When the eastern sages asked Herod where Jesus was to be born his advisers looked to a prophet for the answer. Who better to turn to that one of God’s spokesmen? For the King of the Jews who was born was God’s Anointed King and over the centuries since God had first announced his coming, God’s spokesmen had foretold his life in great detail.
The prophets of ancient Israel did not merely foretell the future, they spoke God’s words. Open any of their books and see “thus says the Lord” on every page (e.g. Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13). Sometimes they said “hear the word of the Lord” (e.g. Amos 3:1) or concluded “declares the Lord” (e.g. Amos 2:11, 16). Israel’s prophets were God’s messengers with God’s message. They did not speak for themselves, but for God. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1).
Little did Herod’s religious advisers realise that the promised Anointed King would be God’s greatest spokesman. “But in these last days,” Hebrews continues, “he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2) Until the birth of Jesus, the greatest Israelite prophet had been Moses. He spoke for God, giving the people of Israel God’s Law. In fact, he spoke face to face with God (Exodus 33:11). No other prophet was so privileged.
In one of his farewell addresses to Israel Moses had predicted the coming of a prophet, greater even than himself (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). Now at Bethlehem that prophet had come. And true to his calling, when he began his public ministry thirty years later Jesus spoke for God, but not as the former prophets. He went beyond “thus says the Lord”. Time and again he prefaced his message with the words, “Truly, truly, I say to you” (e.g. John 3:5; 5:19, 24, 25).
The religious leaders heard blasphemy in those words. And so they should have, but that he was no mortal prophet. He was the very Word of God in the flesh (John 1:14). He alone could say such words without blaspheming. The Messenger was the Message.
Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus, God’s last word (Hebrews 1:2). He was born on earth, a real human being. Yet he was born from above by the intervention of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). In a famous encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above [or, again] he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was the chief rabbi, but even he wasn’t good enough to see God, because God’s kingdom is not for good, religious people. It is only for those who have been born again from above. God’s Kingdom is not for those who merit by their outstanding character or deeds. It is for flawed people who recognize their unworthiness. So everyone needs that second birth because everyone is flawed by sin, and thus barred from heaven and cut off from God’s presence. Only a second birth from above can enable flawed people to enter the Kingdom of God.
Jesus the Spokesman was born that we might be born from above. As the apostle Peter reminds his Christian friends, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23) Jesus is the Word of God, the Messenger who is the Message. God has caused his children “to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
As I remember Jesus’ birth this Christmas I am compelled to consider my own birth. Have I been born again, from above? The Good News of Christmas is that you can be born into God’s family and enter God’s Kingdom because Jesus has been born, has died, and has risen again. Only through believing in Jesus and trusting in his sacrificial death can we enter God’s family and his kingdom. As Jesus himself said, “Whoever believes in [me] may have eternal life.” (John 3:15)
This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 12 Dec 2010.