Big Idea: Jesus came to speak, conquer, and understand.
Some Christmas sermons look at the predictions of Christmas. Even more Christmas sermons look at the events of Christmas. This year we’re doing something different. We’re looking at the reasons for Christmas. We want to dive in deep and examine why Jesus was born just over two thousand years ago.
Of the facts of Christmas we can say this, in the words of C.S. Lewis:
The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man — a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab. (Mere Christianity)
There you have the facts of Christmas: God became man. But what are the reasons? Why would God stoop so low?
There are many ways to answer. Today’s passage gives us three reasons why Jesus came, and they both change everything. Let me give them to you, and then we’ll unpack them. Jesus came to speak, conquer, and understand.
First: Jesus Came to Speak
Hebrews 1 begins with this amazing sentence:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
In Greek, the original language, verses 1 to 4 unfold as one long, flowing, beautiful sentence.
The point is this: God communicates. If we were left to our own, we would be able to intuit that there is a God, but we would never be able to figure out what he’s like. Even science would be unable to help us. In his book God's Undertaker, science writer John C. Lennox explains the scope and limits of science with the following story:
Let us imagine that Aunt Matilda has made a beautiful cake, and we take it along to be analyzed by a group of the world's top scientists …. The nutrition scientists will tell us about the number of calories in the cake and its nutritional effect; the biochemists will inform us about the structure of proteins, fats, etc. in the cake … the physicists will be able to analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles; and the mathematicians will no doubt offer us a set of elegant equations to describe the behavior of those particles.
We have certainly been given a description of how the cake was made and how its various ingredients relate to each other, but suppose I now ask the assembled group of experts a final question: Why was the cake made? The grin on Aunt Matilda's face shows she knows the answer, for she made it for a purpose. But all the scientists in the world will not be able to answer the question—and it is no insult to their disciplines to state their incapacity to answer it. Their disciplines … cannot answer the "why" questions connected with the purpose for which the cake was made. In fact, the only way we shall ever get an answer is if Aunt Matilda reveals it to us. But if she does not disclose the answer to us, the plain fact is that no amount of scientific analysis will enlighten us.
To understand why Aunt Matilda made the cake, Aunt Matilda has to speak. And to understand why God has made all of this, God has to speak. The good news? God has spoken. He has spoken, according to Hebrews, in various ways. Throughout the centuries, God has spoken to us through the prophets. But now, Hebrews says, God has spoken to us most powerfully through Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate communication from God. When Jesus came to earth, he came as God’s clearest, greatest revelation. God himself came to speak to us. God took on human flesh so that we could see him, hear him, and touch him. Everything you need to know about God was revealed to us in Jesus. He is God’s living and final revelation.
We all know the importance of clear communication. Millions of dollars are spent to communicate to us and to persuade us. Politicians work hard at learning how to communicate their message more clearly. Diplomats know that wars break out when miscommunication happens. We experience stress in our families when we don’t communicate clearly with each other.
That’s why it’s so important that Jesus came. Raymond Brown put it this way: “In Christ God has closed the greatest communication gap of all time, that which exists between a holy God and sinful mankind.” This is the reason that Jesus came: so that we would know what God is saying to us in the clearest possible terms. And you can know today just by looking at Jesus.
Author and speaker Brennan Manning has an amazing story about how he got the name “Brennan.” While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together and so forth. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan's life was spared.
When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So he took on the name “Brennan.” Years later he went to visit Ray's mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?” Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan's face and shouted, “What more could he have done for you?” Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? And Jesus' mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, “What more could he have done for you?”
If you ever wonder about God’s intent for you, look at Christmas. God himself came to communicate in the clearest possible terms so that we would understand his heart for us. He came to be born so that he could die out of love for us. What more could he do to communicate his grace and his love?
So Jesus came to speak. That’s the first amazing reason that Jesus came to earth. But there’s another one.
Second: Jesus Came to Conquer
If you turn to the next chapter of Hebrews you come across another reasons that Jesus came:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Why was Jesus born? This passage tells us clearly. We often talk about God being all powerful, but there are some things that even God can’t do. God can’t contradict himself. He can’t sin. He can’t go against his own nature. There are lots of things that God can’t do. And one of them is in this passage. God couldn’t save us without sending his Son becoming human.
