"Behold The Man"
The first book of Moses, commonly called Genesis, does not reveal to us precisely how the created earth itself was made to bring forth every living creature “after its kind” (Gen 1:24); but there appears the thought of intimacy in the way in which the Creator himself, from that same earth, produced the collection of chemicals he named Adam, and with which he crowned his creation (2:7).
Behold, this man, Adam, made alive by the very breath of God, and spirit endowed, who freely chose to reach out into that surrounding paradise, prepared for him by a loving Creator, not for the Word of life that came to him on that same eternal breath, but for sin that has death as its fruit. Behold, this man, from whose body of sinful flesh an enslaved race issued, bequeathing a sinful nature and the grave for an inheritance.
It is in this very context that the mission of Jesus of Nazareth needs to be understood. Without the Christ, mankind has no hope and no future. The first man, Adam could make no provision for our redemption. In him, we have all sinned, due to the nature we have inherited from him, and, as a consequence, in him, according to the apostle Paul, we all must die. But, thank God, the story of man doesn’t end there. Paul goes onto say that just as in Adam all die: “…even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).
In this same epistle, Paul uses two descriptive phrases to refer to Jesus, God’s perfect man. He calls him “the second man” (15:47) showing that the first man, Adam, gathered from the dust of the ground, was representative of the whole of humanity, sharing the one fallen nature; whereas the second man, Jesus, who came to earth from heaven (John 6:38), represents a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). He calls Jesus also “the last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45) showing that Jesus stands as the head of a new race, imparting life to the new man, and revealing that there will be no new departure from this state of perfection.
When the Roman governor, Pilate, brought out the man Jesus to display him before an angry mob and declared: “behold, the man”; little did he know that “the man” he was referring to was the new man, God’s perfect man, the last Adam; who was about to take away, in the body of his flesh, the sins of the whole world and to forever set men free from the tyranny of sin and from the chains of death.
The Promise of the Father
It fell first to Simon, the fisher of Galilee, to boldly cast wide the gospel net, at a bemused and unbelieving crowd, to draw them to the shore of faith, by revealing the origin and nature of the Pentecost event, which they then witnessed, but were also about to become a part.
To this captive audience, Simon declares that the man Jesus, publicly condemned and executed before their very eyes only weeks before, was not only risen from the dead, but, having ascended to the right hand of God, had received “the promise of the Father” which had now been poured out (Acts 2:33).
This world, with all its pomp and pageantry, with all the glistening grandeur it has known or ever could know, such glory as was once paraded full before the Christ, in the wilderness of Judea, by the tempter, now defeated and forever judged; pales before the heavenly throng that gathers to greet the man who enters Heaven by his own authority and presents himself, unafraid and unabashed, before the throne of God: to receive, by means of a solemn and official act, this “promise of the Father.” Not for himself, who had the Spirit always, but for the benefit of those he had come to earth to save.
This promise of the Father, spoken of in ages past by the prophets of old (Isa 32:15; 44:3; Joel 2:28) had found its crowning utterance on the lips of the man Jesus, who spoke always in the Father’s name, as he prepared his disciples for the crisis of the cross and his imminent departure from them: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17) NKJV.
Risen, glorified, ascended; this man Jesus, the virtue of whose life outshines the Heavenly realm and the value of whose death outweighs all the treasures of Paradise, places them both at the disposal of the sinner and the rebel. Upon man, who for so long has grieved the Spirit of Truth, is this same Spirit now poured out from on high, uniting men to God in the person of the risen Lord. “For the promise is to you,” the fisher of Galilee proclaims, “and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39) NKJV.
When Our Differences Become One
“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:39-41) NIV
Disagreement lies at the heart of much of this world’s trouble and yet the church of God, comprising members with vastly differing opinions and viewpoints, proudly and rightly boasts of ‘diversity in unity’. A unity forged among communities of faith by the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:19-20).
It is unfortunate that most readers of the above passage focus solely on the disagreement as it arose and not on the overall solidarity and unity of purpose that followed.
It should be noted that the sharp disagreement which arose between Paul and Barnabas was not over any doctrinal matter. Their difference of opinion revolved around conflicting viewpoints as to how best the immediate work of mission could be served. To their credit, neither Paul nor Barnabas allowed their personal opinions, however strongly expressed, to distract them from their respective roles as missionary leaders and servants of the gospel and of the local church.
The young church at Antioch had grown out of social and cultural diversity where, for the first time, Jews and non Jews rejoiced together over the good news concerning Jesus. Antioch soon became a vibrant missionary centre as a direct result of this oneness of faith and love, forged out of a diverse mix of social and cultural Christian expression.
The gospel message was found to be strong enough to bind together such an unlikely assembly. There remained differences, but to paraphrase a popular hymn, ‘their differences became one’. They were united with a zeal for the gospel which had power to carry the message of the cross over many continents.
Even when a sharp disagreement arose between its two leading missionaries, this loving and spirit led community were quick to commend a solution (Acts 15:36-41 Barnabas and Mark retained their original commission) which resulted in a strengthening and an expansion of the missionary arm of the church, to the blessing and benefit of all (2 Timothy 2:11; Colossians. 4:10-11; I Corinthians 9:6).
In spite of strong differences of opinion, there remained a sense of mutual respect and an ongoing spirit of cooperation and selfless service (I Corinthians 9:6). Paul and Barnabas were acutely aware that the church is a community that works together as one, a communion of faith where individual differences are forged in a way that serves to strengthen and provide new opportunities, new approaches and new incentives to develop in the common work of the gospel. It is in this sense that our differences become one.
We need to pray that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our differences, however sharply expressed at times, may continue to ‘become one’ as we strive together for more effective service and outreach in our collective and local communities of faith.
Mankind's Greatest Leap
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).
