Summary: "The Empty Manger" is about a guy who noticed the nativity display at his church was missing the baby Jesus. Everything else was there but the most important piece was missing. In life, everything else can be there but if Jesus is missing it's incomplete.
JESUS IS MISSING!
INTRODUCTION: The Empty Manger. "A number of years ago, the church I attend set up a very nice nativity set in the front of our sanctuary during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, when we observe Advent. The wise men, shepherds, livestock, angels, Joseph, and Mary had all taken their places for the festivities, but we were missing one notable character: there was no baby Jesus.
The hay-laden manger had an indentation where the infant figurine was supposed to be, but his absence was glaring."
There's more to this story but it will have to wait until the end. It is strange to think of the manger scene without Jesus. Everything else could be there and in its proper place but if Jesus is missing its insignificant. Well, that's true in life as well. We could have everything in place and it can look good but there's something missing. We know and feel it but we're just not sure what it is. I know what's missing-it's Jesus. And without Jesus in your life it is grossly incomplete.
1) Looking for Jesus.
• Looking for a miracle.
Mark 1:27-28, 32-37, "The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Why were the people looking for him? Jesus had been teaching and driving out evil spirits and the people were amazed. The people saw Jesus as the great miracle worker and wanted him to heal their afflictions. That was okay to a point but when it came to the gospel they were unreceptive. We learn from vs. 21 that Jesus was in Capernaum.
Matt. 11:20-24, "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
So we see that the people were looking to Jesus for physical healing but when it came to spiritual healing they weren't interested. They found Jesus as a miracle worker but were missing him as a savior. There are people who are looking for Jesus but only for him to work a miracle or two. "Oh, God, if you do this for me I promise I'll..." And there are times when God has mercy or provides the miracle and then what? I don't fulfill my end of the bargain. Jesus performed these miracles probably knowing full well that the people weren't going to be receptive to the gospel.
Jesus' ultimate purpose in performing miracles was to convince people to put their faith in him and repent. When Jesus shows us mercy or does something extraordinary in our lives the main purpose is to get us to believe in him and turn to him for salvation. If you're looking for Jesus the question is, "why?" Is it merely to get something from him or are you looking to Jesus because you know you need his grace and mercy and forgiveness?
• Looking to stop him.
Mark 3:31-32, "Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
Why were his mother and brothers looking for him? We get our answer from Vs. 20-21, "Then Jesus entered a house and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'he is out of his mind'."