Doesn’t that sound sacrilegious at this time of the year?
We want to know all of the events surrounding the birth of our Savior. And every year we labor to learn something new or ponder a fact we have not previously considered.
“When–exactly–did the Magi appear?”
Three mysterious individuals appear out of the East, presenting gifts to Jesus. We would all love to find out more about these men. Thankfully, we have the Bible to teach us.
Wait. Hold that thought.
Only Matthew records the account. Luke, with all of his thoroughness, does not mention the visit. But that isn’t the most shocking admission.
Mark and John don’t even mention the birth of Jesus Christ!
John’s omission makes sense. Matthew and Luke had been written. Enough details had been published. The Church had sufficient content regarding all of the events related to the Incarnation. John’s mission was clear. His endeavor was to present Jesus as God so that we might believe (John 20:31).
However, Mark’s decision not to discuss Jesus’ birth is remarkable. Remember–his gospel was the first. Up to that point, there wasn’t a biography of Jesus being circulated. Surely Mark considered communicating some of the pertinent details.
But why didn’t he?
Here’s my theory. Mark wanted to explain why Jesus came rather than how Jesus came. Consider how he begins his account.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1).
“Here’s how the good news begins!”
But before he actually begins, he mentions the subject of the good news. The main character of the gospel is named, and three important facts are given. First, His name is Jesus. Second, Jesus is the Christ. Third, Jesus is the Son of God.
Mind if I unpack each of those for a moment and we prepare to celebrate another Christmas?
His name is Jesus. That is truly significant. It has tremendous meaning. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream, saying…’She shall bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins'” (Mt. 1:20,21). I have always loved the certainty expressed in the angel’s announcement. Jesus would not fail in His mission. He did not come to make salvation possible. He came to save. And save He did! His sufferings and death were more than sufficient for all of His people, for all of their sins!
Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah that was promised throughout the Old Testament. The Gospels clearly make that connection. I love what the Apostle John includes in his rendering of the crucifixion. He is the only writer to include this awesome comment: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill Scripture, said, ‘I am thirsty'” (John 19:28). Was Jesus actually thirsty? You know that He was. However, another passion was dominating His existence. He was consumed by the zeal of the Lord of hosts (Is. 9:7). In other words, He knew what needed to be accomplished and He succeeded in doing just that. He understood which prophecies needed to be fulfilled and He fulfilled them. He proved that He was indeed the Christ.
Jesus is the Son of God. If anything causes us to marvel at this time of year, it is the profundity of the Incarnation. God took up residence within human skin. The Mighty God (Is. 9:6) dwelt among us (John 1:14)! The firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15) put on sandals and walked the dusty roads of the Galilee. Surely this union of God and man cannot be fully grasped with minds ravaged by the effects of sin. But we know enough to wonder; to worship.
Should we read the story of Jesus’ birth each year at Christmas? Sure. It is filled with amazed individuals as well as miraculous and providential workings by an amazing God. But let us also join Mark in remembering why Jesus came, not simply how He came.
I hope you have a wonderful celebration of the advent of our Lord. It is truly an event to be celebrated because He is worth celebrating.