Greg Laurie — The Greatest Story Ever Told!
I read an article in the paper about a study that was done. A scientific survey that was done on who was the most important and influential person in all of human history. I am not just talking about contemporary history. I am talking about all of human history. A list of 10 names were the result of this study. Do you want to know who the number one person is in all of human history? That's right. Uncle SI from Duck Dynasty. I was as surprised as you are. No seriously. That's a joke.
The number one person-the most influential person in all of human history according to this poll was Jesus Christ. That makes sense doesn't it? Yes Jesus Christ remains the most influential person in all of human history. We have to ask the question why. What is it about Jesus that so fascinates and mystifies people? Without question he was the most extraordinary influential and yes even revolutionary individual to stride the stage of human history. Think about it. More books have been written about Jesus than any man who has ever lived. More music composed about Christ than any person who has ever lived. More drama written about Jesus than any other person who has ever existed. Why is this? Why does one man occupy such a unique and unforgettable place in human history? The memories of so many other great men and women come and go but Christ remains as the most influential.
By the way, the other names on this survey were:
2. Napoleon Bonaparte. I was surprised by that. Seriously the second most influential person in all of human history Napoleon Bonaparte?
3. William Shakespeare.
4. The prophet Mohamed
5. Abraham Lincoln.
6. George Washington
7. Adolf Hitler
9. Alexander the Great
10. Thomas Jefferson.
None of these people, as significant as they were, even hold a candle to Jesus Christ. Why is this? Because Jesus was not merely a good man. He was not merely a great man. He was not even the greatest man. Jesus Christ and he alone is the God-man. We begin with the Christmas story as presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Let's start with a question. When did Jesus Christ come? We pinpointed around 2013 years ago. Here is a broader answer. When did Jesus Christ come? At the appointed time. At the perfect time. Galatians 4:4 says, "When the time was just right, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law, to redeem those that are under the law, that they might receive the Spirit of Adoption whereby we cry, 'Abba Father.'"
The Christmas story does not begin with the phrase, "Once upon a time". It begins with a lot of begats. So-in-so begat so-in-so. The Christmas story starts with a family tree. Why is this? To the Jews genealogies are very important. For a Jewish person a genealogy was not unlike your resume. It was your family pedigree. The reason that genealogy or the family tree of Christ is presented in two Gospels is because God wants us to know that he went back to David because scripture said that Messiah would be of the root and the offspring of David. One genealogy traces Jesus back to the line of Mary. The other genealogy traces Jesus back to the line of Joseph. Though Joseph was not the biological father of Christ. He was merely the step-father or earthly father figure they would go back to be taxed, as we will see in a moment, of the place of the father not the mother. Jesus connected to both bloodlines back to David.
This story, though it is written beautifully and poetically by Dr. Luke has all of the pageantry and pathos and magic if you will of the best fairy tales, we have shepherds bowing, wise men worshipping, Angels singing, and a brilliant star. Yet it is a real story. It starts in a very technical way. The story of the Birth of Jesus begins in heaven and it unfolds on earth. Now we fast forward in the story. Mary is nine months pregnant. God needs to get them to Bethlehem to fulfill prophesy.
We are reading Luke 2 starting in verse 1. "It came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David". You may recall that Bethlehem was the boyhood town of David "To be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn".
We will stop there. Very familiar words. We have all read this story many times. I want you to note that Dr. Luke is very meticulous in his reporting. Though his Gospel is written with a certain poetic flair, Luke was a stickler for the facts. Luke was not an eyewitness of the life of Jesus as were Matthew and John. He was a physician who came to faith from a non-Jewish background. He carefully researched the story and had first person interviews with the principle characters. It was Luke's desire to bring a historical and accurate record of the life of Jesus. He wanted it to be understandable to those outside of the Jewish culture. Matthew primarily wrote to a Jewish mindset showing how Jesus was the Messiah fulfilling so many Old Testament prophesies. Luke is different. He is looking at it in an altogether different way. He wants us to know these events actually took place. This is not a fairy tale or a legend. This happened in real time. He wrote in Luke 1:3, "I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning. It seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you".
