Monday, December 21, 2009

"A Sacrifice Far Greater"

(Friends: this one's a bit longer than usual. Thanks for your patience.)

"When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.
And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing. And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business? And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.
And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:42-52).

It was His "Father's business" for the Lord Jesus Christ to be in the temple, "sitting in the midst of the doctors," and astonishing them by His understanding. The time for such ministry was not yet at hand, however, and the Lord Jesus returned home with Joseph and Mary in proper subjection to their authority. "Honor thy father and thy mother" (Exodus 20:12).
This episode reminds us of the beginning of the Lord's ministry, and the first of His miracles.

"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come" (John 2:4).

The truth of the matter is that our Savior's hour had come, and Mary's actions in the matter signaled to Him that the time was fulfilled for ministry and miracles to begin. Thus, He changed water into wine, and the plain obscurity of three decades gave way to three years of the power of God being revealed, and the display of "never man spake like this Man" (John 7:46).

These episodes are intriguing because they raise the question of what did the Lord Jesus know about Himself and His mission, and when did He know it? As God, we might suspect that He omnisciently knew all things. Certainly His knowledge and wisdom were far beyond anyone who ever walked the planet in human feet. As man, however, He enrobed Himself with the limiting garb of humanity, especially in His knowledge of when certain things would happen. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36). When considered with the previously mentioned episodes involving his earthly parents, we must conclude that while becoming a man did not affect the substance of His deity, it did affect His experience of it. Again, in the mystery of God "manifest in the flesh," the garb of humanity brought limits to our Lord's awareness and capacity (I Timothy 3:16).
There is relatively little we can know in this most sacred and wondrous of matters. We have no personal frame of reference for infinity being united with the finite, and the Bible addresses the matter only in the most shadowed illumination. We know that the Son of God became man, and will always be man (I Timothy 2:5). We know that He felt the characteristics of humanity in hunger, thirst, tiredness, sorrow, agony, loneliness, and ultimately, death. We know that "He was tempted in all points like as we are, and yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). However, we cannot understand the consciousness and awareness of Deity and humanity perfectly united in one ineffable Person who is perfectly God and perfectly man. "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).

What did He know, and when did He know it? The Bible provides very little information concerning the facts of the mystery. What we do know is that the sacrifice of becoming human after having been solely Divine is an eternal reality. The perpetual wounds upon the hands, feet, and heart of our Savior speak to the wonder of such love (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27). Scripture also reveals that the Son will one day render a final sacrifice of devotion to both God and man that reveals the greatness of His love to both. "And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:28). The Apostle Paul reveals to us the sublime reality that for God to be all in those indwelt by His Spirit, the Son must subject Himself in a manner that likely involves His having eternally taken humanity upon Himself for our sakes.

There is more mystery in this consideration than illumination. However, of this we can be certain: the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ are the most fascinating subjects to which we can attend our hearts and minds. Our hearts and minds were made for this, in fact, and as we ponder the birth of our Savior this week, we do well to realize that Christmas speaks to us of a sacrifice far greater than we can begin to know...

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He were rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich."
(II Corinthians 8:9)

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
(Hebrews 2:15)

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