Cleansing the temple and cursing the fig tree

Mark 11:12-25

BRIEF RECAP: In my last post, we witnessed Jesus finally entering Jerusalem but some people, even religious ones, paid no attention to the king (11:11). We got a glimpse of what it looked like when Jesus entered the temple area, as prophecied in Malachi 3:1, by the “understatement” of the event in Mark’s account.

In this study, we will be focused on the relationship between the cleansing of the temple and Jesus cursing the fig tree on His travels between Jerusalem and Bethany. As we will quickly observe, both involve judgment.

12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.

21 And being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered

FOCUS ONE: Jesus curses the fig tree

This section begins with a view of Christ’s humanity. Like us, He became hungry. Imagine all the walking He accomplished in a day, regularly traveling from one place to another. Bethany was approximately two miles away from Jerusalem (John 11:18), so we can easily surmise that He walked four miles a day just getting back and forth. That does not include any other walking He did throughout Jerusalem or Bethany.

As we saw in our last study, Jesus left Jerusalem after looking around the temple and witnessing all the greed and marketing in “His Fathers house.” As Father’snd the disciples leave Bethany, He sees a fig tree off in the distance. Fig trees were widespread in that region. “The fig is a pear shaped fruit anpear-shapedsed by the people for food. The young figs are especially prized for the sweetness and flavor. The fruit always appears before the leaves; so that when Christ saw leaves on the fig tree He had a right to expect fruit.”

That seems odd. Wouldn’t Jesus, God in the flesh, know that the fig tree wouldn’t have any fruit on it? So why would He curse the tree? Two observations will serve to answer those questions. 

First, remember that Jesus, as God, the creator, and sustainer of all things, would undoubtedly know about fig trees and how they operate. But also take notice to these five words that we read in (14b), “and His disciples were listening.” That is important! This “miracle” takes place as they travel back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus desires to use this miracle/object lesson to teach the disciples something of great importance.

Second, “Jesus’ shocking destruction of the fig tree is an acted parable that prophecies what is in store for a people who proved faithless and whose temple, the very symbol of their faithless religiosity, will be destroyed along with the city of Jerusalem (a prophecy fulfilled in A.D. 70).”

In cursing the fig or enacting judgment upon the tree, Jesus fulfills many of the prophecies regarding the people of Israel and their unfaithfulness (Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 8:13; 29:17; Hosea 2:12; 9:10,16; and Micah 7:1-6, which likened Israel’s faithlessness to a fig tree gone bad and about to be destroyed).

“The fig tree has put forth leaves BUT had no fruit. Their denial of His rightful role as king was evident in the lack of the fruit of faithfulness due Him. Similarly , the evidence of true discipleship to Jesus IS the bearing of the fruit of faithfulness and righteousness.”

15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling [a]doves; 16 and He would not allow anyone to carry [b]merchandise through the temple grounds. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching.

19 And whenever evening came, [c]they would leave the city.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus cleanses the temple

This act of cleansing the temple should not be separated from the action of cursing the fig tree. True, they are separated by time and space, but not in the application! Look at how verse seventeen, a quote from Isaiah 56:7, relates to Jesus cursing the fig tree! By Jesus’ violent expulsion of the merchants from the Court of the Gentiles, He anticipates the terrible consequences of turning God’s place of prayer into a place for profit. Here again, we can see the fulfillment of various prophecies (Jeremiah 7:1-15; 26:1-15; Malachi 3:1-5; but especially Isaiah 56:1-8). 

In the Isaiah passage mentioned above, we see God’s invitation to foreigners to His holy mountain and His house of prayer. Here Jesus casts out the self-serving profiteers who “would hinder His mission to the outcast by transforming sacred space into a “robbers den” (v. 17).

Mark records two responses to what Jesus did:

  1. 1. The chief priests and the scribes began seeking to destroy Him (v.18).
  2. 2. The multitude was astonished at His teaching (v. 17).

Sadly, it is much the same today. Some people flat-out reject Jesus and His offer of forgiveness, while others are amazed at His teaching but act with indifference toward it. Thankfully, some hear and believe (Acts 6:7)!

Now, again, Jesus and the twelve leave Jerusalem for the evening. I can think of two possible reasons:

  1. No place to rest in Jerusalem (no one received Him), but in Bethany, they could stay with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
  2. It could have been dangerous (11:18).

