Christmas is upon us. The celebration should be about the birth of Jesus more than the consumerism, but I still enjoy the lights and everything about Christmas except for my expanding waistline. One well known Old Testament promise that foretells the birth of Jesus is found in Isaiah chapter 9. The people of Israel wanted to be an autonomous nation free from the constant threats of evil kingdoms around them. Unfortunately, Israel looked more like the evil nations around them than they looked like a nation called by the one true God. But God in his mercy wanted them to have hope and to trust in him first.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 ESV
The messiah would be a winning King. He would lift the nation above all the other nations and everyone would bow to his authority. The Disciples recognizing Jesus as the messiah were excited for him to establish that kingship and take over the world. Jesus would destroy the hated roman empire and then Jesus would establish the Disciples as the new rulers of all the people. John and James even pull Jesus aside and tell him they want the left- and right-hand spots in his kingdom. Presumably they want the most important and powerful roles when this promised child comes into power.
37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” … 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. Mark 10:37; 41 ESV
When we read the prophecy of the Old Testament about the birth of Jesus it is no wonder the disciples had expectations about what Jesus came to do. Not until after his death, burial, and resurrection did they finally understand God’s timeline. Even the night Jesus was arrested Peter was expectant of a war that Jesus would win. One can imagine the disciples looking at Jesus as the Soldiers came to arrest him. “Jesus! Now? Now is the hour? We will win with your power!”
49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51 ESV
Here is more text of the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 9. The disciples were confused because they knew these verses. This promise was built into their very culture.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV
If the baby was not born to sit on the throne of King David and reestablish the nation of Israel then did God fail? How could the disciples be so wrong about Jesus? How could God have failed? God has promised to do this out of his own “zeal” so it will be accomplished. The disciples were not wrong. God had not failed. God’s plans will always be accomplished, but up until this point, even today, God has not established Jesus on a throne. This brings us back to Christmas and why it is so wonderful. Let us look at the birth announcement that came the night of this amazing birth.
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14 ESV
The birth of Jesus came with a proclamation of peace on earth. Peace between God and men. Jesus represents the greatest act of mercy and outreach to all people the world over. Even today Christmas songs sing of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. The disciples were ready for Jesus to crush their enemies. Jesus came to die for their enemies. The Disciples were ready to rule over everyone. Jesus came to serve the world with his perfect sacrifice. Even today Christians would do well to take note of this example from Jesus.
Christmas is the opening act of the prophecy. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”. Let us live in this moment and take inventory of where we stand with God. Have we embraced the wonderful gift he has given through Jesus. That gift is reconciliation with the Creator of all things. There is nothing greater that could be given this Christmas than a relationship with God himself.
the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 6:23b ESV