As those of you who are regulars here have come to realize by now, I do not go out of my way to preach topical messages on holidays. So, as such, I do not have a “Christmas message” per se for you this morning. That being said however, I feel that today’s message does speak to the real meaning of Christmas that unfortunately is often obscured by the focus on just the birth of Christ. The real message of Christmas I feel is that Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. Not just some sentimental nostalgia about a baby born in a manger, but a dawning of a new covenant, a new age in which God and sinners are reconciled. That speaks more to the purpose of Christ’s coming than the manner of His coming. The manner is important. But His purpose in coming is the main point.
So as most churches this morning are focusing on the first few hours of Christ’s life, I want to focus on the last few hours before His death. And in that timeframe, Jesus was detailing His plan and purpose not only for His life, but also His legacy for His disciples. We have been looking for weeks now at this last evening of Jesus’s life, in the passage known as Christ’s Upper Room Discourse. We are now down to the last few sentences. And Jesus makes five statements in these last 9 verses which we want to look at today. Each one of them is so pregnant with truth that we might easily spend a sermon on them individually. But in the interest of time, we are only going to look briefly at these statements.
At first glance, there is little to tie all of them together other than the impending departure of Christ. So from that perspective, we might surmise that Christ gives them these final principles in order to strengthen them and prepare them for what is to come.
The first statement Christ makes is found in vs.25, which we could summarize by saying, “the veil is lifted.” The actual words of Jesus are as follows: “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.”
Now I summarize this statement by saying “the veil is lifted,” because it refers back to the Old Testament period which the disciples were a part of, but are now transitioning out of. In Hebrews 9, the author tells us that in the old covenant, there was a tabernacle, and within the tabernacle was the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelled. Though God’s presence was there, He was veiled to the people. And only once a year the high priest offered sacrifices for himself and the people and went in before the presence of God to intercede on their behalf.
Hebrews tells us that the sacrifices and the altar and the high priests and the Holy of Holies separated by the veil were earthly pictures of heavenly realities. Hebrews 9:11 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” vs.24, “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
That means according to chapter 10 that we too have full access to God through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:19, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” By faith in Christ, the author is saying, we have entrance through the veil to God, by the blood of Jesus Christ.
So to go back to vs.25, then Jesus is saying, the time has come when I will perform the ultimate sacrifice and make it possible for you to enter into the Holy of Holies. That which was up to this point figurative and ceremonial, will now be done away with because the One who completes the picture has come. So that no more will there be need for pictures and symbols and parables and figurative language, but I will now tell you plainly of the Father, because I have offered the supreme sacrifice so that you are not separated from God by this veil, through which you now see dimly, but the veil will be torn in two so that you may draw near to God and be taught of God fully.
Jesus is stating that it was a new age in man’s relationship with God. Where there was once enmity, there is now peace. Where there was once separation, there is now full access. Where there was once pictures and symbols and parables, there is now the truth of God made manifest in Christ, through His word, and in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Thus Christ can say as He did earlier, that it was to our advantage that He went away. So that’s the first principle; that through Christ as our high priest we now have full access to God.
Secondly, because of this veil being lifted, Jesus says you will know the familial love of the Father. That’s the second point; to know the familial love of the Father. Jesus says this in vs.26 and 27, “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”
I think the key to understanding this statement is to understand the word love that Jesus says the Father has towards us. Contrary to most references in the New Testament, this love is not agape love as we are used to seeing. But this word for love Jesus uses is the Greek word “phileo” which means the love of family. This love speaks of a new relationship we can have with God that is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
This love enables us to have a familial relationship with God which had not been possible before the veil was lifted in Christ. Having been cleansed by the blood of Christ, we are not only able to go directly before the throne of God, but He has also come to us. He has given us His Spirit to dwell in us. So that we have now become the Holy of Holies where the Spirit of God dwells. As 1 Cor.3:16 says, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.”
God no longer dwells in temples made with human hands, but in the hearts of His people. The sacrifice of Christ on our behalf makes us part of His family. And God has a special love towards His family. Romans 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
So that as the Christmas hymn proclaims, “Pleased, as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.” Emmanuel, “God with us.” Not just as a baby born to men, but “Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.”
Thirdly, the basis of that relationship that both the disciples and we enjoy with the Father is founded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel Jesus condenses into four statements, which constitute our creed. We simply believe this creed, and the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to us, and we receive all these benefits of being sons and daughters of God. So Jesus states this creed containing four major points in vs.28; “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
This statement is tremendous in its simplicity and conciseness. One sentence with four points, and yet it contains the major doctrines of the gospel upon which we base our faith. Notice, “I have come forth from the Father (that is speaking of His deity). I am come into the world (that is speaking of His incarnation.) I am leaving the world (that speaks of His death by crucifixion). I go to the Father (that speaks of is His resurrection and ascension).”
