The Gospels tell little about the childhood of Jesus. Following the customs of the time he most likely began to work alongside his earthly father, Joseph, learning the trade of carpenter. He would have followed the ritual observances of the Jewish law and studied the Old Testament stories. Luke's Gospel tells us that when Jesus was 12 years old he went with his mother Mary and with Joseph to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover at the Temple—the heart of Judaism and its rituals. Unknown to Mary and Joseph, Jesus stayed behind as the caravan headed back to Nazareth. When they discovered that he was missing, they went back to Jerusalem to find him. "They found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." (Luke 2:46)
When Jesus was about 30 years old a preacher called John the Baptist began a new religious movement. He announced to the people the coming of the Messiah ("the Anointed One") and urged them to prepare for his arrival by repenting of their sins. John used flowing water as a sign of washing away their sins. As he preached John baptized people by immersing them in the water of the River Jordan. Jesus was one of the many who went to John to be baptized.
Jesus began his own ministry, preaching repentance and telling his listeners "to believe in the good news": that the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven is near. The "gospel," or the "good news," that Jesus taught in his sermons and stories was new. Yet he insisted that he was not setting aside the Old Law but was extending and enriching it.
JEsus as the new lawgiver
In Chapter 5 of his Gospel Matthew tells about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This sermon sets up many parallels with Moses' reception of the Ten Commandments of the Old Law. First of all, like Moses' reception of the Ten Commandments, it takes place on a mountain. Next it sets a deliberately different tone from the "Thou shalt nots" of the Old Testament code:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 5:3-10
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