‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the Holy Place where the Most High dwells’ ~ Psalm 46:4
One of John’s vision of the New Heaven and Earth given to him by Jesus Christ concerns the River of Life. John writes, ‘And he showed me a pureriver of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city’ (Revelation 22:1-2). This river of life has God as its Source, and waters the tree of life so that ‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations’ (v2). This tree of life watered by the river of life was also found in the Garden of Eden. ‘In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:9). In addition, ‘A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters’ (v10). God then commanded man that; ‘you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’ (v17). Mankind ate of it, and surely, he experienced death.
There was no command restricting the first man not to eat from the tree of life, but because of man’s sin and spiritual separation from God (death), the tree of life was also restricted from mankind. And so, ‘After he (God) drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way of the tree of life’ (3:v24). Since the tree of life as John describes was for the healing of nations, mankind could not have healing from sin, since access to the tree was denied. And denied it was for many centuries so that God says, ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you’ (Jeremiah 30:12-13). Mankind’s wound and injury remained, until Jesus was revealed and says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he was anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Luke 4:18-19).
‘Come, and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind us’ (Hosea 6:1). This is an open call, and whoever chooses to turn to Jesus will be healed. Just like mankind chose to eat of the forbidden fruit, so are we given a choice to accept restoration from the tree of life Himself. Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener’ (John 15:1). In fact, Jesus is the ‘shoot . . . from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit’ (Isaiah 11:1). He even says of Himself, ‘I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’ (Revelation 22:16). So, Jesus being the Root to the tree of life declares, ‘No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me’ (John 15:4). And so, ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be a tree planted by the water that sends out its root by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit’ (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Jesus, the Root to the tree of life, is also the Source of the river of life that nourishes it. He says, ‘Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:14). Jesus our Root not only makes us bear fruit by giving us access to the tree of life, but also gives us His very life – His Spirit. His Spirit not only sustains us in this life, but also grants us access to eternity, because ‘no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit’ (3:v5). And so, anyone who believes in Jesus, ‘out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (by this he meant the Spirit)’ (7:v38-39). The level by which we grow in Christ determines the depth at which we can be in this river of life, God’s Spirit. When Ezekiel was led to a river flowing from the temple, at first the water was ankle deep, then knee deep, and then up to the waist. The further he went, he eventually noticed that ‘I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in – a river that no one could cross’ (Ezekiel 47:5). This shows that God ‘gives the Spirit without limit’ (John 3:34), and so it is up to one to determine the depths at which they want to reach.
A tree cannot grow in two places. Where its roots are, determines its growth. A tree in parched land does not fare well like a tree next to a river. Likewise, we cannot bear fruit in other sources besides the true Source, Jesus Christ. David writes, ‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers’ (Psalm 1:1-3). The more we remain in the Source, our flesh increasingly gets overshadowed by the Spirit, because ‘this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live’ (Ezekiel 47:9). Where the river flows, Ezekiel also notices that, ‘Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing’ (v12). In essence, when we abide in Christ, we take up His nature, becoming trees stemming from Him.
‘Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ ~ John 6:61-63
In my research, I have found that willful blindness is quite common among atheists, particularly in the world of science.
One of the most prominent astronomers in the last century was Dr. Robert Jastrow. He received his PhD from Columbia University and then worked for a number of years at NASA, until taking a position at Dartmouth, where he taught for 11 years.
Jastrow was agnostic, but spoke of willful blindness in his book, God and the Astronomers. He described how scientists react when they encounter evidence they do not like. He says:
“Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our professions. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases.”
This is what so often happens in our lives when we encounter evidence that contradicts a long-held belief—we pretend the conflict does not exist. We become willfully blind and, in the process, become irresponsible in what we believe.
“It was 1916 and Albert Einstein didn’t like where his calculations were leading him. If his theory of General Relativity was true, it meant that the universe was not eternal but had a beginning. Einstein’s calculations indeed were revealing a definite beginning to all time, all matter, and all space. This flew in the face of his belief that the universe was static and eternal.
Einstein later called his discovery “irritating.” He wanted the universe to be self-existent—not reliant on any outside cause—but the universe appeared to be one giant effect. In fact, Einstein so disliked the implications of General Relativity—a theory that is now proven accurate to five decimal places—that he introduced a cosmological constant (which some have called a “fudge factor”) into his equations in order to show that the universe is static and to avoid an absolute beginning.”
Clearly, Einstein did not like the direction the evidence was taking him. To believe that the universe had a beginning, that it was finite, and therefore there was some type of cause behind it all would disrupt his life as a scientist. For this reason, he came up with a fudge factor. However, according to Ross this fudge factor did not last long.
“In 1919, British cosmologist Arthur Eddington conducted an experiment during a solar eclipse which confirmed that General Relativity was indeed true—the universe wasn’t static but had a beginning. Like Einstein, Eddington wasn’t happy with the implications. He later wrote, ‘Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me… I should like to find a genuine loophole.’
By 1922, Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann had officially exposed Einstein’s fudge factor as an algebraic error. (Incredibly, in his quest to avoid a beginning, the great Einstein had divided by zero—something even schoolchildren know is a no-no!) Meanwhile, Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter had found that General Relativity required the universe to be expanding. And in 1927, the expanding of the universe was actually observed by astronomer Edwin Hubble (namesake of the space telescope).
Looking through the 100-inch Hooker telescope at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, Hubble discovered a “red shift” in the light from every observable galaxy, which meant that those galaxies were moving away from us. In other words, General Relativity was again confirmed—the universe appears to be expanding from a single point in the distant past.
In 1929, Einstein made a pilgrimage to Mount Wilson to look through Hubble’s telescope for himself. What he saw was irrefutable. The observational evidence showed that the universe was indeed expanding as General Relativity had predicted. With his cosmological constant now completely crushed by the weight of the evidence against it, Einstein could no longer support his wish for an eternal universe. He subsequently described the cosmological constant as ‘the greatest blunder of my life,’ and he redirected his efforts to find the box top to the puzzle of life. Einstein said that he wanted to know how God created the world. ‘I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.’”
Do you see what Einstein had been doing? Initially, he was allowing his beliefs to shape the evidence in his research. Eventually, he realized that he must be honest and allow the evidence to shape his theories. Therefore, he changed his belief about the beginning of the universe and in the process Einstein discovered the theory of relativity.
This is why, later in life, Einstein made a very important observation about science. He said, “Most people think it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong. It is their character.” Einstein recognized that the key to being a great scientist is to follow the evidence and the truth, wherever it leads you.
One of the most influential books of science in the last century was Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It was about the progress of scientific knowledge. Kuhn was a superb historian who focused on the great advances of science through which he called “revolutions,” which are so often hindered by holding on to old beliefs.
I think it is so easy to believe that scientists are immune to the influence of their own beliefs and biases as they do research. We have this presumption that scientists are dispassionate and unbiased individuals who are committed to the truth and always simply report the facts.
Kuhn’s book points out this fallacy, as his research into the history of science reveals that scientists are clearly not objective. He provides dozens of historical cases that prove researchers are far from being neutral and unbiased, particularly in testing and evaluating results. He makes it clear that scientists have a real tendency to hold on tenaciously to their theories, even though they face contradicting data.
The late Dr. Herbert Schlossberg, a leading historian and scholar, made this observation:
“Thomas Kuhn concluded that at a given time any scientific community will always have in its structure an element that is more will than intellect, a product of personal history.”
Back in August of 2014, David Brooks wrote an article in The New York Times titled “The Mental Virtues.” He refers to the book Intellectual Virtues by Robert Roberts and Jay Wood. In their book, they speak of the importance of having intellectual courage—the willingness to hold unpopular views. In the article, Brooks then makes reference to Kuhn:
“Thomas Kuhn pointed out that scientists often simply ignore facts that don’t fit with their existing paradigms, but an intellectually courageous person is willing to look at things that are surprisingly hard to look at.”
