A reading from Luke 2: 10-14: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all peoples. city of David, the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying: Glory be to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth, good will towards men. “
There are certain words inextricably linked with the birth of Christ, words which were spoken by angelic tongues on the very night of his birth. “Good news”, said the angel, as well as “great joy, which will be for everyone”. A saviour ? Yes, that too. And also, not only of an angel, but of a glorious multitude of them who seemed to join in the praise, “peace, goodwill towards men.” No poet or card maker can ever fully do justice to the beauty, glory, wonder and joy of the very Son of God and of God the Son who became flesh and lay in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem there. is about 2000 years old. It was quite the wonderful night that all the Christmas carols claim to be, and endlessly more.
Bethlehem, however, is located just over 5 miles west of Jerusalem and 2,100 feet below it in elevation. Or, to be a little clearer where I’m coming from, on the glorious night of Christ’s birth, all eyes were on a tiny manger, a manger that would serve as a cradle, in which the Christ kinda rested. God who is greater than the universe itself; but when the sun rose the next day, the shadow of Calvary fell on it.
Jesus came to die.
But it is the path from the cradle to the cross that intrigues me the most. Not just the short, rocky road that connects the two places, but the journey Jesus made from his peaceful and glorious birth to his violent and horrific death.
Whether this is God’s preordained plan is not in dispute. Revelation 13: 8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The cross has always been the goal, not the manger. But I’m interested in this right now because it relates to the perspective of man, not the perspective of God. Yes, God the Father was “happy to crush him” and “made his soul a sin offering,” as Isaiah 53:10 had prophesied over 700 years before; but what made mankind so eager to put the baby of Bethlehem to death?
If Jesus had been what the world today generally thinks he is, he would never have been crucified. If he had been the tolerant, tolerant, and sugar-sweet Messiah that modern culture describes him, his forehead would never have been mutilated by the crown of thorns, his back would never have been slashed by the whip. , his beard would never have been plucked from his face, and his hands and feet would never have been pierced. He would have been simply a baby with the most unique conception and birth history, then a man who lived a sinless life, and none of that would have affected our eternal destiny in any way. .
But Jesus was not that at all. He was quite literally the most controversial figure in time or eternity, and it is necessary. If he had just fed the hungry and healed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, and taught people to love one another, the way that began at the cradle would never have ended at the cross. But Jesus was not about “the sensations” as the modern expression goes. It was about something much more solid and inflexible.
As he stood before Pontius Pilate, the governor wanted to know why he was there and why everyone was demanding his death. Jesus’ response in John 18:37 was, “I was born for this purpose, and for this reason I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Anyone who is of the truth hears my voice.
Truth. Jesus would not lean into it an inch or hesitate to give it. He told a woman who had been caught in sexual sin to “sin no more.” He proclaimed that even looking at a woman to lust after her is committing adultery in your heart. He unequivocally declared that he was the only way to heaven. He told a crowd that did not believe him that they were going to die in their sins. He called a politician a fox, and that wasn’t a compliment at all; it was an insult.
He knocked over furniture in the temple and chased some people away with a hand-made whip. He told the people that if they did not repent, they would perish. He preached the most vivid, scariest hell message in all of the Bible. He told a group of men that they were children of the devil. He was calling the other children of hell. He called others blind idiots. No wonder then that by the time he was finally crucified he was initiated by the Jews, executed by the Gentiles, claimed by the religious leaders, cheerfully participated by the soldiers, and mourned by very few.
Jesus came to be what man needed, not what man wanted. Humanity always wants to be soothed, pampered, assertive and made to feel good. But we are one and all born in sin (Romans 5:12) no one is righteous (Romans 3:10) and even the best things about us are filthy rags in the sight of a holy God (Isaiah 64: 6). We don’t and don’t need to feel good; we must repent and be redeemed.
And that is why the short rocky path from the cradle led to the cross.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, North Carolina, a well-traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and atwordofhismouth.com. Email him at [email protected]