Well, in just three days many sincere professing Christians will be celebrating Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ the Savior. They will sing their Christmas carols, attend their Christmas parties, open scads of Christmas presents that are under their Christmas tree, have their Christmas dinners and spread their Christmas cheer to one and all. Some of them will even attend a Christmas-eve service at their local church, or perhaps one of their four Catholic Advent Masses they have on Christmas day. They have one about every six hours or so in the day—midnight, sunrise, midday, and sunset, I believe.
But, all in all, in all this celebrating—gifts, singing, food and whatnot—this will be just another extravagant lie.
We know the origins of Christmas. They are not found in the Bible. Christmas was an early Catholic Church absorption of the widespread heathen winter solstice celebration. The Romans called it the Saturnalia.
How could Christmas be the winter solstice celebration? You must remember that since this calendar was put into place, there has been a slight progression forward. The calendar is not perfect. It is not really 365 ¼ days long. Even though it was refined in the Gregorian calendar, the seasons are still progressing forward in the calendar. It used to be, and you may notice it if you think about it, that winter started late on the 22nd of December, or even early on the 23rd.
But now, it started overnight on the 22nd. Is not today the first day of winter? That happened early this morning. So, it is even moving forward noticeable to us in our short lifetime. If you were to live thousands of years under this current calendar, the winter solstice would have moved up into what we know as summer months. It would move that far unless new calendar corrections were made.
That is what happened when the Julian calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar. It had moved thirteen days in 1300 years or so.
What I am getting at is that the Saturnalia—the Winter Solstice Festival—used to be the 25th of December, and thus Christmas was put on that day to replace it. It originally was supposed to show the "rebirth" of the sun—s-u-n, not the Son, s-o-n. In their stupidstitious thinking they thought the sun was reborn on the winter solstice because that was the day when the length became longer again as the seasons turned toward spring. It used to be the shortest day of the year.
So, those in power in the worldly professing church at that time assigned Jesus' birth to this date without any authority or proof to facilitate the so-called conversion of the multitudes of pagans into the universal church. They felt that if they absorbed this holiday, and put a new Christian face on it, that they would be more liable to peacefully join the Catholic Church. And that is what happened, too.
But the Bible, where Jesus' birth is recorded (and there is proof and authority here) places the birth of Jesus in the autumn. There are several proofs of this. Here are a few of them:
*Flocks were still in the fields by night. (Luke 2:8) This was not normal in the wintertime. They had to be brought in. This was their rainy season. They might be let out during the day in good weather, but they were usually kept in during this season to protect them and keep them warm and dry.
*The birth of John the Baptist, which was six months earlier than Jesus (Luke 1:26), can be determined with some certainty to the early springtime. We can do this through the examination of the priestly courses mentioned in scripture (Luke 1:5). John the Baptist's dad was of the course of Abijah. You can check the timing of it, and therefore he was born in the spring.
*Joseph and Mary came to be recorded in the census. (Luke 2:1-5) This argues for an autumn date as well. This civil procedure was best done after the harvests and during the fall festivals when the people were able to return to their home cities to be counted. Spring and summer seasons were just too busy to accomplish the census in an accurate manner. The Romans certainly did not want the economies of these provinces to be hindered so as to not diminish their own revenue derived thereof.
However, the date of Christ's birth is really not all that significant. In the whole grand scheme of things, the actual date—September 30, or October 8, or whatever, is not all that significant. It is just another part in the grand scheme of the proof of scripture, and the reality of the life of Jesus Christ. That we can pin it down at all is not the point. Why He had to come, and what He did, and what He and said are the things that are really important and should spark our interest.
Now, if asked why Jesus was born, most nominal Christians would say something to the effect of, "He came to die for our sins so that we can be saved." Correct answer. It is true. But, while it is true, it is very simplistic and woefully incomplete.
It would be like asking someone, "Why does a race car go fast?" And your answer would simply be, "Because it has a powerful engine." That is also a true answer. Race cars do have powerful engines. But, there are so much more details as to why a race car can go so fast than just having a powerful engine. There are the tires, the suspension, and the aerodynamics just to name a few. Even the banking of the track that they run on makes a difference.
In the same fashion, regarding Jesus Christ, there are more things to it than just dying for our sins. His life and first appearing was more important and complete than that.
So why did God send the Word to this earth to be born, live, and die as a human being? How well could we answer that question? Would we do it simplistically like the Protestants? "He came to die for our sins." Or could we answer it more completely?
