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HIS NAME IS JesusThe Promise of God's Love Fulfilled
By MAX LUCADO
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHIS BIRTH
Jesus ... be could hold the universe in his palm but gave it up to float in the womb of a maiden.
A Lowly Place of Birth
Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. LUKE 2:4-7 NIV
ONE'S IMAGINATION is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family at the breakfast table. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about their welfare? Did anyone comment on the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? Perhaps. Perhaps someone raised the subject. But, at best, it was raised, not discussed. There was nothing that novel about them. They were, possibly, one of several families turned away that night.
Besides, who had time to talk about them when there was so much excitement in the air? Augustus did the economy of Bethlehem a favor when he decreed that a census should be taken. Who could remember when such commerce had hit the village?
No, it is doubtful that anyone mentioned the couple's arrival or wondered about the condition of the girl. They were too busy. The day was upon them. The day's bread had to be made. The morning's chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred.
God had entered the world as a baby....
A more lowly place of birth could not exist.
Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor; perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him-so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.
Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can't remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn't figured it all out. The mystery of the event puzzles him. But he hasn't the energy to wrestle with the questions. What's important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes, he remembers the name the angel told him to use ... Jesus. "We will call him Jesus."
Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph's saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best under- stands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can't take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God.
God Came Near
He came, NOT AS A FLASH OF LIGHT OR AS AN UNAPPROACHABLE CONQUEROR, but as one whose first cries mere heard by a pleasant girl and a sleepy carpenter.
A Heavenly Interpretation
GOD TAPPED HUMANITY on its collective shoulder. "Pardon me," he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption. * Just ask the Bethlehem shepherds. We know so little about these men. Their names? Their ages? How many were on duty that night? We don't know. But this much we can safely assume: They had no expectations of excitement. These are sheep they are watching. "That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep" (LUKE 2:8 NCV). We count sheep to go to sleep! * Besides, this is the night shift. Might as well watch paint dry. Shepherds watching sheep sleep? Saying that sentence is more exciting than doing their job. Their greatest challenge was staying awake! These men expected no excitement. * Nor did they want any. Any excitement was bad excitement-wolves, mountain lions, poachers. Shepherds treasured the predictable. They coveted the calm. Their singular aim was to be able to tell their wives, "Nothing happened last night." * Just because they wanted a calm night, however, didn't mean they would get it. * "Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened" (LUKE 2:9 NCV). * Change always brings fear before it brings faith. We always assume the worst before we look for the best. God interrupts our lives with something we've never seen, and rather than praise, we panic! We interpret the presence of a problem as the absence of God and scoot! * Good thing the shepherds lingered. Otherwise they might have missed the next verse. * "Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord" (LUKE 2:11 NCV). God Came Near
IT WASN'T ENOUGH FOR THE SHEPHERDS TO SEE THE ANGELS. YOU'D THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN. Night sky shattered with light. Stillness erupting with song. Simple shepherds roused from their sleep and raised to their feet by a choir of angels: "Glory to God in the highest!" Never had these men seen such splendor.
But it wasn't enough to see the angels. The shepherds wanted to see the One who sent the angels. Since they wouldn't be satisfied until they saw him, you can trace the long line of Jesus-seekers to a person of the pasture who said, "Let's go.... Let's see...." (LUKE 2:15, NCV, italics mine)
The Magi had the same desire. They wanted to see Jesus. Like the shepherds, they were not satisfied with what they saw in the night sky. Not that the star wasn't spectacular. Not that the star wasn't historical. To be a witness of the blazing orb was a privilege, but for the Magi, it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough to see the light over Bethlehem; they had to see the Light of Bethlehem. It was him they came to see.
Just Like Jesus
"She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
HIS NAME IS ... Jesus
In the four Gospels of the New Testament, it's his most common name-used almost six hundred times. And a common name it was. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, Joshua, and Jehoshua-all familiar Old Testament names. When God chose the name his son would carry, he chose a human name. He chose a name so typical that it would appear two or three times on any given class roll.
He was touchable, approachable, reachable.
Those who walked with him remembered him not with a title or designation, but with a name-Jesus.
When God chose to reveal himself, he did so (surprise of surprises) through a human body. The tongue that called forth the dead was a human one. The hand that touched the leper had dirt under its nails. The feet upon which the woman wept were calloused and dusty. And his tears ... oh, don't miss the tears ... they came from a heart as broken as yours or mine ever has been.
So, people came to him. My, how they came to him! They came at night; they touched him as he walked down the street; they followed him around the sea; they invited him into their homes and placed their children at his feet. Why? Because he refused to be a statue in a cathedral or a priest in an elevated pulpit. He chose instead to be Jesus.
God Came Near
BECAUSE HE IS LOVE ...
If you were God, would you sleep on straw, nurse from a breast, and be clothed in a diaper? I wouldn't, but Christ did.
He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw.
From holding stars to clutching Mary's finger.
When he saw the size of the womb, he could have stopped.
When he saw how tiny his hand would be, how soft his voice would be, how hungry his tummy would be, he could have stopped.
At the first whiff of the stinky stable, at the first gust of cold air.
The first time he scraped his knee or blew his nose or tasted burnt bagels, he could have turned and walked out.
When he saw the dirt floor of his Nazareth house.
When Joseph gave him a chore to do.
When his fellow students were dozing off during the reading of the Torah, his Torah.
At any point Jesus could have said, "That's it! That's enough! I'm going home." But he didn't.
He didn't, because he is love. A Love Worth Giving
Completely Human, Completely Divine
ANGELS WATCHED as Mary changed God's diaper. The universe watched with wonder as the Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known who was listening to his sermons ...