20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 And being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered and *said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted to him. 24 Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your [a]offenses.

FOCUS THREE: The importance and power of faith

A day has now passed since Jesus cursed the fig tree. Peter takes notice of it; most likely, the others did as well, but Peter is the one that speaks up. It seems like the event wasn’t all that meaningful to him; seeing it “reminded him” of what Jesus did to it the previous day. We all have times like that, especially the older we get. Something exciting or unusual happens, and we take note of it, but the businesses of our day, the battle against the tyranny of the urgent in our lives, quickly removes it from our thinking. Then, as we drive by that place or are in that area again where it took place, we “are reminded.”

Notice that it wasn’t the leaves that were withered but the roots. Its very source of life was cut off, and it immediately died. 

Two observations arise:

  1. 1. The cursing of the fig tree and its representation of faithless Israel.

2. Jesus replied to Peter’s observation by teaching them about faith, prayer, and forgiveness!

Here, Jesus takes the time to speak to these men about the power and importance of faith. First, faith’s focus is in God! People put faith in a host of things, i.e., money, power, government, religion, and much more. But Jesus tells them that belief in God is essential. Such faith in His desire and ability to answer our prayers is vital. After all, why would we bring Him our burdens and needs if we doubted that He would care or was even able and willing to answer our prayers and meet those needs?

Second, Jesus states what the inclination of the heart should be as one comes to Him in prayer. A forgiving heart. “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). He introduces this with the words: “truly I say to you.” In other words, “this is important so listen up.” 

“Since Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives, from which the Dead Sea can be seen on a clear day, He may have been referring specifically to the Mount. (The mountain as a symbol of a great difficulty, cf. Zechariah 4:7).” Of course, Jesus is speaking figuratively.

So, it seems logical that Jesus is saying that the most significant possible difficulties can be removed when a person has faith” (cf. James 1:6). Faith in the all-powerful God who works miracles. Trust in His sovereignty over all things and in His omnipotence in bringing what He wills to pass.

WWW.biblestudytools.com

The Expositors Bible Commentary

QUESTIONS

Mark 9:9-13

BRIEF INTRO: Peter, James, and John were taken up to a high mountain with Jesus, where He was transfigured before them. These three men, out of the twelve that Christ called unto Himself, were the closest to Him, the “inner circle” that witnessed many things that the others did not. This was one of those times. 

To these three disciples, Jesus gave a special privilege of previewing His kingdom. But in this case, it wasn’t a repeat of the view presented in Matthew thirteen (“the kingdom of heaven is like). Rather, “it was a glimpse of the kingdom as it will be when it has been completely established, and Jesus is revealed to all as its King.”

These men were the key disciples that Jesus would use to motivate and encourage others. To these men, all twelve, the gospel would be entrusted. The gospel was to move forward and be proclaimed throughout the world. I think this goal, at least in part, was to encourage and motivate these three men. We have witnessed their doubts along the way, so something as grand as this would increase their faith and understanding of who Jesus is and why He came, lived among them, and would ultimately die and rise again!

As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, [a]until the Son of Man rose from the dead.”

FOCUS ONE: What happens on the mountain. . .

The central theme of this vision is Jesus, the king! He is the whole point. These men have just been given a glimpse of the divine nature of Jesus. Some of His glory radiated externally (that was within shined through) for them to see who He truly was and in such a powerful and memorable way so that they would understand more wholly why He would have to suffer and die. 

Can you imagine yourself witnessing such an event and then being told to keep it to yourself? Would you be able to? Jesus instructs them “not to relate to anyone what they had seen.” But this instruction or exhortation was limited in time. It was not to be kept a secret forever, only until “the Son of Man should rise from the dead” (v. 9). 

“Only from the perspective of the resurrection would they understand the transfiguration and thus be able to proclaim its meaning correctly.” It appears that they believed in a future resurrection (John 11:24), but their misunderstanding of His messianic kingdom’s nature was evident. And so…

10 “They [a]seized upon [b]that statement, discussing with one another [c]what rising from the dead meant.”

FOCUS TWO: Healthy dialogue 

They “seized upon” or kept those words to themselves. This “keeping” is similar to what Mary did (Luke 2:19) after she heard so many good things about her baby boy. One exception would be that while Mary kept those things to herself (pondered them in her heart), they kept discussing what Christ’s words meant with one another. Especially His statement regarding rising from the dead. What does rising from the dead mean? 

