog" here is the word for "pet dog, doggie, little dog," the kind of dog kept in the house as a pet, not the mongrels that roamed the streets.

Lesson Eight: Kingdom Parables

Types of Parables

Some parables are allegorical in which each element has its meaning. For example, in the Parable of the Sower, the sower is Jesus, the seed is the word of God, the path is the hard hearts of people who do not understand the word, the rocky ground is the shallow hearts of people who quickly respond but soon fall away, the thorny ground is the crowded hearts of people who let concerns of the world push out the word, and the good ground is the good hearts of people who hear and do the word.
The other kind of parable is those that only have one main point. The parable of the treasure hidden in a field means that the kingdom of God is worth giving up every thing else.

Purpose of the Parables

Jesus strangely says that He teaches in parables so that people will not understand. His disciples however want to understand so they ask Him the meaning and He explains. For people who do not care to understand, they will not do so. But for those who want to understand, it is possible, although not always immediately.

Lesson Nine: Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration

On This Rock I Will Build My Church

When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus replied to him, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this bedrock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." The name Peter (Greek Petros) means "rock," like a rock one would throw. The Greek word translated bedrock is petra, a solid slab of rock below the dirt. Jesus is making a play on words. He is not saying that He will build His church on Peter. Rather He said He would build his church on the bedrock statement that He is the Christ, the Son of God. Hades is the unseen place where the soul goes when a person dies. When Jesus came back to life, He broke open the gates holding his life in Hades.

Lesson Ten: Special Parables Recorded Only by Luke

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward

A steward is a manager, a person who has the right to set prices. For the meaning of the parable, please see the article "Who is the Wasteful Steward?."

Lesson Eleven: More Encounters of Jesus in John

Jesus Stooped Down

People wonder about what Jesus wrote on the ground when the Jewish leaders confronted him about the woman caught in adultery. What he wrote is not really important. What is important is that he was defusing the situation by not confronting the people who were trying to test (trap) him. If he had confronted them, they might have stoned the woman. By looking away, he gave them a chance to realize that they were all sinners.

The Blind Man's Reasoning

Lesson Twelve: More Encounters of Jesus

Matthew and Mark on Divorce

The point of saying that divorce is a kind of adultery is to say that a person should not get a divorce.
Matthew only records that a man should not divorce his wife because his primary audience was Jewish and among the Jews, a woman could not divorce her husband; only a man could divorce his wife. Mark, on the other hand, records both that a man should not divorce his wife and a wife should not divorce her husband because his primary audience was Roman and under Roman law both were permitted.
Only Matthew lists the exception that divorce for sexual sins is not itself a kind of adultery.

Lesson Thirteen: The Raising of Lazarus

Three Resurrections

Jesus raised three people from the dead during his earthly ministry. The first two, Jairus's 12-year old daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), were raised to life not long after they had died, the latter since burial in New Testament times usually took place as soon as possible after death. On the other hand, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, and his sister Martha said that he had already begun to give off an odor. There was no question but what he was dead. Jesus waited another two days to go to raise him from the dead just for this reason. Also, the first two resurrections were in the far north country of Galilee while the raising of Lazarus was in Bethany, about 15 stades (1.72 miles) from the main city of Jerusalem. Thus it got a lot more attention from the authorities.
A stade was 1/8 of a Roman mile (about 607 feet; the mile was 1000 Roman feet, or between 4850 and 4860 English feet).

Lesson Fourteen: The Last Week Before Death (#1)

Putting Related Things Together

In the Hebrew stories of the Old Testament, events are not always told in chronological order. Rather, events and explanations of the past or future are brought in at the point that they impact the story. The same is true of the gospel writers. They put related things together that are sometimes out of chronological order. They are in logical order instead. For example, in Matthew 26:5-16 and Mark 14:3-11, we find the account of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany put together with Judas meeting with the chief priests to agree to betray Jesus for money. Chronologically this last event would seem to be on a Wednesday before Jesus was betrayed the next night. However, John (in 12:1-8) makes it clear that the anointing happened six days before the Passover, probably on the Sabbath before. It was then that Jesus rebuked Judas for being upset over the "waste" of expensive ointment. Judas apparently brooded over the rebuke for several days before going to the chief priests.
Another example of the same thing is found in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14,20-26 when Jesus curses a fig tree that has no fruit. It withered "parachrema" (that is, right away) according to Matthew. Matthew then says that when the disciples saw what happened, they were amazed. Mark makes it clear that it was the next morning when they saw it and he separates the cursing and the seeing in his account. But Matthew has put the two related things together. Matthew does not really say when they saw the withered tree, but it is possible to misunderstand the tree has having withered instantly and the disciples seeing it at that moment because Matthew has put the two event together. This is not a contradiction with Mark. Rather it is a feature of Hebrew story telling.

Lesson Fifteen: The Last Week Before Death (#2)

Jesus' Proof of the Resurrection

The Sadducees were a Jewish sect who did not believe in spirits or life after death. Therefore they did not believe there would be a resurrection at the end of time. They tried to trick Jesus by telling a story about seven brothers who all married the same woman, one after another as each one died. They asked who she would be married to in the resurrection since she was married to them all. For them this was a ridiculous situation since if a woman had seven husbands then she would not know who the father of her children were, and Jews counted lineage through the father. Jesus replied that they did not know the scriptures or God's power since there would be no marriage in the time of the resurrection.
He proceeded to prove in the following way that people were still alive after death so there could be a resurrection. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the ancestors of the Israelite people. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, these three men had been dead for at least two hundred years. But God told Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not that He was their God. Therefore they must in some sense still be alive even though they had died. But if they are still alive in spirit, they are able to be raised from the dead at the end of this world when Jesus comes again.

The Widow's "Mite"

The so-called "mite" that the widow threw into the temple treasury was the small copper coin called the lepton. It was worth only 1/128th of a denarius; the denarius was a day's wages for a common laborer. So two leptons were worth only 1/64 of a day's wages. If we were to compare this to the minimum wage take home today, the widow only had one dollar to live on and she gave it to God. She gave 100% and Jesus commended her for that.

Lesson Sixteen: Jesus' Teaching on The Last Things (two class periods)

See the article The Desolation Of Jerusalem And The Coming Of The Son Of Man
Class Powerpoint at Synoptic Apocalypse 2
Last updated on March 29, 2022
Page maintained by Bruce Terry,
Copyright © 2021, 2022 Bruce Terry