The Ultimate Revelation
Next week brings forth the time of celebration in which Christians celebrate the gift of eternal life by celebrating the one life that brought it forth. But not everyone will be celebrating the birth of a savior. For many Christmas has a different significance, if it has any significance at all, emphasizing gifts, food, and family. Christmas has become well-known though, as the holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s revelation of Himself, veiled in human flesh, to mankind.
God had been preparing the world for this grand revelation for generations. The Old Testament prophets spoke of His coming. The Old Testament events foreshadowed the one who would save the world from their sins. And upon Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, God left us with a preponderance of evidence of Christ’s existence, Scripturally and secularly.
The birth of Christ is not merely the beginning of God’s plan, but is actually the continuation of it. His will had long been revealed through the prophets. It was the perfect will of God set into motion thousands of years ago and it had become fully unveiled for the world to see: God had now come in the form of Jesus Christ.
The Ultimate Request
At the appropriate, God-ordained time, Jesus Christ began His ministry to the people. It was a ministry marked with absurdity. Through Christ the New Covenant commenced. He inaugurated a new lifestyle of justification and sanctification. And throughout His ministry, Christ had the audacity to ask men, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). He went so far as to equate following Him with the concept of one picking up his own cross, forsaking friends, family, and the world (Luke 9:23-27; 14:25-26).
James warns us that trials will come (note that he does not write if trials come, but when in James 1:2) and both Jesus and John indicate that the world will hate us (Matthew 10:22; John 15:18; 1 John 3:1). There is no guarantee of an easy life and it defies all logic to exchange the known for the unknown. But Jesus Christ never asked us to do that, despite what we may think. His request to follow Him was exchanging the ambiguity of life with the assurance of life.
The Ultimate Response
Such a radical request demands a radical response. Ultimately people will respond one of two ways, and both are very extreme. They are the same responses we see in Scripture from God’s people towards His Son:
- An Adjustment of Expectations: We all expect God’s will to be manifest in certain ways and when it doesn’t happen the way we planned, we either adjust our expectations or adjust our god. There are many who followed Christ, such as the disciples and even eventually His own brothers. The people expected a political liberator, freeing them from the political oppression they faced from Rome. When Christ did not deliver this some left, but others did not. They recognized that God’s will was different than their own expectations, but trusted His plans more than their own.
- An Adjustment of the Messiah: Those who chose not to follow Christ decided that he could not be the Messiah. They exchanged God’s ways for their own ways and when their ways were not met, they simply looked for a new Messiah.
These are the same two responses we see in our culture today. There are those who adjust their expectations and place their faith in God alone. There are others who refuse to see the wisdom in God’s plan and thus put their faith in another god. It may be money, prestige or a litany of other things. Regardless they have rejected the holiness of God for sinfulness of society.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ next week, we look upon the responses of men in Scripture and note three ways in which responses towards God are manifested:
- Anger: As Herod learns of the Messiah’s birth and the trickery of the wise men, his response is anger which is manifested through the killing of young children (Matthew 2:16).
- Apathy: Upon learning from the wise men of the Messiah’s birth, Herod summons the priests and scribes to learn more. They tell him exactly who this Messiah is, but notice there is no indication they react (Matthew 2:3-7). The grandest event in human history materialized during their lifetime, and they responded in apathy, with no action upon the knowledge they had.
- Animation: The wise men however responded differently. Having very little information, they acted on that information with excitement and joy, seeking out the Messiah so that they may worship Him.
This is where we are at today. We can respond to Christmas in anger as some have done in protest to any religious event. Or we can respond in apathy, with little care or concern for the significance of what is taking place we simply continue through the motions. Or we can respond like the wise men, with animation for our Lord and Savior, seeking Him out in order that we may worship Him. The Lord has come! Will you rejoice in Him or reject Him?
Note: This writing is solely my own, however the outline of anger, apathy, and animation came as a result of my reading of “The Incarnation of the Gospels” as part of the Reformed Expository Commentary series.