Again, it is clear that they were perplexed by Jesus’ words. What is instructive for us is that they wanted to understand what He was saying to them! They kept on discussing His words together. The dialogue and possibly debates about what He meant continued for some time, most likely even up to the events at Gethsemane, the trials, and then the cross.

I love their zeal to understand! I love the discussion, dialogue, and debates that ensued over His words. I am excited that they wanted to know truth, understand theology (although they may not have viewed it that way at the time), and even their willingness to engage in thoughtful debate over the issue. We can learn much from this observation. We are witnessing the demise of such things in our society. Rather than polite, thoughtful discussion to know the truth, we resort to yelling, canceling, and even violence. God help us.

What does rising from the dead mean? One commentator points out: “The disciples did not understand the distinction between “the second coming” (8:38) and “the resurrection” (9:9). The Jews of Jesus’ day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale.” 

11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does come first and he restores all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has [a]indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written of him.”

FOCUS THREE: The authority of scripture

It is not odd for the scribes to come into the conversation. However, it is a bit unusual that the Pharisees are not mentioned with them. But it is rather insightful, especially when we notice Jesus’ response to the question. The Scribes and the Pharisees sat in “Moses’ seat. That is equivalent to a university’s “chair of philosophy. “The expression here may be translated as “[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat”-stressing the fact that this was an imaginary authority they claimed for themselves. There was a legitimate sense in which the priest and Levites had authority to decide matters of law (Deuteronomy 17:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the word of God (Matthew 15:3-9). For that Jesus condemned them (Matthew 23:8-36).”

Jesus, in this case, does not invalidate their teaching regarding Elijah. He clarifies it! The word “must” is a verb (dei) that in Greek speaks of the absolute necessity that this must occur. So this is a logical question being asked of Jesus in light of Malachi four and their recent experience on the mountain.

The question seems to be, how does the appearance of Elijah on the mountain relate to the scribe’s teaching? Let me sum up Jesus’ answer in this way:

“The sequence of thought is as follows: (1) Elijah is coming as the restorer (Malachi 4:5); (2) he came, unrecognized, in the person of John the Baptist, and was killed; (3) the Son of Man faces a like fate. The disciples seem to grasp only the first two points.”

We will witness these very words of Jesus coming true as we continue moving forward in our study of Mark. 

One last observation for our consideration. Did you notice the statement “just as it is written of him” in verse thirteen regarding John the Baptist, and again in verse twelve “how is it written” concerning the Son of man? Those statements should encourage our study of scripture and equip us in our daily walk and ministries because they reveal Jesus’ high view of scripture! He believes it to be authoritative, and so should we!

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 143

Preceptaustin commentaries, online

Macarthur Study Bible, pg. 1436

CHRISTMAS IN GENESIS

Extended reading: Genesis 3

Devotional reading: verse 15

And I will [a]make enemies
Of you and the woman,
And of your [b]offspring and her [c]Descendant;
He shall [d]bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

Genesis 3 gives us an account of the process of temptation and mankind’s fall into sin. Not quite the place where you would expect a Christmas story. But without this historical account and its prophetic view of the complete destruction of the evil one, the story of the virgin birth, ministry of Christ; His death on a cross and resurrection from the grave, would make absolutely little sense.

“In His grace,  God promised that the off-spring of the woman would defeat Satan. He promised that He would take charge of the redemption of their lives and overcome the enemy. This is good news- the first mention of the gospel of grace that would eventually be fulfilled by the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.”

As one Christmas song rightly concludes, Christmas is about the cross!

PRAYER: Father, we thank you for keeping your word and sending your Son Jesus to redeem mankind from the bondage of sin. There is no greater gift we can receive than that which you have already given, Baby Jesus, Emmanuel! Amen.

MIND OF CHRIST (Part two)

We left our study last time with this statement: “Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and to us dear Christian, that that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God honoring way within this congregation.”

FOCUS ONE:

Moving forward, we will learn that there is more to all this than just the examples of humility (8). We are also brought to remember the incarnation of Jesus. By that, I mean, When God the Son became a man—The God-man, fully God and yet fully man!

