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Sermon: Selected Texts: Jesus Christ – His Work

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 49:1–7

“Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.’ And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’  Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’” (Isaiah 49:1–7, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Matthew 2:19-23

“But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19–23, ESV)

Review 

In this brief sermon series entitled “The Wonder of the Incarnation” we have, first of all, considered the doctrine of God and have confessed together that there is but one true God eternally existing in three persons: Father,  Word, and Spirit.

Concerning the one true God we have also confessed that he is incomprehensible, a most pure spirit, self-existent, infinite, unchanging, and simple. He is also good, holy, and righteous. It was a great blessing to me to set my mind upon the glory of God in a pronounced way for a time. I hope that you were also blessed as we considered the greatness of the God we love.

After this we turned our attention to the doctrine of Christ, considering, first of all, his person. In response to the question, “who is Jesus?”, we acknowledged that he is divine, he is human, he is fully human, and fully divine, he is one person, and he is (meaning that he exists as the God-man even still).

The assumption of many, I think, is that the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of Christ, would be the simplest of all Christian doctrines. God, and the Christ whom he sent, are indeed at the center of our religion, and so it may be assumed that they would be easily understood by the people of God. Not so.

The doctrine of God, and the doctrine of Christ, are in fact the most difficult and technical of Christian doctrines. The reason for this is twofold. First of all, God and Christ are of such great importance to us that the church has labored to understand them well, and to speak of them with precision. The church has tenaciously defended the of God and Christ knowing that, to error in our understanding of God, or the Christ whom he sent, would undoubtably have serious consequences upon the rest of our theology, and upon the totality of the Christian life. Our belief concerning God and Christ are certainly foundational. Secondly, the doctrine of God and Christ are difficult and technical doctrines due to the subject matter. We are speaking of God here. And we are speaking of the God-man. Both are, in certain respects, beyond our ability to fully comprehend. Both are, to a certain extent, cloaked in mystery. We are human and he is divine. It is little wonder that we find ourselves reaching our limits as we seek to understand him.

God is incomprehensible. He is mysterious to us. We cannot fully comprehend him. But we may learn to speak truth concerning him. This is possible because he has revealed himself to us. The scriptures communicate truth concerning God. And the scriptures communicate truth concerning Christ. It is therefore important that we believe what is true and speak what is true concerning them both.

Introduction

The sermon last week was on the incarnation with special attention given to the person of Christ.

The question was, “who is Jesus?” Maybe more to the point, the question was, “what is Jesus?” What is his nature? You and I have one nature, but he has two: the divine and the human. The question then becomes how do those two nature relate to one another, and how do they relate to the person of Jesus Christ?

Today, the question is “why the incarnation?” Why is it necessary for Jesus to be both divine and human? It really is a strange and mysterious thing that we believe, isn’t it? Many of us have grown up believing that Jesus was and is God incarnate – we are accustom to thinking in this way. But what would you say to the person who is hearing this doctrine for the first time and is wondering why it was necessary for such thing to happen. Why Jesus? Why the God-man?

Jesus Christ is the Only Mediator Between God and Man

The simple answer is this: Jesus is the only man for the job! Jesus Christ alone has what it takes to serve as the mediator between God and man.

A mediator is one who stands between two parties for the purpose of bringing them together, or reconciling them. Perhaps you have mediated before. It could be that two of your close friends found themselves at odds with one another, and you, because you cared for them both, labored to bring them back together again. You served as a mediator – a middleman, or a go-between – with the objective of mending the broken relationship.

Brothers and sisters, this is what Christ has done for the elect. He serves as the middleman, or the go-between, in order to reconcile sinners with the Holy God. Only Jesus, the God-man, could accomplish this task.

When two humans are at odds with one another, then any human may certainly mediate. If a man needs to be reconciled with a man, then a man has what it takes to serve as mediator. A woman may mediate between women, etc. But here we are not talking about broken human relationships. No, we are talking about a rift, or a great chasm, which exists between the holy and righteous God and sinful man.

I must remind you of our predicament. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, everything that is seen and unseen. He created man in his image, male and female he created them. And he created them upright – they were indeed very good. And God entered into covenant with the man and the woman. It was a covenant of works. The two of them were placed in the garden of God. They were given dominion over that place. They were to keep it and to fill it. Everything in that garden paradise was theirs to enjoy. But they were to live in perpetual dependence upon, and in obedience to their Maker.  Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the command. Instead, they were eat of the tree of life and enter into God’s sabbath rest by their obedience.