Here’s the logic:
- you are human;
- therefore Christ became human;
- so that he might die for you;
- to nullify the deadly power of the devil;
- so that you might be freed from slavery to fear and live in freedom the rest of eternity.
(source: John Piper)
Unless Jesus became human, he could not die in our place. Unless Jesus became human, he couldn’t offer his life as an atoning sacrifice in our place. The reason he became human was so that he could die as a human in our place, so that he could then be raised to defeat death on our behalf. Because the incarnation is real, because he became flesh and blood, he could die for people’s sins. When Jesus conquered death, he conquered Satan on our behalf.
Only a man could die in our place. But no man is righteous enough to take our place. And so God, who is infinitely holy, became a man. When Jesus was born, he was fully God and fully man. He was holy enough to serve as a sacrifice, and he was human enough to take our place. He became our substitute. This is the heart of Christianity. This is the reason for Christmas.
You’re probably aware that kings used to have tasters. The tasters would have the food and the wine that was going to be served to the king. If they didn’t die, then it was assumed that the food was okay and the king wouldn’t die either.
The thing about the taster is that he put his life on the line every single time that he took a bite of that food, or took a sip of that cup. The taster was basically saying, “I would rather die than have the king suffer any harm.”
In our case, we are not kings, and we are not facing the possibility of poison. We’re facing the reality of poison. Because of sin, all humanity faces the poison of sin’s punishment, including God’s wrath and death itself. And so God became human.
He drank the cup of God’s vengeance. He paid the penalty for our having broken God’s law. He drank the cup of judgment down to the very dregs. Though he was guilty of nothing, he tasted death for everyone who would ever believe in him…during those hours that he suffered for sin, suffered the wrath of God. Only for those hours, did he drink the cup of poison, the cup of judgment. And because he drank it for hours, we don’t have to drink it forever. (John MacArthur)
Jesus came to speak, we learn, and Jesus came to conquer. But there’s one more thing.
Three: Jesus came to understand.
Not only that, but because Jesus became one of us, he now understands. Look at verses 17 and 18:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
A young preacher (Tim Keller) once started serving at a church. He tried his best, but it was clear that he was young and had lots to learn. One day an older gentleman pulled him aside and said:
I know as a young minister you’re working so hard on your messages. Right? You’re working so hard. You’re reading your commentaries. You’re putting in hours and hours because you want to get up there in that pulpit and you want to give people these brilliant, clear, erudite messages filled with pearls of wisdom.
I want you to know all your messages aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans if those people don’t know you’re there with them in their homes, in the hospital, and at the funeral parlor. All your messages aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans unless they know you’re really there with them in all the things they’re going through. You have to be in their home, or they’re never going to listen to you in your pulpit. You have to be in the hospital. You have to be in the funeral home. You have to be in the prison. You have to be there.
That preacher reflects on all the suffering that we go through, and says that he has some questions for God. But then he realizes that God wasn’t immune to suffering. He entered it himself. He knows what it’s like. “He was there with us. He has been through it, and you can trust him no matter what you’re going through right now” (Tim Keller).
And so I ask you today: Why did Jesus come? And from this passage I give you the answer:
- Jesus came to speak. He came to speak to you. Jesus came to show us what God is like. What more could he have done to show his grace and love? Whatever is going on in your life, hear what Jesus is saying to you. Trust him. Trust him with everything that you’re going through. Study him. He came to speak, so let’s listen.
- Jesus came to conquer. If you are struggling with guilt or shame today, I have the best possible news for you. God responded to your guilt and shame by extending his grace to you. Jesus became human so that he could drink the cup of judgment for you down to its very dregs. Today you can know that he’s conquered death and the devil on your behalf. You can know today that your sins — not in part, but the whole — were nailed to the cross, and you bear them no more. There’s therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is why Jesus came.
- Jesus also came to understand. No matter what you’re going through today, he understands. He is merciful and faithful. He is able to help those who are being tempted. Jesus took on weak, vulnerable human nature not only to die for us, but also so that he could sympathize with the temptations that come with suffering and dying. He understands. He gets it. He is willing to help.
This is why Jesus came. Jesus came to speak, conquer, and understand.
How will you respond? Know him. Trust him. Come to him with your struggles. Worship the God who loved us so much that he became one of us.