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What is a Christian? 1
Which disciple was given authority as 'the rock on which I shall found my Church'?

What is a Christian? 1

A Christian is a person who lives their life according to their belief in God and Jesus. They will accept the Biblical stories of His life, teaching, ministry, sufferings, death and resurrection, as summarised in the Creed/s (a collective prayer or prayers, where gathered Christians publicly affirm such faith). This first of two Quizzes will look at Jesus' life and teachings; its companion will cover the events of Holy Week and their consequences.

As ever, please allow for the fact that various parts of the wider Christian community may be selective as to precisely which elements in the stories they will accept and honour.
Why wasn't 'Jesus of Nazareth' born there?
His mother, and 'earthly father' Joseph were away on holiday when He was born
They were away from home on a Jewish religious observance, or pilgrimage
For administrative reasons (in an age long before modern telecommunications), everyone living under the Roman Empire had to go periodically to their ancestral hometown to be registered in a Census
King Herod of Israel had heard of Jesus' birth, so Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel to go and have the baby somewhere else
Answer 1 is hardly worth the dignity of a comment; Answer 2 is a mis-reference to Jesus' pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he was on the verge of His teens (the Temple visit, when He stayed behind to talk with the priests, and His parents feared they'd lost Him); Answer 4 is also inside-out. The birth, as the prophets had foretold and as surely you probably remember, occurred at Bethlehem.
In Jesus' day, as now, within traditional Judaism there were large numbers of complex and detailed rules for holy living. Someone once asked Jesus what was His simple key to living a Godly life, and, in the proverbial nutshell, He summarised the Ten Commandments in which of the following ways?
'Love God and be true to yourself'
'Love God as very best you can, and love those around you as dearly as you love yourself'
'Do unto others as you would have them do to you'
'Honour God and commit no crime'
This effectively summarises the first four Commandments (see in the Old Testament book of Exodus) and the second six. If one 'gets the principles right' it should be impossible to offend against any of the more detailed stipulations. ('If only ...' : many of us find it a challenge sometimes!)
A smart young man once challenged Jesus, to pin down what He meant by His sweeping encouragement to 'love others'. Jesus' response was to tell one of His famous, illustrative stories: which one?
The Parable of the Sower
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The point of this masterly story is that just as one might be tempted to give up hope, help may come through a fellow-human being of the least likely kind ~ in this case, a generally despised individual from across the local racial divide. We are encouraged to 'go and do likewise' when we see anyone else in need ~ even if that person is of a kind, in some way, that we would privately rather have nothing to do with.
Which, according to the Gospels, was the first Miracle that Jesus performed which showed His mastery over nature and His abundant generosity?
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
'Water into wine' at the Wedding in Cana (Galilee)
The Miraculous Draft of Fish
Stilling the storm at night on the Sea of Galilee
The formal introduction to the modern Wedding service in many Christian churches makes cheerful allusion to this reported miracle. Jesus made little outward fuss about it at the time, yet it made all the difference to an occasion to which he and his mother had been invited as ordinary family guests.
Conversely, what was the LAST healing miracle reportedly done by Jesus ~ if, for present purposes, we 'count out' the Crucifixion and Resurrection themselves, nor anything following those?
He restored the severed ear of one of the officials who had come to arrest him by night in the Garden of Gethsemane, after one of His disciples had struck out with a sword
He raised a twelve-year-old girl who had died
He restored sight to a blind member of the Jewish Assembly
He healed a lame man on His way into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
This relatively minor, yet telling detail is reported as the last of Jesus' public healing miracles.
In the Parable of the Sower, what do the seeds represent?
God's Word
It is sometimes quite widely (and falsely) assumed that 'seeds = people (or human lives)', as potentially they might have done. But in this case, the seed is 'God's message' which may not always thrive in people's lives because of their various characters, conditions, circumstances and priorities.
Which of the Disciples (originally named Simon) seems to have been closest to Jesus, despite a number of well-intentioned but impulsive blunders, and was given authority as 'the rock on which I shall found my Church'?
'Simon Peter' was Jesus' 'rock', despite letting Him down on various somewhat embarrassing occasions ~ suggesting that Jesus accepts all of us, whatever our faults and lapses.
A surprising number of women called Mary appear to have played parts in Jesus' earthly life. Which of the following is NOT recorded in the Bible?
The (Blessed) Virgin Mary, His mother
Mary of Magdala ('Magdalene'), mentioned by name 12 times across all 4 Gospel accounts
Mary the reformed prostitute, who washed His feet with her tears, and then dried them using her hair
Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha (busy in the kitchen) and Lazarus (whom Jesus reportedly raised from death)
There is no Scriptural detail of this woman's name, and previous (largely, mediaeval) conflations of her with Mary Magdalene have now largely been discounted by more recent scholarship.
The only Gospel story in which we see 'an angry Jesus' is of the occasion when ...
The Disciples lacked faith that He could calm an overnight storm on the Sea of Galilee
He went on the rampage against the commercial dealers within the Temple precincts at Jerusalem
None of the Disciples could, or would, stay up and awake to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane
The Disciples were trying to hurry him along to heal someone dangerously ill, yet He stopped to talk to a woman who had drawn healing power from the hem of His cloak as He was passing
We are on tricky ground if we start hunting for 'a Jesus who loses His cool', if He is proclaimed as the Loving Prince of Peace; but He shared our humanity to the extent of being prey to the same sensitivities and emotions as any of us. The Gospels suggest that He had occasion to 'tick off' (not their usual phrase) his chosen followers for occasional lapses in faith or judgment; it would have perhaps been more surprising if He hadn't. There appear to have been briefly terse 'words' on any or all of these other occasions, though more in sorrow than out of irritation or anger (certainly in the case of Answer 3).
His acknowledged anger in the occasion at Answer 2 ('the cleansing of the Temple') has been termed 'righteous wrath' (i.e. anger that in context is understandable and justified), since the traders were taking established advantage of people under rules about pilgrimage and sacrifice. Jewish tradition, for instance, required certain ritual sacrifices to mark individual and family occasions such as the safe birth of a child (including Jesus Himself): visitors had to buy an 'approved quality' and ritually clean animal of the relevant species (at a mark-up), and using only the proper Temple money (everyday Roman coins being unacceptable in payment for this, since they bore a 'blasphemous' human likeness of the Emperor; so they had to be changed on the way in, once again at captive-market rates of exchange). Small wonder that Jesus registered His displeasure at such schematic commercialisation of 'the House of [His] Father'!
Besides raising His voice on such occasions (as in Question 9), Jesus was also entirely unashamed to show his emotions by other means. The shortest verse in the whole Bible, in virtually any language or translation, is John 11:35 ~ usually rendered as 'Jesus wept'. Leaving aside the fact that the verse-divisions themselves are not intrinsic to the original text, this detail alone brings the story to a surprising and poignant pause.
But what was the cause of His tears on this occasion?
The death of the brother Lazarus, within a family of good friends of His at Bethany
When nobody from a group of sick people that He had told to 'go and wash and be healed', had bothered to come back and thank Him
That when the morning cockerel crowed, He knew that by now, as He had predicted, even His staunchest disciple Peter would have said three times over that he had no connection with Jesus
That Judas Iscariot would not be talked out of betraying His whereabouts to the authorities
He was grieving for Lazarus, before He then focused Himself and called him back out of the tomb. This story fairly obviously prefigures His own Resurrection.


Author:  Ian Miles

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