Today, I want to give you a template for framing a complete answer to that question. And, that outline is based on His names. If you understand His names, then we will have a leg up on His purposes. So, if we can remember His names (and they are not hard to remember), if we understand what His names mean, and what they represent, then we have a ready outline for telling people what we believe is the reason for Jesus Christ coming to this earth.
I would like to get a running start into all this by showing why names are so significant. As you know, Exodus 20 is one of two Ten Commandments chapters (the other being Deuteronomy 5). And, the third commandment reads:
The significance of names, and particularly regarding the Divine Names, is suggested in the fact that one of the Ten Commandments covers the use and bearing of God's name. My dad's sermon on the third commandment covers this, and takes this commandment apart, and shows exactly what it means. It is not just about speaking a name of God, or using His name in blasphemy. It is far more than that. It is the use and the bearing of God's name. His name has been named on you, if you have been baptized into His body and church. We bear His name. And, how we bear it, how we carry it about in our actions as well as our words is either pleasing to Him, or it can blaspheme Him. Remember in the New Testament Paul says that Jesus' name is blasphemed among the gentiles because of their wrong behavior.
So, the name of God being named upon a person is very important. God's names mean something. They are special. And, He does not want us to miss their significance.
On the other hand, He does not want us to make them some vain repetition either, as if they were something mystical or magical. He wants us to understand Him through His names, because His names identify Himself. So, this commandment highlights the fact that each of God's names mean something—they identify Him, and explain Him in His character and purposes. That is why God's names are so important.
And remember also that this God who gave this commandment was the One who became Jesus Christ. So, it is not just His Old Testament names that are important, but also his New Testament names. And, several of them, actually most of them, originated in the Old Testament—"Joshua," and "Emmanuel" both originated in the Old Testament. Obviously, "Lord" originated in the Old Testament—"Son of Man," "Son of God"—they originated in the Old Testament. Even "Christ" originated in the Old Testament, but not in this Greek form, but its Hebrew form, "Messiah."
So, Jesus Christ's names are very important, and we should not take or carry them—bear them—in any way that would bring any dishonor to Him.
Now, do you remember the "Law of First Mention?" How something is used the first time is often very significant to how it is used throughout the rest of the Bible. In Genesis 3 we have the naming of "Eve," though it is not the first mention of the word "name." In chapter 2 the word "name" had been used in the passage about the rivers, and also in the fact that Adam named all the animals. But in the naming of Eve, this is the first use regarding a person. Notice how this is constructed:
What this passage does is to show that names identify and show that they have a purpose, or later on they can be prophecy—people live up to, or down to, their names. Names have meaning. Names, in many cases, if it is done properly, can show a truth about that person.
Obviously, calling her "Eve," which means "living," and the explanation given here, "she is the mother of all living," shows that Adam understood that from no other person would all the people who would ever live came from him and her. So from this woman was to spring all human life. He recognized that. It was a truth. So, he called her "Eve."
And another one is right down the page where in Genesis 4:1:
Cain was named "Cain" for a reason. His name means gotten or acquired. And you know, he lived up to his name. He became the symbol of what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong called, "the way of get"—the way of Cain. And, right in his own name is that essence of getting, acquiring, and taking stuff for one's self. And so the name "Cain" was also a prophecy. God did not honor it in the sense of it being, "gotten from the Lord," because it only meant "gotten." She seemed to hope that he was the promised Messiah—the one God would send to save them. Obviously, Cain was not that man.
In the same chapter is another one:
Now we know that Seth lived up to his name. Seth means "appointed." And, he was a very good "replacement" for Abel. He was also a righteous man. And, it was from him—the so called "righteous line"—that came most of those who would later follow God.
So, here we see that early on in Genesis that we are given this understanding about names. Names are significant. Names mean something. They can possibly tell you a truth about a person's character, identity, or purpose.
And this is doubly true when it comes to God. God names Himself. And whatever God names Himself is true. And of course, God being wise gets the most significance out of these things. And so, He names Himself certain things.
We can see how this is put into play in Exodus 33 and 34. These passages were not long after the "Golden Calf" incident, and Moses was discouraged and down. They were preparing to leave Sinai, but the distaste of this incident was lingering still. He needed some assurance from God.
What these passages together do is to make the correlation between names and character as clear as fine crystal. God says that He would proclaim the name of the Lord. And how did He do it? He told Moses about His own character through His names.
