The Birth of the King

Series: Preacher: Date: February 24, 2013 Scripture Reference: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1

1- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 – He was with God in the beginning. 

3 – Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

4 – In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

5 – The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6 – There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.

7 – He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all men might believe.

8 – He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 – The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 – He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.

11 – He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

12 – Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…

13 – …children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 – The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 – John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, “This was He of Whom I said, ‘He Who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’”

16 – From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.

17 – For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

18 – No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, Who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.

One of my favorite TV shows from yesteryear is The Dick Van Dyke Show. Is there anyone else here who is old enough to remember enjoying that one? For you young people, it was a sitcom about a comedy writer named Rob Petry and his wife Laura who lived just outside New York City. Rob worked in the city as the head writer for a popular television show. My favorite episode was when Laura gave birth to their son, Richie. I know sitcoms do shows about the humor surrounding the time a mom goes into labor all the time, but this one is by far my favorite. Rob was so excited about the arrival. I mean, it was obvious that the focus of the last nine months of his life was getting ready for the day that little one would be born. The show took place toward the end of Laura’s last month. The doc had told them the baby could come at any time—and so as the dutiful, and VERY nervous, husband Rob was totally focused on being absolutely ready for the trip to the hospital. He had Laura’s bag packed and by the door. He had memorized the route from their home to the hospital. Then, to make sure he was really ready, one night when he was sure the baby would come he decided to sleep while fully dressed: suit, tie, shoes, the whole works. He even left his hat on the head board so he could quickly reach up and put it on when the time came. This is back when husbands and wives on TV slept in twin beds. Of course, the baby didn’t come that night so Rob went to work in a suit that had been horribly wrinkled by a night of tossing and turning in bed. When he got to work, his co-workers suggested he send his suit out for a quick pressing, which he did, but he had no sooner done that than Laura called and said, it was time! She needed Rob to get home as soon as possible to take her to the hospital. Well, Rob’s pants were at the cleaners so he borrowed the pants of a fellow worker—a guy named Buddy Sorrel. Buddy was short and Rob was tall and this made the pants come about a foot above his ankles and since Buddy’s waist was much bigger than Rob’s he had to use his hands to keep his borrowed pants from falling down. Then to top it all off, I think he had an accident or something on the way home so he had to drive his wife to the hospital in the milk man’s truck. This was back when they had milk men!

In spite of the fact that it is an OLD show, trust me, it was a GREAT show and viewers loved it because they could relate. I mean, all dads know how excited they are to learn a little one is on the way and how nervous they are as the due date draws near. They also know how hard it is to wait for those nine months to pass.

I bring this up because the Hebrew people knew the Messiah was coming—but they had been waiting for his birth far longer than nine months! The fact is they had been waiting for thousands of years. Prophets like Moses and Isaiah and Daniel had been talking about the Messiah’s coming from the very beginning of God’s Story. In our reading in The Story we just saw that the last PERSON to speak of this coming birth was the last PROPHET in the Old Testament, a man named Malachi. But Malachi didn’t give a “due date.” All he said was that the NEXT prophet to speak for God would introduce the long-awaited Messiah. This mysterious next prophet would remind people of the prophet ELIJAH and pave the way for His coming. Well, it was 400 years before that forerunner, a man named John the Baptist, showed up and began to act and dress and preach like Elijah, while letting people know that the Messiah was finally on the scene and that His ministry was about to begin.

Now—you and I know the story of His birth. We celebrate it every Christmas—so it was only two months ago when we last rejoiced about the night to night’s when the Messiah was born. I mean, we know all about how the angel told Mary she would give birth to God’s Son and how Joseph her betrothed, learned of this and was about to divorce her quietly for what he was sure was infidelity, until an angel appeared to him in a dream and explained. We know about their journey to Bethlehem for the census and how there was no room in the Inn and how Jesus ended up being born on the cold dusty floor of a cave—a place used to house sheep. We know about the angels who sang that night and the shepherds and the wise men who came.

