Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Greatest Gift
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
At this time of year, I love to review the prophecies of Christ's first coming. This particular promise in Isaiah is especially comforting to me as I look around our world today and see the hate, war and violence that seems to grow worse each day. What wonders this verse holds when you read it closely!
"A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us." The birth of Jesus was indeed a gift to God's creation, a gift to God's people. It was a gift of indescribable magnitude, but as was foretold, many at the time didn't realize the full implication of what that baby in a manger meant to the world. They didn't "recognize the time of their visitation." Many remembered the prophesied Messiah, but they thought of him in terms of an earthly political leader who would end their oppression. And that indeed lies in the future. But at the time of His birth, there was another agenda to accomplish. Before He set up His earthly kingdom, He had another task to fulfill.
Once in a while, the song "Mary Did You Know" comes to mind. There's a line that says, "Mary did you know when you kissed your baby boy, you kissed the face of God?" That line brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it. Many have wondered what Mary knew as she saw Jesus growing up before her. We know from Luke 2 that Simeon warned Mary, "a sword will pierce your own soul, to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Jesus, said Simeon, was appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel. But first, He had another task to fulfill.
I can remember another movie about the life of Christ. In it was another scene that made me tear up. The scene involved the young Jesus (at age 12) walking to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph. Along the road was a row of crosses set up with men crucified on them. The boy Jesus looked up at the crosses with a very sober look on His face. That really got to me. Of course, that is an extra-biblical account and a Hollywood dramatic creation, but it certainly could have happened. Jesus knew even at that age that He had to "be about His Father's business." It truly is a wonder to contemplate just how much the Father revealed to Him and when. The Bible tells us Jesus "continued to grow and become strong in spirit." Did He know at age 12 what He would have to face? Did He know that, before He reigned in Jerusalem, that He had another task to fulfill? Just thinking about the realities of the Incarnation is mind-boggling. Fully God and fully man. How did He do it? And moreover, why did He do it? Why would the Creator of the universe expose Himself to the abuse He endured at the hands of His own creation? He could have easily taken over the entire world and deposed all rulers with just a word. But Jesus had something else to do first.
First, Jesus had to buy the salvation of His people with His own precious blood. He came first to die on the cross for our sins, and to rise again from the dead for our justification. All who believe in Him and put their trust in His finished work on that cross have eternal life. And yes, one day -- perhaps even in our lifetimes -- He will return to fulfill the rest of prophecy, ruling and reigning on the throne of His father David. Hallelujah, what a Savior!