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Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

The Jews who lived at the time when Jesus was born were waiting for a savior. They had been oppressed and subject to foreign rule for over 400 years. The prophets who lived back in the day, back in the glory years, told of a time when the rebellious nation of Israel and the kingdom of Judah would fall to other rulers as punishment for their disobedience to God’s law. But they also told of a Savior who would come and rescue them one day.

So they waited and waited and endured the pagans who ruled over them, mistreated them, and taxed them heavily. But no true Savior appeared to deliver them. To save them. A few wannabe saviors rose up and led the people for short periods of time, but it always came to nothing. And while some of the Jews surely gave up on the idea of a Savior, others kept holding on to the dream; hoping and waiting.

One day an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. We all know the story. Joseph felt himself in need of a savior, because he was in a real pickle. His fiance, Mary, was pregnant, and the child inside her wasn’t from him.

“What to do? What to do?” Joseph must have been thinking and I imagine it took awhile until he fell into a fitful sleep that night.

The angle told him to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. He was told to give the baby boy the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means The Lord Saves.

Well, this isn’t exactly the kind of saving that Joseph was hoping for. As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the kind of saving that the Jews were looking for either. According to the angel, this “savior” would not liberate Israel from foreign oppression and restore it to its former glory, but would “save his people from their sins.”

What kind of savior is that? They already had forgiveness of sins through sacrifices of animals in the temple. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. While they had forgiveness of sins, they weren’t saved from their sins. A greater power was oppressing them than Caesar Augustus. An unrelenting tyrant called Sin had enslaved them; not since the days of the Babylonian Exile from Israel, but since the Exile from Eden.

Because of the Savior growing in Mary’s womb- the Savior that would be laid in a manger in Bethlehem- the Savior who would die on a cross- and the Savior that would rise from the dead and walk out of a tomb, all of God’s people would be saved from a fate worse than physical death – that would be spiritual death.

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

As for you, you were dead in in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (verses 1 and 2)

Sounds pretty grave and hopeless, but then the Savior came!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins – it is by grace you have been saved. (verse 4)

This Christmas let us rejoice in the Savior who has saved us from Sin and raises up with Christ in the heavenly realms!

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I recently read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’ve read it many times. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Every time I read it, something new stands out. This time I was struck by Paul’s use of the word Christ. He uses that title for Jesus over and over. 38 Times in this short, four chapter book. He uses the word Christ more than he uses the name Jesus.  When we study the Bible, one of the first questions we should ask ourselves is “What did these words mean to the person that wrote them?” So, what did Paul have in mind when he wrote the word Christ? What is his concept of Christ?

We have to remember that Paul was thoroughly Jewish. His concept of almost everything was informed and shaped by what we call the Old Testament or, more accurately, the First Testament. The word we read as Christ, comes from the Greek word Khristos, which comes from the Hebrew word khriein, which means to anoint, translating the Hebrew masiah or Messiah. Paul was totally steeped in the Hebrew language, and every time he wrote the word Christ, he was probably thinking of the Hebrew word khriein or masiah.

The picture of someone being anointed in the O.T. is someone having olive oil poured on their head. This was a sacred rite reserved for three types of people: prophets, priests and kings.

The prophet Elisha was anointed by Elijah (1Kings 19:16).

The first priest, Aaron, was anointed by Moses (Exodus 29:7).

King David was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1,13)

Most of the O.T. Prophets spoke and wrote about an anointed One that was to come. One that would restore peace, prosperity and wholeness to his people, his Chosen Ones. This person was commonly referred as the Messiah.  This Messiah was sometimes referred to as a great prophet, or a priest, or king, like King David.

Most of the post exilic Jews longingly looked for, prayed for, and hoped for this Messiah. Paul was no exception. He fervently and zealously awaited the Messiah and did everything in his power to bring about the soon return of this exalted Prophet, Priest and King.

There was always the questions among the Jews, “When would the Messiah come? ” “What was taking him so long?” What was the cause of his delay? “

 The more zealous of the Jews, like Paul, thought they had the answer.  It was the Jews own fault. The Jews that didn’t take the law of God, or the Torah, seriously enough. They failed in so many areas of keeping the Law.  They were lax in their commitment to and obedience of the Law.  If only these slackers could be convinced or coerced to do better, that would surely hasten the Messiahs  appearance and rule and liberate the people from the despised Roman oppression.

And then there was The Way.  The Way was a group of Jews who proclaimed that the Messiah had come in the person of a man named Jesus. Not only was he the Messiah, but they claimed he was the Son of God.  Blasphemy! Obvious blasphemy!  This Jesus was shown to be a fraud and a heretic and hung up on a cross to die.  The Law said, “Cursed is any man hung on a tree!” This man Jesus was not the blessed Messiah, but a man cursed by God to die a humiliating death. Perhaps if there was one main reason the true Messiah would not come soon, it was due to the rabble called the Way, and Paul set out to do something about it!

He set out toward Damascus to persecute, jail, and maybe kill some of The Way, as those zealous for the Torah did to Stephen, one of the Way’s leader’s.  On the road to Damascus, a strong light and a voice from heaven caused Paul to fall to the ground. The voice called out to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me!”

 Paul said, “Who are you?”

 The voice from heaven basically said, “I am Jesus, the Messiah.”

 After that, Paul’s world was never the same.  It was turned upside down and inside out. Indeed, the Messiah had come. Paul had to admit it. And he was glad. The long foretold  and divinely sent Prophet, Priest and King had truly come.  That fact totally transformed and revolutionized Paul’s outlook and worldview.

Paul’s new mission in life would be to proclaim the Good News that the Messiah, the Christ, had really come to earth to set up a new kind of kingdom, one that gave sight to the blind and set the captives free! Paul could now see the truth and live in true freedom! He was now living in right relationship with God and was filled with joy and peace.  And it was all due to the Messiah, Christ Jesus!

We are in the Advent season. Advent is a time of hopeful expectation. Paul spent the first part of his life in hopeful expectation, waiting for the Messiah to come. He spent the rest of his life rejoicing that the Messiah had come. In this period of Advent, we too can rejoice with Paul and be glad that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, has come, and because of that we are a new creation, living in His love and loving others.

Advent is also a time to remember that we are living in the Already, but Not Yet. We already are experiencing the blessings of being Kingdom dwellers, but the Kingdom is still growing and not yet complete. We already have that peace that surpasses all understanding, but we do not yet have world peace. We already have a new life within, but we are not yet free from pain and suffering; we have not yet had every tear wiped away by the gentle hand of Jesus.

We are still waiting for the Messiah. We are waiting for his return. When he comes he will not come as a baby in a manger, but as King of kings and Lord of lords, coming with the blast of a trumpet on clouds of glory. This time he will not be humiliated and crucified, but will rule with justice and righteousness and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

Maranatha – Come quickly!

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