We know all that so, instead of reviewing that very familiar story, the question I want us to deal with this morning is why was this birth so special? Why is it the central focus of God’s Story? And don’t be mistaken—it IS indeed central. God’s Story is all about Jesus and His coming. I mean, ALL the Bible is ALL ABOUT Jesus. Why is that? Why the focus on Jesus? Why is His birth so significant? I think we find the answers to our questions in part of our reading for this week, and I’m referring to the first chapter of John’s Gospel. John says three things about Jesus that help us understand why His birth was special—why it was unique—different from any other birth…why it was a birth that was WORTH waiting thousands of years to happen.

(1) First John says that Jesus’ birth was special because Jesus EXISTED before He was BORN.

Look at verses 1 and 2. “In the BEGINNING was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”  When John says, “the Word” he was referring to Jesus and before we go any further—I need to explain why John refers to Jesus in this way. You see, when John wrote His account of Jesus’ life the Gospel message had spread beyond the JEWISH world and into the GENTILE world.  Thanks to the work of missionaries like Paul, Christianity had gone from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and Greece and even to Rome itself. So, in John’s day, Christianity was no longer a Jewish religion.  In fact, by the time he wrote his Gospel account, there were probably 100,000 Gentile Christians for every one Jewish Christian. Well, John was writing to people in both these people groups, people in both these “mission fields” who had not yet made their minds up about Jesus. This meant he needed a “seeker sensitive word.” He needed a term that would be familiar to both—and “the WORD” was that term.

To the JEWS this was a way of saying that to see the creative power of God—the WORD that brought creation into existence—they need only look to the Christ. To the GREEKS it was a way of saying that the controlling power of the universe—which they called LOGOS or THE WORD—became an actual Person. So, by saying that THE WORD was Jesus John would have spoken to both cultures. Okay—back to my first statement about Jesus being special because He is ETERNAL—special because He existed BEFORE He was born in Bethlehem. John starts his gospel by transporting us to eternity past—before creation, before man—before the existence of time itself.  He starts his book in the same way the Bible starts and says, “In the BEGINNING” was the WORD. In the BEGINNING was Jesus. But the word “was” here means more than “beginning.”  A literal translation is, “to exist independent of any beginning.”   So this phrase really means, “in a beginning that had no beginning was THE WORD.”

I was talking with an atheist friend recently. He mentioned the “big bang” theory as one reason he didn’t believe in a Creator and I said I felt the “big bang” theory proved there was a Creator because Someone had to “light the fuse” so to speak.  He said he understood that but that this didn’t explain who “started” the Creator. I told him the Creator didn’t start—He has always been. In fact, He created time. He created “the start.”  And I could tell that began to make sense to my friend. Well, John was reaching out to 1st century atheists by saying that this baby that was born–Jesus—the WORD—is special because He existed before His birth in Bethlehem and lives even after His death on the cross.  He was saying that Jesus was not “made.” He did not “come into being.” He ALWAYS was.  He is ETERNAL. There never was a time when Christ was not and never will be!  As Max Lucado puts it, “The Baby Mary held was connected to the dawn of time. He was the first ray of sunlight and heard the first crash of a wave. The baby was born but the Word never was.”

And this shouldn’t be that big of a shock to us because we have encountered Jesus throughout our reading of The Story.  For example, most scholars agree that it was Jesus Who wrestled with Jacob that night. And that when Joshua was near Jericho and fell on his face and worshiped the One Who called Himself the Commander of the Army of the Lord—that Commander was the pre-incarnate Jesus. The mysterious priest named Melchizedek to Whom Abraham gave offerings was also Jesus. That fourth figure in the fiery furnace was Jesus. I’m saying Jesus was with Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—because, unlike any other person, Jesus existed BEFORE He was born.

I don’t know about you—but this fact speaks to me in a powerful way because John is saying all that Jesus IS, He ALWAYS WAS. Isn’t that a wonderful thought to think?! All that Jesus IS, He ALWAYS WAS—and always will be! Jesus is ETERNAL! By the way, we can’t say this about the founders of the world’s OTHER religions.  I mean, Buddha had a beginning and an end. So did Mohammed and Confucius and Zoroaster and all the rest. But not this Baby—not Jesus—not the WORD. No—Jesus is ETERNAL for Jesus was and is and always will be.