Jesus may have had pimples. He may have been tone-deaf. Perhaps a girl down the street had a crush on him or vice versa. It could be that his knees were bony. One thing's for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.
For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.
To think of Jesus in such a light is-well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn't it? It's not something we like to do; it's uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer....
But don't do it. For heaven's sake, don't. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
God Came Near
Christ became one of us. AND HE DID SO TO REDEEM ALL OF
Growing up in Nazareth
THE CITY OF NAZARETH sits on a summit. Certainly no Nazarene boy could resist an occasional hike to the crest to look out over the valley beneath. Sitting six hundred feet above the level of the sea, the young Jesus could examine this world he had made. Mountain flowers in the spring. Cool sunsets. Pelicans winging their way along the streams of Kishon to the Sea of Galilee. Thyme-besprinkled turf at his feet. Fields and fig trees in the distance. Do you suppose moments here inspired these words later? "Observe how the lilies of the field grow" (MATTHEW 6:28 NASB) or "Look at the birds of the air" (MATTHEW 6:26 NASB). The words of Jesus the rabbi were born in the thoughts of Jesus the boy.
To the north of Nazareth lie the wood-crowned hills of Naphtali. Conspicuous on one of them was the village of Safed, known in the region as "the city set upon the hill." Was Jesus thinking of Safed when he said, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (MATTHEW 5:14 NASB)?
The maker of yokes later explained, "My yoke is easy" (MATTHEW 11:30 NASB). The one who brushed his share of sawdust from his eyes would say, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (MATTHEW 7:3 NASB).
"When Jesus entered public life he was about thirty years old" (LUKE 3:23 MSG). In order to enter public life, you have to leave private life. In order for Jesus to change the world, he had to say good-bye to his world.
He had to give Mary a kiss. Have a final meal in the kitchen, a final walk through the streets. Did he ascend one of the hills of Nazareth and think of the day he would ascend the hill near Jerusalem?
He knew what was going to happen. "God chose him for this purpose long before the world began" (1 PETER 1:20 NLT). Every ounce of suffering had been scripted-it just fell to him to play the part.
Not that he had to. Nazareth was a cozy town. Why not build a carpentry business? Keep his identity a secret? Return in the era of guillotines or electric chairs, and pass on the cross. To be forced to die is one thing, but to willingly take up your own cross is something else....
The day he left Nazareth is the day he declared his devotion for you and me.
Next Door Savior
He "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (PHILIPPIANS 2:7-8 NKJV).
* * *
Christ abandoned his reputation. No one in Nazareth saluted him as the Son of God. He did not stand out in his elementary classroom photo- graph, demanded no glossy page in his high school annual. Friends knew him as a woodworker, not star hanger. His looks turned no heads; his position earned him no credit. In the great stoop we call Christmas, Jesus abandoned heavenly privileges and aproned earthly pains. "He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing" (PHILIPPIANS 2:7 NCV).
God hunts for those who will do likewise.
Cure for the Common Life
The greatest discovery IN THE UNIVERSE IS THE GREATEST LOVE IN THE UNIVERSE
He Left the Carpentry Shop
THE HEAVY DOOR CREAKED on its hinges as he pushed it open. With a few strides he crossed the silent shop and opened the wooden shutters to a square shaft of sunshine that pierced the darkness, painting a box of daylight on the dirt floor.
He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories. He balanced the hammer in his hand. He ran his fingers across the sharp teeth of the saw. He stroked the smoothly worn wood of the sawhorse. He had come to say good-bye.
It was time for him to leave. He had heard something that made him know it was time to go. So he came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber.
Life was peaceful here. Life was so ... safe.
Here he had spent countless hours of contentment. On this dirt floor he had played as a toddler while his father worked. Here Joseph had taught him how to grip a hammer. And on this workbench he had built his first chair.
I wonder what he thought as he took one last look around the room. Perhaps he stood for a moment at the workbench looking at the tiny shadows cast by the chisel and shavings. Perhaps he listened as voices from the past filled the air. I wonder if he hesitated. I wonder if his heart was torn. I wonder if he rolled a nail between his thumb and fingers, anticipating the pain.... It must have been difficult to leave. After all, life as a carpenter wasn't bad. It wasn't bad at all. Business was good. The future was bright and his work was enjoyable.... I wonder if he wanted to stay. "I could do a good job here in Nazareth. Settle down. Raise a family Be a civic leader." I wonder because I know he had already read the last chapter. He knew that the feet that would step out of the safe shadow of the carpentry shop would not rest until they'd been pierced and placed on a Roman cross.
You see, he didn't have to go. He had a choice. He could have stayed. He could have kept his mouth shut. He could have ignored the call or at least postponed it. And had he chosen to stay, who would've known? Who would have blamed him?
But his heart wouldn't let him. If there was hesitation on the part of his humanity, it was overcome by the compassion of his divinity. His divinity heard the voices. His divinity heard the hopeless cries of the poor, the bitter accusations of the abandoned, the dangling despair of those who are trying to save themselves.
And his divinity saw the faces. Some wrinkled. Some weeping. Some hidden behind veils. Some obscured by fear. Some earnest with searching. Some blank with boredom. From the face of Adam to the face of the infant born somewhere in the world as you read these words, he saw them all.
And you can be sure of one thing. Among the voices that found their way into that carpentry shop in Nazareth was your voice. Your silent prayers uttered on tear-stained pillows were heard before they were said. Your deepest questions about death and eternity....
He left because of you.
GOD CAME NEAR
Excerpted from HIS NAME IS Jesus by MAX LUCADO Copyright © 2009 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission.
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