A couple of weeks ago, our Sunday School lesson focused on how the first Christmas was for a Jewish audience. Joseph and Mary, the inhabitants of Bethlehem, and the shepherds who visited on the night of Jesus’ birth were all Jews. Jesus came first to his own people, knowing he would be rejected, all to fulfill God’s plan.
This week we looked at Christ’s birth for Gentiles. Consider these words of Simeon, who met Jesus at his dedication at the Jerusalem temple:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-32 ESV)
It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Christ in his lifetime. Notice that when Jesus was only weeks old, Simeon recognized he was both light for the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. Sometimes we get this funny idea, even if we don’t put it into words, that throughout the Bible God sort of rolls with the punches. Sometimes we make it up as we go along, but that doesn’t mean God does the same. He didn’t come up with the plan of salvation after Israel failed to keep the Law. And offering salvation to the Gentiles was not some sort of plan B when the Jews rejected Jesus.
God knew all along, and the birth, life and death of Jesus were all part of his great plan. The birth of the Christ is good news for all mankind.
UPDATE: this entry is from 2009. A newer post, with much more information, is this one from 2010.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. The triumphal entry of Jesus was to be the last time he went up to Jerusalem. He and his desciples were coming into the city to celebrate Passover. Thousands of Jews from around Aisa Minor, Africa and Europe were doing the same. Throughout his ministry, some listeners (among them the Zealots) expected Jesus to claim his throne on earth. Their idea of Messiah was a military leader, and Jesus was on the scene at the right time if he was going to throw the Romans out of Israel. Many Jews could hear Messianic things in what Jesus said, and here he was riding into Jerusalem. The crowd shouted “Hosanna,” and spread palm branches and even their coats along the highway. Hosanna is sort of like our hallelujah, but literally means save now. Jesus seemed poised to ride ahead into his greatest victory.
As we move into Holy Week, try to imagine the horror of these first century observers as Jesus was arrested and tried. What many followers witnessed, including his own 12 apsoltles, was a dramatic turnaround from first to last place. Some of the same Jews who shouted “Hosanna” would be shouting “Crucify him” by the end of the week. This is that week.