Do you know what else this means? It means that God has always like Jesus. Sometimes we think of God as just stern and avenging—and we tend to think that something that Jesus did changed God’s anger into love,  and altered God’s attitude to sinful people like you and me. Well you don’t find that in either Old or New Testament. No—the Bible tells us—and especially this PASSAGE OF JOHN tells us—that God has always been like Jesus. What Jesus did when He was born was open a window in time that we might see the eternal and unchanging love of God.

As he puts it in verse 18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, Who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” It was only when Jesus, “the One and Only, Who is at the Father’s side,” came that men saw fully and completely what God has ALWAYS been like which leads me to point out a SECOND way John describes Jesus’s birth as being unique.

(2) John tells us that Jesus was a MAN Who was at the same time GOD.

Look at the last part of verse 1 where he writes, “the WORD was God” or literally, “God was the WORD.” Understand—John did not say that Jesus was identical to God, a perfect copy, like an identical twin. No—in a way we cannot understand on this side of eternity, He WAS God—IS God. That means that the baby nestled against Mary’s breast that first Christmas night was ALMIGHTY GOD. The child in the temple confounding the priests was ALMIGHTY GOD. The Man Who taught and fed the multitudes, Who healed the sick and raised the dead, the Man Who hung on that Roman cross and rose from the dead was ALMIGHTY GOD. I mean, when you look at Jesus Christ, you are not seeing an isolated JEW who lived a brief life with a tragic ending 2,000 years ago. No, you are looking at the ETERNAL GOD HIMSELF, Who existed before time and in for 33 years of the first century walked on this planet of ours as a man.  I’m reminded of something astronaut James Irwin said after his walk on the moon, “There is one thing better than man walking on the moon and that is God walking on the earth.”

This means that everything that can be said about God the Father can be said about God the Son.  Jesus is in every way God, yet He is a separate person from God the Father. In their New World Translation of John, the Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this phrase in verse 1 like this: “and the word was a god.”  They do this by supplying the indefinite article “a” but there is no indefinite article in the Greek.

So—unlike any other widely-followed religious leader in history, Jesus Christ was God.  Not a god, not god-like, but God incarnate — the Creator of the universe in human flesh. John underscores and affirms this truth in verse 3 by saying, “Through Him (the WORD) all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Literally this says, “Every single part of the universe came into being through Him.” In other words, Jesus, THE Word, created everything from atoms to suns. And while we’re on the subject, not only did Jesus CREATE the universe—in Colossians 1:17 Paul reminds us that even now, “the universe as a whole in Him holds together.” We speak of the law of gravity that holds the things of this planet in place…when it would be more accurate to speak of the law of Christ that holds not just the earth and the things on it in proper position but also holds the entire universe together, beginning with the atoms that make up your body, all of it is held together by Jesus.

Perhaps you have heard Louie Giglio’s powerful sermon in which he talks about a very important PROTEIN that is in the cells of our bodies—a protein called LAMININ. He heard about this from a molecular biologist who came to hear him speak one night.  This biologist told him that our body’s cells organize themselves into certain molecular structures and that there are between 10 and 16 thousand different proteins in our bodies.  One of the proteins that scientists have identified is laminin. Basically these laminin proteins are cell adhesion molecules—because they literally hold our cells together like glue.  In construction terms they are the “re-bar of the human body” like those steel wires and rods contractors put down before they pour concrete. That REBAR holds the concrete together and LAMININ molecules hold our bodies together. To explain why I bring this all up I need to show you a scientific diagram of a laminin molecule. Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t it make that verse come alive? Let me say it again as you look. Paul says, “In Him—in JESUS—the universe as a whole is held together.”   I don’t know about you but that blows me away—because it reminds me of the Bible’s clear teaching—that Jesus is God—the Creator—Who made me—and holds not just my BODY together but my LIFE together! I mean, I read this text from John and think back on all the tough times I’ve had in life, the physical ailments, surgeries, the cancer, the emotional crises brought on by the stresses of life, like the death of a loved ones. I look back and I can see that YES—JESUS—THE WORD MADE FLESH—He held me together in those times. Even now, He holds me in the palm of His almighty hand!  Doesn’t that bring you comfort? Doesn’t it re-assure you to know that Jesus—GOD—holds you—HOLDS you together?! Listen to a paraphrase of this verse from Colossians:“Jesus was before all else began and it is His power that holds everything together.” Jesus is God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Here are some other texts that support this fact. Hebrews 1:1-3 says, “God, Who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist.”

