It started with Jesus. It will end with Jesus. In the middle, it’s all about Jesus.
It started with Jesus. John said “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”
We tend to think that in the beginning there was this eternal God just kind of floating around in nothingness and then decided to create. What we fail to realize is that God has always existed in three persons. The trinity is eternal. It has never not existed like it does today. So the Son was in the beginning as well. All things were made through him.
It will end with Jesus. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” At some point in the future every knee will bow. At some point every being will acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus. At some point everyone will recognize who the King truly is. Paul says they will understand this wherever they are, whether in heaven, on earth, or under the earth. No one is exempt from this. Jesus will be glorified. He will be praised.
Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21
In the middle, it’s all about Jesus. In these two verses Paul reminds us that our lives are not about ourselves. Our lives are about Jesus. Indeed, if we’re in Christ, we are not even alive, but Christ lives in us. It’s all about Jesus. Nothing else matters. Instead, then, of filling our lives with meaningless pursuits of fleeting pleasure and joy, we should make our life about following Jesus.
The season of Advent begins today, so we’ll be talking about the Messiah for the next 4 weeks. Advent doesn’t get a whole lot of play in most protestant denominations and that’s sad because it’s so rich with meaning. The Jews waited for thousands of years for the Messiah. They knew he was coming. They were expecting him. Then they missed the boat. They didn’t realize who he was when he got there. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
Today we’re going to look at the promised Messiah. Why did there need to be a Messiah? What was the reason? What was the promise? How did the Jews miss it so badly?
Last week we covered for a few moments the problem with the world, why things had gone so wrong. In the Garden, life was perfect, it was paradise. There was nothing incomplete about life at all. Mankind lived in perfect relationship with its Creator and everything was good. Then things went wrong. Mankind rebelled against its Creator and was disobedient. This fractured the perfect relationship and man was expelled from the perfect place. God could have ended it all then. He could have said to himself “That was a failed experiment; let’s simply go back to being alone.” But he didn’t. He decided to redeem the relationship between himself and man, so he created a plan that would draw all people back into relationship with him. He decided to send a Messiah, a Redeemer.
What amazes me here is that the plan had been Jesus from the moment of rebellion in the Garden. God knew what it was going to take to restore the relationship. He knew there would have to be suffering and death. He planned to send his Son. He planned for his Son to die. He planned to put his Spirit inside us. He planned for us to be the agents of reconciliation for a lost world. This was his plan from the beginning. That can either comfort you or terrify you. We are his plan.
As we deal today with the Promised Messiah, we’re going to look at several passages that point toward what God was doing. This is not nearly an exhaustive list but more like several pertinent passages that will help us understand what might have been going on.
We know the world was broken. We know God wanted to change things. We know he had a plan. For years the people of Israel would constantly go back and forth with God. They would love him, they would reject him. They would worship him, they would be idolaters. They would serve him, they would adulterate themselves to other gods. All the while God was planning to restore them. He sent them judges, prophets, and finally kings to bring them back to him, but they wouldn’t listen. Finally, in the prophet Isaiah, he laid out his plan.
In this passage, the prophet declares a day when a child will be born and the government would be set upon his shoulders. This child would sit on the throne of David and his government, his kingdom would never end. He would also be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
This sounds like a pretty amazing person! If you had been an Israelite at this time you would have been ecstatic. The prophet is telling of a day that will come in which a king would return to the throne of David. During David’s reign, Israel was at its rise to prominence. David was a warrior king who turned back the Philistines time and again and brought peace and power to Israel. To hear that a king was returning to David’s throne would have been a joyful thing indeed!
When the Israelites heard this they began to look earnestly for the redemption of their nation. Times were difficult for Israel. The nation had been split in two and they were not nearly as powerful as they had been before. They began to look for another warrior king who would restore them to international prominence and prestige among the nations.
But perhaps God was not talking about an earthly kingdom. Perhaps he was telling of something even better, something the Israelites could not completely comprehend. Perhaps he was talking about an eternal kingdom where the government would truly never end and there would only be one king sitting on the throne.
In this passage, the Israelites heard a slightly different message. The theme of eternal power and prestige is gone and in its place is the image of a servant who would suffer for the sins of man. Keep in mind this is the same prophet who spoke of the eternal reign of the Davidic king and now he speaks of one who would be “despised and rejected.” How could this be the same person? The prophet said “he had no form of majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” This was not the picture the Israelites had for their savior, their Messiah. They wanted one who would restore their power and authority over the world. God sent one who would restore their relationship to him.
Isn’t that the way it always is? We want one thing and God gives us something else. We ask for something and instead of giving us exactly what we ask for, God gives us what we need. The Israelites didn’t need a conquering king to drive out the Philistines again. They needed a servant to shed his blood and restore their souls. Their idea of a Messiah wasn’t congruent with God’s plan. But he told them about it anyway. He explained what he was going to do. He gave them insight into how he would do it. This man would come and we wouldn’t think too much of him. He wouldn’t look like an elegant king or a spoiled child. He would come in the humblest of ways. Another prophecy spoke of where he would be born. Prophecies dealt with his family’s flight to Egypt. Prophecies dealt with his suffering and sacrifice. Then Isaiah said a most controversial thing: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” The Messiah would come and bear all our griefs, yet we would think he had been punished by God. We would not accept him because we would think he was rejected and false. We would blaspheme the name of Jesus because we would refuse to see the grace God was bestowing upon us.
