David Jeremiah - Why Jesus Came Down?
This week I read about a man in Wales who sought to win the affection of a certain woman for 42 years before she finally said, "Yes". For more than 40 years, this persistent, rather shy man slipped a weekly love letter under his neighbor's door but she continually refused to speak to him because they'd had a little fight all these years before and after writing 2184 love letters without ever getting a spoken or written answer, the single-hearted old man eventually summoned up enough courage to present himself in person at her door. He knocked on the door of the reluctant lady's house and asked for her hand in marriage and, to his delight and surprise, she accepted. After 42 years. I know that seems like a hard-to-understand story until you realize that, in essence, that is exactly what has happened with us and God.
For decades, he sent his love letters through the prophets of the Old Testament, telling them that God loved them and that Jesus was coming and their Messiah was on his way. He told them in these love letters of his desire to have a relationship with them, but when there was no response, he did what the man from Wales did, he showed up in person, in his own Son. And he knocked at the door of the hearts of the people for whom he had come and presented his love to them in a person. You know, at Christmastime, the commercials and the festivities and the sales and there's something more to this season than all of this activity. There's a mystery in the season that goes even beyond the Bible that all of this activity is going on and you try to find the center of it and you look for it and we know where it is but the people in the world who don't know Jesus Christ, they don't know where it is, yet they participate anyway.
They celebrate Christmas which is a mute testimony to the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ even though they don't know who he is. They celebrate a birthday of someone they don't even know. It's the power of the gospel, it's the power of Christmas, it's the power of this story that is a true story, an historical fact. Reminds me of a line that's in, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," the famous revelation in Dr. Seuss's classic. The line goes like this: "The Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. 'What if Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas perhaps means a little bit more?'" Indeed, the meaning of Christmas runs so much deeper than the festivities that engulf it. It's something amazing that did happen and if I could summarize it in a few words, it would be simply, it's the celebration of God coming down from heaven to be one of us. And in the book of Hebrews there are some wonderful truths that help us understand why he did it.
And I wanna ask three questions of this passage as we unpack it. First of all, who is he who has come down? Who is he? Hebrews 2, verse 9 says: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone". The book of Hebrews tells us the one we see is Jesus and it describes him as one who was made, "a little lower than the angels". In the verses that precede this text that I've just read, it talks about how human beings, you and I, we have been lifted up to be just a little bit lower than the angels. We were exalted in being made a little lower than the angels but when Jesus came, he didn't go up to become a little lower than the angels, he came down. Our exaltation was his humiliation. He came down to be one of us. Jesus, the God of glory, came down to be just a little lower than the angels, where we are, and to identify with us. And in every announcement concerning his Coming, his name is given to us. To Mary, we are told that she was "to call his name Jesus". And to Joseph, the word was: "She shall bring forth a Son, and you will call his name Jesus". And to the shepherds: "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord".
This one who is to come down is Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels to be like us. He is the one who's to save us from our sins. He is Jesus the Christ. It is his coming to us at Christmas that we celebrate. I heard a story about a little child who was asked one day by a friend if she got everything she had wanted for Christmas. And she said, "No, I sure didn't. But it doesn't matter, 'cause it's not my birthday anyway". And that's the right way to look at it, through the eyes of that child. We worry so much about what we give to each other but this is not a celebration about us. It's a celebration about him. It's a celebration about Jesus. Who is he? He is Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, where we are, to identify with us and become our Savior. The second question is, where did he come from? In verses 14 and verse 17, we get that answer.
That's an interesting question to ask, where did Jesus come from? Where do babies come from? Some of you remember some years ago we had a little series that we did here called, "Signs of Life," and we created a little "Signs of Life" New Testament out of it, and we prepared it in a beautiful leather cover. And one Sunday in the Green Room, my grandchildren were in there and they saw these beautiful little Testaments and asked if they could have them. Well, that was a kind of an expensive gift to give to kids who were that age but I said, "I'll tell you what, I'll give them to you if you promise me you'll read them". And so they said, "Poppy, we'll read them". So that week, I got a call from their mother. She said, "Well," she said, "you told these children to read the New Testament and they started in the book of Matthew and here's the first question they wanted to have an answer to". And I said, "Okay, what is it"? She said, "Well, they wanna know if Mary and Joseph didn't know each other, how in the world did they have a baby"? Because the Bible said, you know. I said, "Well, I'll tell you what. You tell them to ask their father".
And so that's what they did. And that's kind of how we usually deal with that question, isn't it? I've kind of noticed how innocuous we are when children ask us important questions. Most of the time, we come up with some way of answering that question so they think the question's been answered but they still don't know what the answer is. But I wanna tell you, as far as this baby is concerned, the answer is critically important and it's not hard to discern. Verse 14 says: "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He," Jesus, "Himself likewise shared in the same". In all things, he had to be made like his brethren. Here, the writer of Hebrews communicates that Jesus wasn't just born. Have you ever heard of this? Listen to this Word. He wasn't just born. "He took part of flesh and blood," that's what the text says.
