Although the Synoptic writers emphasize different characteristics of Jesus as Messiah, they all present Jesus as wonder worker, sage, teacher, and Son of God. From depictions of his humble birth in a manger in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, all three Gospels go on to record the numerous miracles of Jesus (healings, exorcisms, and nature miracles) and the effects the words and deeds of Jesus had on his many followers.
Growing up as a practicing Jew in first century Israel, Jesus followed the customs and rituals of his religious tradition. Rather than offer a new religion, Jesus reinforced the message of the Old Testament prophets by demanding a change of heart that would have a liberating effect on people as well as on the unjust social order in which they lived. The main theme of Jesus’ teaching was that the Kingdom of God announced by the Old Testament prophets had indeed arrived. This kingdom, ushered in by Jesus, would bring with it the liberation of the oppressed as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Although the kingdom had officially arrived, it had to be realized within the hearts of all those willing to undertake the necessary conversion to enter this kingdom.
Jesus summarized his message as the Great Commandment: Love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31, Matthew 22:37-39). The fact that this is a reiteration of two Old Testament passages (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18) illustrates Jesus’ respect for his Jewish religious background and his attempt to promote love as the guiding principle of all ethical action. His close relationship with God, his abba (an Aramaic word commonly translated as “father” but more accurately...
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