If you ever wondered ‘who is Jesus?’, this comprehensive lesson plan will walk you through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’ll explore Jesus’ claims about himself, the gospel accounts of his life, and the significance of his teachings for people today.
If you’re short on time, here’s the key point: Jesus Christ is believed by Christians to be the divine Son of God, savior of humanity whose life, teachings, death, and resurrection form the foundation of the Christian faith.
He is seen as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah whose arrival fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about a coming redeemer.
The Life and Identity of Jesus
Jesus’ birth and early life
Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. According to the Gospels, his birth was miraculous – Mary was a virgin who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was born in humble surroundings, laid in a manger in Bethlehem.
Little is known about his early life, but the Gospels record that he grew up in Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, working as a carpenter.
Ministry and teachings
Around age 30, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and began his public ministry. He chose 12 disciples and traveled around teaching large crowds through parables and sermons. Some key themes of his teaching included:
- The Kingdom of God – Jesus spoke often of a coming “Kingdom” where God would reign supreme.
- Love and mercy – Jesus emphasized loving one another, extending mercy, and caring for those in need.
- Repentance and renewal – Jesus called people to repent from sinful ways and follow God wholeheartedly.
He also performed many miracles of healing and deliverance, demonstrating his divine authority and compassion.
Claims about his identity
Jesus made radical claims about his identity, leading many to believe he was the long-awaited Messiah. He used titles like “Son of Man” and “Son of God” in reference to himself. When asked if he was the Messiah, he responded affirmatively (Mark 14:61-64).
Jesus also stated he had authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-12), a divine prerogative. His teaching had an aura of unprecedented authority and truth.
Opposition from religious leaders
Jesus was controversial and provoked opposition from religious authorities of the day. They challenged his claims of authority, were indignant about his criticism of outward religious practices, and were threatened by his popularity.
The tensions escalated to the point that there was a plot to kill Jesus (John 11:45-53). He was eventually arrested on false charges, given an illegal trial at night, and condemned to crucifixion by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
The Death and Resurrection of Jesus
The arrest and trials
After the Last Supper, Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There, Judas betrayed Jesus by identifying him to the soldiers who came to arrest him. Jesus was taken first to Annas, the former high priest, and then to Caiaphas, the current high priest.
The Jewish leaders brought false witnesses who testified against Jesus, yet their testimonies did not agree. Ultimately, Caiaphas asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, the Son of God. When Jesus confirmed that he was, Caiaphas declared this blasphemy, for which the punishment was death.
The next morning, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders. They too found him guilty of blasphemy and sent him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, to authorize his crucifixion since the Jewish authorities lacked that power under Roman occupation.
Pilate questioned Jesus but found no basis to condemn him. Hoping to release Jesus, Pilate offered the crowd a choice between freeing Jesus or the criminal Barabbas. The crowd called for Barabbas, leaving Pilate no choice but to sentence Jesus to crucifixion.
Jesus was mocked and beaten before being led to Golgotha carrying his cross. There he was crucified between two criminals. As he suffered on the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive those responsible, cared for his mother Mary, and promised paradise to one of the criminals crucified alongside him.
After about six hours on the cross, Jesus cried out “It is finished!” and died. His sacrificial death served as atonement for the sins of humanity. Just before his death, the temple curtain was torn, signifying that Jesus’ sacrifice opened the way for people to approach God directly.
After Jesus’ death, a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body. Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin who had not consented to Jesus’ conviction, wrapped the body in linen and buried it in a new tomb cut into rock.
The tomb was sealed with a large stone and guarded by soldiers at the request of the chief priests who feared Jesus’ disciples would try to steal the body.
On the Sunday after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead! This was the most amazing miracle and the crowning proof of Jesus’ divinity. Mary Magdalene and other women who went to anoint Jesus’ body found the tomb empty. An angel told them that Jesus had risen, as he said he would.
