December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015 - Luke 2:40


Theme: The Greatest Wonder of the World

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how untraceable are His ways!

It’s been said that there are Seven Wonders of the World which are the greatest architectural achievements of mankind. The original seven wonders were determined by the historian, Herodotus, around 480 AD. However, this list of wonders is now deemed “ancient” since greater ones have been built in the modern age and since some of these original wonders are lost and gone. A few familiar ones of this ancient classification include: The Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Perhaps you’ve seen a picture of these wonders or an artist’s rendering of them, they are indeed magnificent.

In 2001, an updated list of seven wonders was formulated. The list includes: the Great Wall of China, the Coliseum of Rome, and the Taj Mahal in India. I’ve actually seen one of the wonders on this list in person – the Mayan temple, Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula. Without a doubt, this ancient temple, dated at around 600 AD, is a great architectural wonder. The Mayans were masters of math, science and astronomy and it showed in this building. The steps of the temple were planned out to align with the days of the year and its position with the sun was designed cast a beam of light down from the top of the temple in a specific direction at a very specific time of year, the spring equinox. I witnessed this occurrence and it was indeed amazing.

But perhaps just as fascinating as the building itself, are the crowds of people who flock to see it every day. And this doesn’t just include tourists nowadays. This temple of the Mayans was obviously a center of worship, and it is astounding to think of all the many people throughout the ages who have clamored to it foundations to worship. Hundreds of thousands, possible even millions of Mayan people stood in spiritual wonder on this ground, where their serpent god supposedly existed. For them this was not just an experience of amazement, it was literally religious. Yet, for century after century, for generation after generation, this temple still remained just an assembly of bricks of mortar. It was fashioned and formed in an amazing way, in a way that has stood the test of time so far, but in the end it is nothing more than just a man-made creation for a man-made god. 

It’s sad that so many people got caught up in the wonder of this building and not in things of lasting substance of the true God. Even when I visited, tourists and natives alike deemed it a ‘sacred’ place. In their minds there surely had to be some type of god there, especially in such a magnificent setting. But, eventually, like many before it, even this temple will lose the fight with time and succumb to the elements.

Yet, in the most unlikely of places and through the most unlikely of people, God revealed the greatest wonder the world would ever see, His own Son, the eternal Son of God, made flesh like one of us. Every day, people have opportunity to stand in awe and amazement at this wonder, yet they focus instead on the man-made things of the world. Let us consider and meditate upon this wonder today, as found in one single verse from Luke 2, verse 40, speaking about Jesus: And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.

This simple passage from Luke is often overlooked, probably because it comes at the end of the very familiar Christmas account. Yet, let us not forget how important its thoughts are, or how many years it spans. In reality, never before has so much been covered in such a little sentence. This verse stretches from Christ’s infancy, through His adolescence, and even into His adulthood and public ministry. Perhaps it’s perplexing that the Bible gives so little information about Jesus’ childhood. Shortly after this verse Luke tells us about Jesus as a 12 year old in the temple. But other than that, we have nothing until the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry at around age 30. God doesn’t give us much information about this time because it’s not what is most important. He doesn’t want anything to overshadow or get in the way of the most important parts of His Son’s life –His ministry, His death, and His resurrection.

Even though we’re not given many details about Jesus’ childhood in the Bible, it hasn’t stopped people from speculating about what it was like. The mystery of the incarnation is such an amazing wonder that people try to fathom how it could be possibly be. How could Jesus be the King of Heaven and Earth and yet rely on His parents for food and shelter? How could Jesus live in the world as a human and yet never have one evil thought or action? How could Jesus be perfect and holy in every way and still have moments of hunger, sorrow, and fatigue? These thoughts create paradoxes in our mind, and sadly, many try to offer man-made answers.

