Psalms 2 & 45; Isaiah 9:2-7, 11:1-10; John 1:1-18
So Much Mystery in One so Small
Christmas day has finally arrived and with it the Christmas season. Contrary to our worldly and commercial habit, you actually have twelve days to celebrate this blessed season (according to ancient Church custom) which should now be a joyous occasion as you have prepared for it all of Advent.
These passages of Scripture capture our Lord’s person in so many of his manifold appearances. The psalms display him as the mighty king. Psalm 2 shows the Lord of heaven laughing at the petty kings of the earth, who think that they may break from underneath His sovereign rule. This Lord (the Father) then announces His decree: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” This passage is then taken up by the New Testament authors as having direct bearing on Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of the Father – “begotten” referring to the Son being of the same nature with the Father (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5). (After all, a father can only beget that which he is. God may create anything, but He can only beget God.) Psalm 45 expresses in detail the beauty and majesty of the king on the day of his coronation. Some believe the psalm refers to Solomon or some other king, and perhaps, historically, it does. But the Church understands it as a Messianic psalm referring to Christ, with an added reference to his queen and bride – the Church – standing at his right hand, dressed in gold of Ophir.
Coming down a little from these kingly descriptions are Isaiah’s passages which speak of our Lord’s righteousness. Isaiah 11 describes how the spirit (which we here understand as the Holy Spirit, John 3:34) equips him with wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and delight in the fear of the Lord. He is one who shall deliver the oppressed and strike the oppressor. Isaiah 9 adds to these virtues the following names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Well of course! If he is to reign, which these passages from Isaiah and the psalms make clear, he must have the qualities that he may reign in righteousness and peace, first over our hearts presently, and then in his visible kingdom to come. And as a result of his first coming, those “who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and the Church of Jesus Christ has been filled with fruit (Matthew 4:16). We still await the wonderful kingdom described in Isaiah 11, but the believer knows it must be true.
Finally (this devotion is running long), we have the most majestic passage in all of Scripture, filled with the most wonder and awe: John 1:1-18. The narrative passages we read in Matthew and Luke (“narrative” is the fancy word scholars give to those passages which tell a story; it makes them feel smart) speak of our Lord’s birth; that is, they tell the story, how it happened and what happened. John 1 goes beyond, or better yet before, those stories to the beginning. And by the word, “beginning,” John does not mean, in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. No. John goes even before then. John means from the beginning that never had a beginning, for there never was a time when God was not. Sound confusing? That’s because human language breaks down here. John is talking about what we might call, “eternity ago.” We understand the words and even the concept, but we really can’t picture it.
But I digress. Let us move from philosophical inquiry to our Lord, as that is whom the passage is speaking of. The passage calls him, “the Word.” The English translation is precisely as the Greek has it: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” No plainer statement could be made about both the divinity of the Word (“the Word was God”), and its distinction from God (“the Word was with God”). So we have someone or thing that was both God and with God “in the beginning.” Well who was that? John 1:14 answers that question in a resounding way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It was this Word, this Son, this One who became flesh, through whom the world was made, but whom the world did not know, who came to his own people, but whom his people did not receive. But to those who did receive him, he gave the right to be called “children of God.” That was his mission: to seek and to save the lost, that those who might believe on him would be born again from above, not of the flesh or will of man, but of the will of God. I said it once before, but I’ll say it again, and it comes from the ancient Church (St. Athanasius taught it to us): The Son of God became a son of man, that sons of men might become sons of God (and yes, we mean daughters, too).
So the Word through whom we were made came to redeem us. And even more, the Word came to make the Father known (1:18). He can do the first because he is of the Father, and he can do the second because he is “the Word.” The Son, Jesus Christ, is the Father’s definitive word to the world. That does not mean that God has stopped speaking, but it does mean that anything else he might say, in fact that He has ever said, has and ever will come through this Word, Jesus Christ, and can never be in contradiction to that word now revealed in Scripture (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19; Psalm 119).
So here we have a mighty King, a righteous Judge and Teacher, and the Word made flesh who gave himself for us; in other words, Prophet, Priest, and King. So much mystery wrapped in one tiny baby. Time for worship.