John 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
The words, “I came into the world” indicate that Jesus is telling Pilate that he existed outside of the world before he entered into it. Jesus is telling Pilate before I came into this world I was a king, now it does not look as though I am a king, but I have come to testify to the truth.
Before Jesus came into the world, before he was born, the person; the spirit; the essence of Jesus, existed. He wasn’t in the body he had when he was born, but from eternity past he has existed. He is the alpha and the omega – the first and the last. He is without beginning or end. He is uncreated and all things depend on him, and he depends on nothing. We are told in Hebrews, that by him was everything made.
Pilate and the Jews misunderstood Jesus, they took him to be of this world; they thought of him as a created being like them, but they had failed to understand that Jesus was ‘God with them’; God manifest in the flesh. Micah the prophet knew it to be true though – he foretold of Jesus’ coming 700 years before it happened, and described him as ‘the Ancient of days’.
Jesus is in danger of becoming just another historical figure to us too if we’re not on our guard at Christmas time. So, maybe this year we would do well to start the day with the truth. Why not be bold, and instead of reaching for the present under the tree first, pick up a bible and turn to Matthew chapter 1. Why not spend a few precious moments reading verses 18-25 and let our hearts and minds marvel at the fact that God has chosen to dwell with us in bodily form. Then we might get Jesus right and not make the mistake Pilate made; and then, that truly would be a good start to Christmas!
1 Timothy 1:15-17 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
A lot of things will be said this Christmas; lots of conversation exchanged with family and friends no doubt. Some will be good and others not so. Which is all the more reason to have a trustworthy saying at our disposal, and Paul has one for the occasion.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. This is the most straight forward and yet the most glorious reason for Jesus’ birth. Jesus came into this world of sin to save his enemies from destruction. Is there a more wonderful Christmas text?
Paul goes further though. Yes, Christ came to save sinners, but what about me? We’re all sinners right? And Jesus didn’t come to save everyone. So how do I know that he came for me? It’s as if Paul has asked himself these self same questions. The thing is, until we realise that our personal need is so great that we can’t possibly do without Jesus, we won’t seek him out to be our saviour.
Paul says he is the worst of sinners precisely because he knows that his need is critical. He feels his sin so acutely, it is as if all the other people in the world couldn’t possibly be sinful enough to need Jesus like he needs Him. That’s the kind of need we all have to feel if we are to run into the arms of the saviour. All other types of neediness end up with us walking to Jesus, sometimes so slowly we never get there. We’ve got to need him so badly, we can’t help but run to the saviour of sinners.
Now to those who run to Jesus in belief, Jesus has the power to bestow eternal life, so Paul tells us. Jesus’ work on the cross bought the immense patience of God; that by that patience, men and women might come to that realisation that their need of Jesus is so much greater than they ever realised.
Surely this is a saying that deserves full acceptance this Christmas – Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst!
2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
One of the amazing things about the incarnation of God is that we have the benefit of being able to see in human terms what God is like.
The massive gulf that exists between us as natural and God as supernatural means it’s difficult for us to understand the nature of God’s glory.
This text tells us that God’s glory is displayed in the face of Chist. In other words, Jesus as the exact representation of God, bridges the comprehension gap for us.
We all need knowledge of God’s glory. Knowledge of God’s glory is light to our souls. When it is missing our souls are empty, but when God’s glory shines in our hearts then our souls are filled.
The point for this Christmas is that the knowledge of God’s glory is comprehended; it is seen; it is received, when we fix our eyes on the face of Jesus and on nothing else. He alone is the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus makes the glory of God visible to people; He alone makes Him knowable and for that we must be greatly thankful that He has come.
Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
When it comes to thinking about why Jesus came into the world; why he was born; why God decided to become incarnate, we can’t afford to ignore the reasons he directly gives.
This text is one of those examples. Jesus gives a reason for his coming by highlighting what he didn’t come for to begin with. What he didn’t come to do was to abolish the law and the prophets, but on the contrary, he came to fulfil them!
What does he mean? When he speaks of the law and the prophets he speaks of the first or old covenant that God established with the people of Israel. Now we know that the old covenant was in fact replaced with a new one, because the old one was obsolete. Jesus inaugurated that new covenant (see the 14th advent thought), so we may all be forgiven for thinking that Jesus did abolish the law and the prophets.
That would be a mistake; Jesus can’t contradict himself! The old covenant fails to produce in terms of what people need the most – a relationship with God that can’t be broken. The old covenant is reliant on perfect performance by both parties, and the people involved in that covenant, like all people, constantly fell short. However, the old covenant is not a failure when it comes to fulfilling its purpose. The reason is, it was never God’s purpose to use the old covenant to accomplish that unbreakable relationship, it was his intention to use it to highlight the fact that people need God’s grace to establish a permenant relationship with him; their own efforts simply can’t do it!
