2020 cannot escape my yearly Christmas message. In past years I’ve highlighted reflections on different Christmas hymns, but this year I’ll start with a very short story.
Twelve years ago, while sitting in a coffee shop, I was approached by a Jewish man. He could see that I was reading my bible and remarked multiple times saying, “Jesus is a cheap substitute.” I don’t remember how many times he said this but he did so enough for me to vividly remember the tone of his voice all these years later. After our brief interaction he sat down with one of his friends to talk about the Sabbath, but occasionally looked my way to make his statement heard again.
Though I don’t agree with this fellow he certainly has a point, at least in regards to our western communication of Jesus, His gospel, and His kingdom.
I have often heard during sermons while sitting in Churches in America, especially on Christian holy days such as Christmas and Easter, that some of the main reasons the Jews “missed” Jesus was because they were expecting a conquering king, not a suffering savior. Beloved, in the kindest manner I can speak, this is simply false.
It is true, obviously, that the Jews missed something. However, their view of a coming Messiah who would deliver the Jews from their oppressors, kill His adversaries, end transgression, establish everlasting (eternal) righteousness, reverse the curses of the fall and the flood, and bless all peoples from Jerusalem- was, is, and will always be 100 percent correct. They knew rightly that the coming Son of Man would re-establish David’s throne, ruling the nations with a rod of iron from a temple in Jerusalem. If we don’t communicate to the Jews a Jesus who will fulfill all these things, to them He is indeed a cheap substitute. We also benefit all people when we preach the whole gospel message, even though some people will still “miss it”.
So what did the Jews miss?
Not a whole lot, at least theologically. But They did miss something important. They wrestled with pride and the stumbling blocks of offense and a love grown cold. They wrestled with something very human. They desired the promise of God, but they did so without the enduring patience and hope of their faithful ancestors. Like the devil, they desired sacrifice, not mercy. They missed something I, if I were to be honest with myself, could easily miss if it were not for the gentle correcting hand of the Holy Spirit.
As Christians we celebrate Christmas because we love Emmanuel coming to us in the form of a baby. We love the meekness and humility put on display by God and the announcement of the life that would soon be made perfect in the sight of all mankind, for all eternity, resulting in salvation for all who would call upon the name of the LORD. For this we are right and for this we rejoice!
My desire for us all however, is that we would embrace both the beginning and the end of the announcement of God’s peace. I desire that we would not only know the baby, but we would also know the One worthy of having a divine Jewish government resting on His shoulders.
So how then, beloved, do we go on doing this?
We need to understand the Jewish Messiah. The remainder of my letter is far from comprehensive, but will hopefully serve as a launching point for your own study and going deep in God. As David asked in Psalm 24, “Who is this King of Glory?”
He is the Crushing One and the Desire of Women. Jesus fulfills the covenant given to Adam. God promised Eve that her seed (a son) would crush the head of Satan. As the prophesies unfolded, Jewish women throughout history yearned and desired to be blessed by God to give birth to His Messiah. Eventually, the promise would be fulfilled when “Mary, most blessed among women” inherited Eve’s desire and gave birth to Jesus. This same Jesus will physically slay the head of the house of the wicked, and in the sight of all His holy angels and saints throw the wicked one’s body into a lake of burning sulfur. Because Satan knows his time is short, it says the coming man of sin (the anti-christ who comes according to the works of Satan) will have no regard for the God of the Jews or the “desire of women”, meaning the Son of God, Jesus Christ. (Genesis 1:28 & 3:15; Luke 1:46; Daniel 11:37-38; Habakkuk 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 19:20)
He is the Redeemer of All Created Order. Jesus fulfills the covenant given to Noah, and His coming earthly Kingdom will redeem the earth to its conditions prior to the flood. Creation will no longer “groan for the sons of God to be made manifest”, for in the promise of the redemption of created order is the promise of the resurrection of the dead. David’s song in Psalm 133 promises the everlasting restoration of brotherhood, of which Jesus prays for in John 17 and Paul commands us unto repeatedly throughout his epistles. He will marry the redemption of all created order to the redemption of all created people. One day we will be given perfect, eternal, glorified human bodies that will never decay. Every nation and peoples will be united under one head, Jesus Christ, restoring the honor of true brotherhood in the fullness of God’s commanded blessing. Just as we take on our new bodies, so will heaven and earth take on new creation, where the whole of created order is not only bought back from the dominion of darkness, but it takes on a greater form than the one which was lost. (Genesis 8; Psalm 133; Isaiah 61 & 65:17-25; John 17; Romans 8; Revelation 22:1-5)
