“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way…” (Matthew 1:18).
With this simple statement Matthew, one of the biographers of Jesus, began his telling of the coming of the Christ – the “anointed One,” the Messiah. All through the Old Testament there were promises and prophecies of One who was coming to fulfill God’s plan for the redemption of man – One who would rule over and redeem all of God’s creation. The first of these promises goes all the way back to the third chapter of Genesis when God was placing a curse on the serpent.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).
Moses foretold of the future coming of a prophet like himself in who would faithfully speak God’s message to man.
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Isaiah, who was known as the messianic prophet because he spoke more about the coming king than any other prophet, in Isaiah 9 tells us this coming one would be a mighty ruler over God’s kingdom.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (vs. 6-7).
“Kingdom” means “the right to rule.” The Lord had given David the right to sit on his throne and to rule over his kingdom which was, in fact, God’s throne and God’s kingdom.
“Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king in place of David his father. And he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him.” (1 Chronicles 29:23).
When we come to the New Testament we are informed that the time had come for the promised king to make His appearance. In the first chapter of his gospel, Matthew goes back to one of these Messianic prophecies from Isaiah…
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
The idea of “God with us” is highly significant. Prior to this time God was working in the world and with His people largely through the agency of specially chosen men such as Noah, Abraham, David and the prophets. Now, God HIMSELF enters into the realm of creation AS A PERFECT HUMAN BEING. God, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, fully human, fully divine, came and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus explains it this way:
“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ).
Jesus did not come just to be another lawgiver. He didn’t come just to save mankind from their sins. He did not come just to speak a message. He came as a man – a perfect human – to make God known to man.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18 ).
This had been a struggle from the time of the fall of man in the garden of Eden. Sin had separated man from God and this distance, this lack of fellowship, had made it impossible for man to be what God intended him to be – the bearer of God’s image. How can one be the image of someone he does not know? Now Jesus has come on the scene as the revealer of the Father so that man might truly know God.
“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. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Through the Son we get an exact picture of what God is like. But that is not all that knowing Jesus does for us. By seeing God in His purity and holiness in the person of Jesus, we see just how sinful we are. We are like Isaiah when he saw the vision of God on His throne…
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
Another incident that illustrates this is when Jesus directed His disciples to a miraculous catch of fish.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8).
A new realization had dawned on Peter. He was seeing Jesus as he had never seen Him before – and seeing Jesus as he did, he saw himself as he truly was, a sinful man. That is the inevitable effect of “seeing” or coming to understand God through the Son. Thus, Jesus has the effect of revealing man to himself – helping us to understand both what we are and what we can and should be.