Why Was Jesus Born
December 24, 2014
WHY WAS JESUS BORN?
December 24, 2014
About 2,000 years before Jesus’ birth, God spoke to the patriarch Abraham and gave him an incredible promise. Even though he was 100 years old and childless, his descendants were to grow into a nation. Part of that promise also said that …
… all people on earth will be blessed through you (your offspring). Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18
This was still a BIG promise. Every ethnic group would be blessed … not conquered, which is what every other important person would want to hear … but blessed, and not blessed BY you, because he lacked the time, energy and wherewithal to travel through the then known world to personally bless, but THROUGH you, or THROUGH your offspring.
How could Abraham believe such a thing? How in the world could this come about? If you know the story, Abraham and his wife Sarah thought that she was too old to have children, so she gave him her slave girl Hagar instead. Hagar did get pregnant and gave birth to Ishmael. Yet God said that the promise would come through Sarah and indeed she did get pregnant and gave birth to Isaac, the son of promise.
Isaac in turn had Esau and Jacob, Jacob had 12 sons, each of those sons was married and became a family, which over generations grew into a tribe. And those 12 tribes grew into a nation which eventually conquered Canaan.
And in one of those tribes, the tribe of Judah, there was a man named Jesse and his youngest son David became the 2nd king over the nation. He was a warrior king who defeated the nations immediately surrounding him and consolidated the kingdom during his 40 year reign.
David ushered in a time of relative peace and prosperity. He reigned from Jerusalem, which he fortified and had an elaborate royal palace built which his son, Solomon, increased considerably. The temple was also built during Solomon’s 40 year reign. It was Solomon who lived in unmitigated pomp and splendor with his 700 wives and 300 concubines (good thing they weren’t buying Christmas gifts back then).
It was the time which will be viewed by all subsequent Israeli generations as the golden age of Israel.
If ever there was a time when the world could have been blessed through one of the descendants of Abraham, this would have been it. The time of King David and his son Solomon. But David died, Solomon died, and the world was not blessed because of them.
After Solomon the kingdom divided, into the northern kingdom of Judah and the southern kingdom of Israel. Both of those kingdoms had an ever decreasing influence, both became pawns between the ambitions of much larger forces: the empire of Egypt to the south and the empire of the Assyrians, and subsequently the Babylonians to the north. Their ability to influence the world for good became less and less realistic
Israel was conquered with the fall of the capital Samaria. Judah fell when Jerusalem was taken.
Many of the citizens of both kingdoms were taken as slaves, deported, and would never return.
Not even 350 years after Solomon’s death, Israel no longer existed as a nation.
And the promise to Abraham seemed like it was just an old fairy tale that parents told their children at night before bedtime to give them hope for the future of their people. The promise to be a blessing to the nations must have dimmed even further.
Yet prophets still arose who kept saying that another king would arise, a direct descendant of David, who would make the promise to Abraham come true.
He would be the Meschiach, the Messiah, the anointed one who would not only turn around the fortunes of the nation of Israel, but positively impact all the nations, all the ethic groups, in the whole world. In Isaiah 49, God says this to “the messianic servant.”
Behold … my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have put my Spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations.
I will also make you a light for the nations, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 42:1; 49:6
While the people of Israel would have looked at themselves and the state of their nation and said, How it the world could this ever happen? We have no voice. No one takes us seriously anymore, they still had this hope against all circumstances that an individual from David’s lineage would come back to the throne and change their fate. But they thought of their anointed one as another warrior king. And time went on.
Even though the Assyrians had conquered Israel and the Babylonians had conquered Judah, over time the Persians ended up conquering the Babylonians (allowing some Jews to return to Jerusalem), the Greeks conquered the Persians, the Romans conquered the Greeks.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jewish nation was fragmented, the land inhabited by all kinds of people, the Greek culture and language was prevalent, the Roman rule was oppressive, cruel and violent.
It seemed less and less likely that the promise to Abraham would ever be fulfilled. Yet the hope for a warrior king persisted.
And then the angel Gabriel spoke to a teenage girl living in the town of Nazareth that she was going to have a son named Jesus who would be this king in the lineage of David. And this promise came when the king who currently ruled the Roman province of Judea was an Idumean whose reign was at the behest of Rome.
Now, Mary is told that this son would be called, the Son of God, and that he would be different from all kings who ever lived or would live in the future because his reign over “the house of Jacob” will NEVER end (Lk 1:33).
And then the angel appeared to a man named Joseph in a dream. He was engaged to be married to this teenage girl and told him that the baby to be born is to be called Jesus (in Hebrew Yehoshua, which means God saves), because
… he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
This Jesus was not to be the warrior king who would destroy all of Israel’s oppressors in battle. He was the one who would deal with a much more serious problem, the one that kept God’s people from God himself.
