The New Testament - A Humble Beginning
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It's that time again...
If you've been following along, you know we've been working our way through The Bible. In all of these Old Testament stories, we're seeing how they're connected and how they all point to Jesus...
ONE OF 'EM!
In a way, we can think of the Old Testament as the lighthouse leading us to our Rescue, our Rescuer, our Hope - Jesus.
So where we left off last time... the Jews had been back in their promised land for 100 years. Though the temple was not as good as it once was, it has been rebuilt and revival has come. But, as we often do, the people are getting comfortable with God again. That's when the prophet Malachi reminds the people, "We will be rescued. Be faithful to God's commands. God will rescue us!" (Again, I paraphrase, of course.) Though we can turn the page within a second, there are 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Aka, no burning bushes. Complete silence between God and His people.
...Not to be confused with disappearance. God is still ever present during these 400 years but He remains silent.
The people are waiting for their Rescue and it comes.
...but very different than they expected.
The story of our Rescue is documented in four chapters of the New Testament. Why four? It's not like episodes of our favorite show where one builds upon the other in chronological order. Rather, these are four eyewitness accounts. So, again, why four?
Think about it this way. If a friend calls you up and tells you about something out of the ordinary - let's say they stopped by Chick-Fil-A for lunch and learn they are handing out the red and white bags of goodness and saying "My Pleasure" but accepting no payment whatsoever from anyone - I know, what a day that would be!
This would be pretty hard to believe, right? I mean, I hear "free" and I'm sucked in like lint in a vacuum hose but I'd likely wonder if it was true. It seems too good to be true, right? But then, another friend calls and says the same thing and maybe adds a few more details about what they saw and experienced. Then another does the same. Then another. And now all four stories line up! Guess what I'm doing, I'm headed to get me some free and undeserved chicken strips and waffle fries!
Indeed, I'm moved to action because I believe.
As John says, being saved is all about believing.
Like we talked about in Part 2, four men wrote about the life of Jesus. Luke is super detailed while Mark is the efficient-stick-to-the-events type. Matthew uses lots of Old Testament scripture to show how Jesus is the one the Jews have been waiting for, but even more, Jesus came for all of us!
And then, there's John. John was very close to Jesus and is very clear why he took time to write for us. He writes:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. - John 20:30
Like we said, it's all about believing.
So, the life of Jesus on earth is held in what we often refer to as the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (named after the men who wrote these eyewitness accounts).
Today, we're going to start with John and goodness, we're in for a treat. We can see how deeply John loved Jesus because his writing about Jesus is pure artistry. Look what he does with his opening three words: "In the beginning."
Do you remember another book in The Bible that starts like this?
Yep, the beginning! Genesis!
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. - Genesis 1:1-4
Now, let's compare that to John's opening words about Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. - John 1:1-2
(Quick note - the "He" John is referring to is Jesus. Jesus was the Word, meaning He was the one who spoke during creation. Jesus was both with God in the beginning and was God. The trinity - God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit - were there since the very beginning.)
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:3-5
So right out the gate of the New Testament, we learn who Jesus is - one with God, the light of the world, and a power so great, evil cannot overcome it.
THAT is our Savior!
THAT is who God sent to Rescue us!
He didn't send an angel. He didn't send a B-team member. He sent His one and only Son to rescue us. John continues:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:9-14
He is the true light and gives light to everyone. Dare I point out the lighthouse again?
Light rescues us from our darkness. Jesus is our light and our hope for eternal life.
Did you notice how John says "the world did not recognize Him?" This is because of that humble beginning we mentioned a few moments ago.
Imagine living during this time. Roman soldiers are strong and physically dominant. Religious leaders are proud and belong to the elite class.
God could have sent His Son any way He wanted, yet He chooses to send Jesus not as an adult man of incredible military and muscular strength, not even as a man of high status... Instead, He sends Jesus to earth dependent on another human for everything - sustenance, clothing, shelter and care.
Even more, God doesn't send Him as to live in royal conditions, but to a young, poor Jewish girl named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. We know they were poor because when the time came for the census, they gave two pigeons or turtledoves (Luke 2:24). By Old Testament law, this is allowed if they cannot afford a lamb (Leviticus 12:8). Joseph and Mary could not afford a lamb. They did not have wordly riches, but they had a surrendered heart to God. God chose the unlikely couple to raise His Son on earth.
Our rescue came wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
A manger of all places!
This was intentional. This was not God's Rescue Plan B, C, or D because of the circumstances in Bethlehem. It was foretold by the prophet Micah hundreds of years before His birth:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. - Micah 5:2
Definitely not Rescue Plan B. This was always God's Rescue Plan A for us.
If God knew Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, couldn't He have made room in an inn for Him on that holy night? Absolutely. God can do anything. But, He didn't. Why not?
From Jesus' first breath as a human, God was showing us what Jesus' purpose was on earth. To save us from our sin, to save us from our mess. So, He arranged for Jesus to be born in a manger - next to animals who do natural animal things... things that smell. Things that make us want to step away and create space.
Yet, God does not respond to our mess the way we naturally do. He didn't step away; He entered into it. He didn't create space; He came close.
Indeed, God has never been afraid of our mess. He's never been the God who watches us in our mess from a safe distance in heaven. He stepped down and entered into our mess.
Though Jesus is fully God, He became fully man, so He could restore us into close, eternal relationship with God once and for all.
Oh, how hard it is for me to pause here. While part of me wants to say, "Hurry back next week and we'll keep going," the other part of me sees it as a gift that we have a week to tarry in this truth.
I challenge you to spend some time thinking, praying and asking God to show you the mess He entered in for you. Truth is, if you or I were the only ones who needed to be saved, God would go through this entire rescue again just for us. His love is deeply personal. He takes great delight in you. He knows the mess you've been in, He sees the mess you're in now and guess what? He loves you even though He knows you'll mess up again. His love is unconditional.
Settle in with this this week and we'll meet back here again next week and keep going!
May we find strength in the Word of God. May our joy for reading scripture grow as we intentionally choose to set aside time to spend reading it each day. May our peace overflow as the Word of God reads us and changes us from the inside out. Then, we will know rest this world can't give.
Remember how we said 5 minutes a day can change your day, your life and even your eternity? Well, here's what I'll be reading this week. I really hope you'll join me!
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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