Jesus: Hope Born in a Manger
Man's Need for Hope
It has been said that human beings can live forty days without food, four days without water and four minutes without air. However, we cannot live four seconds without hope.
The ancient Greeks expressed man's need for this valuable asset by creating the myth of Pandora's box. It was said that when Jupiter sent woman down to earth he named her Pandora, the gift of all the gods. In Pandora's hand, the immortals placed a box or casket which no one was allowed to open.
One day Pandora became overwhelmed by curiosity and had to find out what was in the box. So she opened it and out came every conceivable plague of man's body and mind and went in all directions in order that she could not get them back in again. Pandora hastened to put the lid back on but it was too late. However, there was one thing left in that box that was most valuable. In the box was hope.
Though this is a myth, it points out the dire need that we all have to know that the future is going to be better or at least as good as the present or the past and that the evil that is in this world and in ourselves can be eased or eradicated.
Hope has been defined as:
"An optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation."
In today's world, hope has become little more than a wishy-washy unsure optimism. It is a wish without a certainty of fulfillment. We may wish that our team win the Superbowl, for instance, but it is not a certainty.
In biblical terms, both in Hebrew and in Greek, the words for hope mean certainty. It is a strong and confident expectation. Hope is something that is future and that is definitely going to happen but just hasn't occurred yet.
The hope of the Christian and the ultimate hope of the world is the child born in a manger over 2000 years ago, the God-man, Jesus Christ. He is God's solution to a hopeless world that has been marred and destroyed by sin.
I. The World Marred by Sin
The Bible teaches that God created a perfect world that was very good (Genesis 1:31). However, man destroyed this perfection by rebellion against the Lord. It was not Pandora that caused all of the evil in creation but was Adam who disobeyed God and brought about sin. Paul summarizes this in Romans 5:12 when he tells us:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death through sin and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned."
Sin destroyed man's relationship with God, marred man's relationship with himself and other men and women and lead to death. Romans 6:23 says: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Mankind left to himself is eternally dead and is separated from his Creator, and will be punished in Hell (Revelation 20). There is absolutely nothing a person can do on their own to make them acceptable to a Holy God (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5).
Men and women, at their best, may look good, smell good, act and do good things. However, at the core, they are hopeless sinners, in need of Divine intervention in order to be taken out of the pit of destruction that they are mired in.
Education won't help. Financial equality won't help. At best these things will make people educated, rich sinners. Man, apart from the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has no hope.
Paul was speaking to the Gentile world, ( i.e. everyone except the Jews). in Ephesians 2:1-3 but it could have been easily said of God's chosen people, the Jews as well before he chose them. He tells us:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
And then, a little later, he says the words that no one wants to hear:
"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:11,12).
There was no hope of a future. No hope of ever solving the problems of sexism, racism, rape, murder, child molestation, theft, broken homes and broken people, wars, famine, and natural disasters. There was no hope of eliminating disease and death. There was no ultimate hope for the millions in poverty or those alienated from society.
And there was no hope of ever being brought back into a relationship with God, self, and others. But the ultimate in hopelessness is that there was to be eternal separation from God in a place of punishment called Hell.
But then, Jesus was born, in an animal's feeding trough in a little village called Bethlehem. Hope had finally arrived!
II. The Entrance of the God-Man
An illustration in the magazine "Our Daily Bread" from an article dated April 17, 1995, told how the famous atheist Jean-Paul Sartre, a month before he died, declared that he strongly was resisting feelings of despair by saying to himself "I know I shall die in hope." But then he would say in profound sadness: "But hope needs a foundation."
And he was right! Unfortunately for him, he didn't have the foundation that every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has. But just who is this hope for mankind? Well, Scripture teaches that He was God who became a man in order that men can become like God and be reconciled to him (II Corinthians 5:19-21).
The Bible teaches that there is one God, but at the same time, the one God eternally exists in three persons: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Theologians refer to this unique relationship as the Trinity. The Trinity means three Persons in one God.
Colossians 1 tells us that Jesus, the Son who is the image of Almighty God, created all things and by Him, all things hold together (15-20).
In eternity past, the Son agreed to come to earth to die for the sins of hopeless mankind and reconcile those who accept his sacrifice on the cross to God (John 1; Ephesians 1)
.Then, at just the right time, Christ was born on this earth as a baby. John 1:14 says that He dwelt for a while among us. And we beheld His glory. In His first coming to earth, Jesus fulfilled 353 Old Testament prophecies. It would be literally impossible to do this unless Jesus was indeed who He said He was.
While on earth our Savior lived a perfect life for about 33 years and showed us who God is (II Corinthians 5:21; John 14:7-9). So by the end of His life, Jesus could die as a perfect sacrifice for sin, in our place.
And then He rose from the dead, making it possible for all who trust in His name to live forever with God in the New Heaven and the New Earth which He is creating in which there will be no more sin. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain. For the first things will have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4). He is in Heaven now, seated at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1) waiting for His time to return.
However, His Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity lives in us and guides us (I Corinthians 6:19,20). The Spirit is the down payment assuring that what Christ said, he would one day fulfill (Ephesians 1:13,14).
That is why Paul can talk in Colossians 1:27 about the mystery, or the previously unrevealed truth that he is preaching which is "Christ in you, the hope of glory". We indeed have hope or a confident expectation of our Lord's return and our glorification with Him. For the God who cannot lie always keeps His promises!
I recently read a story told by James Deloach who was an associate pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Houston Texas. He told of the time that he saw a painting that moved him. It was the portrait of a burned out mountain shack. The only thing that was standing from the fire was the old chimney, the charred debris of the family's sole possession. In front of the ruin stood an old man, a grandfather wearing just his underclothes, with a little boy clutching a pair of patched overalls.
The boy obviously had been crying and the caption at the bottom is what the artist imagined that the old man was saying to the boy. The simple words were short but extremely profound. They read: "Hush child! God ain't dead!" With that being said, here is how pastor Deloach ended his illustration:
"That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words "God ain't dead" keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world.
In the midst of all of life's troubles and failures, I need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world."
Well, the baby in the manger who grew up to be the perfect sacrifice for sin isn't dead. The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that
"If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (I Corinthians 15:18-20).
And those who put their trust in Him will never be disappointed. They have both power for the present and confidence for the future. And nothing in heaven or earth can separate us from His love for us or keep Him from fulfilling His plan for our lives. He is truly the only hope we have and He is the only one we'll ever need!
And when He returns, praise God, our hope will become our reality!!
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© 2018 Jeff Shirley