He is the Faithful Witness. Jesus fulfills the Covenant made with Abraham. Three men stood by Abraham when God made known His promise near the terebinth trees of Mamre (Genesis 18). God’s covenant with Abraham was a turning point in human history. An everlasting promise was made, which the Lord would accomplish in His own strength by His own means and unto His own purpose. The coming Messiah has been promised an earthly family and an earthly home. As we see in the Gospels, Jesus becomes the sole victor of His own tribe from among Abraham’s descendants. Through His life, death, and resurrection He fulfills many of the promises of the Hebrew prophets, while completely and eternally finishing the work of salvation for all peoples who call on His name. Though the nations are brought into this promise, Israel will always be the natural family of God. The land of Israel will always be Jesus’ earthly home. To ensure Israel’s eternal dwelling in their land, He prepared the way by living a life of faithful meekness so that He might have an inheritance on earth and specifically the land of Israel. Jesus witnessed His Father’s promise given to Abraham by the trees of Mamre, and no power on heaven or earth will stop Jesus from continuing to do only what He sees His Father doing. (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-9; 18; Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:5)
He is the Bridegroom God. Jesus fulfills the Mosaic covenant with Israel. God made a promise to Israel under the canopy of His own presence in the sight of all the people. In a moment of joyful faith, the people of Israel said “I do” to the Lord and to His covenant promises. Throughout Israel’s history they have proven from time to time unfaithful to the vows of God, but according the promises of the prophets and the teachings of the apostle Paul we can see clearly that Jesus will personally draw the whole remnant of Israel into everlasting righteousness and salvation. Once again, Jesus will return to Israel as the faithful husband to wed her again, but the next time this happens the covenant will go unbroken for all eternity. The one thing the Jews of Jesus’ day did seem to miss out on, including the early Church prior to Peter’s revelation, is the inclusion of Gentiles as co-heirs of the promise of the Messiah. Together, we will not only be blessed by Israel, but will one day sit with the saved of Israel at the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Exodus 6:7 & 19; Psalm 45; Song of Solomon 8:5-7; Isaiah 61:9-62:7; Hosea 1:10-11; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3; Ephesians 2:8-3:12; Revelation 19:5-10)
He is the Righteous King. Jesus fulfills the Davidic covenant and sits on David’s everlasting throne. The Jewish prophets and all the faithful of Israel longed for the anointed to sit on David’s throne. This wasn’t mere nationalist zeal, but rather a desire to see all peoples come under the rule of everlasting righteousness and peace. In a world full of death, injustice, and oppression of all kinds, one day a ruler with the heart of a good father will establish a government of peace over all peoples. The Jews were not only longing for authority, but for equity and deliverance for the poor and broken of the earth. Beloved, there is a ruler coming with a rod of iron to break the forces of oppression and injustice, and He will one day sit as king in earthly Jerusalem over all the earth. (2 Samuel 7:1-17; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:6-7, 61:1-5; Amos 9:11-12; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Revelation 11:15 & 19:11-16)
He is the Revelation of God. Jesus will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. The new covenant is superior to the old because it marries every prior covenant in perfect unity unto even better promises. Where the works of mankind failed to bring forth the righteousness of God in every previous covenant, God fulfills in Christ by making a new covenant. The older covenants are not rendered obsolete due to the imperfection of God’s covenants, but the due to the depravity of man. The new covenant breaks in like a bright morning upon a seemingly everlasting night. The old becomes outdated and obsolete because it is brought to completion, then perpetuated for eternity under the banner of a new and better covenant, instituted by a better mediator and deliverer than Moses, and a better priesthood than the Levites. The Jews of Jesus’ day understood and sought out this reality. However, many did not see Jesus as being greater and more worthy than Moses or the Levitical priesthood. Again, it was pride, not theology, which resulted in unbelief.
In the new covenant, the revelation (apocalypse/revealing) of God dwells within the hearts and minds of His people. They will be filled with an intimate knowledge of God which comes from relationship in its beautiful, proper, and eternal context. He will be their God- their all in all- and they will be His people. As Christians, we are well acquainted with the new covenant in His blood, for we have been forgiven and brought into this beautiful revelation of Jesus Christ. We and any believing Jews join together today in the great benefits and blessing of the Lord’s new covenant. However, we must understand the current condition of this covenant is of one proceeding violently onward towards the day of the Lord. Its fullness will come only when the whole house of Israel embraces and becomes partakers of the promise of Christ. The previous covenants are not obsolete until they are fulfilled in Christ, and this comes at His return. (Jeremiah 31:31-40; Luke 22:20; John 17:3; 2 Corinthians 3:6-7; Hebrews 8:1-9:15 & 12:24)
To conclude, I’ll finally get to what this has to do with Christmas. When God became a man and was born of a Jewish woman, there were many prophetic promises and implications I think we often miss as Christians. There is a tendency to over-express the heavenly implications of God’s own Son dwelling among mankind. The truth consists of a much greater insight. Sometimes our Christmas reflections reveal a lack of understanding the Jewish elements. This baby is one who will not only save souls, but is one who will also fix every earthly government, society, economy, and natural environment. This baby is one who grew into a man who will sit on an earthly throne as well as a heavenly one. He will lead an earthly priesthood in a temple in Jerusalem just as He now sits at His Father’s side as the intercessor and high priest of a heavenly priesthood. Finally, one day He will literally join heaven and earth in all its fullness and join them together in one realm and reality.
What child is this? He is the King of Glory! His name is Jesus.
J. S. Marek