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When the wise men come to Jesus, they bring three gifts: Gold, which is the gift for royalty, a gift for a king. Incense, which was for divinity, a gift you give a God. And myrrh, which is a funeral gift, a gift used for burial. Their gifts show amazing insight.
At first hearing, you might think these gifts were a lucky coincidence. They’re not. God set up the events of Christmas in such a way that you would know that He was carefully orchestrating each element of it, years in advance. Nine months before Christmas, God sent an angel to tell Joseph and Mary about the birth of His Son. Christmas night, God sent angels to communicate with shepherds about the birth of His Son. Hundreds of years before Christmas, God sent a holy man – Daniel – to the eastern peoples to prepare their highest caste, their wise men, (court advisors to the king) to respond to the birth of His Son. God communicated to the wise men that the Messiah would be king and God, and that He would come to die. Through a combination of Daniel’s leadership, Hebrew Scripture, and the tailor-made revelation of a star, these wise men knew as much or more about the nature of the Messiah as the Jewish people.
WHY DID JESUS NEED TO BE BAPTIZED?
So why would Jesus need to be baptized by John?
Well... Jesus' baptism by John was the beginning of Jesus' ministry
Mark 1:1 starts out: "The BEGINNING of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" and then Mark starts telling us about Jesus' baptism by John.
In Luke 3:23 we're told of Jesus' baptism by John and then we read: "Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he BEGAN HIS MINISTRY..."
Obviously, for some reason, Jesus' ministry began with His baptism.
Now, at this point in Jewish history, water baptism served one of 3 purposes.
1st, there was the Baptism Of Repentance.
This was what John the Baptist's was preaching.
But of course Jesus didn't need to repent because He hadn't sinned.
The 2nd kind of baptism was for people who desired to convert to Judaism.
It was a Baptism Of Conversion.
If you were a Gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism, they baptized you in water.
ILLUS: Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explained that: "The Jews were accustomed to say of a heathen proselyte, on his public admission into the Jewish faith BY BAPTISM, that he was a new-born child."
So, baptism was used when someone wanted to convert to Judaism. But Jesus had no need to convert to Judaism. He already was one. He'd been born a Jew.
So baptism in those days could be for repentance or conversion... and Jesus did not need to be baptized for those reasons. So, for what OTHER reason would a person be baptized in water back then???
Well, the only other people who experienced baptism - in the Jewish faith in that day were priests. The Law dictated that especially the High Priest was to "washed with water." And the Temple had pools set aside for just that purpose.
In Leviticus 8:6 we're told that - by the instruction of God -- "Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water."
Then, later, during that ceremony Moses "poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him." Leviticus 8:12
This act INITIATED Aaron's ministry as High Priest. When Aaron and his sons were washed with water and anointed with oil, they BEGAN their priesthood and were empowered to make sacrifices and to handle holy things as God's representatives.
At that point (their baptism) God put His mark of approval on the ministry of Aaron and his sons.
The Bible tells us that Jesus' ministry began with His baptism by John.
After His baptism, the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit as it descended on Him in form of a dove. And the Father put His mark of approval on Jesus by loudly declaring:
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17
This was the beginning of Jesus' ministry as our High Priest.
Did you realize Jesus was our High Priest?
Indeed He is!
Hebrews 4:14: "...we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..."
From the day of His baptism by John at the Jordan until His death on the Cross, Jesus (as our High Priest) prepared the ultimate sacrifice for our sins... His own body.
James O. Davis
Jesus said the times before His second coming would include a multiplication sign, a mental sign, a moral sign, and a miracle sign. Concerning the latter, He was talking about the nation of Israel. He reminds us to keep our eyes on the fig tree. When it begins to blossom you know the end is near. Israel is the historical miracle in world civilization. She had been extinct as a nation for over 1,900 years, ever since Titus and the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem in 70 AD and nearly obliterated the Jewish people, forcing them out of their own country. The people were slaughtered and Israel died as a nation that day. But she was born again in one day. Isaiah predicted it would happen. On May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again. David Ben Gurion signed the Declaration of Independence. Jesus said when the fig tree buds the kingdom is at hand.
Story: At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”
Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”
The room fell silent.
Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride.
Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.
Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requ...
FRANKL AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
When Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II and put in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, he was stripped of everything: property, family, possessions, and a manuscript he had spent years researching and writing on finding meaning in life. The manuscript had been sewn into the lining of his coat.
"Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own," Frankl wrote. "I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
A few days later, the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up what little clothing they still wore. "I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber," said Frankl. "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Jewish prayer 'Shema Yisrael' (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)
"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to 'live' my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?"
Frankl later reflected on his ordeal in Man's Search for Meaning, saying, "There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one's life.... He who has a 'why' to live for can bear almost any 'how.' "
[Based on Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (Pocket, 1997). Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (241). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]
A man named Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychologist, discovered this great truth in the midst of a Jewish concentration camp during WW II. While seeking to survive the horror of this imprisonment Frankl began observing his fellow prisoners in the hope of discovering what coping mechanism would help him endure this horrendous existence. What Frankl discovered was this...
