JESUS FROM THE BEGINNING (part 1)
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
December 1, 2013.
At this time of year, believers in Jesus Christ need to take time to reflect on the wonderful things God has done through the Lord Jesus. First of all, God became a man. This is the very heart of what is called “The Christmas Story”. The theological term for God becoming Man is the Incarnation.
Why did the Incarnation take place? This miraculous event had to take place in order for God to be able to pay the price needed for people to ever be able to receive forgiveness from our huge debt of personal sin against a holy God.
• No ordinary man could have ever accomplished this, because sin has tainted every single one of us. (See Romans Chapter 3.)
• God had to do it himself, because only He is perfectly Holy.
• His love for us compelled Him to do so.
Let’s look now at the scriptures which teach us about this
pivotal intervention by God, into human history.
As far back in the Bible as Genesis 1:1, God revealed Himself as one being who is more than one person. The word “God” in that very first verse of the Bible is the Hebrew compound term “elohim” which means the “God (singular) who is plural”. Genesis expanded on this first inkling in verse 26, where God said “Let Us make man in Our image.” Here was the one God, speaking of himself, using the plural to do so.
Now let’s turn to the New Testament and pick this theme up there:
Please read the Gospel of John, Chapter 1: 1-18.
Notice that the Word (greek: logos) was with God and also was God, and was with God “in the beginning”. This same “logos” (God the word) became flesh in verse 14 of this passage. In verses 10-13 John described the characteristics of this one who became “flesh” and who lived among us.
• He was the one through whom the World had been created.
• He came to the Jewish people (leaders) who rejected Him.
• He gave the right to become Children of God to all who would believe on Him. –They would become “born of God”. (This is the New Birth, expanded upon in chapter 3.)
John plainly stated the pre-existence of Jesus Christ in verse 15. Then He spoke with great wonder in verses 16 and 17, about the grace and truth Jesus brought to Earth. He capped this introduction off with verse 18, explaining that God “the one and only” or God “the only begotten” has made God (the Father) known (to us).
Let’s turn now to Philippians and learn more about what it was like for God to come to Earth as a man, in order to pay the penalty for your sin and mine.
Please read Philippians 2:5-11.
Here are the humbling realities that God embraced when He became the man Jesus the Christ, through the Incarnation; and the steps that He took, in order to accomplish His mission of rescuing us from sin’s penalty.
1. He was God, but didn’t “grasp” tightly to the privileges of that.
2. He made Himself to be “nothing”, a servant.
3. He took on human flesh and became a man.
4. He humbled himself totally: to the point of death on a Roman Cross; the lowest and least esteemed death possible.
Then God the Father did the following things.
1. He exalted Jesus to the highest level (or place).
2. He made Jesus’ name greater than all other names.
3. He decreed that every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. (This confessing of Jesus as Lord takes place in the lives of all believers here on Earth. It shall take place at the final Judgment, on the part of those who are unbelievers here.)
I shall now fill in a few blanks for you, in order to complete this picture.
• During the years Jesus lived here on Earth as a man, he “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” (Acts 10:38) Truly he was the servant of all who looked to Him.
• “He was tempted in all ways, yet without sin”. (Hebrews 4:15)
• He fulfilled huge numbers of Old Testament prophecies about the coming King (the Messiah) of Israel who would also be the “Suffering Servant”. (Isaiah 53 and many other places)
• He laid His life down for all of us, suffering and dying for our sins. (John 10:18, John 1:29)
• He was raised from the dead on the morning of the third day (having died on the first day) by the Glory of God/God the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:1-7)
• He rose to Heaven 40 days after His resurrection from the dead, and He shall literally and bodily come back again at the right time. (Acts 1:1-11)
There are many things about the future return of Jesus Christ, which I shall not attempt to touch on in this message. My focus here is Jesus’ first coming, through the miracle of the Incarnation: what we commonly call “The Christmas Story”.
Now let’s consider that wonderful and powerful true story…
A great book that every believer should have in his or her library is a Harmony of the Gospels. A good Harmony of the Gospels combines the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This is done in such a way that all the events recorded in those books are presented in the order in which they occurred. Since the various Gospels record different details of the Christmas Story, a harmony of the Gospels is helpful in studying them, or in just reading them for enjoyment. Let’s look at these parts now, in order.
The genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, His adoptive earthly Father, is recorded in Matthew 1:1-17. His genealogy through Mary, his mother, is recorded in Luke 3:23-38. Please note that Jesus, through blood, is descended from King David. (Luke 3:31)
There are many fascinating and enlightening things to be said about these genealogies. However, for the purposes of this message, please just understand that one of the two requirements to become the King of Israel was to be a descendant of David. Here was see that Jesus did indeed meet that requirement.
John the Baptist to be born
The Gospels make it plain that John the Baptist was a prophet, raised up specifically to make people ready for the appearance of the Messiah (the “anointed one” –meaning “the one who would be filled with the Holy Spirit beyond measure”) Jesus is the Messiah. John’s public ministry began before Jesus’ public ministry. The Gospels record John’s origin for us.
Now read Luke 1:5-25. Here we learn that the angel Gabriel told Zechariah the priest that he would have a son and would name him John. Zechariah doubted that this could be possible because of his age and the age of his wife Elizabeth. The elderly priest was made unable to speak because of his unbelief. This condition of being mute, lasted until the birth of John.
His wife Elizabeth, upon becoming pregnant, was very pleased that “her disgrace” would now be taken away. In their culture, it was considered disgraceful for a married woman to have no children. Elizabeth went into seclusion for the first five months of her pregnancy.
Jesus to be Born
Please read Luke 1:26-38. This passage informs us of the amazing visit to Mary by Gabriel and her response to his startling news. Gabriel explained to this betrothed virgin, that she would become supernaturally pregnant, and would bear a son who would be named Jesus, who will be great and will be the Son of God. Gabriel also explained that Jesus will be the final king of Israel in the line of David, and that His Kingdom shall never end.
When Mary asked how this could be, Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit shall cause this miracle to take place. He also informed her that her older cousin Elizabeth, who was beyond the child bearing years, was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary received this all as truth and submitted to God’s plan.
Matthew picks up the narrative concerning the coming of Jesus. In chapter 1: 18-25 we learn that Joseph wrestled with what to do, after he learned that Mary was pregnant. He had a plan in mind, which was to quietly divorce her.
Then God appeared to Joseph in a dream and explained what was going on. The prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14 was being literally fulfilled at this time. A virgin was miraculously pregnant, and the child would be Immanuel, which means God with us. After Joseph awakened from this dream, He took Mary as his wife, but was not sexually intimate with her until after the birth of Jesus.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
Read Luke 1:39-45. Here we learn that Mary, after her encounter with Gabriel, hurried off to visit her cousin Elizabeth. This journey of about 90 miles would have taken several days one way, so it was not a small or simple thing.
As soon as Mary stepped into the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the miraculous continued. She greeted Elizabeth and at that moment the baby in Elizabeth’s womb (John) leaped within her for joy. Suddenly Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied over Mary.
Now read verses 46-56. Here is what could be called “the Psalm of Mary”. She spoke in a way that would have done her ancestor King David proud. She was very aware that God had truly blessed her, and her gratitude was mixed with a prophetic anointing.
She stayed with Elizabeth for three months. Then she went back the 90 miles to her home.
The Birth of John and Surrounding Events
Please continue reading in Luke 1, verses 57-66. Here the miraculous continues. Note that Elizabeth was in solidarity with her husband Zechariah. She fully understood that this child’s name was set firmly, and was John. On the day of his circumcision, there was no room to consider other names. When Zechariah was consulted by the relatives and neighbors who seemed to think that Elizabeth was “losing it”, he wrote his clear verdict to them, that the baby was “John”.
Now read verses 67-80. Then his tongue was set free! He responded by praising God, and everyone who witnessed these things became convinced that God’s hand was on the new baby in a special way. –Then Zechariah prophesied, first about Jesus, then about John’s coming ministry as a prophet and as the forerunner to Jesus the Messiah. John grew up and became strong in spirit.
