The Christmas we see in our cards, in our songs, and in our nativity sets, is a sanitized, sentimentalized, safe version of what really happened in Bethlehem. It was beautiful and glorious and powerful – Mary and Joseph yielding to God’s plan, angels announcing the Messiah’s birth, a humble setting as God takes on human form, a manger as his crib, and Magi following a star from the East to worship him. But there is a side to this that the Christmas cards do not show, one that we must understand.
The story of Jesus is tragic, from his birth to his death. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and that started from the very beginning. He knew loneliness, rejection, and pain. His birth was humble; he was ignored by the people of Bethlehem who had no idea the Messiah had been born among them. Israel did not celebrate what they had so long awaited.
After the Magi’s visit, the story took an ugly turn. Herod, scared for his position as the poseur-in-chief in Jerusalem sought to kill the “one born king of the Jews” and sent his soldiers to commit one of history’s unspeakable atrocities. Jesus, now a little boy, only escaped because God warned Joseph in a dream and he fled with his family to Egypt. They later returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew in obscurity, likely suffering social consequences from the circumstances of his birth.
Three decades later, Jesus presented himself to John, the Spirit descended on him, and he was led into the desert to be tempted, and the battle began in earnest. Satan battered him and beat him, but could not defeat him. Jesus rebuked Satan and remained the sinless Son of God, then went to Galilee in the fullness of the Spirit proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling people to repent.
The religious leaders listened as Jesus preached, watched him perform miracles, and observed his life. They envied his power and authority and were offended that he refused to honor their manmade rules and yield to their authority and control. Jealous of the crowds that followed Jesus, they sought to undermine him, laid traps to expose him, and spread lies about him. Each time they left these encounters with their egos bruised and in tatters. Finally, they formed a conspiracy to silence him once and for all.
Satan was still at work, his immeasurable hatred of the Son of God pushed him to scheme and lie to bring Jesus down. When the time was right, things seemed to click. One of Jesus’ inner circle sold him for a few pieces of silver and he was arrested and put on trial. They broke their own rules to try him, paying people to lie against him while Jesus stood silent. This kangaroo court convicted him and sentenced him to death with all the sanctimonious self-righteousness they could muster. Unable to carry out such a sentence on their own, they took him to Pilate, the Roman governor, asking his permission to take Jesus’ life. Pilate attempted to prod Jesus into a debate, but he was silent once again. Pilate, a moral coward, found no fault in him but yielded to the bloodlust of the crowd and handed Jesus over to death.
Jesus’ supporters had chanted “Hosanna” as Jesus rode into the city but now, with the Evil One scheming and the religious leaders at work, a very different crowd gathered. Calling for the release of the murderer Barabbas, they chanted “Crucify Him” so the Nazarene’s blood would be spilled. The lined the road to Golgotha to jeer him and demean the sinless Son.
At Calvary, men laid hands on their Creator and stretched his hands and feet on the cross. They lifted the Cross into place and let it drop into the hole, as Jesus hung in place. The crowds continued to revel in his shame. Jesus hung in agony of body and much more of soul as he bore the full weight the sins of the world.
Finally, Jesus called out and gave up his spirit and died. They drove a spear into his side to make sure he was dead, then buried him in a tomb, setting a guard over the tomb to make sure there were no shenanigans. And they thought they’d dealt with him. They thought they’d taken care of him once and for all.
What a tragedy. Lies. Cruelty. Scheming. The Evil One moving in arrogant men to do unspeakable things. Men laying their hands on the One who spoke the world into existence and who had yielded heaven’s glories to come to earth. It is a tragic story. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He came unto his own and his own received him not. More rejected him than received him. They lied about him, abused him, tortured him, and finally killed him.
But, my friend, the last thing Jesus needs is your pity. If you are tempted to feel sorry for the Savior, two things are true. First, you need to read the rest of the story and then you need to remember who Jesus really is!
Jesus is the author of this story, not the victim. It was his choice, his design, to come in humility, give himself to humanity, to seek and to save the lost, to redeem a people for God. That great Christmas passage, Philippians 2, says that Jesus, fully equal with God, gave up all those rights and prerogatives to come to earth. He emptied himself of heaven’s glory to come to earth and suffer for the sake of the world. It did not happen to Jesus, it was done by Jesus. Our Lord is no victim.
And never forget this. Jesus is anything but a person to be pitied. Did they ignore him? Yes. Did they reject him and abuse him and torture him? Did people lie about him? Yes to all of that. But it is those who ignore Jesus that are to be pitied. Feel sorrow for those who embrace the lies. People laid hands on Jesus and brutalized him, but they did not defeat him – they could not. Jesus rose from the dead in mighty triumph, having defeated death and hell, having conquered Satan, and having destroyed every enemy who would ever stand against him. Jesus is Lord! He is seated at the right hand of God and one day he will descend from heaven with the armies of heaven beside him. The combined forces of mankind, united in rebellion against the Savior of the world, will be destroyed by a sword that proceeds out of his mouth and he will set foot on this earth and all will realize what many did not – he is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Don’t ever feel sorry for Jesus!
