Light of the World 1

Booklet 1


The
World in Which Christ Lived

We
are very happy to introduce the life of Christ to you in a more intimate
and personal way through the pages of the Light of the World Bible
course. We have gathered together the bright rays that stream from Christ,
the Light of the world, and have focused them on these pages in order
to make Him more real to you. As you read this simple but powerful story
of the life of Christ, you will be inspired as you have never been by
any other biography.

AUTHORITY
FOR OUR STORY

As the source of our story, we have the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John, which are accurate and inspired accounts of Jesus’ life.
Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us much about what Jesus did. John tells us
who and what He is and seeks to picture the divine beauty of Jesus—the
sinless years that unfolded beneath the blue Palestinian skies
—the
righteousness, truth, divine holiness, and love that shone from Christ’s
person.

These biographies
were written by men who lived when Jesus was here on earth and who were
well qualified to write about Him. We turn to these four books in the
New Testament for our authority. Here the actual facts about Jesus Christ
are presented—His pre-existence, His birth, His life, His ministry
and teaching, His death, His resurrection, and His promise to come to
this earth the second time. Long before you have finished this twenty-five-booklet
course, you will come to look upon Jesus as more than a mere man, but
as the Light of the whole world.

TWO
THINGS TO REMEMBER

In preparing this Bible course for you, we have kept two important
things in mind—first, to present the events in the life of Christ
in their natural order as nearly as possible. This is what is called “the
chronology,” and that is important. But as you read these
booklets, you will discover that a second consideration, and perhaps a
more important one, has prompted us—and that is, the desire to reveal
the many sides of Christ’s life. And in order to do this, we have sometimes
had to break away from the chronology temporarily.


As
sunlight passing through a prism is broken up into the beautiful colors
of the rainbow, so Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, becomes more attractive
when we look at him as the Master Teacher, the Great Healer, the Friend
of sinners, the Prophet of God, the Miracle Worker, the Savior of mankind,
and the Son of God. To use another illustration—before a diamond has
been cut, it looks much like any other stone to the casual observer. But
in the hands of a skilful artisan, it is cut and ground and polished until
its dozens of facets seem to flash with living fire. So the life of Christ
has many facets which, when put together, reveal perfectly the great Light,
which is Christ himself. We have tried to relate these pieces of Christ’s
life to one another in such a way that they present a full revelation of
the most beautiful life this world has ever known.

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THE
SURROUNDINGS OF JESUS

As
you no doubt know, Jesus was born in Palestine, a country about the size
of the state of Massachusetts. Palestine is approximately one hundred
fifty miles long and as much as seventy miles wide in places. Nazareth,
where Jesus grew up, is only seventy miles from Jerusalem in a straight
line.

The Roman Emperor
Augustus ruled a great part of the world in those days, and Jesus’ tiny
homeland was a part of the vast Roman Empire. Julius Caesar, uncle to
Augustus, was the great builder of the empire, which included all the
countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Here
are some facts that will help you to understand what life was like in
Christ’s day:

1. LANGUAGE—Greek
was the language spoken in the eastern Mediterranean countries, while
Latin was prevalent in the western area. The language Christ and His disciples
spoke was Aramaic, a language which had long been used in several nations
surrounding Judea. Aramaic was also widely used as the language of business
and trade. After the Babylonian captivity, it had gradually replaced Hebrew
among the Jews, until by Christ’s time Aramic was the language of the
masses. Hebrew was understood only by scholars.

2.
POLITICS
—During the forty-five years of Augustus’s reign (31
B.C. – A.D. 14), peace and prosperity largely prevailed throughout the
empire. Comparative peace continued also under Augustus’s immediate successors.
People of many lands enjoyed Roman citizenship, and there was harmony,
more or less, among the races under the worldwide government of Rome.
This gave trade and commerce great opportunities for expansion and also
prepared the way for the spread of Christianity.

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3. RELIGION—There
were many confused ideas about God at this time. The supporters of Emperor
Augustus regarded him as a god. Statues were erected to him throughout
the empire, and a religious cult developed around the emperor.

Other religious ideas
were prevalent as well, Stoicism was a sort of pantheistic philosophy
that regarded God as present in all living things. And since the world
is controlled by divine law, the Stoics contended that man should freely
conform to his destiny—whatever that might be—-unmoved by joy
or grief, pain or pleasure.

The
Epicureans, in opposition to the Stoics, taught that pleasure is
the highest good, although they also recommended virtue. Stoicism and
Epicureanism were popular chiefly with the Greeks.

Judaism, the
religion of the Hebrews with its multiplied forms and ceremonies, was
widely held. Millions of Jews, descendants of the tribes that had been
scattered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, had carried their religion
with them everywhere, and there were many Gentiles who had accepted the
faith of Israel. Judaism, however, was divided into several sects. Chief
among these were the Pharisees, who were most anxious to keep the
nation true to the traditions of the past and to keep alive the hope and
expectation of a coming Messiah. The Sadducees, composed mostly
of wealthy, influential persons, were strong rivals of the Pharisees.
They stressed the moral law, but denied the authority of tradition and
the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection, and the
existence of angels. They also discounted the Messianic hope. The Essenes
opposed the ritualism and formalism of the Pharisees. They took no part
in public affairs and passed their lives in retired places, seeking by
self denial and prayer to realize their ideal of ritual purity. They believed
in the immortality of the soul, but denied the resurrection of the body.
It was into this kind of world that Christ came to reveal the true God
to humanity.

A
BRIEF PREVIEW OF CHRIST’S LIFE

The
moral condition of the people at the time of our Savior’s birth was very
low. Vice, crime, and disease were rampant. Jesus came into the world
to penetrate this darkness with the light of His gospel of love and healing.
The following tribute from an unknown author points out the beauty and
power of the life that you are about to study:

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Here
is a young man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant
woman. He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter
shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant
preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned
a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put
his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the
place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany
greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

While
he was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through
the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property
he had on earth, and that was his coat. When he was dead, he was laid
in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen long centuries
have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race
and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when
I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that were
ever built and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that
ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this
earth as has that One Solitary Life.



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Original
manuscript author: Beatrice S. Neall

Editors revised edition: Barbara Shelley, Sue Robinson

Design and Layout: DEC Designs, Morisset, New South Wales Australia.

Used by permission of Discovery Centre, Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia.

Graphics: Still images taken from Matthew video, copyright © 1997,
2004 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International
Bible Society.

Scripture: Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

Cover Picture: “The Light of the World” by Nathan Green, ©2004
All Rights Reserved.

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