If you look at the beginning of the Christian Church, some of the earliest false teachings centered on who Jesus was. Some speculated that Jesus was neither man nor God, but some sort of a demi-god or lesser god. Others said that Jesus was indeed God but not man, or still others reversed it and said that He was man and not God. Many hours and resources were spent by the first Christians when considering the person of Jesus. If you look at the history of the church, councils convened, essays were written, and discussions ensued all concerning the wonder of this miracle – that Jesus could be true Man and true God. And even today the question still persists and is still debated by many.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to stumble across a video about a pastor helping a young man who had been hospitalized. In the interview the pastor likened the man’s situation to Jesus’ life. The man from the video had brought health complications upon his life through drugs and crime. The pastor excused these actions by saying the young man simply needed to get those bad things out of his system, as all people do when they’re young. He compared it to many of the thing teenagers do, which at times are reckless and immature. The pastor even said that Jesus needed time to learn, that even as a teenager He did irresponsible and immature things; and this is why the Bible doesn’t say anything about Christ’s life from age 12 to age 30. According to this pastor, Jesus was just getting the sinful lifestyle out of His system.

What a tragedy for anyone, let alone a Christian pastor, to be promoting such a false teaching. The Bible tells us that to call Jesus imperfect is blasphemy, a sin against God Himself since Jesus is God. Do people just not care about what God says anymore? How can so many ignore the clear and simple testimony of the Bible in so many areas? And how can this be happening so often in Christian churches? Well, it’s similar to my experience at that Mayan temple. I enjoyed seeing it, it was fascinating and a true feat, but not spiritual, not on the level or worship. Sadly, too many today believe the same about Jesus. They’re intrigued and amazing at the wonder of His life and what He did, but not to the point of worship and not to point of obedience. And just like that, the wonder of our Savior becomes nothing more than a man-made fascination, only something to view as a tourist and speculate about, instead of something to cherish by faith in the heart.            

But in one simple verse, Luke tells us why Jesus is the Greatest Wonder of the World. For in this verse we see both His humanity and His deity. Jesus is described as one who grew in strength and wisdom, just as all children do. But most importantly, He is one upon whom God’s grace rests. When we think of God’s grace we think of it in terms why we need it. We need the grace of God because we have sin, because without His grace, we have no forgiveness. Why did Jesus have God’s grace? Why does the Spirit tell that He had it, even when He was growing as a child? Did Jesus need like we do? Absolutely not, for He was without sin. Jesus had His Father’s grace because He was One with His Father, Jesus was perfect in obedience to God’s will and therefore earned His Father’s favor.

We clearly see the humanity of Jesus in this verse because we know what it’s like to grow and learn as a child, for we have all have done it, and many of us have seen our children do it. But it’s harder to see the deity of Jesus in this verse, because it’s unfamiliar to us. We haven’t earned and upheld the love of God on our own like Jesus did. For many of us, we first saw God’s grace as little children, brought to baptism by our parents. Therefore many of us have grown in God’s favor as well, but only because of the free gift of faith. The wonder of the incarnation is that even though Jesus was like us in every way, as a human who experienced problems and grew; He was at the same time the complete opposite of us. He was perfect and just, He was God’s Son, and He deserved the status of having His Father’s grace.

But at this point, we don’t simply focus only on who Jesus was, but also what He did. For it’s what He did that takes our differences away and unites us with Jesus. It’s what He did on the cross that allows us to say that God’s grace rests upon us as well. That Jesus was both one who grew and learned and also one who had God’s grace meant that He was the perfect fit as our Savior. The Savior needed to be both man and God. The Savior needed to be one, who as described in the Old Testament Passover, would be both unblemished and without spot, but also a sacrifice that would die. That God made it possible to send His Son to perfectly to fit these two requirements is the Greatest Wonder of the World. A wonder not just to stand in awe of but one to respect and worship in humility.

In the same breath, Luke tells us that Jesus applies to us in every way and at the same time is different than us in every way. What an amazing verse! What a tremendous truth that is proclaimed in such few words! This is the person of your Savior, true Man and true God, and only Jesus fits it. Because He is both one who grew, lived and learned like you and because He is the only one who earned the title of having His Father’s love, you have the hope of blessings that the Spirit promises in 1 Peter 1:13-14: that you may rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children.

Jesus has been revealed. God has come as man. But Jesus also has grace in abundance, grace that is His own, that He alone deserves, but that He also shares freely with you, even though you don’t deserve it. Stand in wonder, Stand in awe, witness the fascination of the greatest wonder of the world. But also kneel in humility, bow in worship, and live in obedience. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen. 

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