Light of the World



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.

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.

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:

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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Copyright © 2007 revised edition, Voice of Prophecy, California.