All of Satan’s evil will one day crumble around him. Satan, you can lie to us, you can tempt us, you can lead us astray, lashing around in your death throes, seeking whom you may devour. There is one thing, however, you can never do. You cannot defeat my Jesus. He has crushed your head when he said, “It is finished” at the Cross. This world lies to us and the tide of sin threatens to carry us along in a flood tide of sin and rebellion. But this world is passing away and one day a new heaven and a new earth, ruled by the Baby from the manger is coming. My own flesh seeks to pull me down into the miry pits of sin, plaguing me day to day, but it is doomed as the work of Christ in me will be completed and I will be conformed to his image. Jesus wins.
Jesus’ time on earth was hard and he suffered greatly, but he is no helpless little cooing baby, but the most powerful, awesome, irresistible force in world history. He is no ordinary baby, but he is the Mighty God of Heaven.
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah 9:6 reveals four names of God. It was a common practice that kings would be assigned a name when they ascended the throne, one that would characterize their reign. Here, the prophet assigns four to the Baby who would be born. He would be a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace. In the last message, we examined the first name, Wonderful Counselor, and saw that Jesus is the one who, by his Holy Spirit, guides us through life’s challenges to victory. In this message, we examine the second name, Mighty God.
A Title of Divinity
The Old Testament only gives us hints about the nature of Jesus, the Messiah, but our key verse here is one clear statement of the divinity of the Baby the prophets foretold. We even see a hint of the dual nature of Christ in the first line. “A child is born” speaks of the humanity of Jesus Christ while “a Son is given” hints at his divine nature. These parallel phrases lay the groundwork for the NT teaching of Jesus’ dual nature as the God-man.
But this second of the four royal names, “Mighty God” tells us that this baby is no ordinary child. He is God. Some have tried to discount the reference to God as only referring to heroic, or godlike actions, but this kind of name is not given to any human being in the Hebrew Scriptures. Many have references to God in their names but none are assigned divine attributes. This baby, whom we know to be Christ, is the Mighty God of the universe.
The way this is constructed here points this statement back to Isaiah 7:14 and gives it a similar force. This child, this son, is Immanuel – God with us. He is God in a human body, come to do God’s work among us. This is one special child!
A Mighty One
Not only is he God, but he is mighty. What does mighty mean? This is a common word in Hebrew. The root and all its derivatives occur 328 times in the Old Testament and commonly refer to someone who engages in warfare successfully, with strength and vitality – a mighty warrior. It is often used to describe an attribute of God, who overcomes all his foes and fights for his glory and for his people.
In Genesis 10:9, Nimrod is described as a mighty hunter, one who successfully tracks down his prey. In 2 Samuel David’s men are described as valiant or mighty warriors. This description is common throughout the Hebrew Bible. The divine name is also common. It appears in Psalm 24:8.
Psalm 24:8 “Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.”
Deuteronomy 10:17 says, “the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God.” Jeremiah 32:18 adds that he is a “great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of Armies (Lord of Hosts).” This refers to God’s mighty power in battle. Nehemiah 9:32 describes our God as, “the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant.”
These passages all describe the greatness and power of God. He is mighty, overcoming all his foes. But they also describe the purpose of his power. God doesn’t just go around flexing his muscles and giving beatdowns to his enemies. He works to “keep his gracious covenant” with his people. He displays his power on behalf of his people.
God is working for us. He fights for us. The mighty God fights against the enemies of those who serve him.
You are not on your own in this world. Don’t feel sorry for Jesus, but neither should anyone who has been redeemed by Jesus and indwelled by his Spirit go around sad sack and defeated in life. “Oh, poor me.” Nonsense. Stop moaning and groaning about the evil in this world and realize that you are on the side of the Mighty God who fights for his people. He wins and if we are his, we win with him. No more powerful force exists on this earth than the people of God doing the work of God and it is time we stopped acting as if we are a bunch of hopeless spiritual losers. Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. The world that stands against us will melt with fervent heat, but we will stand victorious with our Savior. And my sinful flesh will one day no longer draw me down toward sin. It will be obliterated entirely, and I will be perfected in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ.
Oh, that will be glory for me.
In the meantime, the message of Christmas is that we face this world empowered by the Baby who was born, who lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, rose from the dead in victory, is seated at the right hand of God, and will one day rule the world in truth and grace.