In part 1 we saw how Jesus was born to free humanity from its dysfunction to sin. We saw how Malachi & John the Baptist knew a type of judgment was coming upon an evil religious system because they were about to reap the corruption they had been sowing for a long time, while being unwilling to change. This was namely the nation of Israel and it’s religious leaders who would eventually conspire with political Rome to kill Jesus and many of His followers. This is religion and politics at its worst. Jesus was also fulfilling Israel’s disobedient history as the One whose faithfulness would usher in even better promises for the entire world. This is referred to as the New Covenant.
Jesus was unpopular among the religious leaders of his day who thought they knew the truth but didn’t. They really started to get upset when he told them their beloved temple would be destroyed. Understanding the significance of the temple is key to understanding much of the New Testament context. The temple was the center of religious life in Israel and to speak of it being destroyed was equated to blasphemy of God. So these people definitely didn’t want to blaspheme God but they were ok with killing His son. Do you see the crazy depths of darkness here?
So now we go to Matthew 23 where Jesus is coming to the conclusion that these religious leaders in Israel were set on their evil ways and would not change. He says he is going to send them prophets who they will also kill like their fathers did and that because of this “all the righteous blood that has been shed on the earth” will come upon them. (Matt 23:35) Jesus clearly points out that this is going to happen to them in their generation. Intense I know, but they really didn’t want to avoid the consequences of their wickedness and it is against this intense darkness that the Light would shine the brightest.
This leads right into the 1st part of Matthew 24 where Jesus and His disciples leave the temple and Jesus makes the comment that there was a soon coming day where the temple would be destroyed. He also gave them time indicators to know when that would be. Elsewhere in the Gospels we see that this is one of the things that set the religious leaders on complete edge and they would use Jesus’ prediction of the temples destruction to sentence him to death. This again was because the temple was where people met God and it was the CENTER of life for their established religion.
Jesus makes the above clear again in a commonly misunderstood passage in Matthew 24:35 when he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Those trained in fantasy or an eschatology that thinks this means a literal heaven/earth are not familiar with Hebrew thought behind this terminology. “Heaven and earth” were often referred to as the temple since the temple was thought of as the place where heaven and earth met. The prior verse (Matt 24:34) makes it clear Jesus was referring to “heaven and earth” passing in His generation. Another hint will be the Book of Revelation where Jesus has a sword coming out of his mouth. Basically His words would not pass away because they would come to pass and they did with the temples destruction in 70AD just as He predicted.
Jesus was a true prophet who did not lie to His audience.
(I must insert here how amazed I am that the events of 70AD are rarely known or taught about in much of Christianity. This makes sense to why so much context has been so twisted by various teachings for the last 100+ years.)
But now the Good News of the Light shining in this darkness!
The Good News was Jesus was putting an end to dead, sacrificial, temple and law based religion that denied the nature of God. Jesus came to secure what God had wanted all along. God wants a direct relationship with humanity and He wants to dwell not in temples made by hands (Acts 17:24) but in the temples of our bodies. (1 Cor 3:16) He wanted living stones (1 Peter 2:5) that made up His body (1 Cor 12:27)! This is epic!
Jesus was putting an end to a misguided way of doing life that continually rejected God for the sake of rules, regulations, animal sacrifices and self-righteous understanding that was constantly stuck in sin at the expense of not knowing who God really was. The author of Hebrews who wrote before the destruction of the temple was highlighting this when he made it clear the old order (heaven and earth) was about to be done away with for something new. (Heb 8:13) The new and living way into God’s presence was being secured forever through Jesus! (Heb 10:20) This is epic!
Jesus, in the midst of all this chaos of religion, death, war and politics, was and is the shining light of Truth that sets all men free. He was showing the world what God was actually like. God was a God of love, forgiveness, healing, compassion and He never changes even when people reject or kill Him. But we also see God is a realist as the world is set up in a manner where corruption will eventually reap consequences if it refuses to change and be made whole. The only way we become whole is to know who our Source of Light really is and let Him dwell within us!
So the Christmas story is Jesus inviting us into the power of His very birth, which is the incarnation. Jesus wants to come into our temples so that God can become flesh in us to continually know who our perfect Father is! (Col 1:27, John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:4, Eph 2:18) This is why the term “born-again” is often used because we need Jesus to come be birthed or formed in us! (Gal 4:19) This is the incarnation of God in us!
What this really means is that God wants to make His home in us! (John 14:23)
Matthew 1:23 sums up the Christmas story by saying, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us!” This is the Good News and the true reason for our joy that cannot be taken from us! God is with us now and forever and darkness cannot comprehend this!
In conclusion, the birth of Jesus paved the way for God to be birthed in us by making us new creations and establishing a new order, which is none other than God Himself living in us and not in a temple made by hands. God in us is reconciling the world to Jesus through us His body. (Col 1:20, Eph 3:10, 2 Cor 5:17-21) We are born again or rather we are the temples that now have access for God to make His home in, which was His desire from the beginning of creation.
This is the reason for the season!
May the Word become flesh in you as you continually give birth to Jesus in the world.