If we want to know Jesus, we should know the Scripture. This is certainly true about the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which were written “that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31).
We ponder Christ’s person and his earthly words and deeds in terms of mystery. His earthly life reveals his hidden divine Sonship and plan for our salvation. His parables, miracles, sermons, and wisdom sayings help us “to see our God made visible, and so we are caught up in love of the God we cannot see” (First Preface for Christmas).
The Gospels tell us a lot of what we know about Jesus. In two of the Gospels, we hear of his birth in the town of Bethlehem, to a young virgin named Mary. None of the Gospels tell much of the first thirty years of his life. We know he lived in the town of Nazareth with his mother and foster father, St. Joseph, and that he learned to be a carpenter like his foster father. The Gospels concentrate mostly on the events of his public life or ministry, which began when he was around the age of thirty. Jesus spent the last three years of his life traveling around the lands of ancient Israel, teaching the people of the Kingdom of God and confirming his identity as the Son of God through the miracles and wonders he performed. He gathered around him many disciples from whom he selected twelve who became the Apostles.
In the Gospels, we see and hear Jesus summon others to accept, live, and share the Kingdom of God. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God was fundamental to Jesus’ preaching. The Kingdom of God is his presence among human beings calling them to a new way of life as individuals and as a community. This is a Kingdom of salvation from sin and a sharing in divine life. It is the Good News that results in love, justice, and mercy for the whole world. The Kingdom is realized partially on earth and permanently in heaven. We enter this Kingdom through faith in Christ, baptismal initiation into the Church, and life in communion with all her members.
The words of Jesus, expressed in his parables, the Sermon on the Mount, his dialogues, and the Last Supper discourse are calls to holiness through accepting his Kingdom and salvation. Jesus did not abolish the Law of Sinai, but rather fulfilled it (cf. Mt 5:17-19) with such perfection (cf. Jn 8:46) that he revealed its ultimate meaning (cf. Mt 5:23) and redeemed the transgressions against it (cf. Heb 9:15). The miracles and other deeds of Jesus are acts of compassion and signs of the Kingdom and salvation.
Our access to the Gospels is made possible by doing faith-filled reading of the sacred texts, by listening to them in the Church’s liturgy, and by witnessing their meaning in our lives and in the lives of others. We can benefit greatly from the number of available Scripture commentaries and Bible study groups that are sponsored by local parishes.
You can read more from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, order your own copy, or read questions about it at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
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