To gain some insight into the psychology of belief, consider C.S. Lewis. As a skeptic, he was quite surprised that his very intelligent friend J.R.R. Tolkien believed not only in God but Jesus as the Son of God. As Lewis began his spiritual search, he continued to gain new insights that were clearly in conflict with his current atheistic beliefs. He then became acutely aware of something that was happening to him. His intellect was taking him in a direction that his heart did not want to go. His mind was being drawn to that which he recognized to be true, but his heart was resistant. He later realized he was attracted to atheism because of the moral freedom it provided. He saw Jesus as someone who wanted to interfere with his life.
Lewis wrote an essay titled “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought.” Lewis remarks on how irrational people were becoming in their approach to their beliefs. In the audience where he was lecturing, he began to notice, “it is almost impossible to make them understand that I recommend Christianity because I think it is objectively true. But people today are simply not interested whether a religion is true or false…” Ultimately, he says, they are more interested in how it will impact their lives and their lifestyles.
Do we not care about what is true? Are we afraid to look reality in the eye because it may take us in a direction we don’t want to go? I believe this is one of the great flaws in our human character. We stubbornly hold on to our beliefs because they generally reflect how we want life to be rather than how life actually is. For this reason, evidence does not seem to matter.
My challenge to you is to follow the truth wherever it leads, always remembering that truth is your friend. It enables you to believe responsibly. It leads to your ultimate well-being.
Richard E. Simmons III is a Christian author, speaker, and the Executive Director of TheCenter for Executive Leadership, a non-profit, faith-based ministry in Birmingham, Alabama. His best-selling titles include The True Measure of a Man, The Power of a Humble Life,Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure, and his newest book, Reflections on the Existence of God. Follow Richard on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @thecenterbham. Tune in to Richard’s Reliable Truth Podcast on your favorite podcast app
Who’d believe it had been 3 years since Jesus began His public ministry!
– 3 years since John the Baptist had pointed Jesus out to the multitudes saying,” Behold, the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus’ fame had spread quickly.
– People knew Him as a “great teacher,” the “miracle worker,” some even dared call Him the “Messiah.”
Huge crowds thronged Him everywhere He went to hear and see Him — to be fed and healed.
Not everyone held Him in such high esteem.
– The Governing body of the Jews, the Sanhedrin, composed of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes most of who hated Jesus. (70 men plus the High Priest = 71),
– Their hatred grew in direct proportion of His fame.
– They were jealous of Him. He was drawing people away from them!
During the time of the Roman governors like Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction only over the province of Judea.
The Sanhedrin had its own police force which could arrest people, as they did Christ in Gethsemane.
While the Sanhedrin heard both civil and criminal cases and could find a person guilty and impose the death sentence but couldn’t carry it out. In New Testament times it didn’t have the authority to execute convicted criminals. – That power was reserved to the Romans, which explains why Jesus was crucified — a Roman punishment — rather than stoned, according to Mosaic law.
The Sanhedrin had to stop Him! They had to convince the Roman Governor, Pilate to execute Him — He was destroying their Religious Empire!
– They plotted His death — it couldn’t come too quickly!
On Palm Sunday, Jesus began His last week of public ministry.
– His guarded secret that He was the Messiah was about to be revealed.
– He’d cautioned His disciples after the Transfiguration to tell no one what they’d seen.
– It was probably a miracle that Peter held it in and didn’t blab it!
Now it was time to proclaim who He was — He let the people proclaim Him King.
– That day the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 was being fulfilled.
Zechariah 9:9 (NKJV) 9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem as The King in triumph.
1. THE DAY OF TRIUMPH!
After eating breakfast with His friends, Jesus, and His disciples, left Bethany to go to Jerusalem.
– The roads were crowded pilgrims were making their annual trek to the Passover.
– Every Jew tried to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.
– Jerusalem’s population swelled from 35,000 to 350,000 during that week.
Jesus prepared to ride into Jerusalem in the style of a king — Luke 19:29-34
And it came to pass, when He came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’ “ 32 So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. 33 But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of him.”
– A conqueror would ride into the city on a White Stallion flaunting his power and control.
– A King, coming in peace, would come on a donkey.
Jesus sent 2 disciples to find a donkey to ride.
– Jesus was well known.
– Everyone coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover knew about Him.
– That day, the popular mood was favorable toward Him.
“The Lord needs it”was all the disciples had to say, and the owners gladly turned their little donkey over to them.
– Here’s a lesson — we should make our possessions available to the Lord…….. Hang on loosely to all you have…..
Luke 19:35: Then they brought him (the donkey) to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.
Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered at Jerusalem to announce His true identity.
– Huge crowds could see Him, and understanding His proclamation was unmistakable.
– The people were ecstatic — They were sure their liberation was at hand.
As Jesus sat on the little donkey, the crowd went wild — their Messiah had finally arrived!
– Kings rode donkeys………..
Describe the scene:
Psalm 24:7-10 (NKJV) 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah
Caught up in the emotion, people spread their garments along the path; others placed palm branches in the path.
Luke 19:36-38: 36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. 37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying: “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Soon they reached the summit of the Mount of Olives (describe Jerusalem)
The Pharisees complained to Jesus that the crowd was breaking a noise ordinance.
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke
40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
The little donkey jogged on toward the Kidron Valley.
– The crowd grew larger — so did the excitement.
– The whole valley echoed with cries of “HOSANNA!”
The excited crowd got so noisy the Pharisees again demanded Jesus quiet them.
– Jesus said if the people held their voices the stones would cry out — lots of rocks!
The Pharisees concluded —
John 12:19–The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
It must’ve seemed that way that day!
This was the King’s Triumphal entry into Jerusalem — nearly everyone was shouting, “Hosanna.”
– Nearly everyone was happy — in a holiday mood!
– Everyone, that is, except the grumpy Pharisees, and — JESUS?
2. TRAGEDY — Luke 19:41-44 41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Right in the midst of all the celebrating and hilarious shouting, Jesus began weeping.
– The wild demonstration of affection by the fickle multitude caused Jesus to weep!
Listen as His heart breaks for His people — Matthew 23:37 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
– Here’s the agony of the Savior over a lost city.
His Phrase, “how often,” sums up the tenderest love story ever told.
– Describe how God had tried to love Israel………
Now their days of grace were over — they still refused God’s Love.
– Jesus sobs, “I wanted to gather you together and you wouldn’t let me!”- He knew the consequences they would face for rejecting Him.
What Jesus said to Israel that first Palm Sunday, He’s saying to us today………
– How often He’d bless us, but we refuse………… He knows the consequences people face today for rejecting God’s Plan of Salvation — Eternity in Hell…………….
– He won’t send you there for rejecting Him, but He will let you go there if you choose!……
God loves us so much, but we’re obstinate and rebellious and we won’t respond……
Israel lost Her Great Opportunity — Luke 19:42 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
– The opportunity was offered, refused and lost forever…(God’s Mercy will one day run out)
Israel had her times of visitation.
– God sent Moses and the prophets — David stretched the Kingdom from Dan to Beersheba — again, when they returned from Babylon to rebuild the City, the Walls, and the Temple —
— Now, they were rejecting Jesus, their Messiah.
They’d killed the prophets and stoned those sent to deliver them — soon they’d crucify God’s Son, Himself!
– IF ONLY THEY’D KNOWN!
Jesus wept for what Israel might’ve been if she’d only obeyed God.
– Israel missed her chance!
This sad story still happens in too many lives.
– God has a purpose for your life — He wants the best for you!
Jesus came as King, but the people misunderstood His Kingdom.
– They thought in terms of an earthly kingdom that would eventually pass away.
JESUS CHRIST IS COMING AS KING VICTORIOUS OVER ALL CREATION AND ESTABLISHING A KINGDOM THAT WILL NEVER PASS AWAY!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was coming as King over sickness and disease.
– Lame man, blind man, etc.
Jesus Christ was coming as King over demons and darkness.
– Legion in tombs — boy possessed by demon — Mary Magdalene.
– Our demonic problems are just beginning and will get worse — we need Jesus!
Jesus was coming as King victorious over discouragement and defeat — Nicodemus.
Jesus was coming as conquering King over pain and broken-heartedness.
– Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb.
Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was coming as King over sin, death, and the grave.
– Zacchaeus had been forgiven!
– Widow from Nain’s son was restored to his mother.
– Lazarus was Alive!.
Listen to what Christ said was His purpose for coming — Luke 4:18-19 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,Because He has anointed MeTo preach the gospel to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captivesAnd recovery of sight to the blind,To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
The people in Jerusalem didn’t understand — before that week was over they even thought Christ’s Kingdom was destroyed.
– Jesus had to die on the Cross in order to establish His Spiritual Kingdom for all time and Eternity —
Isaiah 53:5-6 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Satan thought he’d won a victory over God — he’d soon know he’d suffered the worst defeat he could experience — “Satan often shoots himself in the foot!”.
– He’s now a defeated enemy forever………….
Jesus had to go to prepare a place for us who love Him.
– He’s promised He’ll come again to get us……….John 14:2-6 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Sunday, we’ll celebrate His first coming as King to Jerusalem.
– Soon we’ll meet Him in the air — Rapture.
– 7 years later we’ll see His 2nd Coming as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!
Then there’ll be no misunderstanding Who He really is!
Have you confessed Him as your Lord today?
– YOU WILL ON THAT GREAT AND TERRIBLE DAY! — Philippians 2:10-11 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
How terrifying it will be to stand before our ALMIGHTY GOD unprepared!…………………. You don’t have to be unprepared! He’s provided a way for you!
You’re driving down a busy highway at night. The traffic is dense — you’re tired — work’s been unusually hectic. Suddenly your car lists to one side. – Oh no! A flat tire!
You stop and find the spare. Half an hour later after changing the flat, you’re back in the driver’s seat. – “All that waste of time! I hope my friends are still waiting for me!”
Now that you’re back on the road, you think of the fun you’ll have this weekend. – You deserve time off! — you’ll enjoy this break to the fullest. You smile.
Suddenly, a huge dark truck begins tailgating you! Your first thought is “Idiot!” – You accelerate — to your horror, the menacing truck matches your speed.
You read about a mad killer somewhere on this highway killing people with a kitchen knife. – What if he’s in the truck behind you?
You slow down, hoping it’s just a coincidence the truck’s keeping up with you. – Hopefully he’ll pass and leave you alone. – He doesn’t!
Instead he slows and flashes his lights at you — he thrusts his arm out the window gesturing towards you.
“What’s he want?” You’re frightened now! — Nothing like this has ever happened to you before.
You get an idea.
– Cops often work this highway. If you drive over the s – The truck’s matching your speed!
You’re terrified and push your accelerator to the floor. – You didn’t know your car could go 120 miles an hour!
You check your mirror — that truck’s matching your speed. He’s unshakable!
A half hour and this high speed chase is still going on! – Wouldn’t you know there are no cops anywhere! Your exit is still 3 miles away.
You’ve got to keep on racing – It’s a good plan. The only plan that hopefully will deliver you from your aggressor.
You succeed in taking the exit — you’re rejoicing! You’ve finally shook off that truck, then you notice those same lights are still following you. – Your blood turns icy. “What now?”
Your gas tank’s almost empty – there’s nowhere to go except to the mansion where your friends are waiting.
You hope John has his shotgun with him. He seldom leaves it behind — he’s an avid hunter.
No matter where you turn, the truck stays right with you.
Finally you’re at the mansion — John’s waiting for you. – You leap from your car and shout “Get your shotgun!” John sees the truck. – He runs into the house and grabs his gun. – Hope’s finally in sight!
John points his gun at the driver of that dark, menacing truck, and orders him out. – The poor guy comes out of his truck shaking.
What would you be thinking about this driver at this time? – Would you welcome him with open arms? Or want to strangle him? – The shaking man yells, “It’s not me! It’s not me! It’s him!”
Confused you and John look at each other. “Who?”
“There’s a man in the back of your car. I saw him slip into your car while you were changing your tire. He had a kitchen knife in his right hand. I followed you to warn you about him!” – Is he telling the truth?
Slowly all 3 of you approach your car. – John opens the back door, his shotgun ready. – Sure enough, a man’s crouching behind your seat, a kitchen knife in his hand.
Imagine your feeling when you realize the one you accused had nothing but purest intentions. He wanted to save you from certain death. – He’s not the one who deserves judgment. He’s your hero, your savior!
What a picture of how people respond to Jesus!
Most people run from the One who can provide the safety they need and harbor the very murderer bent on destroying them.
Jesus has done and is doing everything He can to save you from sin and Hell (the 2nd Death) while you run from Him afraid He’ll ask you to give up too much of the world to serve Him.
Christ’s doing everything He can to get your attention before it’s too late, but you’re not pulling over.
At the same time, Satan, “the thief and murderer,” who you should fear is invading your homes and families – planning your destruction. – John 8:44-45–“For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!”
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 — So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right – You and I didn’t choose whether or not we’d be born – we were just born. – We didn’t choose our parents or where we’d be born. – I didn’t choose to be William Walter Woods from Walla Walla, Washington. – I was born in Walla Walla to be near my mother.
On the contrary, Jesus chose to be born in Bethlehem. – He chose His mother to be the Virgin Mary — His step-dad to be Joseph. He chose to be a Jew and to be born in a stable.
He left Heaven to live a perfect life without sin and take your punishment for your sins. – Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus is the Eternal Son of God: of one substance with the Father, co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent with the Father, became a human being in every way, except for sin. – He was a man of suffering, of pain, of anxiety, of temptation – who was crucified and died for our sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21 makes clear Christ “had no sin.”For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
He didn’t inherit the guilt of original sin. He lived a sinless and pure life from His conception until His death. – He didn’t allow the evil that surrounds all of us to enter into His deeds or His heart.
No matter what temptation, how hard the struggle or how great – He remained perfect! — 2 Corinthians 5:21 — He “has no sin”.
He reflects the perfect image of God — Hebrews 1:3 —The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. – Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and Being …
Paul said in Romans 3:23 — “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” . – “we” are the sinners.
Not just the drunkard, the addict, the liar, the thief, the blasphemer, the idolater or murderer. We’re all sinners!
Who’s a sinner? Everyone who’s broken a single commandment of God!- You and me – we’re the sinners!
“I’ve lived a good and decent life and my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds!”
Isaiah 64:6–“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
. – You can’t live good enough to make it to Heaven! – Ephesians 2:8-9 — “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Because it was impossible we escape Hell, Jesus stepped into history and provided the sacrifice needed to save us. – Hebrews 9:22 — “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
Two thieves spotted what looked like a sweet deal.
They found an unguarded 2007 Volkswagen cargo van with a moveable platform and crane. – It looked like easy pickings — the driver was asleep — the van was unguarded.
They overpowered the driver, tied him up, dropped him in a vacant parking lot, and drove away.
They drove about 24 miles and decided to investigate the van’s cargo. What can it hurt? They made a score, and needed to see their loot.
Soon they unloaded the containers, broke them open, scattered the contents, and found nothing of interest. – They found nothing of interest, but that doesn’t mean they found nothing.
The crooks opened containers of radioactive cobalt-60 pellets taken from hospitals in Tijuana and headed for a nuclear holding plant outside of Mexico City. . – There’s one other thing those crooks found in those pellets – DEATH!
Those cobalt-60 pellets were small, but deadly. They carried enough radioactive punch to kill anyone who came into close contact with them.
Death would come in 2 or 3 days. – The crooks didn’t know, but opening those containers made them walking dead men.
Their story isn’t much different than Adam and Eve who thought the forbidden fruit wasn’t such a bad thing … – or David who believed a little look at Bathsheba couldn’t hurt … – or Achan who thought a few bars of silver and gold taken from Jericho wouldn’t cause any problem the rest of us.
Because of sin, we were all walking dead. – Big sins, little sins, every sin separated us from God and condemned us.
This is why human’s walking dead need a Savior.
We’re better off than the thieves who stole the cobalt-60. – There was no cure for them, but Jesus has provided the antidote for our lost condition.
Jesus is the Judge we’ll someday face. – We know we’re guilty and we know the penalty.