So, the names of God reveal His nature because He names things what they are—even Himself. Obviously, He wanted Moses, and us, seeing it through the perspective of history, to think of Him as merciful, gracious, patient, good, true, faithful, forgiving, and just. All those ideas, and more, are right there in the sermon that He preached to Moses. They are part of His names. His names bring out these qualities.
Notice Moses' reaction. He dropped to the earth like a stone, and worshipped. He was so overcome by what God had revealed to him through His names. It was a stunning revelation of God's loving character, especially since this occurred right after the golden calf incident. A lot of people died in that. And it appeared like God was being unfair. But, when God preached this sermon about His names, Moses understood that God was indeed forgiving, and merciful, and patient, especially once he had a chance to think about how rotten Israel had been, and how long God's forbearance had been. And even in this incident where the whole camp was worshipping this golden calf—a stupid golden idol—God only took some of them. He was a merciful, loving, faithful, and patient God.
And in the same way, the same God who became Jesus Christ is revealed to us in His New Testament names. So, today we will go through a few of them.
Jesus, Jeshua, and Joshua are His primary names. It describes His primary purpose as a human being. Jesus, Jeshua, and Joshua mean "Savior," or "Deliverer." Through a bit of a convoluted etymology, Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, and they all mean "Savior," or "Deliverer."
Like the Joshua of the Old Testament, it was mostly thought of throughout the biblical period in terms of physical deliverance from their enemies. So, a "Deliverer" would be like Joshua was, who went out in front of the armies, and defeated the enemies, and opened up the land to Israel.
This is why the Jews of Jesus' day assumed that the Messiah would be a conquering king—a hero. He would be a conqueror who would drive out the hated Romans from the holy land, and establish another Jewish kingdom. Would He not be like Joshua? Would He not be a Savior like David, one who could rally the Jewish people? Or even Judas Maccabeus who rallied the nation behind him.
But God had other ideas for His Son in His human life. In this next passage is Zacharias' prophecy that he gave at the time of John the Baptist's circumcision, once his voice was given back to him. This is what he said:
Notice the progression of the thought, here, in this prophecy. He does not leave out what the Jews thought the Savior would be. But, you will notice as we go through, he refines it.
Now, notice he started speaking about deliverance from our enemies. But pretty soon, we are talking about spiritual redemption. Yet, the enemies that He would defeat, were not the Romans or Greeks, but the spiritual enemies. The salvation that Jesus brought as a human being would be spiritual. He would redeem people from their sins. And, notice the reason: So that they could live in holiness and righteousness all their days [verses 74 and 75].
And then he goes on [77-79] that He would teach them how they could have salvation through mercy and grace, and how to live in peace.
And so here, before Jesus is even born, it was all laid out. Yes, He would come as Savior! But, he would not come as the conquering king. He would come teaching the way of salvation, and he would redeem the people from their sins through His death. His job was to redeem them from their sins, and you cannot do that with a sword.
Turn to Paul's synopsis of Jesus' human life and work.
Those were the enemies. Those are the things that are keeping us down.
So, if I can put it into my own words, Paul is saying that God saw that we were enslaved to Satan. And not just to Satan himself, but to this world which Satan has fashioned; and to our human nature which Satan has influenced.
So, when the time was right, He sent His Son to be born of a woman, to experience life under the same conditions as human beings. But, because He lived sinlessly, because He was our Creator, He had the power to pay for our sins. And by His agency, we could, by God's grace, and the indwelling of God's Spirit, become God's children, and heirs with Christ.
His great purpose, His procedure, is all wrapped up in the name, "Jesus"—Savior.
This next passage is in one of the most famous in all of scripture:
Here, we will need to turn back to Isaiah to see the original usage of this in the prophecy of the virgin birth, and then we will quickly see its fulfillment. This is a prophecy to the king Ahaz:
This is almost word for word repeated in Matthew 1 where we had left off.
Emanuel may be Jesus Christ's most neglected name. It is only mentioned here and maybe one other time in the New Testament. Of course, he was not called this as a personal name, but it certainly represents what He was. He was God living among men. To make this plain, we will read a passage in Isaiah 54. Notice the correlation.
Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.
There are several names of God here—"Maker," "Husband," "Lord of Hosts," Redeemer," "Holy One of Israel," "God of the Whole Earth." These are all names for the same Person.
Here is something we have already read, but I want to go over it one more time because it makes things clear. Zacharias begins his prophecy:
"The Lord God of Israel," "The Holy One of Israel," The Redeemer," is the same One as Jesus Christ.
