December 25, 2014.
In the beginning, there was God. Holy and righteous, pure and everlasting. In the beginning He was, He is now and He is yet to come. God is not like us, He is not finite. He has no beginning or end. The attributes of God are like His essence- everlasting. It was this steadfast love of God that prompted the beginning of man, that God may have His creation with which to share His love. Thus He created all that now is, the entire universe. He created mankind. He did something with mankind that we might not expect: He gave us a choice. In the garden, He placed the forbidden tree. There were two commands, one positive, and one negative: Keep the garden, and do not eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Why? Because love requires free will, for we could not love God if we were not given the choice to love God. This choice was embodied in the tree.
And we failed.
But God, being infinite in knowledge and wisdom, knew what would happen. He knew Eve would eat of the tree and give to her husband. He knew that in the few years to follow, mankind would lead a rough path, and would be separated from him through sin and death. Though this knowledge, He had already made a plan of redemption, a plan to bring back the sons of man before Himself, to be presented as holy, blameless. See, though He knew we would fall, the choice still had to be given, for without free will, there is no love. And so God made a plan.
“The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Directly after the fall, God reveals part of His hand. In his curse on the serpent, He gives the first prophecy of the chosen one, the Messiah, who was to come to free mankind from the bondage of sin and death. The one that we would deliver the crushing blow to the serpent and offer salvation to any who will come. The story of man continued from this point, but our sinful nature did not improve. God gave the Mosaic Law to His chosen people, the children on Israel, to be a tutor until the Christ would come. Throughout the time of the Law, the prophecies continued.
“And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.”
A Son would be born, a Savior, born of a virgin, born of the house of David. The one who we would call Immanuel, God with us. For He would be God on earth. He would be given many names.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
He would come after years of searching, and He indeed would be the Mighty God, though humble in appearance, the root of Jessie. He would come as Savior, but be regarded as nothing.
“Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
The sign would be missed by those who were keeping the closest watch. For He would come to liberate them from the Law that they had grown to love so much. He would walk in plain sight, claiming His authority, but they would not believe. They upon who rested the words and power of the Law, they who had the authority and knowledge. They would miss it. And by wicked hands they would crucify Him, the Son of man, our Savior.
“I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
But a remnant of His people would indeed be saved, for He would rise again. And so prophecy turned into fulfillment with a young Jewish virgin named Mary, betrothed to one Joseph, a carpenter.
“And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Unto us a child was born! A virgin conceived and brought forth the Son of God! The time had come, the Messiah had stepped into the world, and the world would never be the same. And as prophecies foretold, there was one who would come to prepare the way for Him.
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.”
John the Baptizer, in the spirit of Elijah, come to turn back the hearts of children to their Father, calling them to look. Look and behold, the Christ.
“And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand! The time had come, the time was now at this very crucial point in history. What a time to be alive, what a time to witness God on earth. What a time to believe, believe His message and turn to Him.
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. […] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
(John 3:5-8, 16-21)
But so many didn’t believe, especially those who were religious leaders. They did not believe, because the gospel, the good news, that Jesus brought was offensive. It was hard words. There were no compromises, and it was clear that it was not the Jewish leaders who were in authority, but the Christ.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
The Messiah, the chosen one had come, and it was time to establish a new covenant with mankind, a better covenant. For under the old covenant, sacrifices were made year after year to forgive sins. The problem, however, was that the blood of bulls and goats could never forgive sins. What mankind needed was a pure Lamb, without blemish, one who had lived a completely sinless life, to die in our place. The hatred of the religious leaders would provide this opportunity.
“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.”
And they looked for an opportunity to kill Him. This opportunity was granted when one of His own, one of the twelve men who had traveled with Him and been His disciples for the past 3 ½ years sought to betray Him with a kiss. They came to Him by night in the garden and Judas, the betrayer, delivered Him into their hands. Taking Him though various trials and religious/political heads, He was delivered into the hands of the Jewish leaders.
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
And so He died, the perfect sacrifice, nailing our sins to the cross, dying just as the prophecies recorded so long ago. It was not surprising that He was delivered over to the cross, but rather part of the plan. For the prophecies were not done. If Jesus’ story had ended on the cross, He would be no more than a good teacher. But the story didn’t end there.
“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
On the third day, Jesus, the Christ, rose from the grave, conquering death and giving all who believe in Him and are His disciples hope in the resurrection of our own bodies on the last day. Death and sin had no power over the Christ, and this is why we worship Him as Lord, our Lord. The risen Lamb, glorified by man, glorified by God. He offers salvation, but only if you will accept this gift.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And so we have our mission, our duty, our calling. We proclaim good news to the fallen world. We proclaim news of a Savior who has come to redeem us, fallen mankind, to the one and only God, who is abounding in love and righteousness. His plan started in love from the beginning and it continues today. We were given a choice in the beginning, and we are still given a choice today. For those of us who have accepted His grace, it is our mission to tell the world, making disciples of Christ, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them the teaching of the Christ.
Salvation is offered. Will you come?
“How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Suggested Daily Reading: Psalm 22, Isaiah 52-53, John 1-3.
Merry Christmas, and glory to God in the highest.