Jesus then began appearing to his disciples and followers for 40 days, providing convincing evidence that he had conquered death. Some key resurrection appearances include revealing himself to Mary Magdalene in the garden, appearing to two disciples on the Emmaus road, showing his wounds to Thomas to address his doubt, and eating fish with his disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith and the promise of eternal life for all who believe.
The Meaning and Significance of Jesus
Jesus the Christ (Messiah)
Jesus is called the Christ or Messiah because he is the one that God promised to send to save humanity from sin and death. The word “Christ” comes from the Greek word christos which means “anointed one.”
In the Old Testament, prophets foretold that God would send a chosen one, the Messiah, who would deliver God’s people. Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, so his followers started calling him Christ, meaning he was the long-awaited Messiah.
For Christians, Jesus being the Christ is central to his identity and mission. As the Messiah, Jesus is the one who makes God directly known to humanity and who brings the promise of salvation. Believing that Jesus is the Christ means believing that through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made a way for people to be reconciled with God.
Jesus as Savior and Redeemer
Christians believe Jesus is the Savior who delivers people from sin and death. The word “Savior” refers to someone who rescues or liberates others from harm or captivity. For Christians, the captivity Jesus saves people from is the power of sin and its consequence of eternal separation from God.
Through his perfect life, sacrificial death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, Jesus redeems and reconciles humanity back to God.
As Savior, Jesus lived the perfect life humans were intended for but failed to live because of sin. He willingly took the punishment for sin by dying on the cross, even though he was sinless. When Jesus rose from the dead, he defeated the power of sin and death.
All who put their faith in him can receive forgiveness and new spiritual life now, and eternal life with God in the future. This is the salvation and redemption Christ provides as Savior of the world.
Jesus as embodiment of love and sacrifice
Jesus embodies or exemplifies God’s perfect love and the sacrifice required to save humanity. One of Jesus’ core teachings was that the most important commandments are to “love God” and “love your neighbor” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Christians see Jesus living out extraordinary love through serving the poor and marginalized. His love was also evident through sacrificially giving his life on the cross.
According to the Bible, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Christians believe Jesus willingly endured the pain and shame of the cross out of love for humanity, to make atonement for sins. His resurrection displayed victory over death and sin.
Jesus’ loving sacrifice makes salvation available to all who put their faith in him. His life of love inspires Christians to follow his example in how they treat God and others.
Applying the Lessons of Jesus Today
Loving God and neighbor
Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Putting God first and showing unconditional love and compassion to others are central to following Jesus’ teachings today. We can apply this by spending time in prayer and Scripture, participating in spiritual community, and serving those in need around us with an open and generous heart.
Serving the poor and marginalized
Throughout His ministry, Jesus showed special care and concern for the poor, sick, and marginalized of society. He calls His followers to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). Today, serving the poor can look like volunteering at homeless shelters or food pantries, going on mission trips, donating funds and supplies, advocating for justice, or even simply showing care and respect to those facing hard times around us.
As Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Small acts of service add up to make a big difference.
Pursuing spiritual rebirth and renewal
Jesus said we must be spiritually reborn to enter God’s kingdom (John 3:1-21). This spiritual renewal begins when we put our faith in Christ and continues as an ongoing process of becoming more like Him.
Practically, we can pursue renewal by reading the Bible, repenting of sins, spending time worshiping God with other believers, serving others, and being mentored by mature Christians. As we do these things consistently, the Holy Spirit transforms us to reflect more of Jesus’ character of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:16-26).
This brings glory to God and blesses our relationships.
In this lesson, we traced the story arc of Jesus Christ’s life, unpacked his core teachings, and explored the significance of his life, death and resurrection for Christian theology. Whether you are religious or not, the figure of Jesus has undeniably shaped world history.
Understanding who Jesus claimed to be and what he taught helps inform appreciation of Western art, literature, culture and current events. We hope this overview of this monumental spiritual figure has provided food for thought and seeds of wisdom to apply in your own life.