If you are wondering, “How can I know God,” here are three different answers you might hear: 1. “We cannot know God.” This is the position of many people today. If you look at any of the recent religious surveys, it is clear that don’t knows are on the rise. That may well be...
As a baby, laying in the manger, Jesus was the eternal, infinite, and unchangeable Creator of the universe, while taking on a temporal, finite, and changeable human body. People had strong reactions to the birth of Jesus. Consumed with fear, shepherds cowered. Consumed with jealousy and hatred, Herod attempted to murder Jesus. And, consumed with joy, angels worshipped and proclaimed:
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).
The shepherds, the angels, and Herod all had strong reactions because they knew what the birth of Jesus meant. They knew what would happen next. So, this Christmas season, let’s praise the eternal Son of God not only for taking on human form, but also for dying for humanity’s sin, and being raised from the dead so humanity might do the same.
The Birth of Jesus: The Word Made Flesh
At last, the moment the world greatly anticipated had come. The Logos, the ordering principle behind its creation and preservation, arrived. He lay vulnerable in a manger. He bore the Father’s glory and was full of grace and truth. God’s promises and provisions pointed to this babe. Through Jesus, the world’s groanings of pain and longing will transform into proclamations of joy and satisfaction.
In taking human form, Jesus experienced many things through his life that we experience. Throughout his life, he experienced the hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and a desire for peace, somewhere to call home, and for his people to accept him. Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. Jesus endured restless nights and mornings. His people rejected him. Jesus had no home.
Jesus experienced the reality of depending upon the Father for all his need and endured the failure of those needs being met. Two comforts arise from this statement. First, during this, he remained perfectly righteous. And it is this righteousness that can be attributed to us as our own if we believe in him. Second, he is our perfect high priest who sympathizes with our struggles and weaknesses. He hears our prayers and intercedes for us before the Father.
The Death of Jesus: Our Legal Representative and Perfect Sacrifice
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).
What a humbling contradiction! Jesus is the exact image of Yahweh, the Word through and for whom all things were created, and the preserver of all things (Colossians 1:15-17). Yet, he surrendered himself to a horrendous death. Our imagination quickly runs to the physical which was insufferable. He was stripped, beaten, mocked, and nailed to a cross where he endured great thirst. But, the wrath and rejection of his Father were far worse.
Can you imagine the suffering? For all of eternity, Jesus fully experienced his Father’s love through the Holy Spirit’s begetting. But, in his humanity, Jesus experienced what we deserved to endure for all eternity. He gasped one last breath, declaring the agony of his suffering. Yet, he was greater than the penalty. He was fully God, and he would overcome death.
As our representative, Jesus accomplished what Adam failed to do. He surrendered himself to the Father’s will, which was momentarily his humiliation. As our perfect sacrifice, Jesus consumed the Father’s wrath and rejection. Now, in Christ, we are legally holy and blameless before the Father.
The Resurrection of Jesus: Our Champion Over Sin and Death
After submitting himself to humiliation, the Father exalted him. On the third day, by the Father’s approval and the Holy Spirit’s power, Jesus rose from the dead. Our ransom had been paid in full. Thus, the Father began his renovation project of creation. After being resurrected, Jesus walked out of his grave in a glorified body, not as some angelic ghostlike figure. He talked with his disciples and ate a breakfast of fish and bread with them on the beach. As the firstborn of this renovation project, Jesus’ glorified body will also be ours one day.
Formerly, we despised Jesus, rather than holding him up in esteem. But, now by the Father’s approval, the spoken and proclaimed Word, and the Holy Spirit’s power, we are new creations. The renovation accomplished in Jesus’ body has begun in us. Let us take comfort in this good news as we endure various degrees and experiences of chaos and darkness around us. One day, they will be overcome and replaced with overwhelming glory. This glory will enable us to live in joyful and rightful community with God and one another expressed by dancing, singing, and feasting.
The Christmas season points to this great comfort. Our God is orchestrating all things to that time when all earthly and heavenly things are united in Christ.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways.
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?’
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).