Nativity Lecture 2022-3

Nativity hoopla is low key

The closest thing to a mall event in the Nativity story is the visit to the temple where the parents of Jesus meet a senior citizen named Simeon and an octogenarian  prophetess named Anna.  This series of events in the life of the young Christ tells us something about his relations with the law of Moses.  Judging from what he later thought about his relationship to Moses and the temple, we can see that his relationship to David was paramount, thus closing the circle of the genuine Saviour-King. It was unpopular for the king’s later interactions with the temple and the priests to be dramatic and surprising. Nativity connects us with all that really matters for all the people in the world, and yet the audiences of the Saviour-King’s passages in life are not large.

First access to Israel’s holy things

“And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord”

Luke 2:22, New American Standard Bible

Finale to Nativity

If we however keep looking at the birth stories we will not find very much, because there is little about the hospital in which he was born, the time of night he was born, the name of the physician, the hours of labor, and who actually witnessed the birth. Bringing the story along to where the “all people” are touched by the king’s arrival we look at the end of his time on earth.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;”

Luke 2:10,

From the house to the street

The usual Jerusalem crowd had  gathered to see a trio of executions by the Romans. At best, the representation may have included people from all over Israel. It was passover, and Jewish males, from all over the region were required to be in Jerusalem.  However, in AD 29, the interest in the public execution of Israelites was likely enhanced by the eagerness of the scribes, elders and priests who did not care how they achieved silencing the Nazarene.

The public execution of the Nazarene was part of the act that saved the world, though it was well attended was a private affair.  If we think that the Jewish identity we have been recognizing as exceedingly troubled and yet hopeful is not an inimitable glory we fool ourselves. Jewish identity and Jewish faith, Christian faith and Islamic faith need focusing.  They have all veered into their sectarian preferences.  They all say little about a common and uncomplicated submission of the people to a single Jewish King. 

Here’s to the few!

Nativity is the story about a king. Nativity is the story about a king who dares to show up among his own people, be one of them do the utmost to save them. People have joined that story to the seasonal Christmas and winter culture. Christ has nothing to do with any tree except the one he died on but Nativity is what Christmas is said to represent. So let’s agree that having a tree or mistletoe does nothing to unseat the simple remembrance of that great and joyous time when a handful of shepherds were told, upfront, in person, what God was doing on the planet. This exclusive club is hard to beat. You or I will never have the means to pay to get to be the first to be told where and how the incarnate God was going to make his appearance in the world.

The quiet Revolution rises

One might think that there was a case for saying that it would be well to leave it with a few, but though it is to a few that the announcement was made in the beginning, it is clear that the purpose is for the teaching of the Kingdom to spread through the world like yeast in the dough.I think it is extremely short-sighted to say that these things are not absolutely, and as soon as one finds them,  the supreme gems in our contemplation of the divine. God is love and peace and he is offering and sacrifice, of himself even.

What? No joy to the world?

Christmas time, Nativity pageants and winter activity festivals, give us hope that the Christ who came to Bethlehem as a babe did put the cherry on top of his wonderful life by becoming a lamb, as it were of the people’s exodus and sacrifice for sin as atonement, on the cross, and has sent the Holy Spirit to everyone who has trusted him completely for life and salvation. That is the Hope of the God with Us. There is no large crowd attached to our reception of the king into our hearts, as the song says ” let every heart prepare him room”. It is not some big public thing that one does in the crowd, in the theater or church.

Heavenly and earthly hoopla

We should not expect heaven and earh to have the same response to events, The residents are essentially different. The recognition and celebration of Christ coming to a single human heart has heavenly and earthly fireworks. The church gets ready for a baptism, and, we are told, “angels in heaven rejoice”

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:7

Nativity is about what happens in the private moments of the heavenly-earthly family.

The megalomania of Christmas

Nativity lecture 2022-2

The solitary figure who, despite kicking his levitical pedigree to the curb, was a public token that a shake-up was coming, was John the Baptist. The few shepherds, one devout man named simeon, a widow named Anna, his parents, and his relatives do not constitute a popular or viral event.

