Traveling From Bethlehem To Calvary
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." Luke 2:15
"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:19
It is the Christmas season and we should be thinking about the significance of the birth of our Lord. As I was pondering Christmas, three things came to my mind.
The first is the widespread attention to the birthday of Christ. All Christian churches, regardless of their denominations, highlight His birth. Even outside the churches, the world takes notice, to one degree or another, of Christmas and therefore come into contact with the Christ child who was born in Bethlehem’s manger.
The second thing that comes to mind is the widespread ignorance of the real meaning and significance of our Lord’s birth. Millions join with the shepherds, as it were, in going even unto Bethlehem and focus on baby Jesus, but sadly, they go no farther. They forget that there is a way out of Bethlehem too. Our Lord did not stay there. He went on to a life of service and ministry, to the Cross, the resurrection, and on to glory. The Lord does not want you to linger too long in Bethlehem. He would have you travel with Him to the Cross and be saved and then serve Him until he comes again for you.
The third thing that is impressed upon my mind is the urgent necessity of Bible believing Christians to make known, by all the means in their power, the facts about the person and work of Christ and His Gospel as the shepherds did that first Christmas. We read in Luke 2:15-18 "And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds." The more ignorance of Bible truths we perceive, the more ought we to pray and plan to make them known.
The Meaning of The Birth of Christ
The meaning of the birth of Christ at Bethlehem is briefly but clearly stated in our text. "…that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…" 2 Corinthians 5:19
This passage reveals key points about this supernatural event in Bethlehem. It reveals the identity person who was born and the purpose for which he was born.
"God was in Christ…"
Regarding the Person who was born, this was no ordinary birth like unto all the sons of Adam since Cain was born. This birth was unique, occurring once, never to be repeated. The birth of Christ was not merely the birth of a great Teacher; it was all that and infinitely more. It was not the birth of a new Person that came into being at the birth of Christ. While the body, the human nature was new, the Being who dwelt in that body was the eternal Son of God (John 1:1 & 14; Micah 5:2). While He was known as Jesus of Nazareth, He had a remembrance and a consciousness of His prior state of existence, of a place, a power and a glory with the Father before the world was formed (John 17). The birth of Christ meant that there was a union between the Divine and the human, the eternal and the temporal, the infinite and finite, weakness and power. When Jesus was born, he was not just another man after the likeness of Adam but he was a unique Being, the God-Man, Divine and human in one Person.
We need to keep these two facts clear in our minds. The humanity of our Lord was real humanity, not an illusion as the early sect, the Docetae taught. Hebrews says: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same…" Hebrews 2:14. We are told in Galatians 4:4 that He was "made of a woman."
There was this difference between Christ and all other who are born; He had no human father. His body was created by the Spirit, in the womb of the virgin Luke 1:26-35. Because of that, there was no taint of sin (1 John 3:5) transmitted to His flesh (The angel Gabriel called it "that holy thing which shall be born of thee" Luke 1:35). This could not be said of any other born of woman (Psalm 51:5; Job. 14:4; John 3:6; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:3). Our Lord’s humanity was subject to the sinless infirmities of the flesh. He was tired, thirsty, hungry (John 4:6). His body was mortal. He died on the Cross. When our Lord took upon Himself our nature, He took it forever. Yet, His body was raised from the dead by the power of God (Romans 1:4). It was glorified and freed from earthly limitations. In that body, Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:1-3).
The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is the dividing point in our earthly calendar. We divide time before Christ and after Christ. Christ indeed was human. But there is another side.
Now we turn to the Divine side of our Lord. "God was in Christ". In Christ means dwelling in Christ. God was the Being in Christ. This does not mean that in Christ we have a token indwelling of God, or that God dwelt in Christ in a modified form; or that God was in Christ as the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. It means that Jesus Christ was God substantially. The Bible is very specific on this point. "The Word was God" (John 1:1); "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9): "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;" Colossians 1:19. "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:3. As a matter of fact it could not be otherwise. God can never be less than He is in His Being. The essence of the Godhead is not divisible. Christ, the only begotten Son, in virtue of His eternal generation and Sonship was and is God.
Christ was man and Christ was God. In this hypostatic union of God and man, the one did not destroy the other. Christ had all the powers and prerogatives of the Godhead. While he laid aside the outward glory that went with His person and place when He came into the world (Philippians 2:5-8), He had at his command all the powers that He had exercised in His pre-incarnate state. At the same time as Son of Man, He was wholesomely and sweetly human. He showed care, love and affection for His disciples; He was touched with pity and compassion for the unfortunate: He rejoiced with those who rejoiced, and He mourned with those who wept. Christ and His ministry cannot be accounted for on any other ground, than that God was in Christ.
Now that we have seen what the birth at Bethlehem really was, we are ready to follow on to see its ultimate purpose of Christ’s birth. As I mentioned earlier, too many never get past the baby of Bethlehem’s manger. I say again, move out of Bethlehem and move on to Calvary!
Turn once again to 2 Corinthians 5:19 "…God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…" In order to understand the purpose of Christ’s birth, you must understand the meaning of reconciliation. Reconciliation is the act of reconciling parties at variance. In Scripture, man is described as being at enmity with God because of the unresolved issues of man’s sin. Reconciliation is the means by which sinners are reconciled, that is restored to a condition of friendship and favor with God. As you can see in 2 Corinthians 5: 19, God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. That is equivalent in saying that God hath restored us to His favor by satisfying the claims of justice against us. Christ did this by His death on the Cross. Many verses make that clear…
Colossians 1:20-21 "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled"
Hebrews 2:17 "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
Romans 3:24-25 "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;"
2 Corinthians 5:21 "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
The Cross is central in this ministry of reconciliation. The events of Bethlehem are incomplete without going to Mount Calvary! Have you been to Calvary?
Adoration of The Shepherds by Martin Schongawer – 1460 A.D.
Crucifixion by Andrea Mantegna – about 1457 A.D.