A Christmas Reminder About Jesus: Who is He to Me?”
You’ve probably said it yourself, “Jesus died for me,” but do you really know what that means? I don’t think most people do. In fact, I don’t think most people understand why Jesus was born, why he had to be killed, and what it all really means to them. They only know that they must believe in him. Allow me to put it all in a nutshell for you, from the beginning.
When God first created man, he created them in perfect communion with himself- sinless, but interestingly enough, with the choice to disobey him. He told them they may eat from any tree but one. So Tempting. God doesn’t make mistakes. If he left the tree there and then put satan in the Garden, you can bet that God understood the full repercussions of his own choices.
Adam and Eve chose to believe satan above God; they chose to love satan above God. God knew that Man would make this choice. If not, then God is not God and the entire discussion is moot. Satan didn’t ‘trick’ God, nor is there a ‘war’ against God. God made satan for this purpose. Everything that happened in the Garden was according to God’s plan for Humanity. One must ask, why God would do this to mankind.
To me, it’s clear that mankind was not done ‘baking’, so to speak, after God made him and set him into the Garden of Eden. We needed to eat the apple to gain the knowledge of good/evil. But we were not mature enough as a species to fully understand our choice, nor were we strong enough to choose God. We were meant to fall the Great Fall and then, enter into the sinful world where we would be posed with the Great Question: Whom will we serve? God or satan? Whom do you love? God or satan? God gave all of mankind all the time we needed, both as individuals and as a species, to understand the choice perfectly this time. Once we choose God above satan, we become Children of God, like him in every way, including knowing Good from Evil. But unlike our ‘unbaked’ selves in the form of Adam and Eve, we choose God out of our love this time. This is how we become his Children: we choose God out of our great love for him. And everything we are going through is part of his divine plan to make this happen.
The Bible shows us the incredible, logical roll-out of God’s plan. He had his own timing and logic- which you will see. God knew that mankind needed a lot of time between each step to understand what he wanted to teach them.
He introduced himself to a small number of men who followed him and to whom he explained the need for sacrifice. He taught them that he was the one and only God. He also introduced them to the need for animal sacrifice through the story of Cain and Abel. These men (Adam through Noah through Moses), all loved God and taught their children how to follow and obey him. God spoke directly to these men- it didn’t take a lot of faith to believe in God when his voice was booming in your head. This was was God’s First step of his Plan.
Then, God chose Abraham, a single man, with whom to establish his eternal covenant, or promise. Abraham would represent all of God’s Children from that day forward. God’s entire Plan for mankind would be established through the bloodline of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Israel. Indeed, later in this essay, you will understand that all Gentiles who love Jesus are now, also, the children of Abraham that were promised to him from the beginning. We, too, are the sand on the shore he was to count. We are all Israel. This was God’s Second step of his Plan.
Next, God wanted to teach humanity what sin was. He wanted to teach all men, for all time, exactly what it meant to be ‘good’ and what it meant to be ‘bad’. To do this, God wanted to give mankind the Mosaic Law, which includes the Ten Commandments.
To do this, God imprisoned the Israelites for 430 years in Egypt to make them weak and humble so that they could hear his next message (God knows people are naturally resistant to his messages. We usually need to be completely broken before we will ever hear what we need to hear.) He called Moses to rescue them. This established Moses as their great hero, thus making them more open to listening to him. He called Moses up to the mountain to give him the new, impossible, burdensome LAW.
He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. While most people believe that God only gave the 10 commandments, he actually gave a huge number of commandments- books full of commandments (Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers) that outlined all things God considered to be sin- including sins of which they were ignorant! He also taught them that the penalty for all sin is death. This was step Three in God’s Plan.
God also wanted to teach mankind how they could redeem themselves back to Him after they had sinned. This is because God loves man and doesn’t want him to die eternally. Thus, God outlined all the sacrifices that needed to be given for each type sin. The need for animal sacrifices became even more defined under the new Laws. God taught man that only the most valuable blood sacrifice from the most perfect animal from his herd, given through a ritual performed by a holy priesthood, would be enough to ‘atone’ for their sins. Only through this precious blood sacrifice could their sins be ‘washed away’ and they could be reconciled to God once more. (Is this sounding vaguely familiar? That’s because God set up this ritual to mimic what was to come: Jesus.)
These became known as the Jewish Law. This was the Fourth Step in God’s Plan.
God let mankind stew in that uncomfortable juice for about one thousand, five hundred years, just to drive the point home: you are hopeless on your own. The Israelites began to learn that this Law was a terrible, impossible burden! Apostle Paul explains to us that the Law was given by God so that mankind could understand, once and for all, that our sin is insurmountable by us. No amount of sacrifice can atone for it. We would be standing by the altar day and night sacrificing to satisfy the Law! The Law, thus, became our Teacher- it taught that we can’t ever reach the state of perfection needed to be fully reconciled to God. This is Step Five in God’s Plan.
