As we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ this Christmas season, we must always understand that the incarnation of our Savior, “the Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:14) cannot be viewed in isolation and in a vacuum.
The miracle of the birth of our Savior to the virgin Mary must always be understood as part of a divinely mandated divinely required process to redeem human beings from the captivity of our inherited sin nature and its eternal consequences.
John 3:16 tells us that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have life everlasting.”
When the Gospel says “gave”, that means He sent His Son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. As we rejoice over the birth of the Christ child we need to remember that the ghastly specter of a cross kind of death (Phil. 2:5-11) casts a ghostly shadow over the babe in the manger.
A simple poem I ran across about a decade ago states this fact eloquently and succinctly:
Who art Thou, precious little
babe, nestled in the hay?
God I am, came to earth this day.
Why didst Thou come, sweet little
babe, nestled in the hay?
To die I came, the price of sin to pay.
Whose sin, tender little babe,
nestled in the hay?
Yours it was, that brought me
The greatest theologian in all of Christendom, the Apostle Paul, explains the necessity of the cross in the Epistle to the Romans when he writes:
They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:24-26, CSB, emphasis supplied)
Paul is describing the dilemma God faced after man’s fall from his original innocence. While God has revealed Himself to be a gracious, loving, and forgiving Father, He is also the definition of righteousness. As such He could not just “forgive sin” without a price being paid. Consequently, out of His unfathomable love for each and every human being, He paid the price Himself. God the Father “sent His only begotten Son, born of a woman… to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5, CSB)
Thus God, because of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for mankind’s sin, can declare “righteous” each person who accepts that sacrifice by trusting Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
If, on the other hand, God had merely forgiven us, without a price for sin being paid, then He himself would be unrighteous. The one thing God cannot do is act in a way that is inconsistent with His nature and just sweeping under the rug or ignoring it would be “unrighteous”.
I have found, over the years, that one of the most productive and thought-provoking questions a student of the Bible can ask is, “Why is this in the Bible?” There is obviously a marvelous economy in the Word of God. So, why did the Holy Spirit inspire the writers to include this event, rather than others?
In that regard, have you ever asked yourself, why is the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Gospels? (Matt. 26:36-44; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46) How do we know about it? The disciples were all asleep. Jesus must have related the story to the Gospel writers. Why did He do so?
God is the perfect Father who loves His perfect son with a far greater love than any of us could generate for our children. If there had been any other way to save mankind form the eternal consequences of our sin, God would have answered Jesus’ agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane differently and spared His perfect Son the agony of the cross. The fact that God answered Jesus’ prayer by sending Him to die as a sacrifice for mankind’s sin declares to all that there was no other way for God to offer salvation to a fallen humanity and remain righteous.
Did Jesus have to die? If human beings were going to be saved and given the possibility of eternal life, yes! Praise be the name of our Heavenly Father that He loved each of us that much and that Jesus loved each of us enough to be obedient to a cross kind of death! Praise His holy name, “Jesus”, the name that is above every name, the name for His sacrifice for sin. (Phil. 2:9-11)
Have a joyous Christmas in Christ!