God’s Law demands we be punished (sentenced to Eternal Death, separation from God in Hell). – Jesus has assumed the punishment for our sins – GRACE! (UNMERITED FAVOR!)
Through His life, by His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection from the dead, Jesus has become our Heaven-sent Savior, Who can cleanse sinners of all that’s contaminated and condemned us.
We have to decide to accept His Pardon and gifts He wants to bestow on us. – We must accept His Identity by Identifying with Him! – With Holy Spirit-given faith we’re no longer walking dead, we’re eternally saved souls.
THE OLD ACCOUNT WAS SETTLED LONG AGO!
Easter is not about bunnies and chocolate eggs! Easter is HIS RESURRECTION DAY! AND BECAUSE HE LIVES I CAN FACE TOMORROW!
Today, I want to gather with God’s saints and remember what Jesus has done for us and that He is soon coming to get us and take us to His Place where we’ll live with Him for Eternity.
Jesus tasted death, the grave and the consequences of sin in Hell for 3 days for you and me!
He didn’t stay in the grave! HE AROSE AND THAT’S WHAT WE ARE CELEBRATE!
Jesus is given many titles in Scripture. What does it mean that He is the “Son of God” and the “Son of Man”? In this brief clip, R.C. Sproul reveals that these two titles actually signify something different than what we might expect.
Just briefly in passing, let me ask you to pay particularly close attention, when you read the Gospels, to the use of the phrase or the title “Son of Man.” It’s one of the most important titles for Jesus in the New Testament and yet, at the same time, one of the most frequently misunderstood.
Part of the reason is we see the difference between the title “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” And given the church’s confession, historically, of the dual nature of Jesus—that He has a divine nature and a human nature—the tendency is for folks to assume that when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man, that He was speaking of His human nature, and when He’s referred to as the Son of God, He was being referred to vis-à-vis His divine nature. Well, it’s not as simple as all of that, because both of these titles have within them elements that refer to His deity and to His humanity. But if anything, the emphasis on the two is just the opposite of what we would normally expect.
The title “Son of God” is given, in the first instance in Scripture, to those who manifest obedience to the Father. Sonship is defined predominately, not in biological terms here, but in terms of being in one accord or submissive towards, and so on. Remember Jesus Himself, in His discussions with the Pharisees, who claimed to be “sons of Abraham,” Jesus rebuked them and said, “You are the children of Satan. You are the children of the one whom you obey.” Now, don’t get me wrong. The “Son of God” also contains, in certain references in the New Testament, clear indications of Jesus’ eternal sonship and His deity. So, we don’t want to overstate the case.
But this title, “Son of Man,” is the one I want you to really pay attention to when you’re reading the Gospels, because it’s used so often in the New Testament, and all but three times that it occurs in the New Testament, it comes from the lips of Jesus. And it refers back to the Old Testament vision that was written down by the prophet Daniel, where Daniel had a vision into the interior of the heavenly court of God, where he saw the Ancient of Days enthroned, and the judgment was set. And to the Ancient of Days comes “one like unto a son of man,” who then is given the authority to judge the world. So that in the first instance, the Son of Man is a heavenly person—a heavenly person who descends to this world, whose principal role in His visitation to this earth is that of the heavenly judge.
Then He returns to the presence of God in His ascension. We remember that Jesus says, “No one ascends to the Father except He who has first descended from Him.” Again, we tend to think that Jesus’ calling Himself the Son of Man was an expression of humility, when, in fact, it was a claim to divine authority. That’s why I want you to notice this. When He heals on the Sabbath day and is rebuked by His enemies, He said, “I did this that you may know that the Son of the Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” And when He forgives sins and creates an uproar from His contemporaries, saying, “Only God has the authority to forgive sins,” Jesus said, “I did this that you might know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” And again, and again, and again, you will begin to see that this title, “Son of Man” that Jesus uses for Himself, is a highly exalted title.
We have been studying together the Gospel of John, and just going through verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph. Typically, when we come to Christmas Sunday, I stop whatever series I’m in and do a special Christmas message. I’ve done that for 40 plus years with an occasional Sunday prior to Christmas when we stayed in the series because there was something in the text that connected to well with Christmas. And that is the case this year. So, we’re going to look at John chapter 6 today, John chapter 6.
I looked ahead a few weeks ago and just kind of planning and anticipating what I might present to you, and I began to carefully prepare reading through John 6 for our regular studies. And it struck me that this would be a very powerful and wonderful and helpful text to stay in. So, for the last number of weeks, we’ve been working our way through John 6, and we’ll continue to do that, and when we pick it up again after the holidays. But I want to draw your attention to the sixth chapter of John, and particularly verses 32 to 59 where our Lord gives this great sermon on, I Am the Bread of Life. He repeats that several times. I am the Bread of Life. He is the true Christmas bread.
Bread is starting to pile up at the McArthur house, I will admit. Every Christmas this happens to us. We get it in the mail. We get it from FedEx. We get it stuck on the porch. We get it from folks at the church. Last Sunday I went home with bread in two arms, and there’ll probably be a little more bread today. And that’s good by me; I love bread. We get bread in boxes. We get bread in cans. We get bread in paper bags around Christmas, so it’s like a maniacal carb experience [laughter] to consume all this bread, but I’m a bread lover.
There’s something about Christmas and bread I guess just in a general sense, and you might wonder, where does that come from? Why is there so much interest in bread around Christmas? Well, it does have some interesting history. It really does. If you’re from Germany, you’ve heard of stollen, S-T-O-L-L-E-N, which is a German Christmas bread that was first prepared in 1545 for the Council of Trent. And since then, has been the standard traditional Christmas bread baked and consumed by German folks around the world.
If any of you come from Poland or more of Eastern Europe, you may know about oplatki, which is a Christmas bread that the Polish launched in the tenth century. And it’s still being prepared every Christmas.
Now, for all of you Italians, you know about Panettone, Panettone bread. Panettone comes from two words, the Italian word for bread is “panne” and “Tony” is the Italian word for the guy who fixes your car. [laughter] So, you’re not buying that? Actually, actually, back in the 15th century, the 1400s, there was a baker by the name of Tony. That’s where it came from. And he wanted to impress the king because he wanted to marry his daughter, so he baked some bread. Hence, Panettone bread. I don’t really think that’s the best way to impress a king about what you might offer to his daughter. I don’t know how well it all came out for Tony. [laughter] But Tony made a mark on history because if you go into any Italian market or almost any market, you find a section with Panettone.
Interesting to note also that the word “Bethlehem” in Hebrew means “house of bread”, “house of bread.” So, bread has been associated with Christmas. In this chapter, the sixth chapter of John, however, we find the true Christmas bread who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. And I’m going to do something this morning that I rarely do, and that is to cover a rather extended portion of Scripture. So this will be an experience that you cannot count on ever happening again. [laughter] I want to read this great sermon. It’s one great sermon starting in verse 32 of John 6. “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’”
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose none, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’”
“Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Be not grumbling among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’”
“Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’ These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”
A shocking day toward the end of the Galilean ministry of Jesus as He taught the Jewish people in the synagogue at Capernaum. The most compelling statement around which all of this is built is the repeated statement, “I am the Bread of life. I am the Bread of life.” That’s His claim, verse 32, verse 33, verse 48. This is the first, by the way, of 7 “I AMs” in the Gospel of John, in which our Lord takes the tetragrammaton YHWH, the verb “to be” in Hebrew, the name of God who is the I AM that I AM, and applies it to Himself and adds a metaphor. “I am the Bread of life. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Vine. I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. I am the Resurrection and the Life.” All of those I AMs are efforts on the part of our Lord to make clear that He is one in the same as God.
This is the first of those seven I AMs, in which He takes the name of God, and in this case applies as He does on several of those occasions, a metaphor to explain something about His nature and His work. Now, you have to understand how monumental this sermon was given in the Capernaum synagogue. He’s talking to Jewish people, and He presents this powerful claim that He has come down from heaven. And that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood if they want to have eternal life. Now, the Jews all understood the issue of eternal life, life in the Kingdom, life forever, life in heaven, life with God, blessed life, joyous life. They understood that.