Because of the census ordered by emperor Augustus, a census being the enumeration for tax purposes, every adult male had to go to their place of birth, meaning that Joseph had to go to Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David in whose lineage he was.
The Roman emperor at the time, Augustus, was by all accounts a very effective ruler, which isn’t saying much in comparison with the likes of Nero and Caligula. What is of interest is that he was the adoptive son of Julius Ceasar, who had been deified after his death, worshipped as a god. So Augustus, in one sense, was the son of a god.
Yet when do we hear about Augustus? Yes, in some course at University on Roman history. But other than that, we hear about him in Luke as a footnote in the story of the birth of the Son of God.
2,000 years after the promise to Abraham, God had initiated the final fulfillment of the promise to Abraham to bless, not only Abraham’s descendants, but every ethnic group in the whole world.
Matthew begins his lineage of Jesus with these words:
A record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1
Jesus was the Meschiach, the anointed king, the end of a line that began with Abraham, ran through King David, whose actions would provide a blessing far beyond the nation of Israel.
This is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds in the fields,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10
So we look at this (manger, nativity) scene and what does moral lesson do we learn from it? That we need to be sure to make reservations before we travel at a particular busy season? That we not to travel when 9 months pregnant?
When we sanitize this picture and set it on our mantle it can become a fairy tale or a cartoon with no real meaning. Maybe a sentimental moment that takes us back to our childhood, but certainly nothing that would make any difference to us in our stressed, face paced, day to day, adult lives.
It is easy to write off Jesus’ birth as just a sentimental story about a rather insignificant event, in an insignificant hamlet, in an insignificant part of the world, over 2000 years ago, that has no bearing on our lives today.
We can think that, if there is any truth in that story, it surely isn’t for me because God has abandoned me. Just look at my life. Look at the struggles I deal with. I don’t see God answering any of my prayers. I see a world in turmoil. So I don’t hang out with religious people … well maybe over Christmas I might only visit my religious relatives, but I’m only at church to please them.
Well, life was no easier for the shepherds in the fields, one of the lowest paying positions at that time. Most shepherds were a pretty hardened bunch and pretty rough around the edges.
They had to protect their sheep from wolves, bears and other animals of prey. They had to protect them from robbers and rustlers. At times they had to find protection from the elements for their flock. They weren’t immune from sickness or worry. On their meagre earnings they still had to pay an oppressive amount of taxes. Many of them were not very religious or particularly good. They knew instinctively that they feel into this category of “sinners” that the angels said needed a “Saviour” who would bring them back to God.
We may say of ourselves that we do not need God’s forgiveness, that we are good people, but if we look deep down into our souls, I think we will know that we are no better than the shepherds because we don’t even live out our own conscience, we don’t even keep our own rules, never mind God’s. We not only need God’s forgiveness, but we need to forgive ourselves and in turn extend forgiveness to others. We are all sinners who need a Saviour.
If we recognize that the birth of Jesus was the end of the lineage and the beginning of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise rippling outward through time and space …
… concentric circles of blessing begin, from person to person, from Jew to non-Jew, from Jerusalem, Judea, Turkey, Greece, Rome and beyond from generation to generation and even down to us today.
I am convinced that even the most cynical of us somehow and in some way have intersected in one way or another with the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that God would bless all people through his offspring.
Even if we are not aware of it, our lives have been blessed indirectly or directly with the reality of Jesus’ birth, either because of his ethical teaching, his focus on charity, extending forgiveness to others, loving the unlovable, forgiving the repentant, ...
Maybe someone else was compassionate or kind to us in some way because they have truly grasped that God’s love has rippled into their lives know that they have to pay forward that kind of love to others.
Jesus is our Saviour when we accept that the forgiveness of sins that the angel spoke about … and know of and experience the ability to be in relationship with God because Jesus’ death on the cross set aside anything and everything that could possibly separate us from God.
And so, at Jesus’ birth the angels rejoiced while the demons trembled.
Maybe this evening you have begun to realize that you’ve been in perpetual drift away from God this year and that it is time to come back.
Maybe this evening you have been reminded that God’s love is not something that he is withholding from you, and you need to respond to that love by coming to him as a sinner in need of forgiveness.
Maybe this evening has been a time when you have considered the blessing that Jesus’ birth has brought into your life and you know that you must become a conduit for that blessing to those around you.
Whatever the case, this Christmas may you take a hold of the greatest gift that is offered to you … and allow it to change you, and therefore your life, for the better.
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR ME TO ACCEPT FULLY THE PROMISE OF SALVATION IN AND THROUGH JESUS?
Thank you heavenly Father for preserving for us the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise over 2,000 years ago. For those of us who grew up with this story, may we not only rejoice in good childhood memories but in the reality that this is good news for us today as much as it was for the shepherds back then – and then pay it forward. For those of us who have been drifting from you, may we hear your quiet voice calling us back to the place where you would want us to be.