2nd Sunday after Christmas
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Reality TV shows have become a popular past time for many people in our world today. Whether or not they really portray reality is perhaps up for debate. One reality TV show that I admit I’ve only watched bits and pieces of but I’ve heard about has an interesting idea. A top CEO or other person in the top echelons of a company’s management agrees to go “undercover” as an entry level or low level worker in one of their own company’s businesses. The goal is to find out how things in their company really work and what their employees really think of them. It apparently provides a humorous and eye-opening viewpoint into certain businesses and companies. A whole TV show series that’s been running since 2010, what is it that makes this show even possible? It’s really built on this premise: who would guess that someone so high up in a company would do something so bizarre as work shoulder to shoulder with the lowest people in his or her company? It goes contrary to what we would normally think or expect.
Well, what about Jesus? Does what Jesus came to do or what Jesus says run contrary to what we think or expect? What do we expect this Christ child born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger to do or be? Who is this Jesus? What’s the point of His coming?
That was the question that many of the people of our text had on their minds. The time is the last year before Jesus’ was crucified. It’s about September or October. It’s the time of one of the major Jewish festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast people would go to Jerusalem and would celebrate the completion of the harvest and also commemorate God’s goodness to their nation as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years before they took the Promised Land. At first Jesus didn’t go down to Jerusalem but stayed in Galilee. He did that on purpose because many there already wanted to take His life. Later, Jesus went to the feast secretly. Many people were wondering among themselves about who Jesus is. Many thought he was deceiving people, many thought he was a good man.
Then Jesus arrived at the feast and began teaching the people and many of the people were amazed at his teaching. Then Jesus told them essentially, “I was sent by God and the reason you don’t know me is because you don’t know him.” Then some tried to arrest Jesus but were prevented because it wasn’t Jesus’ time to be arrested. Then the Pharisees sent the temple guard to arrest Jesus, but they couldn’t. And on the last day of the feast Jesus said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives the living water, the water that quenches the thirst of our souls. And so, because of what Jesus had done and because of what Jesus had said, many people were wondering about him.
Some said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” It seems here that some people thought of Jesus as a new prophet, someone like Moses. Back in Deuteronomy, Moses’ final sermon to the people of Israel, God promised through Moses that he would send a prophet like Moses who would speak Jesus’ words. What the people didn’t understand, though, was that prophet that God promised through Moses would also be the Promised Savior and Messiah. But these people heard Jesus’ words and concluded he was a prophet, a great man, a great guy, even spoke God’s Word, but they didn’t quite go far enough to say that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Savior.
Others said, “He is the Christ.” These people truly believed. They believed what Jesus said and trusted that He was exactly who He claimed to be: the promised Savior. To them, Jesus fit as the one whom God had told about for many centuries throughout the OT times.
Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” This group refused to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. They even knew what the Bible said. They knew that God had said that the Savior would come from Bethlehem. But Jesus they knew lived in Nazareth, up in the backwoods of Galilee. To them, He didn’t have the pedigree, the lineage, the family line, the training, the upbringing, the status, the dignity for who they considered the Messiah, the Christ, would and should have. In their mind he wasn’t anything like the great King David- he didn’t have any of the characteristics they expected for the earthly king that they wanted the Messiah to be.
And so the people were divided because of Jesus. Why? Because many put their own ideas, their own reasoning, their own opinions, their own preconceived notions above what God said. Had they known the Scripture they would have been there at Jesus’ birth with the Magi and the Shepherds and have seen that Jesus had in fact been born in Bethlehem just like God had said. Had they known the Scripture they would have recognized what God had said through Isaiah the prophet that though God had humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, in the future he would honor Galilee… that those walking in darkness will see a great light. Had they known the Scriptures they would have recognized that Jesus was exactly the Messiah God promised and the one they needed – a Savior from their worst enemies of sin, death, and the devil. But, they let their own ideas and their own reasoning about who Jesus is rule the day.
Not much has changed today has it? Do people still do this today? Many people end up missing the whole point of Christmas because they let their own ideas about Jesus rule instead of what God says in the Bible. Who is Jesus? Some will say He was just a fictional character, that it’s all just made up stories. Others say, “He was a great man, did some great things, provided a nice example for us to follow.” Others say, “He was a prophet from God, but no more.” Today there are all kinds of opinions and ideas of who Jesus is because so many refuse to take Jesus at His word.
But what about us? Do we let our own ideas and opinions about Jesus rule and miss what God wants us to know through His Word? How do you answer the question: Who is Jesus? “Jesus should make all my problems disappear.” “Jesus should make this sickness disappear.” “Jesus should resolve my family troubles.” “Jesus should __________.” How much do our own ideas and opinions get in the way of receiving the Jesus whom God gave us in a manger in Bethlehem?
Who is Jesus? There is only one place where that answer is sufficiently given. God’s Word. And what an answer it is! Who is Jesus? Who is this baby born on Christmas? This is none other than the glory of the one and only, the Word made flesh, Immanuel- God with us, this is none other than the one who came to step into our shoes and live the perfect life God demanded of us as our substitute, this is none other than the one who came to die on a cross to suffer the punishment of our sins in full, to pay the debt we owed, this is none other than the one who rose from the dead to assure us once and for all that our sins are forgiven in full and this is none other than the one who right now is preparing our room in His heavenly mansion!
That’s who Jesus is! How do we know it? We know it because God tells us in His Word. So as we begin this new year, may we listen ever more attentively to God’s Word, read it, hear it, learn it, take it to heart so that through it God might hold us close to himself.
The show “undercover boss” works because it goes against normal thinking and ideas. May we always be ready to submit our thoughts and opinions to the truth, to God’s Word and take to heart the truth that this Jesus born in Bethlehem is our one and only Savior. Amen.