From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)
Here we are in this juncture in history, in the nations and places and time and cultures God has placed us… in order to best set us up to find Him! We live in the land of darkness (Matt. 4:16), but we can reach out to find our way to God. He’s promised us He’ll be found by us, if we only seek—and keep on seeking—for Him. And so, as we set about our Christmas preparations, let’s move forward in a curious spirit. Lets head into this week open hearted, to, despite our busyness, search for the One who came to be God With Us (Emmanuel). Curiosity necessitates humility. If we believe we’ve arrived, we won’t be curious and seek to know more. But if we recognize we haven’t, that we don’t know all yet, we open ourselves up to finding more and more of Him. With this, let’s consider Jesus as the Sent One of God today.
THE HUMBLE ONE
First of all, for Jesus to have been sent, He had to have been humble. Jesus indeed came. He was called “Emmanuel”, God with us. He came at the command of God the Father. He was in the same form as God, yet counted equality with God not a thing to be grasped. He humbled Himself, being willing to do whatever the Father asked of Him. In this case, the Father sent Him to earth, to take on cursed, emptied-of-glory human flesh. Jesus obliged.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the [righteousness] of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3-4)
HE WAS SENT TO PREACH TO US
As the humble, Sent One of God, Jesus’s first assignment was to preach. Before He died—which was His ultimate purpose for being sent—He spent 3 years teaching the people about the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). I believe this is because people were confused about it. Their understandings of the kingdom of God were far off from what it really was about. And they needed clarity to grasp the enormity of His coming (along with all its implications for them)!
When He came preaching, He preached…
… the gospel [good news] to the poor, He [was sent] to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.“ (Luke 4:18-19)
Let’s pause for a moment to let Jesus’ reasons for coming sink in.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON?
I’d like to point out what Jesus did not say He came for:
To rescue people from God’s punishment
To rescue people from being bad
To rescue people from God being mad at them
For our purposes here today, I’m going to keep the list to this minimum (though it could go on).
The reason I point these out is because we (as the Church) have spent a lot time being concerned with how the Bible says we get saved (which is very important!), but we’ve often stopped short in considering what we, as humanity, even need saving from, what Jesus’ news was, and why it was so good? We’ve defaulted to the accepted explanation for things, and so often missed the greater picture, with its great and wondrous implications for us alive on earth!
The bottom line is that humanity was trafficked into slavery in Eden (Rom. 7:14). We came under the dominion of the devil and his dark regime. One day yet future, that regime is promised to be defeated and both humanity and the earth itself will be physically released from it’s control (Romans 8:19-23). It’s not that one day we’ll escape the physical world, but that the physical world (including our bodies) will one day be made new, filled with glory, with God Himself coming to live among us on the Earth!
But Jesus said (in John 3:17) that God did not send Him to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved! He came to proclaim RELEASE to the captives! Who are the captives? Every single human being who ever was or will be! He came not to rescue us from God punishing us for bad behavior, but to rescue us from the Darkness enslaving us, making us do its will! He came not to rescue us from being bad, but to rescue us from being slaves! He came not to rescue us from God being mad at us, but He came because God loves us so much He wanted us set free from slavery to darkness and His wrath against it.
THIS is why Jesus came with good news for us! This is what He was proclaiming rescue from!
HE WAS SENT TO RELEASE US
Yes, this is what the cross was and is about! Our release from slavery! Our release from oppression (“release” is what the Greek word for “forgiveness” means). Our release from spiritual blindness! Our release from sin (the power which enslaves us). Christ’s body died to bring the enemy of the flesh to death! He didn’t die to be a subject for God to take His anger toward us out on! His resurrection proved that His body-like-ours (and thus the head slave-master over it) was defeated. And now those who believe in Him and receive the Spirit He sends into them, can learn to live in these cursed bodies as if their flesh has been defeated too! Furthermore, they can look forward to the Day Jesus will fully and finally release humanity and the Earth from the remaining regime of Darkness. That’s the good news! That’s what was promised through the prophets long before Christ came! That’s what pre-cross saints were looking forward to!
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you,… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Cor. 15:1, 3-4)
The Scriptures Paul is referencing here are the Old Testament Scriptures. Those which prophesied of the Messiah, the Christ, who would come to release humanity from the devil and his dark regime. The good news is that Jesus died (destroying the commander and chief of the flesh), was buried (annuling the curse on those who believe), and was raised (proving He defeated the devil, and that God’s rescue plan to release the earth and humanity from slavery has begun)!
THIS is GOOD NEWS, isn’t it?!?!
And THIS is what Jesus was sent for!
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. (1 John 4:9)
Instead of living according to the flesh (slavery), we can now live through Him (the exulted King of Kings and Lord of Lords!). He’s come to set us free!!
It is for free that Christ has set you free… (Gal. 5:1)
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14)
HE WAS SENT TO SEND US
Last but not least, Jesus was sent to us to send us. As He emptied Himself and came into darkness to preach the good news and rescue slaves, He sends us into the dark world to preach the good news about how Jesus rescued slaves!
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21)
We all need this news, don’t we? I’m desperate for it! I live off of it! In fact, once a person receives this good news the first time, he and she continues to need it for everyday life! The free Life of Jesus is only enjoyed by exercising faith in the gospel (good news) every day!
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 6:17, NIV)
We walk by faith in the good news—that we’re dead with Christ, buried with Christ, and alive to God with Christ (Rom. 6)! This is how we walk “in the Spirit” and not “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
It is such good news isn’t it!?
As we come to a close, I am reminded of the angel proclamation to the shepherds that first Christmas:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)
Friends, this Christmas, lets humble ourselves to see our slavery in the flesh, our utter weakness to do our own will perfectly always. Let’s contemplate it and see how it was never God’s intention for us. Let’s even be willing to see the awfulness of it. And as we consider the plight of our flesh, let’s rejoice with the angels over the good news they were sent to deliver to humanity that very historic night!
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)