The Gritty Work of Your Salvation in a Cattle Stall
One Christmas/Advent commentary I received last week asked what Jesus as a baby did in the manger; and answered their own question, “Nothing. What He would do was yet to come, they wrote, when He went to the cross to die for us. This ignores a vital part of your salvation, which Immanuel (God With Us) accomplished for you. Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and grew as a fetus (a baby) inside of her. Just as David expresses of himself in Psalm 139, God the Father saw His Son’s unformed body as it was being knit together in Mary’s womb, even as He saw you while yet in your mother’s womb.
Part of the Son of God’s emptying of Himself in leaving the courts of Heaven and becoming “poor for us, that we might be made rich (Philippians 2), was His experiencing the pre-natal development of His body in the womb, and the experiences of being an infant, toddler, and child; and all of this with the critical vulnerabilities of pre-natal and natal circumstances in a primitive first century world. Consider the precarious, nearly week journey on a donkey within his mother over dusty, dangerous, bumpy paths; and the lack of pre-natal medicines and exams (no ultra-sound except God’s eyes). Consider the lack of an antiseptic labor and birth room and the latent germs of a typical animal stable. Consider the deadly political environment created by an immoral king with authority to send soldiers to wantonly slaughter infants (how amazingly similar to today, only the foot soldiers for the present-day “king are minions like Planned Parenthood and scurrilous abortion radicals). Jesus as flesh and blood was vulnerable to all of this. Unlike Moses he did not live in a palace as His childhood home with a slew of servants and the protection of a king in whose house He lived.
Two kinds of obedience encompass Jesus’ work for our salvation: passive and active obedience. Passive obedience is all that Jesus suffered and endured for us, in every circumstance, throughout his life on earth from conception to cross. Active obedience is His conscious, purposeful will and obedience to obey His Father in all situations, to keep the Law and every commandment from His Father’s lips, and of His own disciplined will choose death as the perfect sacrificial lamb for our salvation. I do not know where the dividing line is in this early stage of Jesus’ life in sustaining sinless perfection. When does a baby cry only to alert his parents to a need, and when does an infant learn that crying produces results even when something is not critically needed. I do not know for sure, and neither do you. God knows.
The beloved Christmas Carol, “Away in a Manger, has been criticized in recent years for the words, “no crying he makes. We assume the baby Jesus, as any baby, cried; but who has ever observed a sinless baby, other than Mary and Joseph and close family and friends? Crying is a natural response to needs and to pain, but as we all know, not always. I think the words of the carol were chosen by the author to describe the sinless perfection of Jesus, rather than the necessity of His humanity, though “no crying he makes does not cover every circumstance of a baby or small child. In His older life, the Bible tells us, Jesus cried passionately with tears for good reason (Hebrews 5:7); so crying and tears are not sin, indeed no similar response when it is truly warranted is sin; rather the expression of deep love for something or someone or from hatred of sin and its consequences.
We are able to know Jesus took the path of the womb and infancy, childhood, and, yes, even the period of most parents’ trepidation, the teenage years; and all the trials of adulthood. As we experience our trials and tribulations we can refresh our knowledge that Jesus has been there and done that. He knows what it’s about. This Savior is the fortress to whom you can flee for rest and protection and know He knows what you or your children are going through, personally! The Bible tells us truly, that He was tempted and tried in all ways that we are, yet He won victory in every situation without sinning. Therefore, Jesus is able to always provide a way of escape for you in any trial or temptation, because he has been there. (I Corinthians 10: 13, Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus was winning your salvation in the manger, in childhood, as a young adult, as well as on the cross, in the tomb, and even now. He did not experience old age, but I would say that the cross certainly covers the gamut of the arthritis years. In this Advent Season engage your mind with all that your salvation encompasses in the birth and life of Jesus, and share those personal reflections with your children or grandchildren. How will they know without a teacher? And you are their best teacher!
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