We all know that the Christmas story is a wonderful story about the birth of Jesus Christ. We have sung about His birth, we talk about it, we celebrate His coming. There had been many prophecies telling that Jesus would come into this world, and now in our passage, an angel, Gabriel, appears to young Mary with the good news that she would be the mother of our Lord.
Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
In verses 32 and 33 the angel begins to describe Jesus. Gabriel describes Jesus with five statements. He says that Jesus:
- Will be great
- Will be called the Son of the Most High
- He will have the throne of David
- He will reign over the house of Jacob forever
- Of His kingdom there will be no end
These are all grand descriptions of Jesus, of this one who will be born to Mary. Each of these were true and remain true. Jesus is and has all of these things.
He will be great. He is great in contrast to all of humanity, all of humanity which is not great. Jesus is great with an unqualified greatness. You and I may do something great, but that will always be more than offset by things that are not great. We may call someone great, but that one will have weaknesses. Jesus is great, period. No one else born fits this description and no one ever will. Herod the Great was great in name only. Jesus is great in essence, in all of His being He is great.
He is called the Son of the Most High. This simply means, “He will be the Son of God.” God is referred to as the Most High, appropriately so, in other places like Luke 1:35:
Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God
Jesus is the Son of God.
He will have the throne of David. 2 Samuel 7 speaks directly of this.
2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever...16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”
Luke 1:27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
David’s earthly rule ended, but as it was prophesied, his line would not end and would be carried on by his offspring, of which Joseph was and Jesus was. God keeps His promises, and He kept that one through David to Jesus.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. This description depicts Jesus as the Messiah. Like David, He would be the King of Israel. Israel is often referred to as the house of Jacob.
Isaiah 48:1 Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.
And lastly from Luke 1:33, the angel told Mary: "Of his kingdom there will be no end." Every other kingdom had ended or would end, but this one, this one kingdom will not end. The earth as we know it today will burn and a new one will be made, but this one kingdom will not end. Daniel speaks of this:
Daniel 7:14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
His kingdom, the kingdom of Jesus will last forever, it will have no end.
Each of these points made by the angel Gabriel, each of these truths about Jesus as a person, who He is and what will be His, each of these point us to the incredible majesty, sovereignty, might, and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are descriptions of a mighty ruler. Descriptions of one who has a right to rule and who cannot be handled or stopped in what He will do.
"He will be great" "He will be called the Son of the Most High" "He will have the throne of David" "He will reign over the house of Jacob forever" "Of His kingdom there will be no end"
These are huge and important statements about Jesus. Jesus who would soon be born to Mary. But what if this were it? What if it all stopped here? It did not stop here. Jesus’ role and place in history did not stop here. He was not, is not some distant ruler of the universe who possesses all power and might. Nor is He a king, a great king with a kingdom for only the Jewish people, the house of Israel.
I’m afraid that we may see Jesus this way only, that He is the Son of God, way out there somewhere, ruling out there somewhere, and we fail to see Him as near, as relevant to each of us, as caring, as one who brings us into the picture instead of leaving us out in the cold. Do you see Him as distant? He is not distant, and He is not interested only with the Jewish people. His life, His ministry, His plan includes you and it includes me.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus [the same Jesus who will be great, will be called the Son of the Most High, will have the throne of David, will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and whose kingdom will have no end] you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
A tremendous passage, tremendous truth that brings us into the picture of the gospel in a real and significant way! Now Jesus is not some distant ruler with all power, but is our ruler, our Savior, our Lord, our companion, our friend.
Paul begins in verse 13 by giving us the essence of our salvation in one short sentence. He gives us these two extremes that every Christian has experienced. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That is Christianity. We were far and now we are near. We were aliens and strangers and now we are of God's household as children. We were enemies and now we are intimate followers. We were blind but now we see. We were dead and now we are alive. That is the extreme.
No doubt Paul had an illustration in mind when he penned these words. He must have been thinking of the temple. The temple at Jerusalem was divided into different places or courts. The most important was the Most Holy Place, the innermost sanctuary where the presence of God was revealed in the Shekinah glory over the mercy seat. And into that innermost sanctuary only one man was allowed to go. That innermost part was like entering into the very presence of God, and only the high priest was allowed to go in, and he could only go in once a year. Then there were the courts. The outermost court of all was called the “Court of the Gentiles.” They were the furthest from God! The Gentiles were not even allowed to go into the Court of the People or the Court of the Jews. And the ordinary Jews were not allowed to go where the priests went. And even the priests could not go where the high priest was allowed. But the furthest away were the Gentiles, the outsiders.
What Paul is teaching here is that they who were the furthest away have also been brought near. Those Gentiles, those who were the furthest away, now in an amazing way have an entry into the Most Holy Place. We now have access to God. This is the position of all who are Christians, and this is the truth that Paul is emphasizing for us. The non-Christian is without God, without Christ, he has no access, he has no knowledge, he has no entry. But by the power of God, by the blood of Christ, we who were far now have been brought in. We now come boldly to the throne of grace.
