The Truth About Christmas
by Bob Burridge ©2010
This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.
Part 3 An Unexpected Messiah
Our minds are designed to fill in missing information. There is a blind spot in every human eye. It’s the optical disk over the place where the optic nerve joins the back of the eye. There are no photo-receptor cells in that part of the retina.
Put two dots on a paper about 4 inches apart. With the paper very close, stare at the right side dot with your right eye closed. If you move the paper away slowly the left-most dot disappears.
Your brain fills in the area over the blind spot with general information from the area around it. You never notice the missing information in what you see. In modern computer terminology it’s a software solution for a hardware limitation.
There are blind spots in our understanding of God and his plans too. We haven’t been told everything yet. The tendency of our fallen minds is to fill in the things not revealed with guesses. When this happens, false religions, wrong beliefs and wrong moral principles slip in. Even well meaning Christians miss the comfort and truth in Scripture passages that way.
God tells us what he wants us to know and we shouldn’t speculate about the rest. We need to identify the things that aren’t based on God’s word so we don’t get confused by them.
The ancient promises about the coming Messiah were like that. Jesus Christ was not what the people of his day expected the Messiah to be. He came in a form that no one would have thought was appropriate. He was far more than what they thought God would send. He came to do something that the people in his day didn’t expect. And he did it in a way totally unexpected even by those who anticipated his coming.
They had the promises of the Old Testament Scriptures. They were the windows God provided that allowed a glimpse of what Messiah would be and do. But people had distorted God’s promises with unfounded innovations. They filled in the things God hadn’t said with their own theories. They read in the Bible that the Messiah would be a king greater than David. So they expected a passionate revolutionary who would dethrone the Emperor of Rome. They imagined him setting up an impressive earthly palace with an invincible army to defend it. They read in Micah 5:2 that he would be born in Bethlehem, the city of the King David. Bethlehem was a suburb of Jerusalem. It was home to many priests and political leaders. They assumed this mean that the Christ would be born to a powerful Jewish leader and live in a rich palacious home, Such a Messiah would be able to take on Rome and the other Gentile nations.
These brilliantly crafted ideas fit the way things seemed to work in the world, so they became the accepted beliefs that filled the synagogues with enthusiastic believers. The few that wouldn’t go along with their popular teachings and methods were looked at as out of touch and a little weird. There was one serious problem though: they were wrong.
Today people still expect a different Jesus than the one who actually came to save them. They choose from his sayings certain words they use to support their own assumptions. They redefine who he was, what he did, and how we come to benefit from it today.
Our responsibility is to know and promote the truth, then to worship him, and live by his promises. Knowing the truth about Jesus is more important than just getting the historical facts straight. It’s more important than just being able to have a “right theology”.
For example: people talk about learning to love as Jesus did. That’s a good thing. But they fill in their own information about what real love is. It’s not love to encourage behaviors or attitudes that replace those God has promised to bless. Most people know that it is important to worship, to help our neighbors, and to have pure thoughts. But if they don’t know the real Jesus and they don’t know God’s word, they might be thinking and doing things in those activities which actually offend the Lord they hope to please. Adding things to God’s word keeps the real soul-liberating message hidden.
Jesus wasn’t what they expected the Messiah to be. Isaiah 53 warned them about how unexpected the Messiah would be to his people. It actually begins in Isaiah 52:14 where the paragraph starts.
“As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:”
Israel had been God’s chosen nation, but they rebelled and violated God’s covenant. They tolerated idolatry and immorality, so God let pagan nations conquer them. They were forced into slavery, and their temple was torn down stone by stone. Just as the prophets had warned, the nations were astonished, appalled, horrified at Israel’s claim to be God’s Kingdom on earth. The idea that they were a nation at all, much less God’s nation, became a mockery. As a subjugated people, they no longer even resembled a nation.
In the same way, God’s promised Messiah would be disfigured, mocked, and hated. He was even put to death, a disgraceful death as a criminal on a Roman cross. He wouldn’t be what they all expected the Messiah to be.
To them the truth seemed unbelievable. Isaiah 52:15 says,
“So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”
Instead of just favoring Israel, the Messiah would sprinkle many nations. His shed blood would be sprinkled on lost souls of all the nations. both Jews and Gentiles. This was unheard of in the Jewish community in the time of Jesus. Gentiles were despised and considered unredeemable.
Even the great kings, who usually had a lot to say about things, would be silenced. They would be dumbfounded, speechless at the unexpected work of a suffering Messiah.
So Isaiah wrote in chapter 53:1-3
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Literally the Hebrew text in verse one reads: “Who would have believed the thing reported to us?” Instead of sitting on a royal throne in a plush palace, he would be a humble redeemer.
Next Study: A Surprise for Mary