What a strange way to describe the birth of any person. "He took part of flesh and blood". Jesus' birth, you see, was unlike any other birth you have ever heard of because he existed as God from before time. He did not begin to exist at Bethlehem, he began to be human at Bethlehem. At his birth, he added flesh and blood to his existence. What happened at Bethlehem was that Jesus who had existed forever as God, that Jesus became a man. Though he dwelt in the splendor of light, he entered into a world of darkness. Though he had reigned over the angels throughout heaven, yet he took upon himself the form of a servant. Though he was the Son of God, he willingly became the son of man and the son of Mary. Though his throne was at the right hand of the Father, he chose the prickly straw of a manger in which to be born. He is the everlasting God with neither beginning nor ending and yet he grew within a virgin's womb and was born on a winter's day.
The Bible teaches that he became a man through the agency of the Holy Spirit who brought conception to Mary so that Mary became pregnant without ever having known sexual contact with a man. Where did he come from? The best way we can say it is he came down. In the 6th chapter of John, Jesus is in contest with his detractors and he's trying to explain to them who he is and where he came from, and I noticed one time when I was reading through this passage, that in just a few verses, several times he uses this expression. John 6:32-33: "Jesus said to them, 'For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven.'" John 6:38: "I have come down from heaven". John 6:51: "This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven".
Who is this one that is born? He is Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels. And where did he come from? He came down from heaven. And that makes his birth different than any birth in the history of the universe. No wonder we celebrate the mystery of the season. He was the only birth that was not the beginning of the life that was born. He had existed long before he was born into humanity and that is what separates the Christian gospel from every other philosophy or religion that you've ever heard of. Every religion and every philosophy apart from the Christian gospel is a religion or a philosophy not about God coming down to us, but about us somehow trying to reach up to God.
I'm here to tell you that Christmas is the good news that we can never reach up to God but we don't have to because he's reached down to us. He sent his Son into this world so that we might know him and that we might spend eternity with him. It's the most important fact of Christmas. He didn't begin but he came down and entered into a human body so that he is just like us in every way. Men and women, when Jesus was on this earth, he was God walking around in a body. He was the Son of God and the son of man together in one person. Who is he? He is Jesus. Where did he come from? He came down. And the third question that Hebrews answers in this Christmas text is why did he come? If his birth is the unique and most important birth in the history of the world, why did he come down to this earth? Why did he do this? And here in the text are the answers. Not all of them, I'm sure, but at least three of the most important ones.
Perhaps a couple that we would not think of, had we not read this passage. Jesus first of all came down to rescue us from our enemy. Notice what it says in verse 14: "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, Jesus Himself likewise shared in the same". Now, why did he do that? "That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil". Jesus became a man and he accepted flesh and blood so that he could do what we could never do. He confronted Satan and he destroyed him. Ladies and gentlemen, Satan is a defeated and disarmed enemy. He has already been pronounced in his judgment and we're just waiting for it to be carried out. And it's going to happen in the near future. 1 John 3:8 says this: "For this is the Son of God's purpose. This is why He was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil".
Jesus had to come down in order that we could be rescued from our enemy. At the cross, Satan, sin, and death were judged. Now, we're just waiting for the execution to take place. In the meantime, Satan has been granted freedom for a while but he can only have victory over us when we submit to him instead of to the Holy Spirit. We are no longer bound to do what he says. We have been set free from his dominion over us because of the power of Jesus Christ. The second reason he came down is, again, in verse 15. He came down to release us from our captivity. Here's an interesting Word: "And release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". This verse says that there are some people who are so afraid of death that they spend all their life in bondage to the fear of death. It has imprisoned them.
Have you ever known anybody like that? I know people like that. I can give you some illustrations but I won't. There are people who are so afraid of dying, they don't have any time left to live. Now, let's just get comfortable with all this today. Let me just help you with this. Are you ready for this? Listen, everybody dies. I mean, so you can worry about it if you want to. You can stress out about it if you want to but you're not gonna change it. If you don't believe me, ask me this question 150 years from now. You see, death is one of the few things that is 100% certain in this world. But there are some people who die while they're still alive and they don't get to live the life they have. The Bible says that Jesus has freed us from the fear of death. And here's how he did it. Listen up, you guys. Jesus went into death, he went through death, he came out on the other side of death, and he conquered death. So we don't have to be afraid of it anymore. That's why he says, "Because I live, you too shall live".
Death is not the end. Physical death is not the end. And he took the sting out of it so that we could live and not be always worried that the cold we got yesterday is gonna take us out. I've presided over the funerals of the just and the unjust through my lifetime, and I can tell you that there's a vast difference in the way people face death. When you know that your sins are forgiven and God has prepared for you a home in heaven, the sting of death goes away. Now, the sorrow and gravity of death is still there. I mean, that's gonna be a human thing. That's part of it.
