Mark 1:9 | Heavenly Christmas

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Luke writes of shepherds, he writes of magical stars, he writes of a babe in the manger, and he gives a detailed account of the birth of our savior Jesus that is all so familiar at this time of the year.

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!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:12-15 ESV

But the other Gospels speak of the Word becoming flesh or they might focus on the virgin Mary’s joy in carrying the baby savior to term. Yet curiously the gospel of Mark opens his gospel not with the birth of the Savior of but the birth of the ministry of a full-grown Jesus.

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9 ESV

Imagine being a witness like the shepherds to the heavenly host proclaiming the birth of Jesus. Now imagine being present when God himself speaks from heaven as witness to Jesus being his son. The heavens themselves are torn open by God’s interference in the normal order of the universe. What is clear from the Christmas gospel history is that God is making a move that he had promised generations before. God is tearing in two the divide between the cursed creation and the perfectly holy God. The Shepherds see angels praising God from the threshold of heaven and John the Baptist sees the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending on Christ. Jesus promised his disciples that they would be witnesses to heaven opened up and with the heavenly host traveling back and forth between Christ and God.

50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:50 ESV

What a time to be alive. For the disciples who walked with Jesus and for us who are his church today. I celebrate Christmas because of what God has done. The birth of Jesus who is God in the flesh. The ministry of Jesus teaching us and setting an example of life that God finds honorable and finally the curse destroying Jesus who died, was buried, and then rose to life all to save me and to restore me with God.

37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-38 ESV

Christmas is the season we focus on the birth of Jesus because of what Jesus accomplished. Now is the time of grace and mercy. Now is the time to turn to the savior of the world. What he accomplished on the cross with his death at the hands of sinners is a tearing down of the veil between God and man. Jesus opens the sky and invites each of us to look heavenward.

Eternal and Imperishable

I know less than I should about Heaven and I have not studied the topic in any depth. I have spent all of my energy learning and understanding the knowledge of this world. Understanding the wisdom of what makes life easy or hard, and worthless or worthwhile. I need to know more about what eternal life might be like or what purpose I might have in eternity. What I do know however is that the current grace we live under is leading up to eternity in heaven or hell. For example, if one takes advantage of everyone around them for personal gain it might work in the short term however eternally that person could forfeit their soul. But do we care? Is heaven so wonderful or hell so bad that it matters? Some decisions might be against the short term benefit, like protecting a persecuted individual against an unrighteous military force, even to ones own death. However in the eternal view that decision could be of supreme benefit. How do we know? Is it worth the sacrifice? For me I operate in faith that God has that all planned out on my behalf. God has proven trustworthy to me in the here and now, so I trust him in the future, but I wonder what life might be like in the eternal.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV

My hope is in the future. My hope is in Christ and future glory. I have hope for this life now and God has richly blessed this life more than I deserve, but this life is not my final hope. All of us are going to die, everyone you know will die. Death is ever present no matter how much we try to set it aside, or ignore what the sands of time will take away. Even if this life is destroyed and cut short, no matter how difficult that may be my true hope and my final hope is in the life to come.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV

Christ brings with him the power of a resurrection and while many in this present age are skeptical seeking to understand only what they see in the physical, Jesus has promised a new life. What that looks like is interestingly described by Paul.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 ESV

A seed has a type of glory, but it must go into the ground to be raised into a new life with a new glory. What God plans for his children in the eternal life will be a new type of glory that I can’t imagine from this place of death. The new life will be bigger than the single seed that I am now. This life will also not be hounded by death. It will be new life the life of spring time. All of the pain of sin, the pain of a broken body, and the pain of broken relationships will not be present.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:42-45 ESV

New life in Christ, eternal life moves from the perishable to the imperishable. I think how quickly my life has gone by and I think of the pain in my knee and back from years of use. Life will only go by faster and my body will never be what it once was. My life is temporary and perishable. What Paul is telling me is that I need to fight against the desire to only live for the here and now. Most people seem to try to live as if this is the best life now. Do not make that mistake. Turn with me toward Jesus for the future hope that only he can provide in the resurrection of an eternal life that is imperishable.