I closed my last post on this subject by saying “It’s time”, then I left you hanging for over a year. For that I apologize.
In the 400 hundred years or so since the close of the Old Testament, the children of Israel had been under the rule of the Persians, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, The Syrians under Seleucus (one of Alexander’s generals), The Egyptians under Ptolemy (another of Alexander’s generals), The Syrians under Antiochus Epiphanes (who tried to exterminate them), themselves under the Maccabees, and finally, the Romans.
God’s timing is always perfect. He had told Micah the messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
“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)
Mary was chosen to be the mother of the messiah, but she was in Nazareth, and she was poor. Isn’t it amazing that Caesar Augustus chose that particular time to order a census?
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:1-7)
In the first two posts, we looked at the hints of God’s plan for redeeming mankind. By the time of the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the Jews (as they were then called) were fully aware that the Messiah was coming. They just weren’t expecting him to come like he did. They definitely weren’t expecting him to be born in a stable.
They had definite ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to do. He would be a great ruler, who would rid them of the Romans, and restore Israel as it had been under David and Solomon. That was how they understood the Old Testament prophecies, but there were some things they missed. To be honest, I don’t know how they could have understood.
We have looked at Isaiah 9: 6-7 before, but let’s look at it again
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Verse seven describes the Messiah they were expecting, but go back to verse six. It says the child will be called “Mighty God”. Wait a minute. No one gets to be called “God” but God. Anything else is blasphemy. How could this person be called “God”?
If He is God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
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 1:14)
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God, and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
The Word was God. Since the Word became flesh, that means God became flesh. God became a human being. Jesus said as much Himself.
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:54-58)
Jesus called Himself “I am”. He was calling Himself “God”, a stoning offense to be sure, unless He was telling the truth.
So part of God’s amazing plan was that He would come to live among us as a human being.
I am not even going to pretend that I understand how the Trinity works. I don’t know how God could be Father in Heaven, and Son on Earth, but I know that He was.
Ok, but why would God do that? What is the point? Well, I guess you can say “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.” In order for mankind to be redeemed, there would need to be a blood sacrifice, because;
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)
The animals sacrificed had to be perfect. They had to be “without spot or blemish”. A human stand-in for mankind would have to be perfect too. Do you know anyone like that? No, I don’t either. There isn’t anyone.
God knew there was no way that any human being would ever be able to live a sinless life, but He could. The “Word” was with God from the beginning, was in fact, God, and then became flesh and came to live with us. Jesus was God coming to earth as a human being, to live as human beings live. He had the same physical needs, and He was subjected to the same temptations (Matt 4). The difference is that He didn’t succumb to the temptations. He remained sinless, and as such was able to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
All of that was laid out in the prophecies too, but they just didn’t get it.
We’ve already looked at portions of Isaiah 53, but let’s start at the end of Chapter 52, and read through 53.
13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
1Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52: 13-16; 53)
I have to wonder who the learned men; the rabbis, the scribes, etc, thought Isaiah was talking about? Did they understand this was about the messiah? Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they did what many of us do when we come to a passage we don’t understand. Maybe they just skipped over it.
John the baptist understood.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Jesus told both His disciples and His enemies, several times that He would die. He told them why He would die, and that He would be resurrected.
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:13-17)
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again (Mark 8:23)
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31-32)
In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) the plan, but they still didn’t get it. When he was arrested, tried, found guilty and crucified, they were heartbroken, terrified and confused.
Jesus was crucified during time of the Passover. Like the lamb without defect, he was sacrificed, and his blood covers us, saving us from the second death. Paul says,
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7)
In the last post, we read that on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would offer a blood sacrifice for himself, and then one for the people. This was the only day of the year the priest could go behind the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.
Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Ex 26:33)
This was not a little flimsy curtain. From what I could gather from different sources, it was something like 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matt 27:50-51)
The Most Holy Place was no longer hidden. How do you suppose that happened?
God sacrificed Himself for us, so that we could be reconciled to Him. A Day of Atonement would no longer be necessary.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30)
When Jesus said “it is finished”, He meant His redemptive work was done. He gave up His own life, to atone for all of us.
That part was done, but there was much more to come.