Jesus didn’t come to abolish that purpose, he came to fulfil the end that the old covenant was purposed to highlight. That’s the point of Jesus’ coming in the first place. He came to establish the new covenant which graciously adopts people into relationship with God, not on the basis of what they have done, but on the basis of what he has done, perfectly and forever!
Jesus’ birth spells the beginning of the end of the 1500 year lesson in how we can’t save ourselves and the inauguration of the substance that can and will save people. Christmas represents the beginning of the solution to mankind’s most pressing problem!
John 3:17-18 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
We know, because the bible tells us, that when Jesus comes to this world the second time, he is coming to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1). But this text in the gospel of John is clear, Jesus did not come into the world the first time to condemn. Far from it, he came to do the opposite – to free people from condemnation.
Condemnation has at least two connotations. The first is that of intense disapproval or censure. The second is the passing of sentence as punishment for crimes committed.
Jesus’ ministry certainly included disapproval and censure of the sins he saw people committing, but his purpose on earth wasn’t to punish those sins; it wasn’t to pass sentence. Rather Jesus came to have deep compassion for people living in the shadow of death. He came to close the door on punishment forever by being punished in the stead of sinners.
Jesus’ countenance isn’t a stern one with a gavel in his hand; standing ready to pass judgement. On the contrary, it is a piteous one with nails through his hands and feet and a spear in his side – He was pierced for our transgressions, scripture says.
But for whose trangressions? Well John says, he came to save the world, but then in his next breath depicts two very different types of people. People who believe in the name of Jesus will be saved, but those who do not believe already stand condemned! Jesus didn’t come to condemn those who wouldn’t believe in him, they did that to themselves, but rather he came to save those who would believe in him. He came to free captives who cry out in his name “Jesus son of David have mercy on me”.
By saying he came to save the World, John means at the very least, that Jesus is the hope of the world! In other words, if this world is to have any redemption from its present corruption it will be through Jesus and no one else.
Christmas is a time for considering Jesus the Hope of the World who came into the world with love and pity for lost souls. Christmas is NOT for condemnation. Praise be to God.
Isaiah 60:1-3 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
This prophetic passage is pregnant with anticipation. It directs us to wake up out of our Christmas slothfulness and in radiant joy acknowledge the coming of the Light of the World.
Christmas is full of revelry, but Isaiah commends us to revel in the best possible way; to revel in the rising of the glory of the Lord. Jesus’ birth is God’s glory rising like the first rays of dawn and we are meant to be blown away by the sight of it.
Tim Peake said yesterday, that the thing that surprised him most about space was the deep deep darkness of it. That’s what Isaiah has in mind when he speaks of the spiritual darkness that covers the nations.
But the light of Jesus is like the brightest superstar that exists in the universe. It is pervasive and penetrating; and it is able to banish darkness from the deepest corners of the human heart. Ignoring the dawning of Jesus would be like Tim Peake turning a blind eye to the magnitude of the light of the sun as it rises over the curvature of the earth and bathes the space station in brilliant radiance. It should be simply impossible to ignore!
And let’s not forget, Jesus is a light that draws the attention of nations and kings according to Isaiah, so that must be a cue to us at the very least, to make sure it captivates our attention this Christmas too!
1 John 3:8 “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
The devil works we are told by John. We ought not to think the devil is benign. He is not; he is a roaring lion; he is on the prowl; he looks to devour.
And the way that he devours is by enticing his subjects to indulge in sin with an insatiable appetite and undiminishing delight. He moulds his people after himself, he’s been sinning without ceasing from the beginning we’re told.
The devil is a created being on a mission and nothing can cause him to deviate from his purpose, he is transfixed with the idea that he can usurp God, and he fashions his followers to do the same.
John tells us that Jesus appeared to deal with this issue. He appeared to destroy the devil’s work once and for all. His precise purpose in being born was to die. Did the devil think he had won a irreparable victory over his divine adversary? His pride probably allowed him that thought. But the truth was the exact opposite. At the cross Jesus dealt the devil an irreparable blow.
This Christmas think in terms of the eternal victory Jesus accomplished because he condescended to be born in the first place.
Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus laying his glory aside by becoming a man and being considered striken and afflicted for our sakes might look to us all very weak. After all it’s not the Hollywood hero plot we’re used to. It’s rather mean and lowly it would seem. Surely there are more dramatic ways that God could have devised to redeem his people.
But it’s not like that at all; anybody who thinks that, can’t have considered these verses. Here we discover that the manifestation of God’s glory is also in the exaltation of Jesus.