The Lord needed Joseph and Mary to get over to Bethlehem because Micah 5:2 said that is where the Messiah would come from. "Thou Bethlehem, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth one whose origins have been from everlasting". Here comes Mary and Joseph into Bethlehem. Two very young impoverished people. This innkeeper takes one look at them and says, "I have no room for you".
Here is an interesting thing. The word that is used here for room or inn is translated two ways in the New Testament. Once speaks of what we would call a hotel, though it was still very primitive. There would be food, fire, and an enclosure over the top. A roof over your head. It was just a basic place. Then there was another word used for inn that just meant an enclosure. It was basically four walls. No roof. No other accommodations. Basically a place to keep your animals. Ironically this is the word that is used. They weren't turned away from the hotel if you will. They were turned away from the garage. They were sent off to the parking lot or even worse. We want to vilify this innkeeper though the Bible says nothing about him. It just says there was no room in the inn.
He was like so many people are today. He was just too busy. A lot of Americans are always out running around. We are so busy. You could write on our tombstones, "Hurried. Worried. Buried". We are the only nation in the world that has a mountain called mount Rushmore. We are always rushing about. That is not more evident at any other time than at Christmas itself. The lines to the malls are long and the tempers of people are short. The innkeeper missed the ultimate opportunity. Imagine if he had taken them in. We would be preaching sermons about him today. But because he turned them away. He is an illustration of so many others. It is not unlike people today who say, "I would like to make time for God, but I am just so busy. I don't have time in my schedule. I work too hard. I would like to go to church but there is just no time for that. I would like to read my Bible but I just can't find time for that". Nonsense. You find time for what is important to you.
I read recently that Americans spend 23 hours per week online and texting. Everybody is looking at their phones now. Have you ever noticed that? People walking down the street looking at their phone. Is it really that important? I am afraid you are going to bump into me right now. People driving their cars looking at their phones. Standing in line looking at their phones. Sitting at a table for a meal. Both of them looking at their phones. I went out to lunch with a group of people the other day. We sat down, and they were all looking at their phones. I sent them all a text with these words. "Be here now". They all looked up. "Did you send that"? Yes. Can we have a conversation here? We have time for that. Right.
I think especially at Christmas. We can be so busy celebrating Christmas that we lose Jesus. We string our lights. We trim our trees. We buy our presents for those we love. We buy presents for people we don't love at all. We may not even like them. But they bought us a present so we feel obligated. Christmas can be such a letdown. There is so much hype. There is such a buildup. You think it is actually going to bring you some measure of happiness. Even though you dropped all those hints of that gift you really wanted, you don't get that gift. You get some other gift you didn't want. Now you have to pretend you like it. Then there is the mess and cleaning up. Twelve hours later the bills start arriving. Reality kicks in. It can be a big letdown. Experts tell us that calls to psychiatrists and emergency rooms go up during this time of the year. That is because Christmas cannot measure up to its romanticized image. I suggest you forget about the clutter of X-Mas and replace it with the Christ of Christmas. Then it will be great. It is not about Christmas presents but it is about his presence in your life. The message of the season is not let it snow or even let us shop. It is let us worship. If we will focus on that, I guarantee Christmas will be a blessed time for you.
So, question number two: where was the Lord Jesus born? We all know the answer. He was born in Bethlehem. The Creator of the universe was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Like everything else in the Christmas story we have romanticized this. I think in many ways we miss the raw powerful meaning of it. Understand of course that this stable or barn or maybe even cave that Christ was born in was cold and damp. Those of you that have had babies can you imagine having your baby in the garage. Can you imagine having your baby in the barn with animals around? Talk about unsanitary. This barn would have smelled of straw and quite honestly feces. It would have been very cold. The Creator of the universe God incarnate born on the dirt floor of a filthy cave.
Jesus was deity in diapers. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. He that sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent on a young girl. Chesterton wrote, "The hands that had made the sun and the stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle that surrounded him. Too small to change his own clothing or to put food into his own mouth. Amazing God in infant helplessness". Here is God. He has sent his Son. His Son has been born in the manger in Bethlehem. It is time to make the announcement. Who is the announcement made to first? If it were me I would have dispatched an Angel to the court of Caesar Augustus. "Hey Caesar how is it going? You call yourself the Savior of the world. Check it out buddy. The real Savior of the world has been born and it is not you".
