THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM

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1 1 THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM Millions of babies have been born down through the centuries but one of these stands out like a towering mountain above all the others the babe of Bethlehem. What makes Him so different from all the rest? One thing is certain: the baby of Bethlehem was no ordinary child. Scripture refers to Him as the Alpha and Omega [the First and the Last], who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8). The babe of Bethlehem was different because of who He was, because of what He did, and because of what He is destined to do. Shortly after Adam and Eve sinned, by partaking of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, God promised that one day he would send One who would put enmity between Satan and the woman, between the offspring of the devil and the offspring of the woman [ the seed ], and One who would crush the head of the serpent Satan (Ge 3:15). WHO HE WAS The Old Testament prophets tried in every possible way possible to describe what Messiah would be like when He arrived. Moses said: He will be a prophet mighty in word and deed. Jeremiah said: He will execute justice and righteousness in the land. Isaiah first gives a description of who He is: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6).

2 2 The glories of the coming Messiah were simply too great for the prophets to adequately describe. Try as they may, they were never quite able to say everything they wanted about Him, to try to capture His glory, even through the use of metaphors and every figure of speech, every type, every symbol. They and others, especially hymn writers, looked at the sun and said, He is the sun of righteousness. looked at the stars and said, He is the morning star. looked at the mountains and said, He is the great mountain of Israel. looked at the rocks and said, He is a rock in the midst of a weary land. looked at the lions and said, He is the lion of the tribe of Judah. looked at the lambs and said, He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Naturally, Messiah s coming became the burning hope of people throughout Old Testament times. The woman at the well put it: I know Messiah is coming. When He arrives He will teach us all things. Century after century they waited for Him. Two Different Portraits Strangely enough, when the prophets described what Messiah would be like they painted two completely different portraits of him both on the same canvas--both in the same frame. For those living prior to His arrival these two portraits were difficult to comprehend. One the one hand the prophets said he would be a suffering-servant ; on the other hand they said He would be a reigning king. As suffering Savior, He would be despised and rejected of people, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He would be led as sheep to the slaughter; he would be betrayed by a friend and sold for 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He would endure rejection and shame and give His back to the smiters; He would be wounded for our transgressions, and His soul would be made an offering for sin (Isa 53; Ps 22). DESTINED TO DO Then Isaiah gives a description of what he will do: Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord almighty will accomplish this (Isa 9:7).

3 3 As reigning King, He would execute righteousness and justice in the land. His dominion would stretch from sea to sea. Under His influence the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In His day many people would say: Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob; for He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His path (Zec 9:9-10; 11:12; Isa 2:3). Since the portrait of the reigning Messiah was so much more appealing to them than the portrait of the suffering-savior, the Jews emphasized the kingly portrait and ignored the other. But while they were preaching and teaching that a Messiah-king was coming to save them from the oppression of their enemies, an entirely different plan was quietly unfolding. Gabriel, the archangel, startled Mary, saying, Hail, you are highly favored, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. You shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the son of the highest. When Mary objected, saying, How shall this be since I do not know a man sexually? Gabriel answered, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born shall be called the Son of God. No child had ever been called that before. To call Him this was proper, because Isaiah had rightfully called Him, Immanuel meaning God with us (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:28-35). At the age of 12 Christ was already debating Scripture with the doctors of the law in the temple. And those who heard Him was amazed at His understanding. At age 33 He left Nazareth to launch His public ministry. Up to that time He lived in humble obedience to His earthly parents. Claims As He ministered He said and did amazing things! The claims of Christ were astounding. He claimed that God the Father sent Him.

4 4 He claimed that the words he spoke, God had actually given Him, and that everything He did, He did according to the commandment of God. He claimed that He would be the final Judge of the world. He said that to know Him was to know the Father. In fact, He said that He and God were one. Character In the character of Christ all the virtues found their perfect balance. Loving but not sentimental (Evangelicals) Compassionate but not indulgent (Liberals) Meek but not weak (Liberals) Holy but not harsh (Fundamentalists) Righteous but not petty (Fundamentalists) Powerful but not power-hungry (Cults) Authoritative but not authoritarian (Cults) Perfect but not proud Master, Lord, King but not dictator (Cults) Miracles and Teachings The miracles Jesus performed were astounding. The teachings He proclaimed were like no other. Even the Pharisees were amazed. They said He taught as one with authority. His selfless acts were unprecedented for He did not come to serve, but to serve and give His life as a ransom. Is it any wonder it is from His birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, and it is by His name that millions curse and in His name that millions pray. Within a few centuries Jesus had become Lord of the very empire which crucified Him! What has been written about Him is true: ONE SOLITARY LIFE Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two

5 5 hundred miles from the placed where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself... While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executors gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as that one solitary life. HIS CLAIM UPON OUR LIVES Not only in the Sermon on the Mount, but throughout all His teaching, Jesus frames the issue of His own identity in such a way that the question of who He was and is cannot be avoided. He said to the people of His day, I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the One I claim to be, you will die in your sins (Jn 8:24).. Jesus is both the suffering servant and the Messiah. He is both the babe of Bethlehem and the Lord of lords and King of kings. This is why we are not asked to simply accept His teaching, but to accept Him. And it is why Jesus demands unparalleled allegiance. This is why He commanded His followers to believe in Him, love Him, obey Him, sacrifice for Him, worship Him, and, if need be, die for Him as they would for God. The babe of Bethlehem is One who is worthy of our allegiance. At the Christmas time I encourage you to come to Jesus, who was born to die that we might live. He is graciously and patiently waiting for your love and devotion. If you do, you will find this Christmas to be different from any other.

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