Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Hope

Since the people were hoping for the Christ to come, they wondered if John might be the One. Luke 3:15 (NCV)

Before Jesus’ birth, everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, particularly the Jews (see Luke 2:25-32; 38). The people were in a state of great expectation waiting trustfully for the Messiah. The Hebrew word “Messiah” is the equivalent of the Greek word “Christ,” which means “Anointed One.” After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the name Christ became the proper name of Jesus, the Person whom Christians recognize as the God’s Redeemer and the church’s Lord.

In the first century, many Jews eagerly looked for a deliverer who would defeat Israel’s enemies and usher in an era of peace and prosperity. With the decline and subsequent downfall of Israel, the Old Testament prophets predicted the coming of the Messiah to save Israel (see Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Ezekiel 37:24-25). There was great hope that a Messiah from David’s ancestral line would reestablish David’s dynasty and reign forever in righteousness and justice on David’s throne in Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). The Jewish people believed the Messiah would be a Warrior-Prince to restore Israel’s glory, expel the hated Romans from Israel, and bring in a kingdom in which the Jews would be promoted to power.

Yet, the Jews often ignored the Old Testament prophecies that spoke of the Messiah's salvation, grace, and light to the world – worldwide salvation (e.g., see Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6). Before the Messiah’s arrival to earth in the Baby Jesus, God had chosen Him to bring salvation to all people of the world (Luke 1:32-33, Luke 69-70; Luke 2:30-32; Luke 3:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; see also Matthew 28:18-20). The Messiah’s salvation was coming and has now come to all peoples (Gentiles and Jews) to bring God’s salvation (Joel 2:28-32; Amos 9:11-12; Micah 5:2; Acts 2:17-21; Acts 13:47; Acts 15:16-18; 1 Timothy 1:15). Messiah is of God (1 Corinthians 3:23). In fact, the Magi (wise men from Babylon) were awaiting the Messiah’s arrival (see Matthew 2:1-12). Some scholars believe these Magi, who were non-Jews, represented the entire world’s hope for the Messiah - the “Desire of All Nations” (see Haggai 2:7-9). These Magi traveled thousands of miles searching for the Messiah and followed His great star (Matthew 2:2; see also Numbers 24:17).   

Before the Messiah’s arrival, the people wondered and debated in their minds if John the Baptist was the long awaited and hoped for Messiah (Luke 3:15). John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth and a distant relative of Jesus (Luke 1:36; Luke 3:2). However, John the Baptist clearly stated that he was not the Messiah, but only the Messiah’s forerunner (see John 1:19–29, especially verse 20). John the Baptist was the voice “crying in the wilderness” preparing the way for the Messiah’s arrival (Luke 3:4; John 1:23; see also Isaiah 40:1-5). He announced the royal arrival of the Messiah (see Luke 1:16-17, 76-77; John 1:6-8, 15-34).

John spoke his message with particular urgency because he was preparing the people for the coming Messiah (Luke 3:4-6; see also Isaiah 40:3-5). The people responded to John’s message by the hundreds. But even as people crowded to John the Baptist, he pointed beyond himself and pointed the people to the coming Messiah. John knew the Messiah would bring God’s light, life and salvation into the world (see Matthew 1:21, 23; Luke 2:30-32; John 1:1-5, 14). John baptized people and preached repentance of sins (Matthew 3:1-2). While baptizing and preaching, John said, “I baptize you with water; but Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am — so much greater that I am not even worthy to be His slave and untie the straps of His sandals” (Luke 3:16, NLT). Acts 19:1-5 explains that John's baptism looked forward to the coming Messiah, while Christian baptism looks backward to the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah (see also Matthew 3:11, 15; Mark 1:4). 