Now, for Jesus to be exalted He had to be debased to begin with. In other words without the humbling of Jesus – that is, the making of Himself nothing as we read in Hebrews 1 – then there wouldn’t have been any exaltation and hence this expression of God’s glory couldn’t have been realised. Again God has designed an amazing plot to bring about His own glory, to make His holiness shine out in full brilliance.
God the Father is so delighted; so gratified with the perfection of the work that Jesus has done that He has set Jesus – with his body; a man that is – ever before Himself. He has set Him up on a throne in heaven as it were, so as to be an everlasting representation of Himself. And when we see Him – and indeed every eye will see Him – then our praise and our delight in God will overflow, even if we have hated Him all our lives. And we will not be speechless for we will all confess Jesus to be Lord. We shall all bow the knee and God will see Jesus and be satisfied, because the continual expression of the vindication of His holiness will be present as a perpetual memorial.
Philippians 2 reminds us that Jesus’ birth is integral to the future reality that all of us will experience and the fullness of God’s glory!
John 12:27-28 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
These are the words of the Lord Jesus, spoken out of the anguish of His soul in the hours preceding His death. And although they are about His impending sacrifice upon the cross, yet they point us back to the reason why He came in the first place. The last advent thought focused on this question also: why did God have to become a man?
Here Jesus tells us another aspect of the reason that He came, and He couldn’t have said it more starkly. Should I say, ‘Father save me? No!’ Jesus didn’t come to potentially die, he came to shed blood and tear flesh for the sake of His people. But to what end you might ask? And here we have the crux of it: to glorify the name of the Father.
What does he mean? How will His death glorify the Father? The answer lies at the root of who God is; it is found in the fact that God is a just and holy God; it lies in the fact that He is not made and we are; it lies in the fact that God must vindicate himself! Our sins are not only an abomination to God, but they are also a detriment to who He is. He made us for Himself and we live for ourselves instead. He made us for His glory and we live for our own. He made us to point Him up and we point ourselves up. We have done detriment to the character of God. We have besmirched His name, we have devalued Him with every fibre of our beings. The result is that we have made God look less glorious than He really is, and that is an affront to His holiness and an denial of His justice!
So, how will He restore His glory is the real question? The answer is, He will either remove ours or He will remove that of His own dear Son. Taking ours for an eternity will account for our own debasement of God, but taking Jesus’ for a few hours will account for multitudes of glory robbing transgressions on behalf multitudes of people.
Jesus is capable of restoring His Father’s glory on behalf of me and you and countless others besides, because He was willing to become a man and to die the death of a criminal, and to debase Himself; making Himself of no renown; stripping himself of all His own glory in the stead of people, so that they don’t have to be stripped of theirs in Hell forever.
Words cannot express the depths of the love of Jesus! He became a man for our sakes, to restore to God what was rightfully His; that which we had stolen in the first place, so that He could save us from having to pay for our God belittling sins ourselves. This verse teaches us clearly, that without the advent of Jesus there simply isn’t any Gospel at all!
Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
We might find it strange that God refers to Himself as having children – “since the children have…“, but it is true God does have children. He has people whom He has adopted for himself to receive an inheritance as His own sons and daughters. His children are made of the same stuff all people are – flesh and blood, but crucially they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God – that’s what makes them different!
We’re told in the text, that the precise reason for Jesus’ incarnation; for his being made a human being, is that we have flesh and blood – in other words, because we do, he had to also. He had to share in our humanity, but why? This is a massive question; why did God have to become a man at all? The text continues, it says that the power of death is in the hands of the Devil and that he exerts that power over flesh and blood; over people. Therefore in order for Jesus to break the power of Satan and relinquish people from death, He Himself had to die also. And, since God cannot die, He – that is Jesus – had to become human. In other words God the Son, to make himself capable of death, became a man in order to vanquish death by his own death. The death of Death can only be accomplished in the death of Christ Jesus, as John Own’s famous title says.
This is huge because it defines the purpose for the birth and death of Jesus. This one short text sums up the design of the incarnation of God. So many people downplay the significance of Jesus today; calling him a prophet or minimising his miraculous virgin birth, or trying to explain his death in ways that conform with science. But, apart from the fact that these efforts ignore the clarity of scripture, they also nullify salvation. If the significance of Jesus is downplayed, then there is no hope of salvation for any one of us, and then, as the Apostle Paul says, we are to be most pitied.
This truth about Christmas is of such vital importance to our hope of eternal life, that not one of us can afford to have the vapid, surface deep secular appreciation of it that so many do. We must delve as deep as Hebrews does! We must understand why he had to come at all.