The word: “fashion” or “appearance” or “being,” depending on your translation, is significant. John MacArthur writes: “The word “being” denotes that which a person is in his very essence – that which a person is in his nature. In other words, that which is true of a person that cannot be altered, it cannot be changed. That which someone possesses inalienably and unchangeably that cannot be removed. It refers to the innate, changeless, unalterable character and nature of a person. For example, men may look different, but they’re all men – that’s their nature. They all have the basic same elements of humanness, the functioning of breathing, and the heart, organs, mind, will, thought, emotion. These are the elements of humanness. You can change his clothes. You can do things to the physical form. But you never change the humanness. That is the being of man.”

 And that is the meaning of this term. And it says of Christ that He is in the being of God. He is, then, unalterably and unchangeably, God in His essence, in His essential being. That is the basis of our faith. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word” – what? – “was God.” But along with that, He was at the same time fully man. But don’t think of Jesus as less than fully human. Quoting MacArthur again: “He was fully human. Did people come into this world through the natural process of birth, through the womb of a mother? So, did He. Had others been wrapped in swaddling clothes? So was He. Had others grown up? So did He. Did others have brothers and sisters? He did. Did others learn a trade and work? So did He. Were other men at times hungry, and thirsty, and weary, and asleep? So was He. Were others grieved and angry? So was He. Did others weep? So did He. Did others rejoice? So did He. Were others destined to die? So did He. Did others suffer pain? So did He. Were others loved and hated? So was He. He was a man, in the form and the fashion.”

Luke tells us how this happened. Turn to Luke chapter 1:26 (read). In verse 34, Mary Asks, “how can this happen or be?” The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and with His power, with no sinful human male involved, He will grant this conception within her, and her child will be called the Son of God (vs.36).

Matthew tells us that this miracle, this salvation, was prophesied long ago. Matthew repeats what Isaiah wrote in 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (God with us). Paul is speaking from a position “after” the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

1 Peter 2:21,22 – We are told He lived without sin. In Hebrews 4:15,16 – We are told Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, but He did not sin.

Jesus was the only man ever to live without committing even one sin, so He is the only one who truly deserves to be counted righteous before God. Later we will see that this sinless life was necessary for Him to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

He taught with authority, healed many, delivered many from demons, served the multitudes, refuted pseudo-religiosity, pointed many to the Father in Heaven, and because of that:

Matthew 26:1-4,14-16 – Jewish leaders determined to kill Jesus because He had revealed their sins to the multitudes. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, agreed to betray Jesus to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver.

Matthew 26:36-41 – After teaching His disciples how to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of His death, Jesus went to Gethsemane. There He prayed that He might avoid the suffering of the cross, but even so, He was willing to obey the Father’s will.

Matthew 26:47-56 – Judas came bringing soldiers to capture Jesus and showed the soldiers who to arrest by kissing Him. When Jesus refused to allow His disciples to defend Him, they all forsook Him and fled.

Matthew 26:57-67 – In the Jewish trials, Jewish leaders sought grounds to kill Jesus but could not find valid proof even with the help of many false witnesses. They ignored all the evidence that he was the Christ and convicted Him of making a blasphemous claim! Finally, they convicted Him of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Christ.

Luke 23:8-11 – Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate (vv 13-16) then told the people that neither he nor Herod found any fault in Jesus worthy of death.

Matthew 27:15-26 – Pilate repeatedly stated that Jesus was innocent and tried to release Him, but the Jews refused. Pilate’s wife sent him a message saying she knew Jesus was innocent. But the Jews said they and their children would bear responsibility for His death, so Pilate called for Jesus to be crucified.

So what? Everyone dies eventually. To many people, Jesus’ death may not seem extraordinary. But His was the most important death ever to occur. It is essential to our salvation.

Hebrews 2:9 – Jesus tasted death for every man. He did not die for His sins – He didn’t have any sins. Nor was His death simply a miscarriage of justice. Jesus died for our sins.

1 Peter 2:24 – He bore our sins on the cross so that we could live to righteousness. He was a sacrifice. He was the sinless Son of God dying as a penalty for those of us who were guilty, so we could go free.

That is why Jesus needed to live a sinless life. If He had sinned, He would have to be punished for His sins. But because He lived a sinless life and did not deserve to die, He was able to suffer for others, people like us who did deserve to die.