Jesus is saying, “I and I alone are the means by which that eternal life can become yours.” This is a long passage, but it can be easily divided into two very familiar components. And that’s what we’ll do this morning. It’s full of repetition because it was so stunning and, remember, they were listening. And repetition is even more important to an audience that is listening. And so John records a fullness in this sermon that we don’t always find in the Gospel record became this is such a stunning claim.
We’re going to see Him saying the same things over and over and over so that they might register with His listeners and with us. The two parts that we need to look at here, very simple, divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread. Divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread.
You need to have your Bible open and you need to be looking at your Bible because we’re going to be looking for those two elements in these verses. This is going to be more like a Bible study than a sermon. I can’t preach a sermon on a sermon. This is a sermon. I can’t make metaphors on metaphors. This is a metaphor. So, we’re going to take it at face value and see if we can’t examine it.
To say that He is bread is to use really a metonym for food, nourishing food that gives life and sustenance. Jesus used the word “bread” to refer to that when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Bread, then, was simply a word that encompassed all nutritious food. Jesus is saying that, “I am your food. I am your true soul food.” First of all, let’s look at the divine provision of the bread. This is God’s side here, the divine side, the heavenly side. God’s provision.
Several features are indicated here about God’s provision of this bread. First of all, this bread is divinely preexistent, divinely preexistent. And I want you to watch this because this is why this works so well as a Christmas section because it continually repeats the reality of the incarnation. Let me help you to see that. Look for the phrase, “came down out of heaven.” You will find it, for example, in verse 32 at the very beginning of the message. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”
Verse 33, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.” Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven.” Now, he switches from the metaphor, the bread has come down, and applies it to Himself and says, “I have come down.” Verse 41, there’s a lot of shock about that, but I just want you to notice they understood exactly what He was saying. The Jews are grumbling because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” In verse 42, they are wondering how this man whose parents they know can say, “I have come down out of heaven.”
Verse 46, again says, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God.” He has come down out of heaven. Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven.” Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.” Verse 58, “This is the bread which came down out of heaven.” Every time you see that, and it’s repeated again and again, you are hearing a statement affirming the incarnation of a preexistent person. He didn’t come into existence. He came down out of heaven. Anyone who claims that falsely is a lunatic or a deceiver, who would have a hard time convincing people.
Over and over and over Jesus speaks of His preexistence. John began his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” the Word meaning Christ. Therefore, Christ was there preexistent with God, coexistent with God, self-existent with God eternally. You cannot ever reduce Jesus to a created being. Yes, His body was prepared by God for Him, but as a person He is the eternal Son of God. He existed everlastingly in the presence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He is God of very God. That’s why John 1:14 says, “We beheld His glory and it was the same glory as the Father.”
If you go back to John, chapter 3, there’s a helpful statement our Lord makes in the conversation with Nicodemus. He says, “No one has ascended into heaven. No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven,” and who is that? The Son of Man. I think of that verse every time I see another silly book about somebody who went to heaven and came back. No one has done that. No one has ascended into heaven and come back to teach us. Paul, you say, is he an exception? Absolutely. He was caught up into the third heaven. He came back. He didn’t tell us anything. He said, “I can’t even speak of the things that were there.” The saints that came out of the grave at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we don’t know who they were. We don’t know where they went. They certainly did not deliver any messages from heaven. Those exceptions prove the rule. Nobody goes into heaven and comes back to instruct us.
Back to verse 46. “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father.” I remind those people again. You did not go to heaven and you did not see God, and you do not have a message for us. That is exclusively the right of the Son of God, the preexistent one. Don’t believe lies about people going and coming from heaven. Don’t buy those silly books and waste your time. No one, not even the most holy saint has gone up to heaven to bring the Word of God down to us. The only One who has come from heaven is the One who was always there. The only One who has brought us heavenly things is the One who descended from heaven, namely the Son of Man.
This is the claim that Jesus makes repeatedly in John 8:42. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me for I proceeded forth and have come from God. He sent Me.” Which means that He existed in the presence of God from all eternity. In the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and this is so foundational, I want it embedded in your mind. John 13:3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.” That’s the night of the upper room discourse with his disciples, that great thirteenth chapter begins with the declaration that Jesus has come from heaven and is going to return there.
In John 16, verse 28, Jesus says, “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world. I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” In the seventeenth chapter and the fifth verse, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Eternity past. Verse 8, “For the words which you gave Me, I have given to them, and they have received them, and truly understood that I came forth from You. And they believed that You sent Me.”
The first thing then to understand about the divine provision of the bread is that the bread was preexistent. The bread was eternal. Jesus is not a created being who came into existence like you and I do at the point of conception. He always existed as God the Son. So there is divine preexistence. In the coming of the bread, secondly, there is divine purpose. There is divine purpose tied to the eternal preexistence of the Lord Jesus Christ is the reality that He came because the Father purposed for Him to come. It’s not casual. It’s tied up in divine planning, and I can show you that. It’s such a clear statement repeated again and again that it’s unmistakable.
Verse 32 at the end of the verse, “It is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.” Verse 33, “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.” It is there called the bread of God. It is God who sends the bread. The bread is God’s to start with to give. Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me.” Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.” And again in verse 57, “As the living Father sent Me.” So you have here divine preexistence and divine purpose. The Father sending the Son.
Now, it is not only the coming of the Son of God that the Father purposed. That’s kind of a general reality. That is true obviously, but it is more than just a general reality that God sent his Son and sort of let things then happen whatever way man would decide they would happen. Not so. God not only purposed to send His Son, He purposed what His Son would accomplish when He arrived. The specificity of it is in verse 37. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and him who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.” Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given me, I lose none, but raise Him up on the last day.” Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.” Again, verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.”
And this is consistent with Old Testament prophesy. Verse 45, “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Now, are you starting to see the plan? God purposes to send the Son, and then God purposes to draw certain people to the Son. The Son receives the people, keeps the people, raises the people from the dead to fulfill the Father’s plan. It is not a plan to begin something. Listen, it is a plan to complete it. It is the plan for the complete glorification of those the Father draws.
Jesus made statements that affirm this in His ministry, such as in chapter 10, verse 29, “My Father who has given them to Me. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Are you starting to see the picture? The Father draws, the Father gives, the Son receives, the Son keeps, the Son raises, and no one can snatch whoever is in the Father’s will and the Son’s hands out of his hands. This is crystal clear.
Chapter 17 again, that great high priestly prayer of our Lord, verse 2 says, “Even as you gave Him authority over all flesh,” meaning the Son, “that to all whom you have given Me, He may give eternal life.” Verse 6, “I manifested Your name to the men whom you gave Me out of the world. They were Yours. You gave them to Me and they have kept Your Word.” Verse 9, “I ask on their behalf. I don’t ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” Then verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also whom You have given Me be with Me where I am.”
Over and over again, “You gave them to Me. You gave them to Me. You gave them to Me. They were Yours. You gave them to Me.” How did they become God’s? By divine election. He chose them before the foundation of the world, wrote their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In time, He draws those who belong to Him by His own sovereign choice. He draws them to Christ. Christ receives them, Christ keeps them, Christ raises them. That resurrection is not merely a spiritual resurrection; it’s a physical resurrection as well. In the last day, they are resurrected. So that is the diving purpose, from election to resurrection. It starts when God determines who is His, and it goes through the drawing and the receiving and the keeping and securing and ultimately gathering into heaven and even raising from the dead.
Verse 45 is a very important verse, often overlooked I think. It’s a quote from Isaiah, Isaiah 54:13. “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.” The only way anybody can come to the truth is if God is his teacher. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” People don’t come to God under the powerful sway of human reason. The preacher is not the means. The preacher is only a tool to present the truth. The drawing is divine. The Father is the true teacher. The Father is the instructor of the heart and the mind.