"Emanuel," "Jesus of Nazareth," and "the God of Israel," and "Yahweh, the Creator God" are all the same Person. He was God—the God of the Old Testament—with us, living amongst us.
The great mighty powerful God of creation, the great God of the Flood, the awesome God of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the One who performed all those great miracles of the Exodus; the One who helped David and the prophets, and spoke to them, and did great miracles through many of them; the same Person who lived and taught in Judea, died on the tree for our sins—the same God, but a man.
But, He was not just a man. However, He was not an itinerate Jewish preacher, either, which one scholar has said in recent years. Supposedly He was made the Son of God by the devious preaching of Paul. Somehow, Paul, with all his smarts, was able to take the sayings of this itinerate Jewish preacher and fashion Him into a god.
The Bible says clearly, and not in Paul's writings, that He was God, slain from the foundation of the world, and He is key to God's plan of salvation—this God who lived with us.
In this next very well known passage, Paul had to explain this to the Greeks because this idea of God becoming a man was ridiculous thing to them—"Why, no god would give up everything to become a man, literally, subject to all its risks and problems that humanity has to face! What god would do this? Would Jupiter do this? Hardly!"
Not only did God descend to become man in the person of Jesus Christ, but He was willing to live as a human being throughout His entire life, and then die as a man—horribly, cruelly—for them all. Even though He had the power to call upon legions of angels, He willing did not. He voluntarily gave His life.
So we see that from the beginning—slain from the foundation of the world—He was set in His mind, and would volunteer to become a man, to live a life of a worm, and to die on the tree for us. He sacrificed all that great power and authority, and then clothed Himself with temptable, and contemptible flesh. It says in Hebrews 2:10 that He learned obedience to the Father in all things through suffering. He learned how difficult life as a human being was, so that He could be a faithful Mediator, and High Priest before the Father, so that He could plead with empathy. He had been through it. He was God in the flesh—Emanuel.
In John 1 it says:
He was God with us—Emanuel.
Turn to Luke 2:11 and the angel's announcement at His birth, making the proclamation.
The Greek word "Kristos" is the direct translation of the Hebrew "Meshiah." Both of these terms refer to the One who was set apart for a very special, crucial path. Mostly, we need to understand the "set-apart" portion of this term. In Hebrew, it is "The Anointed One." For instance, a king or priest was anointed with oil, as in Psalm 133 where the oil ran down Aaron's beard. What this did was to consecrate him to his responsibilities. He was the "Anointed One."
He had certain duties to do. We will take a moment to look at some of His duties. Turn to Luke 4 and He tells us what His duty is.
So, He was anointed, then, to preach the gospel, and to liberate those who believed Him.
Peter backs this up in Acts 10 when he was speaking to the household of Cornelius:
So He was anointed to preach the gospel, and to do all these works of liberty, liberating the people, giving them freedom from their sins, from the infirmities, and opening up a new way of life to them.
Turn to Mark to see another one:
So, the second thing was that He was anointed to die in our stead, to be buried in the heart of the earth, and to rise from the grave as the First Born of the sons of God. So, not only was He anointed to preach the gospel, He was also anointed to sacrifice Himself for all of us.
Meaning, that He completely worked salvation for us.
Now, the third thing we find in John 18. I am sure we could find more. Regardless, here He is before Pilate during the trial. And Jesus answered him because he had asked about what He had done.
There is one final thing I find interesting is found in Hebrews 1:
He is going to have a righteous kingdom, and a joyful, glad kingdom, because He has been anointed to this task, and He, being who He was, will make it happen.
THE WORD ? LOGOS
This name of the one who became Jesus Christ may confound some people. But, it is very simple at its heart. Jesus Christ, as the Word, embodied God's message. Not only was He the Messenger, He personified the message.
If we study Jesus as a man, we would come to understand God Himself, and how He would live as a man. There is a bit of overlap with Emanuel.
We say that in the name Logos, we come to understand that He is in His Person the summation of all that God is trying to teach us. Jesus is the image, the perfect representative of God; and not only of God, but of His plan, His doctrine, and His character. He also embodies the goal of all Christians, which is to be like He is.
Further in this same book, in His final sermon to His disciples, he tells us this thing:
And then, in Hebrews 1:
And then finally, II Corinthians 4:
This is why Paul so often says, "We preach Jesus," which the Protestant world has picked up on. But, they have it in the wrong sense. Paul did not mean that all he preached about was the human life of the man Jesus. But rather, he taught what Jesus, the Word of God, taught. And he pointed toward his own example.