On July 21st 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong began his slow descent, from the ladder of the Eagle landing craft to the moon’s surface, an awe-struck, worldwide TV audience watched on in breathless wonder. I was one of millions of UK teenagers whose eyes were then glued to a small black and white TV screen in the early hours of the morning.
As Armstrong took that final step onto the Moon’s surface, he looked into the camera attached to the Eagle and made one of the most memorable statements of the last century: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The Apollo moon landing is one the few events in history about which most people have felt "we did it" rather than "they did it".
It was hailed as mankind’s greatest single accomplishment, it was a breath-taking moment, it was truly awe inspiring, it was a momentously historic event...it was nothing. It was nothing compared to an event that happened almost 2,000 years before, in a small inconspicuous area outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, from within a new tomb carved out of the rock face, the entrance to which had been sealed by a great stone.
In the chilled and deadly silence of that darkened tomb lay all the hopes and dreams of mankind, his deepest need,
his ultimate joy and lasting peace, his salvation and his future hope. The fate of all mankind lay wrapped and shrouded in the grave clothes that en-cloaked the battered and torn body of Jesus of Nazareth. Without the
resurrection of Jesus, all would be in vain.
When at last Jesus’ eyes opened to the surrounding darkness, he raised himself up and, setting aside his carefully folded grave clothes, he stepped out of that sealed tomb by his own power (John 10:18).
That event changed everything for every human who ever lived or will live. Jesus had conquered sin, death and the grave. His death and resurrection paved the way for all humanity to be reconciled to God and to receive from him life everlasting (John 3:16).
That small step from the tomb was the greatest leap mankind could ever make. It was the
leap from death to life; but we didn’t do it. “He did it!” And he did it for us.
In Few Words
“Jesus Wept.” (John 11:35) AV
Sometimes, a few sincere, heartfelt words are all that are required to express our feelings of sympathy; to show that we share the pain and feel the sadness of those who are bereaved. To “weep with them that weep...” as the Apostle Paul instructs us, is of real comfort to those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
In just two words, one noun and one verb, John makes a statement, in his gospel, about Jesus that is truly profound. John’s statement, “Jesus wept” is reputed to be the shortest verse in the Bible and yet is sums up the entirety of scripture as it speaks of God’s deep love for man and his identification with human suffering.
Like the two plain wooden beams that comprised the cross upon which the Saviour died, these two simple words convey a complexity of meaning that stretches human understanding and speaks mightily of God’s eternal love for us. As Jesus stood that day among the mourners, gathered round the tomb of his friend Lazarus, surveying that scene of deep sorrow and sadness, the air heavy with cries of pain and loss; he wept.
Was Jesus weeping for his friend, Lazarus, soon to be miraculously raised from the dead? Or were his tears shed on behalf of the mourners at the graveside, who would soon be rejoicing with him? Or could it be that those tears, flowing hot down the face of Son of Man were being shed for all who mourn and for all who would suffer the pain of loss down through the ages.
Those two simply words: “Jesus wept,” which John records in his gospel, speak volumes of the extraordinary love that Jesus has for each and every one of us. Jesus was intensely aware of how real and brutal an enemy death is and of its devastating effects on the human heart. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4), Jesus promised, and his tears, shed on behalf of all those who mourn, are a real and present comfort. These few words, comprising as they do the shortest verse in scripture, are perhaps the most profound of all.
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found
favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30-32).
Jesus was certainly a man of many mysteries, but all of the mysteries
revealed in the New Testament concerning him grew out of the initial mystery of the incarnation.
In the New Testament, the word ‘mystery’ is often used to refer to a profound truth which God has revealed but which remains outside of our full grasp. God, after all, is eternally spirit and we are but mortal flesh. In this sense, even for believers, Jesus remains ‘a man of mystery’ as there is so much we don’t yet know about him.
The incarnation remains an essential truth which has been clearly revealed, but which still stretches our understanding and comprehension. We do not know how God who is spirit can become flesh, but we do know that he did and that Jesus, born of the virgin, Mary, was both fully God and fully man. This is why Paul refers to Jesus as “the Mystery of God” (Colossians 2:2).
The main point to the story, however, is not how a child was born through the power of the Holy Spirit via the ‘miracle’ of human birth, but that, as a result of this event, God became incarnate. The simple fact is that Jesus was truly unique. The person we meet in the pages of the New Testament and who remains forever shrouded in mystery, had his origins in this event.
Here are just a few of the New Testament scriptures which light on the significance of the incarnation:
(Matthew 1:20-23) The annunciation to Joseph revealed how God and man ‘came together’ in the person of
Jesus. (Luke 1:35; 2:7) The annunciation to Mary referred to Jesus as both God’s son and also her son.
The apostles John and Paul take us ‘behind the scenes’ as it were, to reveal the magnitude of what really took place when the child, Jesus was born:
(John 1:14; 1:1) John tells us how the Word of God, the eternal self-expression of God penetrated our human experience and revealed God to man, in the person of Jesus, to make known the unknowable.
(Phil 2:6-7) Paul reveals how the eternal Son of God ‘emptied himself’ of his former glory to take on human form. Not laying aside his deity but changing its ‘form’. Though still fully God, Jesus took on the form and the role of a servant.
The scriptures reveal so much more about the man Jesus, but, principally, what is revealed is that, by means of the incarnation, there came into existence a unique person who was in all points human but in all essentials divine.
It was at the birth of Jesus that a new humanity was born (1 Corinthians 15:45-49), and it is our union with the incarnate Son which enables us now to share in his eternal communion with the Father, through the indwelling of the
As Christians, we can make use of the Advent season to remember and celebrate the incarnation event and to worship Christ, the mystery of God.
A local congregation of Grace Communion International