So we have this bread, preexistent, this bread that is provided for those who are within the purpose of God. So the bread comes down from heaven, comes to earth to fulfill the will of the Father; not just in a general sense that His will was to send. His will was to send His Son and then by means of His Son, draw – give to His Son, and ultimately bring to eternal glory spiritually and in resurrected form. That’s the full picture. Understanding this bread then, divinely preexistent and fulfilling divine purpose.
Thirdly, in looking at God’s provision, divine promise. Divine promise. Why do we want this bread? Well, what does this bread do for us? Well, what does Christ do for us? Why is He important? Well, go back to verse 33. “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives – ” what? Life to the world. Life, zoe. Not bios, not biological life. Zoe, spiritual life. That’s why He came. The promise connected to the bread is spiritual life. And He is the only bread of God, the only living bread, the only bread of life, the only one who has come down, the only source of life for the whole world. Notice please, the phrases that are used to describe this.
In verse, well, how many verses have we seen? Verse 32 and 33 talk about the bread that comes down and the bread that gives life and then we don’t go very far until we hit verse 35 and again, “I am the bread of life.” And then verse 40, again we see, “This the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have – ” Now life is expanded with a descriptive, “ – eternal life.” Eternal life. Now, we’re talking about eternal life. Verse 47, “I say, he who believes has eternal life.” Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.” Not die.
Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread which I give,” again he says, “I give for the life of the world.” It’s life and it’s eternal life. Verse 53, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” 54, “He who eats My flesh, drinks My blood, has eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Life, life, life, life. Eternal life. Verse 58 at the end, “He who eats this bread will live forever.” How is this possible? Because of verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.”
How do we get eternal life into these mortal bodies? Because we come into real union with Christ. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” We are one in Christ. And so His eternal life is in us, granting us eternal life. Really incredible promises. Jesus repeated those same promises a number of times about His union with His people. For example, in that upper room the night of His betrayal, He says in John 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you.”
Do you know that if you are truly regenerate and you belong to God through faith in Christ that the eternal life which you possess is the eternal life of Christ in you? In you. And as we read in John 10, no one is powerful enough to break that union. That’s the security of every believer. So, divine promise. What’s the promise? Life. What kind of life? Eternal life. What is the source of that eternal life? A union with living eternal Christ.
We don’t follow just the teaching of a noble religious leader. We’re on our way to death unless He lives in us, unless His eternal life takes over. So the bread of life is heavenly bread. The Lord Jesus Christ comes from divine eternal preexistence into time and into space to fulfill the divine purpose of the Father, which is to provide salvation for His chosen people. That salvation is dependent on a union with Christ that is a true spiritual reality and is why we live forever.
And it culminates in a resurrection. Several times Jesus says, “I’ll raise him at the last day. I’ll raise him at the last day. I’ll raise him at the last day.” It is a union that will not only be a union in spirit, but it will be a union in spiritual body. Philippians 3, “We will have a body like unto His glorious body. We will reflect His glory. We will be made like Christ when we see Him as He is,” right? This is what it means to be a Christian. It’s not following the teachings of a man. It’s having His life in us. This is the work of God. This doesn’t happen unless you’re taught of God, as verse 45 says. This does not happen unless God the Father draws you.
You say, “Well, what are we supposed to do?” Well, that’s just one side of this amazing duality. That’s the divine provision. Let’s talk about the human appropriation. What’s our responsibility? Sit around hope it happens? No, no. In the wonderful mystery of salvation, we are commanded to appropriate this bread. Please notice in verse 34, the Jewish people who were listening to Jesus said, “Lord, give us this bread.” Most likely, they were talking about the physical bread because He had been creating food for them. They wanted the bread that would satisfy their constant hunger physically, but Jesus isn’t really talking about that. He’s talking about Himself as the bread they really need.
So in verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me.” Isn’t that interesting? “He who comes to Me.” You just said, “Nobody can come unless the Father draws him,” and yet here it says, “He who comes to Me.” So the first requirement is to come, to come. Yes, verse 37 clarifies, “All that the Father gives Me will come, and the one who comes to me, I will not reject.” Not so much because the person is of value, but because the gift of the Father is of value. So the first thing is to come. And since no one can know whether they’ve been chosen, the message is far and wide to be preached to the ends of the earth telling sinners to come, to come, come.
Secondly, to look. Notice verse 40, “This is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son,” everyone, everyone. There aren’t limitations here based upon our understanding of the doctrine of election. All who come, all who come, anyone who comes, I will not reject. Everyone who beholds. What does the word “behold” mean? It’s a Greek verb, theoreo, which basically means to look at intently, to scrutinize, to study, to gaze on. It’s not a passing glance kind of word, not just a brief look. Very strong word. In fact, the same verb, theoreo, is used in John 8:51 for a statement about seeing death. Seeing death means experiencing death. I t is also used, the same verb, in John 17:24 where Jesus says, “I want them to come to heaven, those who believe in Me so they can see My glory.” That means full exposure, full experience.
So, what is the human’s responsibility? Our responsibility laid out for us in a series of commands and invitations, come, come. Come to Me, come to Me. And when you get there, experience it, gaze at it, scrutinize it, look carefully, thoughtfully, see who I am. A lot of the people who were listening to Him in the synagogue that day had done just that. They had come to Him, and they had attached to Him. They were following Him. They were watching Him. They were listening to Him. They were scrutinizing Him.
So you come, you look, and you look carefully at Jesus. But there’s another word that’s really the critical word. Look at verse 35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who –” and here’s the word, “believes in Me. He who believes in Me.” Verse 40, “This is the will of my Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” Verse 47, “I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 5:24 says the same thing. The theme verse for the whole gospel of John, “These things are written that you may know that Jesus is the Christ, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life in His name.” It’s about believing. It’s about believing. Another way to understand it would be John 1:12, “As many as received Him.” You have to come. You have to look. You have to be exposed to the truth, but you must believe. Going back to the metaphor of the bread, go to verse 50, and from verse 50 on is really the closing invitation of this sermon.
“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat,” and now we’re back into the metaphor. Believing is eating. Taking in, receiving, appropriating. Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Verse 57, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.” Again, verse 58, the end of the verse, “He who eats this bread will live forever.” I mean this is a powerful metaphor that everybody understands. You have to take Me in. It’s not enough to come and listen. It’s not enough to admire to get some kind of information. You have to eat. You have to appropriate. You have to receive Me. That’s our responsibility.
Since we don’t know who God has chosen, we can only know we have all been held accountable to come, see, and believe. Believe what? That I am the bread. He says that over and over, “That I am the bread that came down out of heaven, that I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” So it starts with believing in the person of Christ, okay? Believing in His preexistence, His incarnation, God in human flesh, believing in the person of Christ. But let me tell you something quickly, believing in the person of Jesus Christ as the living bread is not enough. Not enough. Something else.
You not only have to believe in Him as living bread, you have to believe in Him as dying blood. What? Verse 51, “I am the living bread. I came down out of heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. And the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Now, he’s talking about giving up His life. Very specific terms. Verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourself.” 54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” Verse 55, “For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.” Verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me in and I in him.”
I have to tell you, this is so shocking for the Jews in the synagogue that day that I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot. Leviticus, first of all, Leviticus 17, Deuteronomy 12, Deuteronomy 15 forbids Jews drinking blood. So this is just – this is, if nothing else, really insensitive. But He’s not really talking about drinking blood. This is, of course, a chapter that has been mutilated by the Roman Catholic Church, and they have used this to develop the Mass where Christ is re-sacrificed again and again and again. And you eat His flesh and drink His blood, just exactly what He’s not talking about. Blood is simply a metonym for His death, as it is throughout the New Testament. So what is He saying? You must accept the person that I am and the death that I died.