As you know they failed. They broke the covenant. Death was the consequence. Physical death eventually overtook them, but it was spiritual death that they experienced immediately. The communion that they once enjoyed with God was broken. There was a rift – a great chasm had opened up between God and man. No longer were they at peace with God, but now they were under his condemnation due to their sin.  They were fallen – depraved – and totally so. This was true of the first man and the first women, as well as all of their descendants, including you and me – this is the state, or condition, into which we were born.

I think it is helpful to use the imagination to go back in time and to put ourselves in Adam and Eves place. Imagine what it would have been like in the time between the act of rebellion and the arrival of God. Do you know the time that I am referring to? The scriptures are not clear as to how much time passed between the eating of the forbidden fruit and God’s confrontation of Adam and Eve. I imagine them rebelling in the evening. They were immediately aware of their sin. They sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness and shame, but to no avail. I imagine the sun setting on the rebellious couple – the night being unusually long and dark and cold. And then it was in the morning that God came to them in the cool, or wind, of the day in order to confront their rebelliousness. That is how I think of it. Rebellion, guilt, shame, and darkness.

Though we do not know for sure how much time passed from the act of rebellion to the arrival of God, I think it is safe to say that that time was a time of uncertainty. I am not saying that there was any uncertainty in the mind of God. His purposes were established from eternity past. But it must have been a time of uncertainty for Adam and Eve. They must have wondered what exactly the consequence would be? Would God show mercy, or would he come in full judgment?

You and I know the story well. God came, not in full judgment, but mercifully. There were consequence for the sin. Curses were pronounced. But there was a glimmer of hope. A promise was made. This promise was cloaked within the curse leveled upon the Serpent.

“The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’” (Genesis 3:14–15, ESV)

By the way, this was not a curse upon snakes; rather, it was a curse upon the spiritual being that lay behind the serpent through whom the temptation came.  There would be hostility between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The rest of the scriptures make it clear that this signaled the hostility, not between snakes and people, but between the people of God (the righteous line) and the people of the evil one (the unrighteous line). And there is a wonderful promise cloaked within this curse upon the serpent and his seed – the seed of the woman would, in due time, strike a fatal blow to the head of the serpent.

This good word must have made Adam and Eve’s ears perk up. Darkness and death and destruction had begun to envelope them, but with this word a beam of light broke through the darkness. There is now hope.

But who is this seed of the women? In a sense the seed of the woman represents all of the people of God from Adam’s day onward (the righteous line). But more particularly the seed of the woman is Jesus who is the Christ, the Savior, the Mediator between God and man.

He is the one who would reconciled sinners to God by his righteousness and his shed blood.

He is the door of the sheep. He is the ladder upon which we climb. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him].” (John 14:6, ESV) It is through him alone that we can receive reconciliation with God (Romans 5:11).  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5–6, ESV)

Only Jesus the God-man could fulfill such a role as this. He had to be human. He had to be the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47). He had to be truly human in order to live in obedience to the law and to suffer and die on our behalf. But certainly no mere man could accomplish a job such as this. Jesus Christ was uniquely qualified.

We should remember that Jesus Christ was foreordained to this task prior to the creation of the world.

Peter speaks of Jesus in this way in 1 Peter 1:18-20 when he exhorts the Christians, saying,

“… conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you…” (1 Peter 1:17–20, ESV)

To be foreknown is to be foreordained, or predestined. Jesus Christ was chosen to fulfill the role of mediator between God and man from before the creation of the world.

And as the Christ the scriptures tell us that he was anointed above measure by the Holy Spirit so that he might accomplish the Father’s purposes.

This is what John 3:31-34 is referring to, saying,

“He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:31–34, ESV)

Jesus is the Christ. Christ means “anointed one”. Many throughout the history of the world have been anointed by God to preform a particular task – be it the task of prophet, priest, or king – but they were anointed by the Spirit in a limited way. Their anointing was temporary. Their anointing was to empower them to serve for a short time, and in a typological way – prefiguring the arrival of the Anointed One. His anointing was without limit. Jesus is not a prophet – he is the Prophet; he is not a priest – he is the Priest; and he is not a king, but the King. And he is all three of these things rolled into one!

Christ is the only mediator between God and man. He alone was foreordained for this task. And he alone was uniquely qualified and adequately equipped for the task. He is truly the only man for the job.

But the question might be asked, what exactly does Jesus do for us as our mediator? How has he made a way for us?

Historically the church has brought greater clarity to the doctrine of the mediation of the Christ by emphasizing his threefold office. Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man, has made a way for us by serving as our Prophet, Priest, and King.