FOCUS TWO:

Impressive as all this is, it is even more amazing to realize that He came to earth knowing all along that He would have to die for the sins of others. The Creator took the form of that which He had created to suffer as a sacrifice to save His own creatures. If Jesus had not died, none of us could be forgiven of sins. We would all have to die for our sins (Rom. 6:23). We can be saved (only) because Jesus died for us!

And what was God the Father’s response to this?

3. Glory in Christ (9-11)

a. God the Father exalted Him

Why? Because Jesus has taken upon himself a humble servitude that leads Him to death, even death on a cross, in which He willingly embraces degradation and misery, in which He willingly embraces humiliation of the most profound and most unique sort. And because of this (therefore), God highly exalts Him. And perhaps Paul is drawing our attention to the fact that there is a different kind of exaltation in God’s

One writer comments: “We see human beings, appropriately or inappropriately, exalted all the time around us, and usually it is because they possess certain qualities that set them apart from other people. They may be really smart, and so we praise them because they’re smarter than other people. Or maybe they’re better students, they work hard. It’s not that their brain cells are more blessed than somebody else’s brain cells, but they study really hard. And we set them apart, we give them titles and we give them degrees, and we give them honors for their academic prowess. And so, through their efforts and their native abilities, they are set apart.”

Paul wants these folks to notice how Jesus, who in all of those categories, was more worthy than anyone who ever lived, did not promote himself on that basis. And God did not exalt Him on that basis. He exalted Him because He embraced humility, and He embraced servitude of the most profound sort.

He was given a name above every other!

There is sooo much to this, but we don’t have the time to mine it all this morning. Let me make a few things clear. Dear reader, Jesus has always been the Son of God. Jesus did not become the Son of God for the first time in the resurrection or the ascension. Jesus has always been Lord. He has always been the second person of the Trinity. There was never a time when He wasn’t Lord, and then He became Lord. That’s not what the Apostle Paul is saying here. It’s just that now in the flesh, He has appeared, and in His flesh, He rendered such a service that God publicly owned and acknowledged Him and pronounced Him to be Lord. And Paul is telling the Philippians and us here that God does this precisely because of what Jesus has done in His humble service.

And then we notice: Everybody will confess He is Lord. 

Not only does Paul reveal in these words that every being in the universe will submit to Christ, but He also shows that there will someday be a universal confession that HE IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father!!

This fact was prophesied by Isaiah Back in Isaiah 45:23, and Paul is thinking about that prophecy and directing his readers to reflect on it.

To not willingly submit to Him put’s you, dear sinner, in an awful position. We are all equally rebels against him, whether we oppose him as Lord or whether we refuse to submit to his righteousness or his government. What will you answer to him when he calls you to account for usurping his office and making void all that he has done and suffered for you? — He has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow; and, if you don’t do it willingly, you will most certainly do it against your will, to your everlasting sorrow.

But how different an outcome for those who submit to His rightful rule.

You are committed to his care, and he will not lose one of you; “not one shall ever be plucked out of his hands,” is the promise of scripture. Whatever you need, “his grace is sufficient for you.” “if you suffer with him. you shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12. Romans 8:17.]” in his kingdom forevermore!

Conclusion:

Dear reader, because of the effectual working of the gospel in our own lives, as undeserved as it is, and all that we enjoy because of it, shouldn’t that lead us to walk in unity, fellowship, and like-mindedness around this gospel within our local church family? 

Christian, Christ is our supreme example; his selfless love is an example to us. His humility and obedience are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.

Friends, like all those who have gone before, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You, like the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness.

But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous and forgiven!

THEOLOGY OF CHRISTMAS (PART TWO)

In part one I laid the foundation of the Christmas story by tracing the will and word of God throughout the Old Testament, specifically the many prophecies foretold about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. THEOLOGY OF CHRISTMAS (PART 1) In this post I will show how those prophecies have been fulfilled and can only be fulfilled in one person: the man Christ Jesus! The true reason Christmas is to be celebrated.

The prophets prophesied throughout hundreds of years that this seed of a woman, heir of the throne of David, would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). They gave the time of His birth and revealed that it would be a supernatural one (Daniel 9:25; Isaiah 7:14). They foretold various events that would happen as a result of His birth: the slaughter of the innocents and Mary and Joseph, with baby Jesus, fleeing to Egypt (Jeremiah 31:15; Hosea 11:1). 