Where are the Royal family conventions? Where is the national rejoicing over the newly arrived king? It is not that the momentous event was unknown, because the birth of the ruler was of profound significance. Micah’s prediction was not obscure to those who handled the sacred texts. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2, NASB). There seems to be no levitical recognition and interest except to provide the details of where the birth was destined to occur to facilitate Herod’s assassination attempt, and there are no bands of prophets dancing in ecstasy.  A lone devout Israelite and a prophetess in the temple are not a crowd.  They are a far cry from the mob who no would cry “crucify him”

A few shepherds, one devout man named Simeon and a widow named Anna, his parents and his brothers constitute the front seat witnesses in Luke’s account.

The shepherds

Despite the issue is designation is Good Shepherd the references to Shepherd to a few in the nativity narrative. Their privilege is huge.  God’s glory scared them to death, then an angel announced to them what was happening, and they were thrilled. They’re interested in mattress of state is not a parent. They were just minding their sheep .

They acted together

When the angel had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened with the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:15

They acted hastily

They came in a hurry and found their way to marry and joseph, and the baby as he lay in the manger.  Typically human beings like to take the time and confirm what they heard, ensure that they are not hallucinating or sleepwalking, and even traveling precautions are in order. But here, the shepherds were full speed ahead.

They connected what they saw with the angelic announcement

When the shepherds saw what the angel had told them, they made known the statement which had been told them about the child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds then went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them (Luke 2: 15-20).

Public servant with a small circle

By the time the babe of Bethlehem was ready to return to his glory the crowd who were so scared by the glory of the heavenly messengers may have swelled, but we do not know where they were. The people around Christ with any intimacy was always a small number. 

A predictable outcome

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’

Matthew 26:31, NASB

The people who were thrilled about the babe who came to sit on David’s throne and were honoured to tell the news with great rejoicing was down the few family members, and John the fisherman. A very private death in public, with only his mother and aunt, and Mary of Magdala, and John. It was not a mall event by any stretch of the imagination.

Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:25

What can save the nations?

Measures for rescuing a nation from self-immolation may include bringing sword, famine or pestilence on it, and it is better that leaders opt for supernatural chastisement than for human interventions.   It is humans, we should remember, who share country, relatives, and an ancestral roots with us who are bent of destroying what is left of the shares benefits of citizenship.  The rot that is eating away at most societies is of domestic origin.  Immigrants and foreigners are mostly convenient scapegoats.  There is neither spiritual atonement nor legislative relief that can save a decaying nation.

Doing good things for our neighbours is not evangelism

Three activities that distinguish the Lord’s tour of Galilee: teaching (disaskein), preaching the gospel of the kingdom (kerussein to euaggelion tes basileias euaggelizomai), and healing sickness and disease of every type (therapeuôn pasan noson kai pasan malakian). European and Americans circling the globe with their compassion for impoverished people are a sad and delusioned lot. Africans and Asians are interested in an open apology for the still unacknowledged rape of their heritages. Yeshua must be wondering how dare these capitalist xenophobes connect themselves with his kingdom.

Long distance love

The pillar and ground of the truth is the church, where the one and only message is the sovereignty of God Incarnate. No-one is eternally impressed by the many publications and prayers (usually long and repetitive) of unrepentant preachers. They cannot cover the distance between themselves and the Saviour of the world with good deeds. God’s love has a different stamp, and it does net take long to recognize that the vast majority of people doing evangelism are dedicated to touching Yeshua with a ten-foot pole, or as the saying goes, “with their lips”. The gods of all the nations are mostly invented fables, but Christ is the door to reality and destiny. If people want more of the same, let them have it. That would not be an authentic Messianic follow.

The “Spirit is on me” phenomena

This narrative covers a phenomenon that is exclusive to the Lord’s proclamation.  No-one, before or since, has had a similar tour.  His work that saves his people from their sin is still not in sight.  The story of the Son of man giving his life as a ransom woud have been utterly fantastic.  The announcement of good news (see Luke 4:18-19) was a welcome broadcast, and no-one ever refused to receive a cleansed leper, or slammed the door on a dead and buried loved one returning from the grave, or a terminally ill acquaintance relieved of the illness or disease. The Spirit of God had a fingerprint in New Testament time that has not been repeated. No-one in the centuries since the ascension of Christ has been a part of a similar tour, or even seen the regularity of healing, reversal of death, and the release of people from demonic posession and injury.