You can believe in Jesus as the preexistent Son of God who came into the world and is the source of eternal life, but unless you believe in His sacrificial death, you cannot be saved. You cannot possess eternal life. As bread, He nourishes. As blood, He cleanses. Blood, then, speaks of His death. These Jews had a big, big problem with this issue. The idea that their Messiah would die as a sacrifice, a huge problem for them. They were utterly unwilling to accept that. Even the disciples struggled with that, right? When Jesus said, “I’m going to die,” no, no, no, no Lord. Peter says, “No, no,” and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”
And it was only after the resurrection that He met them on the Emmaus Road, took them back to the Old Testament to show them from the Old Testament the Messiah must suffer and die. And when they went out to preach in the book of Acts, they were preaching to the Jews initially the Messiah had to suffer and die. He had to be the divine Lamb providing the atonement that satisfied the wrath of God for His own. Again, we don’t worship a noble human teacher. We worship God in human flesh. But we don’t worship Him just for the nobility of His divine teaching. We also worship Him as our sacrifice for our sins who died in our place.
You have to be able to eat His flesh in the sense that you take Him as the one who nourishes the soul. And you have to be willing to drink His blood in the sense that you accept his sacrificial death. This is all way too much, way too much for Jewish people to handle, and you can see their reaction later in the chapter. It’s just over the top. Verse 52, they can’t even get to the part about eating His flesh, let alone the part about drinking his blood or accepting His death.
And so in verse 60 saying they were having difficulty with this, “Jesus conscious that His disciples grumbled at this said to them, ‘Does this cause you to,’ what? ‘stumble?’” Well, what was he talking about? The blood. Are you stumbling over the fact that you’re going to have to accept My death? The answer to the question is yes, that’s why the apostle Paul said that the cross, the preaching of the cross, I Corinthians 1, to the Jews is a stumbling block, a stumbling block.
So, as a result, verse 66, “Many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” They came, they looked, they believed. Maybe they could eat the bread part, maybe they could accept who He was. The blood? Too much, too much. But this is what is necessary to appropriate the bread. So Jesus is the true Christmas bread. To believe in His person, to believe in His death is to receive eternal life.
So Jesus said to the Twelve in verse 67, “You don’t want to go away also do you?” Simon Peter answered for all of them, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” And then this, “We have,” What? “believed.” “We believe it all. We know You are the Holy One of God.” The Jews were grumbling. All the way back in verse 36 Jesus said, “I said to you that you’ve seen Me. You’ve come. You’ve looked, and you don’t believe. Verse 41, he says, “They’re grumbling,” John does. Verse 42, they’re still grumbling. Verse 43, Jesus says, “Stop doing it.” Verse 52, they’re arguing, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Verse 61, even the disciples are grumbling. Verse 66, they leave. Vacate the synagogue, leaving only Peter and the Twelve who believed.
Just in conclusion, a few things to think about. Eating is necessary. If you want eternal life, eating is necessary. You can’t just come. You can’t just admire. People do this all the time, all the time. Oh yeah, I have a lot of respect for Jesus, a lot of respect for Jesus. You can’t just come and admire. You have to eat, which is to believe fully. But eating is in response to hunger. So, the people who eat are the people who are what? Hungry! What is hunger? It’s the aching of the heart of one who knows he’s empty. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit to make the heart hungry. That’s where the Father starts to draw. The hungry heart sees the bread.
And, by the way, eating is personal. It’s not a group event. You can all go out to dinner, but the food has to go in your mouth. Lots of people can do lots of things for you. They can come over and change the curtains, fix the room. People can do a lot of things to help you. You have to eat. You can’t do that by proxy. Eating is necessary. Eating is in response to hunger. Eating is personal and eating is transformational. If you don’t eat physically, you will die. If you eat, food you take in transforms you, and that’s what Christ does.
I don’t know what kind of bread is at your house, but I hope you’ve all partaken of the true Christmas bread. Let’s pray together. This has been such a wonderful day and it’s not over yet as we again celebrate tonight, but Lord we thank You that Your Word is so powerful and so clear and so consistent. Its divine authorship is unassailable. Thank You for giving us the truth.
I pray for those who are here who maybe have come, looked, or are looking, but haven’t believed, received, eaten, accepting Christ not only as the bread that nourishes the soul, but the blood that cleanses the soul. May nothing about the gospel be a stumbling block, but may the gospel be a welcome message fully embraced. May it be today that there’s some persons who’ve heard this who will eat, who will receive Christ as Lord and Savior and receive with Him the eternal life. We thank You that we are secure in that life because if we do believe, if we do come, it’s because You’ve drawn us. Father, You’ve given us to the Son, and you blessed Son will keep us and hold us and raise us at the last day. We thank You for the glory of the gospel and the opportunity we have to celebrate it again today.
Father, now we ask that You would do Your work in Your way. Father, draw many to Yourself. We give You praise for privilege, undeserved, unearned, the gift of grace that has granted us salvation when we were Your enemies. We thank You, Lord, that You once made us desperately hungry and then You showed us the bread of life, Father. And we learned from You as You taught us and You drew us. We thank You that Christ received us and holds us until the resurrection when we’re fully glorified in Your presence forever. Thank You for this great truth and may it ring in our hearts as we celebrate in these days of Christmas. We give You praise, in Christ’s name. Amen.
This post was first published December 16, 2015. -ed.
The Christmas story in the Bible begins several hundred years before that night in Bethlehem. One Old Testament prophecy after another promised a coming Savior—the Messiah, the Anointed One—who would redeem the people of God. The centerpiece of all the Christmas prophecies, Isaiah 9:6, was written nearly six hundred years before Jesus’ birth. Isaiah promised it would be a miraculous event, unlike any the world had ever known, and the details Isaiah gave were fulfilled precisely by Jesus.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 is the most familiar of all the Old Testament prophecies about the birth of Christ. Handel included it as one of the great choruses of his Messiah oratorio. Chances are you either sing it or hear it several times every Christmas season.
Consider the rich truths in this one short verse and the attributes given to this extraordinary child. To the Jewish nation, Isaiah’s prophecy was news of a coming King. To the unsuspecting world, the prophecy promised a Savior, God incarnate, whose coming would dramatically and forever alter human history.
Son of Man “A child will be born to us” is a statement about His humanity. He began life like any other human—as an infant. Isaiah doesn’t say more about this here, but we know from the New Testament that Christ experienced every temptation common to humanity, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). As a man, He felt everything we feel, hurt like we hurt, wept like we weep, and in His death He even felt the weight of sin as He took ours upon Himself.
Son of God “A son will be given to us” speaks of the Savior’s preexistent deity. By saying “given,” not “born,” Isaiah suggests that Jesus existed before His birth. He was already God, the second Person of the Trinity, before He was given to us to be our Savior (Philippians 2:6-7). He came as the Son of God—God in a human body—to conquer sin and death forever. He is the perfect Son of God, the promise of the ages, the Holy One of Israel, the desire of nations, the light in darkness, the only hope for our lost world.
King of kings “The government will rest on His shoulders” looks beyond that first Christmas to a time still in the prophetic future when Christ shall reign over a literal, earthly, geopolitical kingdom that encompasses all the kingdoms and governments of the world (Zechariah 14:9; Daniel 2:44). In that day, the government of the whole world will rest on His shoulders, and He will reign as sovereign over a worldwide kingdom of righteousness and peace. In the meantime, His government operates in secret. His kingdom and sovereign rule are manifest within those who trust Him as their Lord (Luke 17:20-21).
Wonderful Counselor Messiah’s kingdom has the answer to the world’s confusion. During His incarnation, Christ demonstrated His wisdom as a counselor. When people came to Him, He always knew what to say, when to reach out to a seeking heart, and when to rebuke an impetuous soul. The testimony of those who heard Him was, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks” (John 7:46). Christ is the source of all truth (John 14:6), and it is to Him that we must turn to make sense of life’s confusion. Jesus is the Counselor who knows everything. He knows all about you; He knows the needs of your heart; He knows how to answer those needs. And He always gives wise counsel to those who will hear and obey Him.
Mighty God The King is the Mighty God and His kingdom is free from all chaos. “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33), which means chaos is antithetical to who He is. Christ the King loves to step into a life of chaos and not only provide wonderful counsel, but also display His divine power by bringing order. He not only tells His subjects what to do as a wonderful Counselor, but He can energize them to do it—because He is the Mighty God. In Jesus we have a sovereign Master who can forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate us from the power of evil, redeem us, answer our prayers, restore our broken souls, and reign over rebuilt lives, bringing order to chaos.