This illustrates that simply recognizing Jesus as a baby in a manger, or as a good teacher, does not really constitute believing in Him. We must believe in His deity; that He existed in the beginning with God and He was God. Secondly, we must believe in His incarnation; that He is God who became flesh and dwelt among us yet without sin. Thirdly, we must believe that His death on the cross was the supreme sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and it was a voluntary act of sovereign grace. And fourthly, we must believe that God, having found no fault in Christ raised Him from the dead and He ascended to the right hand of the Father after all authority and power had been given to Him. That is what it means to believe in Him. And upon confession and faith in this creed and nothing less, the blood of Jesus Christ is made effective for us, cleansing us from sin, and secures us in the family of God, so that we share in the inheritance of Christ.
Fourthly, we see in this passage the faltering faith of the faithful. Vs.29, His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”
I think this statement by the disciples is sincere but it is incomplete in the sense that they have a immature faith at this point. God gives us trials in order to refine our faith, but also to strengthen our faith and mature it. Our faith grows in the fires of adversity. Up to this point, the faith of the disciples was mostly academic. I mean, they had certainly left all to follow Him, and thus suffered some as a result of that decision. But the real tests of their faith was yet to come. Consequently, their faith was still immature.
Consider Peter’s confession that though all fall away, he would never fall away. He was sincere, but he had no idea of what it would require of him to stay by the Lord’s side. They believed up to a point, but it was an untested, and as a result, it was immature faith. And yet all the disciples were in the same boat as Peter. They all would fall away that night. They all would desert the Lord. And there is no difference between those first disciples and us. We come to Christ through faith, but it is not fully developed. As we encounter trials and tribulations, God works in us to strengthen our faith, and to mature us in the image of Christ as we participate in the fellowship of His sufferings.
So to prepare the disciples for this testing what Jesus wants to reiterate was His relationship to the Father. He says “I am not alone because the Father is with Me.” This is what their faltering faith needs to rest upon in this hour of trial; that He and the Father were One. The deity of Christ is essential to their faith, so that though they may stumble, they would not fall headlong. Because their relationship with God depends upon His relationship with God. And He and the Father are inseparable. They need to know that Jesus is Lord, even when circumstances may seem to be declaring it untrue.
Fifthly, Jesus wants to remind the disciples of the peace of God and the good will of God in the face of tribulations. Vs.33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
When Jesus says in verse 33, “These things I have spoken unto you that in my you might have peace, He’s not saying that you’re not going to have tribulation, or difficulties, or trials and troubles. He’s simply saying that in the midst of the difficulties, and trials, and troubles, the hostility of the world, the persecution, perhaps even the loss of life, He will give us peace – a sense of the calm that comes from the assurance of the expiation of our sins and of a heavenly Father whose presence through the Spirit is with us in all the experiences of life.
The peace of God is two fold. On the one hand, we who were at enmity with God now have peace with God. Our sins have been expiated. We have been adopted by the Father and indwelled by the Spirit of God, so that we have permanent communion with God. That relationship we have is the foundation of our peace as we got through the trials and tribulations of this world. How much more can we ask for than to know that the Creator of all things is with us, and that He loves us and will never leave us. That He hears us whenever we call upon Him. That we can come to Him whenever we need Him and He welcomes us and promises to help us. That is a peace not as the world gives, but as only God can give to those that love Him and whom He loves.
And notice that He doesn’t say as you might would expect, “you have overcome the world. But that He has overcome the world. He is our victory. He is our advocate. He is our strength. All our resources and blessings come through Him to us. So our victory is settled because He was victorious over sin and death, and over all principalities and powers. He is the object of our faith, and He is the source of our victory. And so in Him, we can know the good will of God towards men, and the peace of God that passes all understanding.
When the angel proclaimed Christ’s birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 he said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The fact that Jesus has come from God to be our Savior is the source of great joy to all people. God has become our Savior. And because of that fact, we can say with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Christ has secured our peace, He is the source of our joy, and because He has made it possible for us to be sons and daughters of God.
Charles Wesley wrote a Christmas hymn in 1739 which states in prose these same principles we have looked at today. I would like to read them for you, in hope that you will consider them in a new light, and more completely appreciate the peace of God and His good will towards men.
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king”
Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come
Offspring of the favored one
Veiled in flesh, the God head seen
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased, as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king”
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings Ris’n with healing in His wings Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth Hark! The herald angels sing ”Glory to the newborn King!”