In another place, Paul says that "We teach the whole counsel of God." We teach God's complete plan, and doctrine. And this Jesus Christ personified in Himself. That is what the Word is. He was the best, most complete—perfect—Spokesman for God, not only in what He said, and did, but also what He was.
The word through Jesus Christ is the message that will bring eternal life and fellowship with God, and Christ, and fellow believers. It is all wrapped up in that message in Christ, and as it says here, it is that message that will bring us fullness of joy.
John 13:13 "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.
This passage was right after the foot-washing ceremony during the Passover service. Jesus acknowledges that He is our Lord and Master. He is certainly preeminent over us. But more than that, He owns us completely through the paying for our sins through His death. Plus, He is our Lord and Master by His divinity—by just who He is—God! He is our Lord and Master because He created us, and made us with His own hand. And, He was appointed to this position and anointed by God. And, He shed His priceless blood for our redemption.
So, either way that you turn, He is our Lord and Master. You cannot get out of it. And, we can add to this because He is our Lord and Master by our voluntary submission to Him once we are called and baptized.
So, He has us tied up pretty well. We cannot get out of it, even if we wanted to.
We stopped in Philippians 2 with Him dying on a tree, I would like go to verse 9 now:
And such is us. Ultimately, everyone who is still alive will call Him, "Lord!"
We can see something similar in I Corinthians 15:
Ultimately, everyone and everything will be subject to Him. And at that point, He willingly gives this all over to the Father in perfect submission and humility.
Since it is ordained to be so, you would do well to get and stay on the winning side, because this is how it is all going to be. And we do this by doing as He does by submitting in everything to the Father in our own way making sure that God may be all in all for us too. That is how He did it. God was everything to Him. He is our example. He is the pattern for us.
This is our goal to be with Him all the way to the end. This is where we want to be, and we will be if He is truly our Lord and Master.
THE SON OF GOD
That is how Mark introduces Him.
The "Son of God" is a title showing descent and origin. He was no ordinary man! He was of divine origin. He was a direct representative of God. As we have seen in John 14, if we have seen the Son, we have seen the Father. That is how perfect and exact His representation is.
As the "Son of God," Jesus revealed not only the existence of the Father, but also the character of the Father. And He did this by showing His own character, because they are the same.
It is through the Son that we have insight into the very mind of the Father, because the Son so perfectly represents Him.
This all can be wrapped up in one verse, I believe:
That is why He is the Son of God.
SON OF MAN
This one originates in the Old Testament.
And, it is brought up again many places in the New Testament. I will go to just a couple:
And then, also:
The title, "Son of Man," does the same thing on the human level as the title, "Son of God," does on the Divine level. This title does indeed recognize He was a human being. He was a human being! He was not some "superman," or some "demigod." He was a human, flesh and blood, person. Nothing was faked. He had no dual nature such as the Gnostics claim—a Jesus, and a Christ. His only advantage as God in the flesh was that He always had the Holy Spirit without measure.
Otherwise, He was completely and totally like you and me all the way down to His toenails.
He had to be like us in every way, and every aspect of our humanity, so that He could be a faithful mediator and high priest.
So, he was a perfect man; a paragon of humanity. He was all that a human being could be. And, His example, because He did it so perfectly, thus becomes to us the model of what we strive to become ourselves.
Here, God says He gave the ministry to the church. And one of the reasons was so that we can become perfect like Jesus Christ is perfect—coming to the perfect man.
Well, that is all the titles and names I have for you today.
I need to spring something on you, here at the end today, because we are really never finished. We hear this passage nearly every year at this time, and I wonder how many people grasp any of it. They might get the first line, but they sure seem to stop there.
Here are more names of such magnificence that they are mind-boggling to us. And we have the spirit of God. He is so much more than a baby lying in a manger. He is even so much more than a Savior who died for our sins. We are grateful, indeed, for that. But it goes way beyond that. We do not want to leave Him hanging on the tree. He lives! He rules! And He will always rule, just as we saw in the scripture. He will eventually rule over all things.
The world has a woefully inadequate and incomplete picture of Jesus Christ. And they perpetuate this simplistic, almost stick-figure-like image every year at this time.
Are we not thankful that God has revealed to us the true Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and our coming King?
I wish you all a happy Sabbath.