Nancy Hanks Lincoln gave birth to a baby boy on February 12, 1809. She named him Abraham, after his grandfather. He was born on a bed of poles covered with corn husks in the family’s roughhewn cabin on Nolin Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky, USA.
Suppose we could have told Nancy Lincoln that her son would one day become president of the United States of America.
What do you think she would have said?
“No way!” I wonder if it ever occurred to President Obama’s mother, Ann Soetoro, the day she brought baby Barack home from the hospital and smiled at him that she was looking into the face of a future president of the United States. I doubt it! How about Ban Ki-moon? I wonder if his mother had a clue that her son would one day be secretary general of the United Nations. Surely not! On the other hand, when Mary smiled into the face of Baby Jesus, she had a hint of who her Son would be.
The angel who announced her pregnancy told her that He would be “great and [would] be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,” the angel said, “and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32, 33).
Yet I propose that even with this advance information, Mary did not really understand who her Son would be or what He would become.
a struggle for world dominion
A battle had been raging for several millennia prior to Jesus’ birth. It wasn’t a battle of bows and arrows, shields and swords. The issue wasn’t the conquest of this city or the downfall of that nation. The issue was the world.
The devil stated this clearly in one of his temptations to Jesus. He showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” and said, “All this I will give you … if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8, 9).
Centuries earlier, Daniel had recorded two prophetic visions. The first, given to King Nebuchadnezzar, centred on a giant image whose various parts represented succeeding empires: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome (see Daniel 2:31–33). A great stone struck this image on its feet and crushed it to powder, then the stone became a great mountain that filled the whole earth. This action illustrated the fact that the God of heaven will one day set up a kingdom that will supersede all earthly kingdoms, and “it will … endure for ever” (verses 33–44).
Many years later, God gave Daniel a similar vision. In it, he saw four great beasts arise out of the sea, representing the same four kingdoms depicted in the vision of the image. In a final judgment scene, Daniel saw “one like a son of man” who was given “everlasting dominion” over a kingdom “that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–15).
So when the angel told Mary her Son’s kingdom “will never end,” he was informing her that Jesus would be King over the global kingdom Daniel had prophesied. This is the eternal kingdom God will establish to rule the whole world when Christ returns.
So there we have it: this Baby that cooed in Mary’s arms, nursed at her breast and whose nappies she changed several times a day was destined to become King of the world! It was enough to make every other mother jealous.
the suffering King
However, before Jesus could rule the whole world, He had to suffer eternal death for the whole world (see 1 John 2:2). Before He could became King, He had to become Servant. And that’s something we humans have a hard time understanding.
For you see, Jesus’ primary mission 2000 years ago wasn’t to be a king. It was to save the world from its terrible moral depravity and—even more important— from its ultimate doom of eternal death.
Back then, Satan claimed the whole world as his own—not just politically but spiritually. With few exceptions, the entire human race was tuned in to his way of thinking and feeling. Furthermore, nearly everyone wanted it that way and Satan wasn’t interested in losing that advantage.
It was precisely this situation Jesus came to our earth to change. The whole purpose of His birth in a manger was to transform human hearts one by one, to switch their loyalty from Satan’s kingdom to His own. And in God’s scheme of things, the only way He could accomplish that was to die and be raised to life again. Jesus died to give you and me the opportunity to be a part of His eternal kingdom.
why He did it
Have you ever cut your hand with a knife? There probably isn’t a person alive who hasn’t! So it hurt, didn’t it?
Would you ever deliberately cut yourself like that? Very few people would.
Yet Jesus went to the cross fully aware of the pain awaiting Him! He willingly let the soldiers drive the nails through His hands and feet, and even asked God to forgive them (see Luke 23:34).
Why did He do this? Because He loves us. The Bible says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And Jesus’ love for us is just as great as His Father’s.
The Jesus who created the millions of galaxies and the billions of suns and planets (see Colossians 1:16) looked down to our world and said, “Human beings got themselves into this mess of evil but I love them. I’ll do what it takes to save them.” That’s why He went to the cross fully aware of what would happen.
However, the sin that Jesus came to save us from isn’t just some theory written down on the pages of some profound book of theology. It’s a condition of the mind and heart, and this condition has affected every human being on planet Earth. If you question this, just switch on your TV and watch five minutes of the evening news.
You’ll get an earful! In my more sober moments, I realise sin has affected me, with Nick Mattiske and you probably have those sober moments, too.
And the problem with this is we like it! We enjoy the wrong things we do, or we wouldn’t do them.
Fortunately, God has a plan to solve this problem. It begins with His forgiveness for the wrong things we’ve done. In His mind, once He’s forgiven us, it’s as though we had never done those wrong things. Then Jesus touches our minds and hearts and changes us on the inside, so we begin to hate the things we once loved.
Now here’s the point: Jesus died to make all this possible. His death gave Him the right to forgive us and change us on the inside, and His love for us made Him do it.
The angel told Mary that her Son would “reign over the house of Jacob forever,” and “his kingdom [would] never end.” You and I can be citizens of that eternal kingdom. All it takes is telling Jesus we’re sorry for our sins, asking Him to forgive us now, and letting Him change us on the inside so we no longer want to do wrong. We may still do wrong at times but He’ll forgive us for that and help us keep growing into His way of life.
So as you reflect on Jesus’ death at this time of the year, remember He did it for you because He loves you and wants you as a citizen of His kingdom.
He invites you to let Him forgive you and change you on the inside, qualifying you to be a part of His eternal kingdom.