He is the Prophet 

Jesus Christ is the Prophet.

A prophet is one who speaks truth from God.

Many prophets existed in the Old Testament period – we may think of Moses, Ezekiel,  and Jeremiah, to name a few. And what did these men do except speak the word of God. Sometimes they received a vision from the Lord. At other times they would exhort the people from the Law. Sometimes their prophesies pertained to the future. More often than not their words had to do with calling the people to live faithfully before their God. One thing is clear, the Lord spoke to the people of God through his prophets. They were anointed for the task of revealing God’s truth to the people.

But notice that the Old Testament contains many promises concerning the coming of the Prophet.

Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, when he says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (Deuteronomy 18:15, ESV)

Jesus Christ is that Prophet. He is the Prophet of God. All other prophets were but a foretaste of the Prophet who was to come, who is the Christ.

The prophets of old had to receive a word from God. Jesus is the eternal Word of God.

The prophets of old had to be lifted up to heaven, as it were, being shown visions, or hearing a word from the Lord. Jesus was from above. He was not of this world.

The prophets of old mistered for a brief time. And the truth of the matter is that they were but mouth pieces of God. Jesus is God with us, the second person of the trinity, who was and is and is to come.

Brothers and sisters, we stand in need of Christ as Prophet.

We stand in need of him due to our ignorance. This is not meant to be an insult, but a statement of fact. We, apart from him, walk in darkness. We are blind – blind due to our creatureliness, and blind due to our sin. Christ, the Prophet of God, shines as light into the darkness.

“I am the light of the world”, Jesus says. “ Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV)

Christ is our mediator. And one of the ways in which he has reconciled us to God is by coming to us as the Prophet of God.

He is the Priest

Jesus Christ is our great high priest.

A priest is one who offers prayers and sacrifices to God.

Many priests existed in the Old Covenant. We are to think of Aaron and his sons. And what were these men anointed to do except offer up prayers on behalf of the people and make sacrifices for them?

But notice also the the Old Testament contains promises concerning a coming priest who would be of a different order than the Arronic priesthood.

Psalm 110 is a most famous Psalm which speaks of this very thing:

“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.” (Psalm 110:1–5, ESV)

Jesus is this priest who has come, not from Aaron, but from Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:5-6 makes this clear, in saying,

“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:5–6, ESV)

Jesus Christ is the Priest of God. He came, not from Aaron, but from Melchizedech. And he came, not only to offer sacrifice, but be the sacrifices for our sins. He is both priest and sacrifice!

The priests of Old only offered up the blood of bulls and goats which did not truly atone for sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Not only did Christ, who is our great High Priest minster in regard to sacrifice, but also in prayer. He prayed for his people while he was on earth (John 17). But he intercedes for us even still.

Listen to Hebrews 7:22-28:

“This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” (Hebrews 7:22–28, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, we stand in need of Christ’s priestly office. We need him as priest due to our alienation from God. Our sins have opened up a great chasm between us and God, but Christ our High Priest has atoned for our sins. Not only that, but he intercedes for us still, praying that God would strengthen us by the Holy Spirit to walk in this world to the glory of his name.

He is the King

Notice that Jesus Christ is also our King.

A king is one who has supreme authority over the people. His job is to lead and protect and empower.

Many kings existed under the Old Covenant. We are to think of David and Solomon and those who came from their loins. They were to rule and reign on earth over Israel. They were to lead the people before God, and to protect them from their enemies.

But notice that the Old Testament contains many promises concerning a coming King who would far surpass them all.

Listen to God’s promise to David concerning a coming King:

“‘When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’  In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.” (2 Samuel 7:12–17, ESV)

Solomon, of course, was the immediate fulfillment to these words. But the ultimate fulfillment was Jesus Christ. He is the true Son of David. He is the “Lord of lords, and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).

Brothers and sisters, we stand in need of Christ the King. We need him due to our weakness and rebellious ways. We need him also due to the strength of our enemies. He must subdue us, and he must protect us from harm.

Conclusion

Listen to the way that the confession summarizes these wonderful truths in chapter 8, paragraphs 9 and 10:

9. “This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other. ( 1 Timothy 2:5 )”

10. “This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office; and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God; and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom.” ( John 1:18; Colossians 1:21; Galatians 5:17; John 16:8; Psalms 110:3; Luke 1:74, 75 )

So why the incarnation? Only Jesus, the God-man, could fulfill the role of mediator between God and man. He is our mediator – our Prophet, our great High Priest, and the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Let us come to God through him alone.

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