What an amazing transformation in the life of a Christian, having been far from God and now being near. You see, the chief problem with all the universe is that we as mankind have been alienated from God. It is God who is the center of this world. It is God who makes the rules. It is God who governs and orders all things. It is God who sets the standards for holiness. It is God who creates. It is God who destroys. It is God who sustains not only your life but all of life. We are all truly in His hands. He is the center of life. And the problem is that we as people are out of sync with Him. And so Jesus came and still was the great one, the ruler, Son of the Almighty, but He came into our world, He entered our world and gave Himself to draw us near.
It is not that He is out of sync with us. He is the standard, we must conform to Him and His ways. That is a biblical view of God and man. When we are brought near, we are being conformed to who He is. We are being brought into line with God, through Christ. It is the most wonderful thing that we could ever contemplate as Christians.
Look at it like this: do you remember what happened when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden? They were driven out of the garden, and there at the eastern end of the garden, at the gate, God set up the flaming sword and cherubim. What for? Why did He set the flaming sword at the entrance? To prohibit the re-entry of the man and woman into Paradise, into the garden of Eden. That is the effect of the fall and of sin. Man is shut out of the presence of God – without Christ, without God in the world, and without hope! And he cannot get back because of the flaming sword, and the cherubim.
But now in Christ, the gate is opened, and man – in spite of the fall and of sin and shame, and all that is true of him – can come back and enter in, he has access into the presence of God. He is reconciled to God, he is restored to God’s favor, the enmity is removed, the wrath of God against sin is appeased and satisfied. There has been an atonement. Man and God have been brought together again; man has been brought near, we have entered into the Most Holy Place, into the presence of the King of Glory!
And we do so, we enter into the presence of God, we are brought near, as we read in Ephesians, not because of our merit, not because of our good deeds, no, they are as filthy rags. Not by our religious activities. No, we are brought near by the blood of Christ, because of Christ. We can’t get to God. He came to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Although men in various ways and in varying degrees try with all their might in their own creative ways to come to God, I want you to notice from our passage that Paul makes clear that being brought near is something that is done to you. You have been brought near by the blood of Christ. It is not simply your activity, but is another's activity. It is something that has been done to you, for you. Listen to how Paul puts it in Corinthians, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” It is not the world that reconciles itself to God. That is not the message. The new message, the message of the new covenant is that God in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself. Or listen to how Christ puts it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” It is so clear, yet there are so many going along relying on and trusting in their own perceived goodness.
We are brought near by His blood, Paul proclaims, not by our goodness. His death is the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.
So, what did His death accomplish? How does His death bring us near to God? First of all, Christ’s blood takes away our sins. The problem of fellowship between God and man is sin. And it is by the blood of Christ that this hurdle is cleared. Remember the statement of John the Baptist at the beginning of our Lord's ministry? "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” There it is in a single phrase. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is He? He is the Lamb of God, the lamb of sacrifice. He is the one who sums up all the Old Testament ceremony and ritual. The Lamb of God, the Lamb that God has provided. But why is the Lamb necessary? Why should there be a blood sacrifice?
The answer is that “the wages of sin is death.” God decreed and pronounced that man, in sinning, should die. The wages of sin is death. And God also decreed that only a sacrificial and atoning death can cover this. So we read, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” God’s punishment for sin is death, spiritual death, separation from God for all eternity. The wages of sin is death. And we are all sinners. And the punishment must be meted out – otherwise God is no longer just, and God is no longer righteous and holy.
Why did Christ come into the world, born as a baby? He came, says the author of Hebrews, “to taste death for every man.” He came, says Peter, for this reason: “who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin should live unto righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24) That is why He came. What is happening on the cross? Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” God takes my trespasses – He took my trespasses and He imputed them to Jesus Christ; He put them on Him; He took my debt and put it on Him; He demanded the penalty from Him; and it was paid by the blood of Christ. That is God’s way of salvation in the death of Christ.
Why did Christ die? The answer is that “God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “it is by His stripes that we are healed.” God smote Him in order that I might not be smitten. That is why His blood was shed.
We who were far off have been brought near. How? By the blood of Christ. Starting in verse 14: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”
So God brought peace within the body, and brought peace between the body and Himself, through Christ. That's why in the Scriptures we can read that He is our peace. Christ is our peace. Jesus alone is our peace. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” There is no other source for peace.
So Jesus came. Gabriel described Jesus as one who would be great, who would be called the Son of the Most High, who would have the throne of David, who would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there would be no end. But it didn't stop there. He also drew a people to Himself. He came to tear down walls that separated us from Him, He came to save the lost, to be our Redeemer, to bring us into His family, leaving us not in fear, but at peace with Him. He came as a baby, but He is also our Lord and our Savior. This is true for all who have repented of their sins and embraced Him as Lord and Savior.
This Christmas season as you think about Christ, think about Him in all His grandeur, in all His power, His might, but let's not forget that He is a Savior who loves His people, who cares deeply for His people, and draws us near into His family.