They also revealed that many people would not believe that Jesus was the the Son of God (Isaiah 53:1), that He would be betrayed by a close friend for thirty pieces of silver (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12), and be hated without reason (Psalm 35:19). There is a mountain of prophecies foretold by the prophets that all speak directly of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel (God is with us), and His first coming to deal with sin and defeat Satan; the death blow that was spoken of back in Genesis 3. We find that all these prophesies, spoken hundreds and hundreds of years before there fulfillment, are fulfilled in Jesus Christ as attested to in the New Testament. Many of these fulfillment’s are manifested in the gospel’s but some are evidenced in the Epistles as well (Hebrews 5:5-6; Romans 5:6,8; 15:3; Ephesians 4:8).

As the New Testament unfolds, after four hundred years of prophetic silence, we find that the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, appears on the scene. The angel of the Lord appeared to a man named Zacharias and informs him that, “your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John” (Luke 1:13). He is told that John would act in “the spirit and power of Elijah,” preparing the way for the Messiah (vs.17). This birth in itself was a miracle. The idea of two people who are very old conceiving a child is preposterous, when you leave out the divine intervention of God (Luke 1:11-20; 57-80)! The birth of John is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 3:1, and yet the story gets even better! Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy the angel Gabriel was “sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph. . .” (Luke 1:26-27). He tells her that she is richly blessed and that by an act of the Holy Spirt, she will conceive in her womb, a son, and His name shall be Jesus (Luke 1: 31-32). 

This is exactly what happens. The miracle is not the birth itself, birth’s happen everyday. What makes this birth different is that Mary had no relations (intercourse) with a man. The normal act of procreation did not take place in this instance. Mary remained a virgin even though she was pregnant! By a creative act of the Holy Spirit life is created and implanted within her womb (Luke 1:35). The life implanted in Mary’s womb is the very life that God said would come to redeem all things unto Himself (Romans 8:18-25)! This body is the one God specifically prepared for the Messiah (Hebrews 10:5-6: Psalm 40:6-8). It is the body God foreordained to fulfill His will in defeating the devil and his power over death (Genesis 3:15). The Son of God was not by nature “flesh and blood,” But He took upon Himself our nature so that He could provide redemption for mankind (Hebrews 2:14-18).

This is what makes Christmas so special. This is why we have baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by animals and shepherds on our lawns during the Christmas season. This is why Christians celebrate the incarnation of their savior. Believe it or not, the story of Christmas doesn’t end here!

Ultimately, the birth of Christ is about the cross of Christ (John 3:16)! Jesus came to reveal God to man, redeem man, and ultimately rule over the Fathers Kingdom in righteousness and truth (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:29; Revelation 20:11-22:21). Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would die as a “substitute” for sinners (Isaiah 53:5). That is what was on display on the cross of Calvary (Romans 5:6-8). Because of the finished work of Jesus believing sinners are freed from the punishment, the penalty, the power, and one day, the very presence of sin (Romans 3:25; 5:8-9). Through Christ redeemed sinners are declared righteous, are adopted into the family of God, and are given eternal life (Ephesians 3:20; John 10:27-28)!

  But He didn’t only die, He rose again (Mark 16:6-7; 1 Corinthians 15:4)! In resurrecting Jesus, God the Father confirmed that Jesus is His beloved son in whom He was well pleased (Matthew 3:17). His resurrection supplied proof that the Father had accepted His sacrifice, accepted His atoning work on the cross, and is a guarantee that there will be a future resurrection for all those who trust in Him (John 5:26-29; John 14:18-19; Romans 6:8-11)!

The Bible tells us that 40 days after His resurrection He ascended “physically” to be with His Father and will one day return to this earth the same way (Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 24:29-31)! No one knows exactly when He will return except the Father alone (Matthew 24:36), and so we are exhorted to be ready because that day and hour will come at a time when we are least expecting it (Matthew 24:43-44). Unlike His first coming (seeking and saving the lost), His second coming will be one of judgement (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

What a joy it is to know that our sins can be forgiven through Jesus. The greatest gift ever given was wrapped up in linen cloths and found lying in a feeding trough. Proclaimed by the angel to be the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Have you received this amazing and priceless gift? Do you know Jesus as your savior? Go here GOSPEL to learn more about this most precious of gifts.