NEXT TIME: Jesus is Born…
The Birth of Jesus
Please read Luke 2:1-7. Here we see the actions of the Roman government blending with God’s timetable perfectly. God desired that Jesus be born in Bethlehem; the “city of David”. We have already considered that fact that Jesus is a direct descendant of David. The timing of his birth coinciding with the census requirements that every man return to his own town, worked perfectly to ensure that Jesus would be born in little, but important, Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary traveled there at just the right time.
Please note that the birth of “God the Son become man”, who is also the final and everlasting king of Israel, took place in a stable, and that this “newborn King” was placed in a manger for His cradle. These extremely humble beginnings made the Lord Jesus approachable, in ways that no “high falluting” birth in a palace would have done. Even the fact that there was no room in the Inn was used by God to bless some of the least esteemed people in the community: shepherds.
Now let’s read verses 8-20 of this same chapter. The shepherds in this story were out in the fields at night. Their job was not one that people aspired to. It was cold, lonely, dangerous, and looked down on. The indoor crowd, and even tradesmen looked upon shepherds as dirty, smelly people who lived on the edge of the culture. At a good many respectable places, shepherds were not welcome.
God, having already caused the King of Kings to be born in the most humble surroundings possible, now continued to turn accepted practice upside down. Not only was Jesus born in a stable and placed in a manger for his bed, but now the Father sent his fabulous birth announcement, not to the mayor, or chief, but to a bunch of shepherds on the edges of this little town!
Just imagine being out there in the dark of night, when suddenly the area lit up with God’s “Shekinah” (visible light of Glory). Then, imagine that out of the midst of that great light, an angel spoke to you. It’s no wonder that the angel needed to calm the shepherds from being terrified!
The angel shared the great news of the birth of the one who would be both Savior (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ/ the Annointed one). The angel also told the circumstances of the birth. He explained enough to guide the shepherds to the right place. This announcement then got extra emphasis, when a whole company of other angels also appeared and began publicly praising God and announcing God’s favor toward men.
These shepherds then became the first to come and worship the Lord in person, as he lay in that manger. They also were the first to begin spreading the news of Him to all who would listen to them. People were amazed as they heard these things! As for Mary; she “treasured these things up in her heart.”
The Circumcision, Naming, and Presentation of Baby Jesus
Please now read Luke 2:21-38.
In keeping with normal practice, Jesus’ Earthly parents circumcised him on the eighth day after his birth, and officially named him Jesus at this time. Jesus is the western way to say the Hebrew Yeshua, or Joshua, which means Savior.
When Joseph and Mary took baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, to dedicate Him to God according to the Law of God (Exodus 13:2, 12) and to sacrifice doves on His behalf, (Leviticus 5:11, 12:8) they encountered prophets of God there, received prophetic ministry.
Simeon quoted Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, and he proclaimed the fulfillment of these verses through the Lord Jesus. As Joseph and Mary were still marveling over this, notice that Simeon then gave her important personal prophecy. This word from God through his faithful servant Simeon, would be important later for Mary to remember as people began to speak against Jesus and finally to betray, plot, and murder Him. She had been warned that days of great pain would come to her on all of this. Thus, the shadow of the Cross was falling over the little baby in the Temple, and over his Mother’s heart as well.
Anna, the aged and highly disciplined prophetess who actually lived at the Temple, walked up to Joseph and Mary at the very moment that Simeon shared his prophetic word with them. She expanded the scope of that day’s prophecies about Jesus. She addressed all who were there at the Temple that day who cared about Israel, and the destiny of their nation, now merely a vassal state within the vast Roman Empire.
She clearly proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, the anointed of God, and to be the Redeemer. Enough people heard her that day, so that 30 years later, when Jesus stood in the Synagogue in Nazareth, and proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of certain prophecies found in the book of Isaiah, (Isaiah 61:1-2) some would have known of Anna’s words spoken some 30 years back.
We have the wonderful hindsight of the Bible having been compiled. We have before us, the intertwining of all these events and appearances and words. We have a great advantage in understanding who Jesus is, because was can read and hear about all of there different people’s experiences and their reactions to them.
Today, I throw out a challenge to all of us. Let’s set aside everything that hinders us from following Jesus Christ whole heartedly. Each one needs to let go of any bitterness, any anger, anything at all which causes us to pull back from the Lord.
He is always calling us. Let’s respond to His call without reservation.