Since the Prophet Malachi, there had not been a prophet in Israel for more than 400 years. The Jews (also called Israelites) widely believed that when the Messiah came, God’s message through prophecy would reappear (see Joel 2:28-29; Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5). So when John the Baptist began preaching baptism and repentance, the people were excited. The Jewish people knew John the Baptist was unique and a prophet of God, and they believed that the eagerly awaited age of the Messiah had come. John the Baptist spoke like the prophets of the Old Testament. As a humble Jewish prophet, John proclaimed that the people must wholeheartedly obey God, turn from their sins, and turn to God to experience His mercy and approval (Luke 3:3). John challenged the people to repent (turn from their sins) and then he baptized the people as a symbol of their repentance. He encouraged the people to genuinely change their hearts and lives and bear good fruit as proof of their repentance (Luke 3:8-9; see also John 15:16; Galatians 5:22-23; James 2:14-26). True repentance has three sides — (1) turning away from sins, (2) turning toward God, and (3) producing good fruit and deeds. Following God means more than saying the right words; true repentance means obeying and doing what God says to enter His spiritual kingdom.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then He asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16 (NLT)

Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) predicted by the Old Testament prophets, the Chosen One and the Son of God (see Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 1:1; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 1:35; Luke 9:18-20, 35; John 4:5, 29; Romans 9:5). However, the Old Testament promises of the Messiah came in a surprising way in the life of Jesus (Luke 9:22). Instead of coming as a Conqueror as hoped by the Jews, Jesus came as a Suffering Servant that would be rejected and crucified to bring God’s great salvation to the world (see Mark 8:31-38; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34; Luke 22:66-71; see also Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The Old Testament predicted the Messiah’s great suffering and resurrection from complete death (see Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). During His public ministry, Jesus was crucified and mocked as “King of the Jews” (Luke 23:1-3) and “God’s Messiah” (Luke 23:35). Yet, Jesus was the long awaited Son of David, King and Messiah predicted by the Old Testament (see Luke 18:38-39; Luke 19:38; Luke 24:45-49; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16). During His appearances to the disciples, He revealed that the Holy Scriptures predicted all along that “the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering His glory” (Luke 24:26). Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection confirm that He is truly God’s long awaited Messiah and that His sacrificial death and ascension brings restoration and forgiveness of sins to all people who believe (Luke 24:47; Hebrews 2:3). Even better, Jesus the Messiah brings justice and hope to the nations (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:18-21).

As predicted in the Old Testament, Jesus the Messiah is the Seed of Eve that defeated evil (Genesis 3:15); the Passover lamb and Lamb of God (Exodus 12:2–13; compare John 1:29); the Star of Jacob and the Scepter of Israel (Numbers 24:17); the Great Prophet predicted by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23); the Commander of the Army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15); Job’s living Redeemer (Job 19:25); the Lord predicted by King David (Psalms 110:1); “Root out of dry ground ” and the Man of Sorrows who has “borne our guilt and shame” (Isaiah 53:2–4); the Branch of Righteousness and the “Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5–6; Jeremiah 33:15-16); the fourth Man in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25) and the “One like the Son of Man” seen by the Prophet Daniel in a dream (Daniel 7:13); our Redeemer (Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55–57); the Author of Salvation (Joel 2:28–32; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9); the Judge (Micah 4:1–5; 2 Timothy 4:1); the “Desire of All Nations” (Haggai 2:7); the “Man whose name is BRANCH,” the “glory” bearer and Ruler (Zechariah 6:12–13) and the “Sun of Righteousness . . . with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:1–3). Other Old Testament prophecies predicting Jesus includes Psalms 16:10; Psalms 40:6-10; Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 9:9-11; and Zechariah 12:10.

Jesus is the “Son of David” (e.g. see Matthew 1:1, 20; Matthew 9:27; Luke 1:32,69; Luke 2:4,11; Acts 2:29-36; Acts 13:22-23), the “Son of God” (Romans 1:3-4) and the perfect Revealer and Mediator of God’s grace to the world (Hebrews 1:1-4). He is the Messiah by divine appointment (Acts 2:36). The prophecies and promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Covenant (or New Testament), of which Jesus is the Mediator (see Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24). From the Old Testament itself, Jesus is shown to be greater than all the prophets, to angels, to Moses (the mediator of the Old Covenant) and to Aaron and the priests descending from him.

Jesus the Messiah is our Savior (Luke 2:11; Acts 13:23; Titus 1:4; Titus 3:6), Life-giver (John 6:35), and the Rock on which hope is built (1 Peter 2:4-7). One day, Jesus the Messiah will return as the Holy Scriptures has promise (e.g. see Mark 8:38; Mark 14:62; John 14:1-4; Acts 1:11; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:20). Indeed, Jesus is our Blessed Hope (Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 2:13).

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the Child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a Son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a Child! She will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her Son was born. And Joseph named Him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Pub., 2003.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

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