Saving the nations is distinct from conversations about Moses, the patriarchs and the prophets

This first tour and all the others are introductory.  They introduce the people to the kingdom of God and the features that distinguish it from the patriarchal, levitical and prophetic lines of caring for the people. They introduce the people to a new way of thinking about God and God’s kingdom. His signature operation comes at the end of the three and a half years of public ministry.  When we get around to telling people that Christ died for sinners because sinners is what we all are, and have no hope of fixing the problem apart from HIM forking over, all by himself, the appropriate currency towards the transaction, I am sure the world will have an accurate picture of what it takes save the nations.

Hosannah to David’s son

David is an Old Testament figure and his sons are the kings of Judah with rare exception.  Still his progeny are mentioned twice as often in the New Testament period, a time when Judah had no Davidide monarchs. People in New Testament times are beside themselves in expectation of and reverence for a son of David. He turns out to be neither king in the normal sense, nor prophet, nor priest, but a sacrificial lamb.

God’s kingdom and civic obligations

24) When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25) He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26) When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt.” (Matthew 17:24-26, NASB)

This deliberation ended with Yeshua and Peter paying the toll, to avoid scandal.

Yahweh and David’s son

Solomon should come to mind due to his distinct reputation as successor of David. He was responsible for bringing David’s dream to reality, and yet he devastated the Davidide standard by worshipping other gods. When Christ said “Someone greater than Solomon is here” oppressed persons were already appealing to Him for mercy and calling him “Lord”.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord”

Matthew 9:27-28, NASB

Neither Solomon nor the temple and its administration should come to mind after Christ displays the mercy that makes blind persons (not necessarily males) see. This approach to David’s son continued.

And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 20:30, NASB)

Receiving the king with highest praise

Mounted on donkey, riding into Zion, the word of God comes to pass. The highest praise possible concerns a saving king, not a levitical priest or prophet. The crowds and the children were not shouting “hallelujah” but “hosannah”, and not to Moses.

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, NASB)

Cheers! Raise a chalice!

“I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalms 116:13, NASB)

This seems to be the call of the saved.  “Cup of salvation” signifies a toast for the experience.  One does not take the cup to get saved, one drinks to recall and memorialize, repeatedly, as indicated by the imperfect tense of נשא, nasa, אשא. essa

It ought to be apparent cup experience that this does not call for raising a literal cup as in the communion service when one wants to memorialize Salvation. It should mean primarily that Christ as Saviour is the savour or flavour of our praise. Why shouldn’t Christ be the centre of upward praise?

This eternal salvation

Despair and heartache stallk many consumers because they have a cheap view of the agent with remedies and his product. Salvation in Christ suffers the same fate. We routinely bypass fresh fruit for their processed versions. We are doing the same when it comes to the equally important spiritual life and health. Calvary is not the same as the Exodus. Of course not. It is like the Exodus, but the Exodus is not able to show the high definition of the cross. Old wine and new bottles end in disaster. Salvation is not only an old idea and expectation; it is a divine and timeless mystery unveiled completely in 3½ years.

Full moon on a dark day

Just before and after?

It was a full moon, 14th of Nisan, a high festival in Judea when Christ died. The Passover was a real event that doubled as a picture of the liberation of people all over the world from sin’s bondage. Now that Passover is no longer a local affair its Lamb selection and routines are irrelevant. There is only memory of the event. For Christians the Passover is an eternal reality that touches down when people come to faith. That day put a cap on 3½ years of public service – preaching, teaching, healing.

Scandal we avoid

Most people who say they are into something special with God are likely to be far from him. Look no further than our own fathers in the Christian faith. Paul was a virulent antagonist before his conversion. James tried to turn the church into Israel after his conversion. Far too many believers are eager to lay aside the gold of Christ for the tin of Moses. It seems so much more easy to subscribe to rules and regulations.  To associate with a Saviour is to admit the need, and that need is inconsistent with “good people”, people who are not afraid of death, or people who “don’t understand how humans can disobey and rebel against God and man”.