I know that in our study of all this we are reaching the limits of our mind’s capacity to grasp things which may lead to headaches and misunderstandings so let me try to help by saying that we have to understand that when God became the man Jesus, He did not cease to be God, nor did He lose His divine attributes like omnipresence and omnipotence. He merely laid them aside for a time. Theologians call this choice “kenosis,” which derives from a Greek term meaning “to empty.” Perhaps the best way to illustrate this concept is to tell the story of Thomas Mott Osborne. In October of 1914, Osborne entered Auburn Prison in upstate New York, and like all the other prisoners, he was photographed, fingerprinted, stripped of his possessions, issued a set of prison grays, and led to a cell, four feet wide by seven and a half fee long and seven and a half feet tall. The only difference between prisoner 33,333x and the other 1,329 inmates was the issue of  freedom. On his command, Osborne could leave the prison anytime he desired.You see, after his appointment to Governor Sulzer’s State Commission on Prison Reform, Osborne made it his mission to live as one of the inmates, study their experience, and emerge as their advocate. He voluntarily laid aside his freedom to experience life behind bars. He slept in a dank, drafty cell just like theirs. He ate their food and labored as they did. He even endured their most dreaded punishment, a night in “the box.” While he could order his own release at any time, he was nevertheless confined. He wrote, I am a prisoner, locked, double locked. By no human possibility, by no act of my own, can I throw open the iron grating which shuts me from the world into this small stone vault. I am a voluntary prisoner, it is true; nevertheless even a voluntary prisoner can’t unlock the door of his cell.” Just as Osborne was at once free yet confined to prison, Jesus was omnipotent yet by His own choice became helpless as an infant, dependent upon His mother’s milk for survival. He set aside His rightful entitlements of deity to become the least privileged of people—born among the poorest of the poor. He would be raised as the child of a peasant couple.

So, to review, John says Jesus is ETERNAL. Jesus is GOD—and then he uses one more word to explain why this birth was special. I’ve already alluded to it but we need to go a bit deeper.

(3) John says that in the Word, Jesus, God, Who is SPIRIT, became FLESH.

Look at verse14 where John writes, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In other words, John says that the eternal Jesus—God—the omnipotent, eternal SPIRITUAL BEING Who created us—became flesh, real HUMAN flesh like the kind you and I are “wearing” this morning. Lucado puts it like this, “The Artist became oil on his own palette. The Potter melted into the mud on his own wheel. God became an embryo in the belly of a village girl. Christ in Mary. God in Christ. The Word of God entered the world with the cry of a human baby. His family had no cash or connections or strings to pull. Jesus, the Maker of the universe, the One Who invented time and created breath, was born into a family too humble to swing the price of a bed for a pregnant mom-to-be.”

John was proclaiming the glorious truth that God is not detached from us—no, He left Heaven and “made His dwelling among us.” Frazee writes, “God’s own Son was leaving the Upper Story to come down to not only be WITH us but be ONE of us. To walk with us, talk with us, live with us. We refer to this as ‘the Incarnation,’ which literally means ‘in the flesh.’ Through Jesus, God came down and took up flesh to be among us.”

Since God wore flesh just like ours—we can know that He knows what human life is really like. Jesus’ humble birth in that stock yard in Bethlehem tells us He knows what we go through. It was a life that was humble enough for Him to understand the concerns that keep us awake at night, humble enough for Him to say, “I know what that’s like.” humble enough that when an immigrant from Ethiopia prays or a squatter in Brazil offers a plea for help, the Almighty God does not shake His head and say, “I wish they’d get their act together.” —but rather He remembers the pain of a hungry belly and the chill of a cold night. After all, God heard His earthly parent tell the story of how they got tuned away on the night of His birth. God knows what it’s like to be a real, flesh and blood person.

