Jesus is Coming…To Shake Things Up
December 4th, 2005
Intro: Last week we began a series called Jesus is coming and this week and in the coming weeks we are going to look at the Christmas story and what it meant to different people and how it affected their lives both at that time and their futures. Last week we looked at the fact that Jesus came just as the prophets foretold. He appeared where they predicted and was born how they predicted and became all that they said he would be. But, even with advanced billing and publicity, the majority of the Jews missed His coming because He didn’t fit the role of King and Messiah that they had pictured in their minds.
In the next three sermons, we’re going to get to the more traditional Christmas messages. We’re going to talk about Jesus coming to bring hope, good news, and blessing. We’re going to look at the more traditional characters of Mary and the Shepherds. But today, we’re going to look at something very different. We’re going to look at one character and a group of characters that aren’t so much fun to look at. We’re going to look at what this birth, this coming of the King of the Jews meant to the Pharisees and to the current ruler of the day, King Herod. Each would find their authority challenged. Each would find everything that they worked hard for threatened. See, Jesus came to bring peace and blessing and good news and love, but Jesus was also born to shake things up. He would be at the time and remain today the single most controversial figure in the history of civilization. The world was at rest and a baby came to shake things up. God had waited for the perfect moment to send his son.
Disney Land Illustration
My parents were right. The trip was better and more enjoyable because we waited for the right time to go. We, as kids enjoyed it more, and they, as parents were able to enjoy it more. It was worth the wait in the end but during the time we were waiting, it was hard. It was something that we really wanted and we were really looking forward to. Have you ever wondered why God waited so long to send His Son? There is a huge amount of time that passes between the Garden of Eden and the first sin of man that separated us from God, and the birth of the baby Jesus, what was God waiting for? Well, he was waiting for the perfect time.
Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
When the time had fully come! The greek word that Paul uses here is playroma and it literally means in all fullness. It’s the idea that nothing else could possibly be added that it was the right time; there was no other event that could have taken place that would have presented a better time. All of what God had been orchestrating for centuries to put into place so that his Son could accomplish what it was that needed to be done, all of that was ready. The time was right, the time was perfect. People had been waiting and asking, is it time yet? What is God waiting for? Sounds like some of us today, wondering when God is going to move, when God is going to provide relief. There’s an answer to that question, He’ll move at just the right time. And here you see that in the fullness of time, in the perfect moment, God sent His son.
Last week we talked about the long period of silence that the Jews had gone through. A period of 400 years where there were no prophets, no Scripture was written, and God was silent. We looked at some of the world events that took place during that time, it was through these events that God was preparing the world for the coming of His Son. He was preparing the world so that when Jesus arrived, His message could be spread effectively throughout the world.
There were a two major reasons why this was a time like no other in history, when the coming of the Messiah with a fresh word from God would literally change the world.
First, the years of Greek rule had produced a
1) Universal language. The Greeks had conquered much of the known world.
a. Over 90% of the people on Earth at that time spoke, wrote, read, or understood Greek.
b. A universal language would aid the spread of Christ’s Message and the early gospels that documented Christ’s life and ministry were written in Greek and could be read and understood by the vast majority of the people.
Because of His love for us, God placed His Son on Earth at a time when His message would spread. Another aspect that would aid the spread of Christ’s message was…
2) Universal Peace With the rise of the Roman empire came Pax Romana, a time of peace like the world had never known.
a. To travel in the days before this peace was to take your life into your own hands. You didn’t dare travel through enemy lands and with loose or no laws, you were always a target for thieves. Rome changed that. Countries were no longer warring, Rome had conquered them. Travel was now safe and easy, you could pass from one area of the world to another in safety and security.
b. Roman road system, Roman roads were everywhere and led everywhere.
c. So, the disciples were able to freely travel throughout the world and share the gospel. This was the first time in history that that kind of freedom was available
God had been preparing the world for this, and now that there was peace and a common language, the message could be spread and the world could hear of His love for them.
So the world was ready. It was peaceful and things were quiet, and then Christ came, to shake things up and the world would never look the same again.
Boiling Water Illustration
Unless there is a disruption, unless there is some sort of friction, the water will not boil. The world was seemingly calm, but under the surface, it was ready to boil; politically, economically, socially, things were happening that were making the temperature rise and when that baby was born, it provided the friction that was needed to bring things to a boil and nowhere do we see that more clearly than in what the birth of this child meant in the lives of the Pharisees and King Herod.
Jesus caused a disruption in what had become a normal way of life. He shook things up in many ways.
1) He shook things up by what He represented
The Pharisees were a sect of Jews who took it upon themselves to be the religious leaders of the day and they had made the most of this time when God was silent by making their views and religious ideas known. God may not have been speaking, but the Pharisees were and they were lording their authority and religious piety over their people. They took it upon themselves to interpret the scriptures and to instruct the Jews on how the Scriptures were to be lived out and applied in the daily lives of the Jewish people. They had appointed themselves as the enforcers of the law that was the covenant between God and the Jews. So, the Pharisees were very powerful men because they controlled much of the religious matters of the people and the Jewish life was centered around their religion.
