"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." John 1:1-3
|"...the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him....." John 1:10-13|
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
Why didn't Jesus show some gratitude when Peter sympathized with His imminent crucifixion? Remember the story? Toward the end of His earthly ministry Jesus began to prepare His disciples to face His suffering and death, but Peter refused to accept the bad news. "Far be it from You, Lord," he argued. "This shall not happen to You!" Then Jesus answered Peter,
Those words sound harsh, don't they? Especially in light of today's obsession with unbiblical tolerance. Didn't Jesus see the compassion in Peter's heart? Didn't our merciful Lord understand that His friend's motives were good and worthy of kindness, not rebuke?
Of course Jesus understood! But He didn't come to earth to see reality through our eyes. He already knew man's thoughts, feelings and short-sighted perspectives.[John 2:24-25] Instead, He came to open our eyes and change our hearts so that we might see reality from His perspective. He had something better than sympathy to offer His friend. Peter needed correction, not affirmation. To fulfill his own mission, the well-meaning disciple had to grasp the fact that God's ways are always higher and greater than ours. [Isaiah 55:8] Our finite minds can never comprehend the wonders of God's eternal purposes!
Only through the incarnation -- God as Man, fulfilling the requirements for our redemption and justification -- may we share in those wonders. Only by His Spirit, may we know the wisdom and ways of God. "As it is written,
His wonderful revelations to us include grace to resist a multitude of distractions. Like Peter, we so easily dishonor Him by being "mindful... of the things of men" instead "of the things of God." Do we love the visible things of this world more than unseen treasures of God?
The cross was central to His birth. Had He not been born into our world and died in our place, He would not have freed us "from the curse of the law" and from bondage to sin. Unlike Santa's lighthearted reflection on the words "naughty and nice," God's guidelines in His Word (including the Ten Commandments) represent a moral law with authority to expose our sin and keep us forever separated from God.
That's good news for those who, by God's grace, sense the conviction and come to the cross. It's bad news for those who deny the truth, justify their ways, and trust in today's pleasing illusions. Remember His sobering words:
No wonder the world around us wants to censor His name and mythologize His Word! His revealing light is as uncomfortable today as it was two thousand years ago. That's why Time Magazine's Christmas issue (12-13-04) featured the birth of Jesus but refused to honor Him! David Van Biema, the author of "Behind the First Noel," tried in a every way to undermine the Biblical account of the virgin birth, the two separate angelic announcements (to Mary and to Joseph), and the birthplace in Bethlehem. According to Time, the gospel writers were merely adapting existing myths and pagan legends to their own imagined scenarios. For example:
Such assaults on God's Word are nothing new. People have hated God, slandered Jesus, twisted His truth, re-imagined His nature, and persecuted His people for the last two thousand years. But as interest in truth and facts diminish, the anti-Christian campaign is fast gaining ground. Ponder these signs of our times:
To please today's multicultural communities, Christmas cards -- whether or not they showed nativity scenes -- were banned! That's how intolerable our wonderful Lord and Savior has become to the world! Which brings us right back to the first question: Why was Jesus, the King of the universe, born in a lowly stable, not a palace?
The last week of our King's earthly life illustrates the answer. The religious leaders were busy planning His arrest and mock trial. Meanwhile, large numbers of Jews making their annual journey to the Passover feast were crowding into Jerusalem and surrounding towns. Many flocked to the nearby town of Bethany, where Jesus was staying with His friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha. As the Bible tells us, "many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead." [John 12:9] Naturally, the curious masses wanted a glimpse of the amazing Teacher who could revive someone who had been dead for three days.
"The next day," the excited crowds gathered with their palm branches to offer Him a royal welcome into Jerusalem. Many believed Jesus to be the promised king foretold by Old Testament prophets -- a mighty deliverer certain to replace Roman tyranny with a reign of peace and freedom. They might even have expected Him to come riding on a splendid stallion worthy of a conquering king. But that would have been man's way, not God's way. In contrast, the arrival of their King was anything but grandiose. Consider Zechariah's description:
This wasn't the first time His admirers mistook Him for an earthly king. After seeing His amazing miracles early in His ministry, many wanted to crown Him king. But He simply walked away. "My kingdom is not of this world," He later told Pilate.
God doesn't value earthly success, prosperity, human skills, or large crowds as we do. Instead, He seeks out the weak and lowly who would best demonstrate His strength and wisdom. As Paul wrote,
Only a few poor shepherds heard the angels' joyous announcement and saw the newborn King. The highly respected men of Jerusalem neither heard nor saw the fulfillment of the long awaited prophesies. Content with their world and committed to their ways, they were oblivious to history's most momentous event!
How alert are we to God's signpost in our lives? What do we choose? The wide, popular road that pleases the world and brings earthly success -- or the narrow road so despised by the world? Only those who choose the latter will know the wonder of His eternal riches, the joy of His presence, and the peace that surpasses all human understanding.
In a world that is fast forgetting God's Word, we can expect intolerance, hostility and persecution. That's why Jesus warned us,
Following Him, we have nothing of lasting significance to lose, and we have everything to gain! Walking with Jesus in His lowly path -- never ceasing to demonstrate His love, yet never compromising His truths to win approval -- we enjoy a peace and joy that far surpasses all earthly thrills. Our lives will be full of challenges, but He has promised to provide all the resources we need. “My grace is sufficient for you," he assures us, "for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Hopefully, you and I will echo Paul's heartfelt response:
""Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
In the little village
With a holy light
the angels sang.
With a holy light
’Twas a humble birthplace,
But O how much
What a path has led,
the angels sang.
With a holy light
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