But Jesus wasn’t born in this humble way just so He could hear our prayers and say, “I understand.” No—He became one of us because it was the only way to save us from our sin. He became a real flesh and blood man, Who lived a sinless life, so He could take on Himself the penalty of sinful flesh and blood people like you and me. He did this because it was the only way God’s upper story plan would come to fruition. It was the only way God could get what He wanted and we could get what we needed, fellowship with our Creator, a relationship with our Heavenly Father. It was the only way we could get back what Adam and Eve lost. John is telling us that in Jesus, the Holy God created this world and then became flesh in order to re-create it, redeem it, restore it.

And this grace-filled blessing came from a birth—yes a SPECIAL birth unlike that of any other child—but a humble birth as well. In his book, God’s Story,Max Lucado says that in the weeks before Christmas 1933, a curious offer appeared in the daily newspaper of Canton, Ohio. It read:

“Man Who Felt Depression’s Sting To Help 75 Unfortunate Families.”

In the article it told about a “Mr. B. Virdot” who promised to send a check to the neediest in the community.  All they had to do was describe their plight in a letter and mail it to General Delivery. The plunging economy had left fathers with no jobs, houses with no heat, children with patched clothing, and an entire nation, it seemed, with no hope and so it was no surprise when the appeals poured in. Here’s a couple examples of the letters:

“Mr. Virdot, I hate to write this letter…it seems too much like begging…my husband doesn’t know I’m writing…He is working but not making enough to hardly feed his family.”

“Mr. Virdot, we are in desperate circumstances…No one knows, only those who go through it.”

Everyone in Canton, Ohio knew of Mr. Virdot’s offer but oddly, no one know Mr. Virdot.  The city registry of 105,000 citizens contained no such name. People wondered if he really existed. Yet within a week checks began to arrive at homes all over the area. Most were modest, about five dollars. All were signed, “B. Virdot.” Through the years, the story was told, but the identity of the man was never discovered.  Then in 2008, a man named Ted Gup opened a tattered black suitcase that had collected dust in his parents’ attic. That’s where he found the letters, all dated December 1933, as well as 150 cancelled checks.  In this way Ted Gup discovered that Mr. B. Virdot was SAMUEL J. STONE, his deceased grandfather.  Stone’s pseudonym was a hybrid of Barbara, Virginia, and Dorothy, the names of his three daughters. There was nothing privileged about Sam Stone.  He wasn’t wealthy. In fact, if anything, his upbringing was marred by challenge. He was fifteen when his family emigrated from Romania.  They settled into a Pittsburgh ghetto, where his father hid Sam’s shoes so he couldn’t go to school and forced him and his six siblings to roll cigars in the attic. Still, Stone persisted. He left home to work on a barge, then in a coal mine, and by the time the Depression hit, he owned a small chain of clothing stores and lived in relative comfort. He wasn’t affluent, or impoverished. He was simply willing to help. He was an ordinary man living in an ordinary place but he became a conduit of extraordinary grace for the poor people of Canton. Samuel Stone’s actions are a reflection—in fact I think they were inspired by—the life of Jesus, the Christ. For, while our Lord lived the life of an ordinary man—He was THE conduit of God’s EXTRA-ordinary grace. We were poor—suffering under the staggering debt of our sin—and Jesus, the WORD Who existed before He was born, the Man Who was 100% God, God the Spirit Who became flesh Jesus came to die in our place—to “write the check” necessary to pay the price for our redemption. As Paul puts it in 2nd Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Okay, John’s statements about Jesus’ birth forces us to face a dilemma  I mean we read these verses that say Jesus Christ is the eternal God—the Creator—become flesh—Who came to earth to die on the cross in order to save us from our sins and we are compelled to decide whether or not to BELIEVE what John has written. Later in his Gospel John says that the reason he wrote his book was so that his readers might BELIEVE and in that BELIEF. In that commitment we might have life—ABUNDANT life—life like Adam and Eve experienced every day before the fall–life as it was intended to be—a caliber of life that in comparison to life without Jesus is more like DEATH than life—more like LIGHT than DARKNESS.

John says that when Jesus came He was rejected by some—but those who received Him—those who BELIEVED in His name were given this life—a life reserved for the children of God. Well, here’s the dilemma. What about you? What are you going to do with John’s testimony? Will you accept or reject the WORD?


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