In this passage, Isaiah gave another sign about the Messiah. He would be one who brought good news to the poor, who would bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to captives. How could this not be Jesus?
The Messiah was promised. The plan was put into place. God would redeem his people. He would restore them to right relationship with him. He even spelled out how it would happen.
We needed a Savior. We needed a Father. We needed something new because the original plan had been broken. From the beginning this was God’s plan. It started with Jesus. It will end with Jesus. In the middle, it’s all about Jesus.
God even planned to put himself inside us! Talk about intimacy! Through the prophet Ezekiel, God told his people that he would give them a new heart and a new spirit, that he would remove their old hearts of flesh. God’s plan was to remove the sinful nature of humans and put his own nature in them. He was restoring his image in us, restoring our purpose. God’s plan was to make us more like him. It was his plan from the moment of the Fall. Relationship had always been the purpose! Knowing Jesus is the whole point!
“I will put my Spirit within you…” God was already planning to indwell us. Jesus had to come as a sacrifice to make it possible for God to indwell us. There had to be a way to restore the intimacy of the Garden. Jesus was the way. By putting his Spirit in us, we become God’s representatives on earth. We become his ambassadors. We become God’s plan of redemption. Jesus had to come. God had to come back to man. He had to make the first move because we were incapable of moving. So God set this wonderful ridiculous plan in motion to come to earth himself in fleshly form, live a perfect life, be rejected by the very ones he came to save, die a gruesome death, and rise from the grave, ascend into heaven, and leave the Spirit to indwell us all.
The plan has been there from the beginning. Jesus has always been the way. He is truly the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Perhaps it didn’t look the way we might have thought, but he did exactly as he said he would. So as we look forward to Christmas, let our eyes be fixed on Jesus. Let us anticipate the celebration of the birth of our Savior with humility and simplicity, for after all, he came humbly and simply.
As we close today, I’d like to look at one more prophetic story. This is the story of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. For 430 years the Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God to rescue them and he heard them. He sent a man named Moses to lead his people out of Israel into the Promised Land. Through a series of plagues God made a way for the Hebrews to leave Egypt, but it turned out that they had to leave quickly because Pharaoh decided at the last minute to go back on his word. In their haste they had to prepare a simple meal of unleavened bread and they had to make a sacrifice and smear the blood on the doorposts so the angel of death would pass over their homes and they would be safe. Then they had to assemble quickly and leave so they could make their escape.
For thousands of years the Israelites observed this meal as a way of remembering what God had done for them. He had heard their cry from captivity and had rescued them. They thought that was all it meant.
In this passage of scripture, Mark tells of the Last Supper Jesus would share with his disciples. As it turns out, it was time for the Passover celebration and he told two of them to go prepare a place to observe the Passover meal. As they were gathered around the bread and the cup Jesus told them what Passover was really about. He took the bread, broke it, and passed it around. Then he told them “Take; this is my body.” After that he took the cup and said “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Before their eyes he changed the meaning of everything. What they recognized as a symbol of their deliverance from Egypt, Jesus claimed was his body and blood. The tradition they had observed for thousands of years had pointed to Jesus the whole time. God had heard their cries for deliverance again and had again sent them a deliverer, one who would deliver them from their sins. Instead of a stuttering shepherd, though, he sent them his son. Everything is about Jesus. Even in their deliverance from Egypt, God gave them a sign of the coming Messiah, the one who would rescue them out of the true slavery.
God’s purpose has always been to restore his people, to redeem them. From the first moment of the fractured relationship God had a plan. The promise was made and the prophecies given. God would do something radical. He would come to earth himself.
1 Corinthians 11:17-29
As we look at the celebration of Communion, we draw wisdom from the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul gives instructions for orderly worship. Because he makes specific reference to Communion, we’re going to take his advice. The first thing he reminds us is that whenever we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are to do it “in remembrance” of him. Even the Jews when they took Passover did it to commemorate an event. Communion is our way of remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for us, remembering why God had to send his son. So we approach this supper in the same way, in remembrance. I pray that your mind is fixed on Jesus during this season, that you would not put your faith in 70% off sales or the wrapping of presents. Don’t let your minds be filled with decorated trees and lighted houses. To an extent, don’t be focused on family. Definitely don’t be consumed with food. But be focused on Jesus. He is the source of our life. He is the source of our salvation. Remember Jesus.
The second thing Paul gave us was a warning. In verse 28 he said “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” This is not an act to be taken lightly. In the Corinthian church, this act had become just another meal. What’s worse is that some were stuffing themselves while others were going hungry. This observance is not a ritual, but an act of worship. As we are remembering Jesus and looking toward the celebration of his birth, we do it with humility, not pride or arrogance. So examine yourself as you prepare to take this Supper.
As we close in worship this is what we would invite you to do: Levi and Jordan are going to lead us in song as they normally do, but we want this time to be truly worshipful. We’re not going to pass the elements to you; instead they are going to be set up at the back of each section. During this time we invite you, as you’re ready, to come and take the elements of Communion. You may do this individually or as a family. We ask two things, that you truly be a follower of Jesus and that you prepare your heart for this moment. Do not take it lightly, but with humility and in a worshipful mindset. If you don’t think you’re prepared, you don’t have to take the Supper at all.
I’m going to pray over the elements and ask a blessing on this time together. As you’re ready, you come.