Many centuries went by. He gave his Chosen people prophets, judges and finally, kings. They prophesied the coming of Jesus, but the Jews wouldn’t listen. God told them everything that would come, including their complete destruction, that of the Temple and of their entire homeland. They did not listen. They continued to sin despite their best efforts and God continued to warn- but also to promise a way out of their sin someday- through their Messiah. God never leaves anything to chance, see. By allowing mankind to ‘stew’ in its own juices for so long, helpless to help itself out of sin and God’s ensuing punishment, he made sure that mankind understood its helplessness in the face of the Law. But throughout this entire period, God promised them that a Messiah would come to save them from their sins and from death. This was Step Six in God’s Plan.
Only when humanity was fully ripe did he finally send his Son. Only when humanity was groaning once more for deliverance did he send the true hero. He even had the Romans there to step on the Israelite’s collective necks. Once again, the Jews were slaves, only in their own land this time. Poor, trodden upon and despised, they were once again crying out for a Savior. All the prophets were speaking again- ‘the Messiah was near, the Messiah was near.’ God sent John ahead of Jesus to tell everyone that the Messiah was upon them and was coming soon. Only then did he send Jesus.
Mankind was finally ready to hear God’s plan for how mankind could reconcile themselves back to God. They already understood that there was only One True God. They understood death/blood sacrifice. They knew the penalty for sin was death. They already understood that they sinned and what kinds of sins they committed every day. And they understood, through generations of knowledge, that humanity was hopeless in redeeming itself back to God. They knew they needed a Savior. And now, they had one! This was Step Seven in God’s plan.
Unfortunately, their priests had begun to teach them that the Messiah whom they sought was coming to relieve them from their earthly problems (ie, the Roman invasion) and not their spiritual problems! They were thinking way too small! They didn’t grasp the enormous, gigantic, awesome gift that the Messiah was bringing instead. Jesus had come to give them victory over sin & death forever. He had come so that they would not die after a mere 80 or so years- so that they would live forever in perfection.
Jesus came to be the final and perfect sacrifice (and the final priest since he sacrificed himself ) just as mankind had always been required to give the very best of their flock to be their sacrifice to God. He was the most perfect blood sacrifice. He is much better than any goat or sheep or grain or dove because he is the only begotten, divine Son of God. He is so much greater that his blood sacrifice was and is sufficient for all mankind forever. God allowed Jesus to do this thing for us because he loves us that much. Jesus did this for us because he loves us that much, not because he was forced to do it. Thus, our need for sacrifice was eternally satisfied through his death on the altar. Jesus told everyone that if they believed in him, they would be saved- FAITH, alone, and no longer works through the Law, was now the way to God. Finally, a logical way back to God. We couldn’t make it to God so God came down to us.
Even the apostles didn’t understand this when they were with him. They asked him when the kingdom of heaven would be established. It took them quite a while to figure it out themselves. That is why the Jews were angry when Jesus was arrested- they thought they had been duped by an impostor. If the Messiah was to free them from the Romans, how could be be arrested by them? Obviously, Jesus was not the Messiah, right? They were enraged by him. They wanted to kill him for getting their hopes up so high.
And so, Jesus was put on the cross and killed, or sacrificed, for our sins. We, who believed, would forever be forgiven through this sacrifice. Thus far, it makes total sense, right? But there is more! Death is not where this story ends! If it ended there, what good would it do? We would still die!
But Jesus rose from the dead! He rose to prove he has the power over death. He promised us not only forgiveness of sins, but eternal life. He told us we would be reborn into perfect bodies. When Jesus was raised from the dead, his body was different. He was radiant, he walked through walls, he could appear and disappear. He showed himself in these ways, I have no doubt, to prove to us what our new bodies would also be like when we are also raised from the dead. He is the first to be resurrected. We will also be resurrected.
We, in our current, sinful state, can no more live with our perfect God than we could allow an unrepentant murderer to live in our home with our children. Something so completely essential must change for us to trust that person- in fact, what could possibly convince us to allow him/her to live in our home? Nothing. No, only a complete rebirth would do. We, too, must be completely remade into perfect beings before we can live with God-it is only logical. Jesus’ resurrection shows us exactly what our reborn, remake self will look like! This is Step Eight of God’s Plan.
Jesus told the Jews that ‘whoever obeyed God were his mother and brother and sisters’, thus adopting gentiles into his family, the house of Israel. Now, all of mankind would be qualified to become God’s Children! We are all children of Abraham through Jesus’ adoption. He also told the apostles to go out into the entire world to spread the good news. Now that God had so fully concentrated all his knowledge into a single people, he was going to use them as missionaries into the world. They were to be his yeast for the entire loaf of mankind. What a marvelous, logical plan! This is Step Nine of the birth of Mankind.
Jesus died for you because God knew mankind needed to break away from him and move into a world of choice between him and satan. He needed you to have a difficult choice so that he could know for sure that you loved him above all else. He wanted you to love him so much that you would give up your earthly life for him. You chose him so he gave you Jesus to die for your sins so that you could be reborn. In being reborn into a perfect body and mind, you could be reconciled into an even better version of yourself than you were from the beginning and so that you will now live in perfect harmony with Him forever. That, is why Jesus died for you.
We all look forward to the day that step Ten is complete- the return of Jesus. That is when
All the stars in the sky will be dissolved
and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;
all the starry host will fall
like withered leaves from the vine,
like shriveled figs from the fig tree. – Isaiah 34: 4
and in Revelation 6:12-14
There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
From there… who knows? But it will be glorious.