A God who dies? Ridicule at your own risk.

Salvation’s door is open.  The day it closes is the day we die or the day God rolls up the sky and land and put them away.  Christ’s work is done.  He passed the torch to the Holy Spirit who alone can keep people in the truth and guide them to more treasures of divine majesty. He is not dying today and cannot die again.  There is no need for a second death.  He dies once.  We die with him once – no repeat – in order to life in him.

We will never find access to the truth beneficial if we keep distancing ourselves from the ancestors as if we were automatically better off or in possession of better and mightier things. The Christ who cried, took the side of the oppressed, owned no property, had dinner dates with sinners and prostitutes, and died, is not a hero. Far from it! Many of us actually despise Christ for not making us spitting images of our heroes. He made a troublefree life for noone. It is a Balaam attitude to expect a life of ease – a crossless and stagnant (no growth) life.

Up close we see the abject poverty of the “best” of humanity

Salvation is not a good or better job. Just looking at the people who profess this kind of salvation delivers a shock.  Everyone is aging and decaying.  Salvation is not improved health or healing. It is not getting a victory in every circumstance. It is wholeness that needs no human contribution. Christ saves us or we are not saved at all.

Bread that gives life

Salvation will mean nothing at all to people with a sense of “I never” because that is precisely the last thing God wants to hear. How Hollywood and abominable it is to put on an air of disgust and personal achievement of a sinless “victorious” life! Eternally sinless people cannot call God Father or pray to him without reference to how one becomes his child, because his children always need a Saviour.

We are done here. Rejoice Zion!

The first day of the last week of Yeshua’s life is on public display at this time of the year again with its well-rounded appeal and its popularity as a fabulous deep. The light streaming from the triumphant entry is somewhat dimmed torch when compared to the untrimmed prophecy from which the gospel writers cited Zion’s joy. That now famous donkey ride calls for a closer look at Zion’s reason to rejoice greatly.

King nobody wanted

Yeshua’s contemporaries and the Jewish leadership objected to his preaching, teaching, and his healing. The people even exploited his feeding of the hungry: this food manufacturer could be our king. Was he not born king? Yes, but they did not really want the Nazarene. I think the Roman governor hit the piñata when Yeshua’s opponents tries to get the cross-sign changed from “Jesus, Nazarene, Jewish King” to “he called himself Jesus, Nazarene, Jewish King


In that last week Yeshua pushed the buttons to shift to the work he came to do: establish who is really in charge.

The ride into Zion is more than popular acclaim. The full prediction breaks out of the mold of Moses and the prophets.

The gospel-writer’s citation
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

Matthew 21:5

The full Zecharian prophecy

A. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. B. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. C. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.

Zechariah 9:9-11

The lines following the procession description play out in the sayings and interactions in the following list. Israel’s pride is over. Everything she had at the top of her power list is now useless. Abraham’s family, those countless Gentile “sinners” will be have God’s peace through His decree. There comes a covenant that releases people from wells without water.

  1. Clearing the temple of merchandising
  2. Cursing the fig tree
  3. Condemning the rejection of the Baptist
  4. Evaluating and evicting the murderous tenants
  5. Identifying the wedding guests who disinvited themselves
  6. Separating Caesar and God
  7. Resurrection and human destiny
  8. Capping the law and the prophets
  9. Identifying David’s son
  10. Trashing the leadership (people in Moses’ seat)

Weeping over Jerusalem

The events in the list cover Matthew chapters 21 to 23 and they are clearly the final actions of the king before he finishes his work on the cross. Joy vanishes quickly as people return to their ways, kicking and screaming that YHWH was not their king. It was too much to be under the wing of a loving mother.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Matthew 23:37

Desolation vs Covenant

The united memories of both Zionite and the waterless wells cannot paper over the manifest fate of Zion vs the desolation, not merely the physical destruction but the loss of spiritual relevance to life, of the temple. There is no evidence of a God until the airwaves begin to record the sound of relief. People have to welcome the king.

Blessed is he who comes in Yahweh’s name