It’s Christmas time again, and every good Christian should know the reason for the season. Beyond all the gift giving, time off from work, and other things that have become associated with the holiday, Christmas is first and foremost a celebration of Jesus’ birth. For believers this day commemorates when God gave the world the best gift it could ever receive. Nowadays, nearly the world celebrates Christmas. It’s a practice that has spread across the globe, but in general, only a small amount of the fervor associated with the holiday is directed where it belongs – remembrance of Jesus.
To be honest, that shouldn’t be surprising. The significance of Jesus’ birth doesn’t hold the weight it should. It would be easy to blame that on the commercialization of our society and all the distractions that it brings, but in all honesty, Jesus has probably never been appreciated the way he should be.
Consider the fact that he was prophesied to be the King of the Jews, but now most Jews either consider him a heretic at best or don’t believe he existed at all at worst. How can that be given that it was their texts that foretold Jesus’ coming?
“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
The above verse may give some insight into the problem. When Jesus was born, the Hebrews were under the thumb of the Roman empire. They did not control their own nation as they did in the past. They had to answer to a bigger more powerful force. Many of them probably believed that when the Messiah came, he would be someone like David. A great warrior that would take on the Roman Empire, win Israel’s independence, and rule over the Jewish nation as a powerful king.
When we look at Jesus’ life, it couldn’t be farther from what the people wanted at the time. We see this in the way the Pharisees tried to trap him. They asked his opinion about paying taxes to Caesar, and Jesus responded.
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. – Matthew 22:16-22
Jesus was gaining a following, and some people did think he was the subject of the prophecies in the scriptures. The Pharisees believed they were ensnaring him with this question because they thought everyone was expecting a rebel, someone who would fight against Rome. They thought Jesus’ refusal to oppose Rome would lower Jesus’ stock in the eyes of his followers. The Pharisees didn’t understand that Jesus was a rebel, but Rome wasn’t his enemy. He wasn’t sent to earth to take down a human empire. He was delivered to us to conquer sin.
Even today, we make the same mistakes the Pharisees made. That’s why it’s hard for many to believe in Jesus. They don’t understand what is meant when he’s called a savior. They believe accepting Jesus should mean an end to earthly hardship. They believe Jesus is supposed to make their lives better here, and when that doesn’t happen, they conclude that Jesus is a false savior. That misconception is held by nonbelievers and, unfortunately, even some professing believers.
We have to stop judging God’s actions based on our expectations and experiences. Would it have been nice for the Jews if God had sent someone who freed them from Rome’s yoke? Maybe, but he had already done that before. He sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt. He sent David to rule them on earth, and yet the people of Israel still found themselves in miserable situations time and time again. God could have given them what they wanted, bu
t he decided to go a better route. He didn’t just deliver temporary salvation from minor problems. He gave us a permanent solution to the gravest problem. He didn’t just rescue the Jews. He came to the aid of anyone who would believe.
In Jesus’ times, the Jews were still a fallen people and they were looking for a king like David or Solomon who, while great in many ways, were still flawed human beings. God gave them something better, and they didn’t even realize it. To paraphrase the Dark Knight movie, Jesus wasn’t the king that the Jews deserved, but he was the one they needed. He is the one the world needs.
Ironically, Jesus actually will one day become the king that the Jews of his time were seeking.
So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:28
Jesus is coming back one day, and when he does, he’s coming to save his followers and rule over them as a king in every sense of the word. As we reflect on Jesus’ birth let us also check ourselves and tear down any misconceptions and false assumptions we have that are keeping us from accepting Jesus as the savior he is. One day our king will return, let us make sure we’re doing what we need to do to ensure that we’ll be among his subjects when he gets back. Let us also do our part to tear down the misconceptions that maybe keeping others from accepting Jesus for who he is.