Those individuals who could not accept what was happening to them, who could not make their present suffering fit with their faith, who could not find it’s meaning in their world view... they despaired, lost hope, and eventually gave up and died. But those individuals that could find a meaning from their faith, were then able to find hope for a future beyond their present suffering, and so could accept what they were enduring as a part of their existence, and they survived.
In history, 160 years before the birth of Jesus, there is the story of the Maccabean revolt in Israel. Antiochus IV, King of Syria, had conquered Jerusalem, & he decided to destroy the Jewish religion & make the Jews deny their faith in God. Among the many things he did was to order the people to sacrifice pigs upon their altars built for the worship of God. Of course this was an abomination to the Jews.
History records the story of one Jewish mother with 7 sons. The soldiers came first to the oldest son & ordered him to offer a pig upon the altar. The son refused. So they cut out his tongue. Still he refused, so they scalped him. Since he still refused, they cut off his hands & feet & threw his mangled body into a pit of fire where it was consumed.
They went to the second son & ordered him to offer a pig upon the altar. When he refused, they fried him alive in a giant skillet. The third, the fourth, the fifth, & the sixth all refused & all died after a variety of horrible tortures.
Finally they came to the baby of the family, just a boy. Even the most hardened of the soldiers didn’t want to see him die. So they went to the mother & said, “If you’ll just ask him to place the pork to his lips, that will be enough, & we’ll spare his life.”
History records that the mother took her son, her youngest, & said to him, “Son, I carried you in my womb for 9 months. I nursed you for 3 years. I raised you for a moment like this. I encourage you to stand strong in your faith & follow in the steps of your brothers. And when you die, I will die to be with you.”
REMEMBERING JOSEPH BAU--COMMUNION MEDITATION
When someone dies, we remember—we remember all the stories that filled their life. Last week a man named Joseph Bau died. It’s a name you probably don’t know, but a story worth hearing.
Joseph Bau was born on June 18, 1920, in Krakow, Poland. He became a young man just in time to experience the German invasion of Poland. He was one of three boys in a prosperous middle-class family that lived in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods. Joseph had always been good at art, and at the age of 18, he enrolled in the University of Plastic Arts at Krakow.
But the war interrupted his studies. His family was forced to move to the Jewish Ghetto, and then later to the Plaschow concentration camp. Because of Joseph’s partial education in Art before the war, and because of his talent for Gothic lettering, the Nazis employed him in producing maps and signs for the camp.
Joseph’s job also enabled him to save more than 400 Jews by forging false documents and identity papers that secured their release from the camp. When asked after the war, why he did not forge documents for himself, he replied, “Then who would have done it for the other Jews?”
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, we hear a similar question, “He saved others; He cannot save himself?” And Jesus answers, “What shall ...
Jerry Seigle and Joe Shuster were barely out of high school in the down and dirty days of the Great Depression when they came up with their brainchild. During these desperate days when big governments and big business and big problems made the little man feel even less powerless, these two Jewish boys came up with a comic book hero. He was stooped-shouldered and wore round-rimmed glasses, but when he was backed into a corner, he would rip open his shirt and take charge. The first dime novel that bears the name of Superman has him throw a wife-beater against a wall, grab a spy by the leg—leaping upwards with the terrified man in tow—and pitch a wailing warmonger over a stand of trees.
As other super heroes came on the scene his powers grew to offset diminishing sales. He could see across the universe, hear a cough on the other side of the earth and sunbath in the heart of the sun. In the effort to sustain interest in Superman, writers increased and decreased his powers all in the effort of trying to make him more human. In 1992 in the long series “The Death of Superman”, he dies from exhaustion and loss of blood. He is laid in a tomb. And then—silence, as DC Comics ceased publishing its flagship title. Was it the end?
Then in the spring of 1993 he was sighted. How did he beat death? The writers spun a tale of scientific-gobbledygook. The fans could’ve cared less. Superman, like Mr. Spock of Star Trek and Jesus Himself—had risen. That’s all that mattered.
Today one of the most popular TV programs is Smallville. It’s the story of Superman as a teenager. There is talk of a new Superman movie to be made.
Whether it is Lex Luther and kryptonite or other super hero competitors or even death, Superman appears to be invincible. But in Superman’s own words to a young man whose life he had rescued, “I’m not God.” As he jets into the air, he reminds the young man he is Superman.
I’m here to tell you that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is not a fictional character. He literally lived. No reputable historian disputes this assertion. His death on the cross and his rising from the grave is not a piece of fiction. The evidence is convincing even to skeptics. Christians have placed their faith in the invincible Jesus Christ. Jesus can’t be defeated!
A guest in a hotel in L.A. told the desk clerk he wanted to take a walking tour of the city but was terrified by all he had heard about the traffic. He asked about the safest time to venture out. The clerk was equal to the task. He said the safest time is Sunday morning. All the Jewish folk are down in Palm Springs, the Catholics go to the Saturday night service and sleep in, and the Protestants are all in church. The guest was greatly relieved and went out Sunday morning with a spring in his step – only to be run over by a Seventh-Day Adventist. Things are rough out there.