Eternal Father We tend to cringe at the word “government,” picturing an administrative labyrinth. But our Messiah’s kingdom is not like that. He requires no bureaucracy; He shoulders His government by Himself. He can do it because He is the eternal Father, or as the phrase in Isaiah 9:6 is literally translated, “the Father of Eternity.” Christ is Creator of heaven and earth. According to God the Father’s own testimony, the Son—Jesus—was the Person of the Godhead who created time out of eternity and fashioned the universe from nothing (Hebrews 1:10-12). Nothing is too difficult for the Creator and Sustainer of everything. Infinity and all its intricacies are nothing to Him who is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End—the Father of Eternity. He declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He is in complete and sovereign control, He sees the end of everything, and He guarantees that all things will work together for the ultimate good of all His kingdom’s subjects (Romans 8:28).
Prince of Peace In Messiah’s kingdom there are no conflicts because He is the Prince of Peace. He offers “peace from God” (Romans 1:7) to all who receive His grace. He makes “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) for those who surrender to Him in faith. And He brings the “peace of God” (Philippians 4:7) to those who walk with Him. As we hear so often at Christmas, the beginning of His earthly life was heralded by angels who pronounced peace on earth (Luke 2:14). There never really has been peace on earth in the sense we think of it. Wars and rumors of wars have characterized the entire two millennia since that first Christmas, as well as all the time before it. The announcement of peace on earth was a two-pronged proclamation. First, it declared the arrival of the only One who ultimately can bring lasting peace on earth (which He will do when He returns to bring about the establishment of His earthly kingdom).
But more importantly, it was a proclamation that God’s peace is available to men and women. Read the words of Luke 2:14 carefully and note this emphasis: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” God is pleased with the people who yield their lives to Him. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:11 NKJV). When the angels proclaimed peace on earth, they were speaking primarily of a very personal, individual application of God’s peace that grows out of a firsthand knowledge of the Prince of Peace.
The prophetic message of Christmas is the good news of God’s answer to all the confusion, chaos, complexities, and conflicts of life. It is the gift of the newborn infant who is also the Father of all eternity. He is an innocent child, yet He is a wise Counselor and mighty King. He is God with us. Immanuel.
This Christmas, consider the wonderful promise of Christ, and how He has fulfilled these rich prophecies in your life through His saving, sanctifying, and sustaining work.
The answer to this question is more important than you ever knew! It reveals vital understanding about the very identity and future role of Jesus Christ!
Why did the wise men bring gifts to Jesus?
The wise men recognized that Jesus Christ was a king and, out of respect, brought Him gifts befitting a king.
The scriptural account surrounding Jesus’ birth tells of wise men traveling a great distance from the east to present the young Christ child with gifts. What is the reason for imparting gifts to a small child? Who did these men believe they were honoring?
First of all, the Bible does not tell us the exact number of wise men, and they were not present for His birth in a manger as is so often depicted in nativity scenes every December.
Matthew 2:1, 11 shows that the young child Jesus was already in a house by the time the wise men visited and offered their gifts. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. … And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
This is only one illustration of how Christmas customs have actually distorted the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Other articles on this website demonstrate this fact in much more depth. Be sure to read some of these eye-opening assessments of commonly held traditions.
The question we are exploring in this article is why wise men brought gifts to a child who was too young to appreciate them in the first place. What motivated these men to feel it was appropriate to present anything? Who did they think Jesus was, and why did they come all that way?
The answer reveals an often overlooked reality about the Son of God.
Gifts fit for a king
Matthew 2:2 tells us that the wise men came looking for a king. They did not ask where they could find the Savior of mankind. They were following the common custom of presenting gifts to royalty or one destined to be a ruling monarch.
Because of 2,000 years of the Christian experience, most everyone today thinks of Jesus only in the context of one who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And He did that, of course.
Christ’s role as Savior of mankind is made clear in the New Testament. However, there is another often-overlooked role Christ will fulfill, one that is repeatedly emphasized in the Gospels—that of Christ being a ruling king.
Notice the statement to Mary when she was told she would conceive a child: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32).
Mary was told her Son would be a king and would sit on a throne. This was precisely the expectation of Jesus’ own disciples (Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6).
Looking for the Messiah …
The Jews had long been anticipating the arrival of the Messiah. He would be a descendant of David who would reestablish the Davidic throne and usher in the prophesied period of restored greatness in a new kingdom (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:2; Daniel 7:13-14).
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem just before His crucifixion, an Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah was recounted: “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey”’” (Matthew 21:4-5).
The Son of God
Few today consider that when a first-century Jew heard the term son of God, it prompted thoughts of earthly rulership and divine appointment rather than a position in the Godhead. Biblically, son of God could signify any exclusive relationship with God (the angels are called sons of God in Job 1:6, as was the nation of Israel in Exodus 4:22).
Yet the term had an amplified application for the Messiah, the offspring of David.
These sons of God actually acted as agents for God ruling on His throne. “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him” (1 Chronicles 29:23). Fulfilling this role would eventually be a glorious messianic function.
Jesus was the only begotten Son of God with respect to His miraculous birth; God was His Father. And in the kingly or messianic sense, He was the ultimate Son of God—the One who had a divinely appointed destiny to be given David’s throne.
This is why Nathaniel stated in John 1:49, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” To him, it seems, the terms were synonymous. He began to believe Jesus was the prophesied son of David for whom Israel was waiting; the One destined to restore the greatness of David’s (God’s) earthly throne.
Born—King of the Jews
At the time of Christ’s birth, the Jews already had a king, named Herod. He ruled as a vassal under the Roman authorities, but he was a king nevertheless.
When the wise men came seeking Jesus, what did they say? “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-2). For the paranoid King Herod, this was very troubling indeed! Neglecting any spiritual implications of Christ’s birth, Herod clearly recognized the threat to his own throne and attempted to kill Jesus, unsuccessfully (Matthew 2:12-16).
Jesus was continually examined as to whether or not He claimed to be a king. When the high priest questioned Jesus at His mock trial, he asked, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”(Matthew 26:63). The high priest was likely not inquiring about His divinity, but was looking for a way to charge Him with treason for declaring that He was Israel’s king, the Messiah (Luke 22:67-71). The high priest then told Pilate that Jesus claimed to be a king (Luke 23:2-3).
John 18:33 states, “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’” (See also John 18:39; John 19:3, 14). This is why the Roman soldiers shamefully gave Jesus a crown of thorns and why the sign above His cross read, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:2, 19). The whole context of Jesus’ crucifixion from the Roman and Jewish perspective was about His claiming to be a king of Israel not a Savior of mankind.
Christ’s Kingdom still to come
Jesus came to give His life as our Savior so that humans can be reconciled to God, have their sins forgiven and eventually be granted eternal life in the Kingdom of God. But He also came as the King of that Kingdom—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will reign during the coming millennial age on this earth.
Christ will rule the nations from Jerusalem on the restored throne of David (Luke 1:32; Revelation 11:15). The Old Testament prophecies of the coming King are the reason the wise men were looking for a promised sovereign and why they brought gifts to the Child they knew would one day be King.
To learn more about this magnificent Kingdom of God and how God is preparing individuals to rule with Christ at that time, be sure to read the revealing articles on these subjects on this website. You, too, can discover what it takes to live and reign with Christ the King.
DR DAVID JEREMIAH RADIO 2021 | WHY THE GIFTS OF THE WISEMEN ? — PART 1 | DEC 16, 2020
They bring some of the greatest myths and misunderstandings to the Nativity story, but they also bring great clarity to the person of Jesus. Dr. David Jeremiah looks at the wise men with particular attention to the meaning behind each of the three gifts they presented to the Christ Child.
DR DAVID JEREMIAH RADIO 2021 | WHY THE GIFTS OF THE WISEMEN ? — PART 2 | DEC 17, 2020
Gold, frankincense and myrrh – each gift presented by the Magi tells us something of Christ’s nature. Dr. David Jeremiah examines the significance of each gift and considers how we can respond today.