I would have been kind of a vindictive God. Or you could have appeared to the high priest and the other priests and scribes and scholars. You could have said, "The Savior has been born". But no. God gives this message to who? Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Like everything else in the Christmas story we have romanticized and glamorized the shepherds. We need to understand that to be a shepherd in this culture was to be at the bottom of the social ladder. Shepherds were despised in these times. So much so that the testimony of a shepherd was not even allowed in a court of law. It was assumed that these shepherds would lie.
Why they were despised I am not completely sure. Shepherds basically did the work that nobody else wanted to do. They had dirt under their fingernails. They were hard working. They felt right at home when they heard that the baby was born in a cave. "There is born unto you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord". He is there in the manger. All right. Born out in the open air. Like our babies. They related to this. God was speaking their language. Let's read about it.
Luke 2:8. "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an Angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the Angel said to them, 'do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!' So it was, when the Angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, 'let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.'"
These shepherds and all of Israel were living in frightening times. They were under the reign of king Herod who was a tyrant. Their land was occupied. There was a fear about the future. Would Rome ever leave? Would they ever be free again? Would the Messiah ever come? Suddenly here are the Angels announcing to the shepherds that the Messiah has come. And having an Angel appear, much less Angels was a frightening thing in and of itself. They were awe-inspiring beings. That is why Angels so often start out by saying, "Fear not". That sounds so profound. Really they were saying, "Don't freak out. You are not going to die. It is ok. Don't be afraid".
Someone said, and I don't know if this is true, that there are 365 occasions in the Bible where the phrase fear not is used. Would someone do the research on that for me? If that is true that means there is a fear not for every day of the year. I like that. Don't be afraid. The message of Christmas is fear not and have joy. Commentator Ray Stedman said, "The chief mark of the Christian ought to be an absence of fear and the presence of joy". It is hard to have joy in this world because we are surrounded by so much sadness. All of the tragedies. The shootings on school campuses. Acts of terrorism. The breakdown of the family. All of the problems we have. The threat of war. How can we have good tidings of great joy? The answer is there is born unto us a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
Three reasons. 1. We have a Savior. No matter what happens to you in life remember this. You have a Savior. What that means is you have been saved. Saved from what? You have been saved from death. You have been saved from eternal punishment and hell. You have the hope that when you as a Christian die you will go straight to heaven. You can hear that and say, "That's nice. One day I think I will really be appreciative of that". But if you are hearing those words and you are laying on a deathbed I will tell you what. That is the most important thing about the Christian life. That there is a heaven waiting for you. This is the promise. We have a Savior.
2. We have a Christ. Verse 11. "There is born unto you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord". The word Christ means anointed one. Another word you could use in its place would be Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promise to send his son as the Messiah. It is a reminder to us that God keeps his promises. What has Jesus promised me? He has said to me as a Christian he will never leave me or forsake me. Whatever I go through in life I am never alone. He will never leave me. He will never abandon me. What else has he promised? He has promised he will work all things together for good to those of us who love him and are the called according to his purpose. Whatever you are going through in life he has promised to work it together for good. What else has he promised? He has promised he will come again and receive you to himself. He has promised to come again. Just as surely as the Lord fulfilled his promise to come the first time he will fulfill his promise to come the second time. And he is coming back again.
Hey everyone thanks for watching our program today. Let me just say to you if you have not asked Jesus Christ to come into your life, to be your personal Savior and Lord you can do it right now. I would consider it a privilege to lead you in a prayer where you would be asking the Lord to forgive you of your sins so you could know that when you die you will go to heaven. So you can find the meaning and purpose of life that you have been searching for. If you would please, if you want Christ to come into your life, if you want your sin forgiven, if you want to know that when you die you will go to heaven, pray this prayer after me. You might even pray it out loud. Let's pray. Lord Jesus I know that I am a sinner. But you died on the cross for my sin and shed your blood for all the wrongs I have done. I am sorry for my sin. I turn from it now. I ask you to come into my life and be my Savior and my Lord. Be my God and be my friend. Thank you for loving me and accepting me and forgiving me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.