I AM GOD’S SON...While God's Word doesn't say Baby Jesus was born at Christmas, it does tell us what the Man Jesus was doing then. While everyone else was celebrating a holiday, even though He knew He would die in just a few months, Jesus continued doing the same thing He had done for the past 3 years. He appealed to religious folks to believe that He was the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah who would save them from their sins.
“Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.” John 10:22-23
Jesus was in Jerusalem strolling in Solomon’s grand Temple Colonnade, a porch supported with row after row of ornate stone columns. It was known in Solomon’s day as the Hall of Judgment, for this was where he would pronounce judgment in matters of law. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote this about the Colonnade: "Its fineness, to such as had not seen it, was incredible; and to such as had seen it was greatly amazing."
There He was, the Only Begotten Son of God, walking in the very midst of mankind here on Planet Earth, in one of the most venerated buildings in the entire world. But religious folks were so busy celebrating their traditional holidays, they didn't even notice the man Jesus, the Son of God Himself, was right there in their midst!
While we Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25, Jewish folk still celebrate the Festival of Dedication, Hanukkah, beginning on Kislev 25 and continuing 8 days. This year it falls around December 3-10 on our 2018 Gregorian calendar. So for Christians, just as it was for the Jews, the real problem is we're still so focused on the traditions of our holidays (a contraction of "holy" and "days") that we don’t even acknowledge the Holy Son of God, right in our midst the entire time!
Back then, when religious folks finally noticed, they surrounded Him and demanded answers to their questions, carefully worded to label Him a heretic. “The Jews gathered around Him saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” John 10:24.
When Jesus answered their question very clearly, He said a whole lot more than they really wanted to hear. Listen as He speaks in John 10:25-30: “…I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Notice that Jesus does not say the sheep are not part of His flock because they don't believe. It’s the other way around. He says those who don’t believe He is Messiah, and listen to His voice and follow Him, really aren't the sheep of His pasture after all.
Earlier in John 10:1-6, Jesus had given folks a lesson about the special relationship between sheep and their shepherd. “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’ Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.”
We don't understand, either. And In many ways, our response today is no different than 2000 years ago. “The Jews picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?’ 'We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, 'But for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'" John 10:31-32
Just how is it that we stone Jesus today? This comment posted to last year’s lesson says it all. “Imagine if we put as much effort into proclaiming His death and resurrection as we do His birth!"
Indeed, most folks absolutely adore Baby Jesus. He brings us all together, because He is so innocent, so sweet and mild, so non-threatening ...so non-speaking. But the grown-up Son of God, voicing His Word in our midst, right this very minute, provokes us, causing deep division and internal disharmony.
And when He boldly asserts that He did not come to bring peace, but to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, and that we will find our enemies in our own household, His words are as cutting as a double-edged sword. When He tells us that if we love our mother, father, son or daughter more than Him, then we are not worthy of Him, we withdraw in shock and dismay. When He admonishes us in no uncertain terms to turn the other cheek, pray for our enemies, and to remove the log from our own eye before judging others, we stoically pretend not to hear.
Even when Jesus shares Himself in a parable, saying, "When you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me", we betray that intimacy by choosing to disregard His Word, replacing it with our own religious agenda of prejudice, and pride.
Perhaps we should be reminded of what else He said in Matthew 25: "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. ... Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
Indeed, without even realizing it, we Christians opt for the path of least resistance. We clamor to stand front and center at Christmas, leading the world to believe that this season truly is the “most wonderful time of the year”. The innocent, smiling, gurgling, god-babe image has made us feel all "gushy" inside, content with the physical realm we have melded into our religious status.
As we align our mindset with the world, we rationalize that we are actually defending Jesus Himself by guarding and perpetuating all the traditions and man-made sacraments that adorn the Christ-child at Christmastime. Right now, we bristle in disdain when confronted with the truth that God's Word appoints specific dates for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, yet makes no mention of the date of His birth.
The fact is, Baby Jesus didn't save us from God's judgment. When the Father convicted us guilty of sin, and rendered the sentence of death, the God-man, Jesus Christ, stepped forward in our place. He became our Passover Lamb, forever delivering us from the death-angel's grip. When His body met it's appointment with the death verdict, Jesus Christ was raised from the tomb as the anointed "Firstfruit" of all mankind, the first to be raised from the dead and never die again. When He arose, He not only guaranteed our own resurrection, He also made possible our eternal restoration with our Father in Heaven!
Yes, there are many questions about what really happened during this season long ago. But there are some things we do know for sure. We know it was winter. And we know that Jesus was in the Temple during the 8 day Festival of Dedication, known today as Hanukkah.
And we also know He was doing the same thing then that He is doing right now. He is shattering the boundary between Heaven and Earth forever with His final Words during the holiday season.
“I AM GOD'S SON..."