Mankind was lost. Through an ancient act of disobedience, humanity had turned away from its divine Creator, the all-powerful God. God had reached out to humanity for centuries through the formation of His own people Israel—meant to be a model of holiness for the rest of the world. He gave them the Law, which made His will known to Israel. He sent prophets and inspired sages who exhorted Israel to turn away from sin, perfect their way of life, and have full faith in God. Despite all of this, the human race remained sinful and self-centered.
So God did the impossible: He became human. Born in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago, God walked the earth as a man, Jesus. Taking on our human nature completely, Jesus was like us in everything except sin—but still fully divine. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Because Jesus was God, he was able to perfectly fulfill the Law given to Israel by God. Because Jesus was human, he experienced the extremes of the human experience—the heights of love and joy, and the depths of sorrow and pain. He gathered a following of disciples who listened to his teachings. Many people followed Jesus and listened to him, amazed at the authority with which he taught about God. Jesus chose twelve disciples in particular to accompany him on his journeys across Israel. They were later known as the twelve apostles.
But there was more to Jesus than merely his life; it was his death that made all the difference. He gave his own life as a ransom for humanity, atoning for all the sins of mankind—all the way back to that first sin of disobedience. Unjustly sentenced to death by the Romans, Jesus was beaten, stripped, and nailed (through his hands and feet) to a cross. He accepted all of this freely. Having lived a life of perfect love and self-giving, Jesus was a totally unblemished sacrifice for God—and only as perfect an offering as Jesus could atone for the sin of humanity. “Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus died on the cross and was buried.
On the third day after he died, the unthinkable happened. Jesus rose from the dead! He appeared to his disciples multiple times, teaching them how his death had been foretold in the words of the ancient prophets of Israel, and that he was the long-awaited savior of Israel—the Messiah. Forty days later, Jesus ascended into Heaven. Afterward, he sent his spirit—the Holy Spirit—to empower the disciples, led by the twelve apostles, to spread the good news. “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
What did this “good news” really mean? That Jesus Christ has conquered death! Through offering himself as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf, then rising from the dead in a state of glory, Jesus proved two things: We can be forgiven, and we can live forever with God.
The Catholic Church is our doorway into both. Although cultures have changed and customs have evolved, Catholicism has survived it all—and the saving truth of Christ remains consistent. The Church was instituted by Jesus, nurtured and spread by the apostles, and continues to this day. We are privileged to be members of the Body of Christ.