MORE THAN A BABE IN A MANGER, 18.12.19
Christmas is the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I use the term “Christians” loosely here, as many who celebrate Christmas call themselves Christians, while maintaining different views of who Christ is, not all being true Christ followers. Not all subscribe to right doctrine. Some assume He was just a very good, well-meaning and special human being, but not truly divine, while still others believe He was a prophet, a priest or a miracle worker, while not fully comprehending His real identity, nor believing it really matters what one thinks – i.e., Christmas, per se, is just a nice holiday when families gather together and exchange gifts. There is much debate about what Christmas means, who it’s for, as well as its origin, and whether it is being celebrated at the right time. While those are all valid questions, the single most important issue is His identity, and that is the one which will be addressed on Study Corner. So let’s explore and substantiate exactly who He is. We can rely on Scripture to establish the identity of Jesus Christ/Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, and discover that He is much more than a “babe in a manger,” a good person, or even a prophet, healer, or priest.
Born to a virgin through supernatural conception, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God”(Lk.1:30-35), the angel informed the young virgin Mary, a simple little Jewish girl, with the faith of a giant. “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Yeshua”(v.32). Although He would be birthed in a normal fashion, carried in the womb of a natural human being, His conception was not of human origin; the seed that formed Him was of supernatural origin, and not from a human source. “He will be great and will be called Ben-Elyon. Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of David, His father. He shall reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and His kingdom will be without end”(Lk1:32,33). Does this sound like an ordinary man? The angel announced to the shepherds: “A Savior is born to you today in the city of David, who is Messiah the Lord” (Lk.2:11). The very use of the term, “Messiah/Christ the Lord,” is suggestive of something more than just a man. To Joseph, the angel said: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Miriam as your wife, for the Child conceived in her is from the Ruach ha-Kodesh. She will give birth to a son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt.1:20,21). Can just a good man, even a prophet, “save” people from sins? There had been many great prophets (Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah), but none had been able to do so. So what would be so different and special about this person that they would be able to accomplish such a feat? But this was not just to be an ordinary man; this would be “God with us.” “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by Adonai through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which means “God with us”” (Matt.1:22-23). This is suggestive of special status, divine status.
That Jesus was human, while demonstrating special qualities, is evidenced by His childhood: “The Child kept growing and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him”(Lk.2:40). Even as a child He was aware of His mission: “the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. (Lk.2:43) They found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.(46,47). I must be about My Father’s business”(v.49). Does this sound like an ordinary child, or a superhuman child? “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” (v.51), while still behaving in ways that indicated normal human behaviour. “And Yeshua kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (v.52), going beyond the normal, human development of a regular child. These events give a brief idea of His childhood, embracing His identity as a regular normal child, while at the same time, a very unusual child, exhibiting quite abnormal qualities, embracing both the human and the supernatural being He was – fully God/fully man.
As time went on, there are more indications of the supernatural, divine qualities: “After being immersed, Yeshua rose up out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Ruach Elohim descending like a dove and coming upon Him. And behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased!””(Matt.3:16,17). It’s true, God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, took him up on Mount Sinai and presented to him the tablets with the 10 commandments; but He was not referred to as His “beloved Son.” Then there was another occurrence of great significance: “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. . . . . . . and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”” (Matt.17:2,5).
While teaching His disciples, Yeshua said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him”(John 14:6,7). One can see His disciples wrestling with this, as “Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Jesus/Yeshua demonstrated some human qualities here when He became somewhat annoyed, even impatient and frustrated with His disciples for still not grasping who He was: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” (John 14:9). Jesus/Yeshua was human. He got annoyed, and angry, too, like in the temple when “He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:15). This was a righteous anger, entirely justified, and not carnal. It is reassuring for us to know there are appropriate and valid occasions for the expression of anger.
He reiterated His divine status, when He declared assertively: “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves” (John 14:9-11). He’s saying, “Look at the evidence, if you can’t believe because of what I’m saying to you.”
After His resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus/Yeshua provided a final word of confirmation regarding His divinity: “Oh foolish ones, so slow of heart to put your trust in all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures” (Lk.24:25-27).
Jesus Christ, the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem is much more than an ordinary man. We see that He Himself declared Himself as the Saviour of the world, the Son of God, the One Who came to set humanity free from its depraved, sinful state. Study Corner will look still closer in Part 2, at the Scriptures which identify and establish Christ Jesus/Yeshua as Messiah, fully a man, yet fully divine, fully One with God the Father.
© 2015, revised 2018 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.