The Pharisees had lofty and usually unattainable standards and were experts in the minutiae of the law. They strove to maintain perfection and looked sown upon any one who could not live up to the impossible standard of the law. They were elitists and had twisted God’s commands and laws into a list of do’s and don’ts that had all but removed God from the equation.
Some of the best dialogue in all of Scripture is found in Christ’s meetings with these Pharisees. He makes it clear how He feels about the way they conduct themselves.
MT 23:27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Jesus said that these men were not representing God and that on the inside they were sinful and arrogant. The Pharisees were using God’s words and laws to elevate themselves at the expense of others. They had a corner on the religious market and Jesus came to shake that up. The Pharisees claimed to be the source of and the keeper of the Truth, but Christ came as a representation of Truth in its purest form.
a. The Truth
John 18:37b …and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
Jesus was a threat to the way things were because He was claiming in His teaching and by His actions to be the representation of God’s Truth. And you know what? God’s truth looked very little like the religious legalism and oppression of the Pharisees. God had allowed his Truth to be misrepresented for long enough. God’s Truth was and always had been about love and grace. The law was a means to an end, that being communion with God, not an end in itself as the Pharisees had made it. Christ came as an accurate representation of the Truth and in doing so, the Pharisees knew they were going to be exposed.
b. The Sinner
Jesus also came to represent those that the Pharisees despised, the sinner. The prostitute, the tax collector, the demon-possessed, these were the ones who Christ had come to save and to invest Himself in.
Mark 2:16-17 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and `sinners’?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
These were the people that the Pharisees spent their days preaching against and taking every opportunity to make an example of them before other men.
Story of the Adulteress John 8:1-11
The Pharisees lived to condemn, to accuse, to judge, and to punish. Christ had come to represent the sinners and ultimately to bear the burden of their sin upon themselves. His love for the least of these stood in stark contrast to the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees and while they watched that love in action, their anger burned and they knew that they had to take care of this Jesus once and for all or they would lose all of the respect of the people and their credibility. They found their reason to kill Him in the third thing he came to represent.
c. The Father
Not only did Jesus come to represent the Father,
John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Not only did He claim to represent God, He claimed equality with God as well. This is what pushed the Pharisees over the edge and gave them a reason to seek Christ’s death.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one."
God had carefully guarded His presence throughout Jewish history. He was not accessible to men. The priest could enter his presence once a year at an appointed time but the average Joe simply did not have access to God. There were severe penalties for blasphemy, for speaking against God or for taking credit for things that only God could do. So, when this carpenter’s son from Nazareth claims not just to speak for God, but to be God, things were definitely shaken up. If this was God and His message was from God then the Pharisees had been wrong all along. Life for the Pharisees would never be the same again because Christ had exposed them for the hypocrites that they were and had set the record straight in terms of what relationship God desired with His Creation. He had done this through the things He had come to represent.
2) He Shook Things up by Causing Division
Most of us don’t consider this aspect of Christ’s birth. We know He came to bring peace, the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for was to be one that would usher them into a time of peace and prosperity. They envisioned a conquering hero that would lead them to throw off their yoke of oppression and regain their status as the chosen people of God. Christ did not meet those initial expectations, like we talked about last week; the peace He came to bring was between God and man. We know He came to save us, but Christ also knew that His birth and life would be a source of division. It would tear apart countries and families and turn friends against each other.
Luke 12:51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
We read a passage like this and we think; “What on Earth is Christ talking about?” This seems to go against all of the ideas we have about the love of God and why Christ was sent to Earth. Peace we understand, but division, that’s a little tougher. And yet we see the practical fulfillment of Christ’s words everyday. Christ is saying here that because of the nature of His mission, because of the life-changing effects of His call, because of the consuming nature of a spirit filled life, and the eternal consequences of our decision to accept or reject who He was, division would follow. When Christ came, he forced a choice upon people, from that time on a decision would have to be made by each person what to do with this Jesus. The Pharisees made their decision as did the disciples and other believers and as a result, what had been Judaism was now forever divided.
Christ knew He would be the cause of division among men in many different ways. We have seen nations divided over spiritual beliefs. In some countries the decision to accept Christ results in being disowned or even killed. Families would be divided when one leaves to follow a Christ that the rest of the family does not believe in, or when children reject the God of their parents and go their own way. Many of you know the pain of a loved one or family member that does not hold the same beliefs that you do. The division may not be an outward one, there is still love and you still function as a family, but when you get on your knees and pray for them, you know the division that Christ is talking about. It’s knowing that you cannot share yourselves completely together because the God who is at the center of your life is not even a part of theirs. And you know that the division Christ is speaking of is one that will extend to eternity if that loved one does not choose to accept the gift of Christ. Do you see the division? That which thrills our soul, the knowledge of our salvation is also the source of our greatest pain when we see the ones we love choose their way over God’s way.