I remember when my mother died, I was thinking about this this week. My mother was very, very sick. She had Alzheimer's disease and we expected her not to be here for very long and she lingered for a while. So I was prepared for her death but when she died I wasn't prepared for how hard it was that she was gone. Closed a chapter in my life. It closed a time in my life. There's a sense of human permanency to when that happens. We don't pick the phone up and call those people anymore. So I'm not trying to say that death doesn't have its propensities that we have to deal with. But what I'm saying is when we understand it the way it's presented in the Bible, and that the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world so that he could take the sting out of it, we don't have to fear it anymore.
I always tell people, "I'm not afraid to die but I don't wanna die". I'm not afraid to die and I faced death a little bit, as you know, earlier in my life. And it's wonderful to know when you face death that you don't wanna die but you're not afraid of what's on the other side. You have a confidence in your heart. So I can just relax. If Jesus doesn't come before I die, one of these days I will face that. But I'm not afraid. Max Lucado has a wonderful little thing about this. He said, "In all my travels, I've never seen one passenger weep when the plane landed". He said, "Never". He said, "No one clings to the armrest and begs, 'Don't make me leave. Let me stay and eat some more peanuts.'" He says, "We're willing to exit the plane because the plane has no permanent mailing address. And this world doesn't have one either. The Bible says: 'We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.'"
So we're just traveling through here on our way home. And when it's time to get off this plane, we're not gonna cling to the armrests and say, "I want some more peanuts". We're gonna be ready to be home with the Lord. That's the gift of Christmas from the Coming of Jesus Christ to be one of us. And then there's the third reason. And the final one is that Jesus came down to relate to us in our frailty. This is the present, most encouraging message of Christmas, in my estimation, and this is the reason why I love the term "Emmanuel," God with us. Here in Hebrews 2, we read: "For indeed He does not give aid to the angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham," or to humanity. "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself had suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted".
Now, listen. If you don't hear anything else that I've said today, please grab hold of this 'cause you're gonna need this sometime between now and the 25th of December. The writer of Hebrews tells us that one of the reasons Jesus became a man is so that he would be able to identify with us in our problems. "He's not giving aid to the angels," the text says. He didn't come to help the angels. He came to help us. And Tim Keller says that "Christianity does not so much offer solutions to the problem of suffering, but rather, it provides the promise of God who is completely present with us in our suffering and who not only is with us but understands everything that we're going through". No other religion even begins to come close to that truth. When we have problems, when we face challenges, it is so encouraging to know that there's someone to whom we can go who's been where we are, understands what we're facing, and has taken our testing all the way through.
The Bible says he didn't ever yield to any of this, so that means he felt the full force of it. And when we pray to him with our challenges, when we go to Jesus in our prayers, in our hearts we can hear him saying back to us, "I understand everything you've experienced. I've been through it all". Jesus became flesh and blood because the problems we have are flesh and blood problems. Jesus became human because the problems we have are human problems. Jesus put himself into the time warp because the problems we have take place in the here and now. He became everything that we are so that when we come to him as the perfect Son of God, we know he understands us. And that's why we pray in Jesus' name. We take our prayers and we offer them to God through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He understands us. He came to relate to us in our frailty.
So as you look back over the Bible and throughout the Old and the New Testaments, what you discover about the Incarnation and what Hebrews is trying to help us understand today is that Christmas is Jesus enduring a human birth so that you and I can have a spiritual birth. Christmas is Jesus coming to a stable so that one day we can live in a mansion. Christmas is Jesus having an earthly mother so that we can have a heavenly Father. Christmas is Jesus becoming poor so that we can be made rich. Christmas is Jesus welcomed at his birth by some shepherds. And the New Testament tells us that when we are born again, we are welcomed by the angels who rejoice in heaven. Jesus is the only one who could do what I've been talking about. Because for Jesus to meet our need, he had to be both God and man. At Christmastime, we celebrate the coming together of Deity and humanity, God becoming flesh.
And in his earthly life, he lived and suffered and experienced all that, but the Bible says: "Apart from sin," so that one day he went to a Roman cross as the sinless Son of God. And there, hanging between heaven and earth, I like to think of it this way, he reached up one hand and took hold of Deity, and he reached down another hand and took hold of humanity, and he brought us together at the cross. And made it possible for us now in him to know God so that we can come boldly before him. We don't have to fear a God. We find out that our God is a God of love, a love so great that it would not even withhold its own Son. And at the cross, our humanity comes in contact with God. And God comes to live within us. Emmanuel is God with us, but Christianity is God in us. God living within us through his Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ. So when you understand that, men and women, you realize that the message of Christmas is far more than it's made out to be in this wild and woolly celebration we're about to experience.
When you're wondering in your mind and in your heart, "Why is all this celebration going on"? even though they don't know why they're celebrating, we do. We know that on that day when Christ was born in that manger in Bethlehem, heaven invaded earth as it's never been invaded before nor ever will be again. And God came down so that we could one day go up to be with him. If you've never put your trust in this one about whom the book of Hebrews speaks, what a great and wonderful moment in this Christmas celebration for you to say, "I know God loved me that much that he would give up his own Son so that I could know him, but I wanna receive that gift". A gift is only a gift if it's received. And if you haven't received the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, I urge you to do that today. Open up your heart and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.