Marriages would be divided when Christ changes the heart of a husband and the wife will not follow or the other way around. Christ’s work on Earth would forever be causing division along spiritual lines. The salvation experience is such a personal thing and a relationship with Christ is so life altering that it changes who we are. In a family relationship or in a marriage relationship, if at the very core of who you are, down in your soul, you find two very different beliefs, there is going to be division.
We also see that division even in American culture as a whole. Our nation as a whole has wholeheartedly turned from God. Christianity is ridiculed and Christians are the butt of many jokes and looked at as weak and delusional. Any other belief system or religion is tolerated and accepted but if you’re a Christian, you’re labeled and dismissed as misguided. Christ came to Earth, Hallelujah! He won for us a victory that ensured an eternity with Him, Praise God! But He knew that a result of His work and mission would also be division. His coming shook things up by leaving all of us with a decision to make and the results of that decision would be division and heartache for many. We saw this in Christ’s day as the Pharisees refused to believe as we see it today as many reject what we know they need most.
Christ shook things up by what he represented, and he shook things up by the division that he would cause, the third reason that this little baby boy would shake up the world was that he:
3) He Shook Things Up By Coming to Rule
Jesus came to claim His rightful place as King and God shared that with the wise men. He told them that the baby boy that had been born was the King of the Jews that had been prophesied about. The only problem with this was that there was already a self-proclaimed King of the Jews ruling and he was a King who would go to great lengths to ensure that His reign continued and that the status quo was maintained.
MT 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
MT 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
Much has been written in history about King Herod. Historians remember him as a ruthless and cunning leader. He was the ruler of the Jews and the Romans had given him the official title of “King of the Jews.” Like the Pharisees, he lorded his position over the people. He also was a very paranoid ruler. Herod’s father was also a king and had been killed when a member of his court had poisoned his dinner one night. After watching his father die, Herod decided that that would never be his fate. He had 10 emergency fortresses built, all heavily armed and well provisioned. He also established a vast network of spies to sniff out any conspiracy against him. Herod had ruled this way for 40 years and had brought peace to the area. His enemies had been destroyed and every threat to his throne was wiped out. And then the wise men came and shared what they had seen and been told and the paranoia kicks in again. Herod was not about to give up his throne.
In the responses of the wise men and of Herod, you see two extremes. The wise men followed the star, bowed before the child king and gave him gifts that were befitting the true king of the Jews. They knew He came to rule and they accepted that. Herod’s reaction was the opposite. Christ represented change and giving up control. He would not acknowledge an authority other than himself and he even had all of the children in that area under the age of two killed to try to preserve his throne and wipe out this perceived threat. It didn’t work. Jesus grew and accomplished His mission on Earth and will one day return as the conquering King and nothing that any Earthly power can do will stop the coming of that day.
He shook things up in Herod’s life and in the lives of the people of Jerusalem. But this aspect of why He came is still shaking things up today. Christ has come to rule in our lives. But, like Herod, all of us desire control. All of us have a natural desire to be the authority in our lives and will go to great lengths to maintain control, but a new king has come and wants to rule. There will come a day when He is revealed in all of His glory, there will come a day when every knee will bow before this king but until that day He gives us a choice. He will not take the throne of our lives by force.
Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
REV 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
He won’t break the door down, but he will enter when He is asked. He wants to take His rightful place, the place He earned through His death on the cross and His resurrection. He wants to rule as King in our lives. There are some of you here this morning that have never opened that door. There are some who are still trying their hardest to rule their own lives and they may hear Christ knocking but the door remains closed because, like Herod, we worked hard to gain control and we don’t want to give that up. But, you’re finding that life is empty and unfulfilling and not quite like you thought it would be. We were created for a purpose and that purpose is to know God and to make Him known to others. When we discover that purpose and begin a relationship with Christ and stop trying to do things ourselves, we will find peace and contentment like this world cannot provide. Christ came to rule. He came to rule in your life and he stands waiting. It’s time to let him in. As we walk through this Christmas season together, there’s no better time to begin a lifetime relationship with Jesus Christ than during this time of celebrating His birth.
The issue of control doesn’t end with salvation though. There are others here who have opened that door and invited Christ in but you still have not given up control and let him reign. You’ve let him in the vehicle but you won’t let him drive. Like the wise men, you found Christ. You found the Savior but unlike those men, you haven’t truly bowed before him and given over control. You haven’t offered your gifts for him to take and use. Christ came to shake things up; by what he represented, by the division that came through choosing how we respond to Him, and because he came to rule and He wants to do that in your life this morning.
I want to talk to two different groups of people this morning.
Romans 10:9 tells us: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The other group is that one who has accepted Christ and you’re still trying to do things in your own strength. Jesus said: MT 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."