What Child Is This?

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One of the most beautiful carols sung during the Christmas season is the one written by William Dix. It starts out:

“What Child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?”

We can only imagine that the question asked in this beloved carol must have been uppermost in the minds of the shepherds that were present at Jesus’ birth.  One author said:

“We can almost hear the question being asked from one to another as they gazed into the humble manger. How difficult it must have been for them to understand that the babe who lay in ‘such mean estate’ was truly the promised Messiah.”

And through the centuries men have continued to ponder who Christ really is.  In fact that question, whether you realize it or not, is the most important question you will ever have to answer.  Who is Jesus Christ? There are many concepts that people hold to as to who Jesus really is—let me list some of them.

1.    Jesus, the social reformer

Some see Jesus as a social reformer.  This is the concept held by those in the Jesus Seminar.

The Jesus Seminar is made up of about 40-50 liberal scholars and meets twice a year for 4 days. They meet to sit in judgment on Jesus’ words, voting on what they believe He did and did not actually say.  They have determined that He only said about 18% of the words attributed to Him in the Gospels.  One of the members of the Jesus Seminar is John Dominic Crossan, who wrote the book, “Who is Jesus?”

Crossan rejects the biblical Jesus in favor of one that he sees as a social, political activist—a kind of first century, middle-eastern Jesse Jackson.

A Jesus that went around speaking out against colonial imperialism, domestic violence, slavery, racism, sexism, injustice and the systemic abuse of power in the Roman Empire.  This Jesus preached social reform, not repentance from sin.

2.    Jesus, the investment banker 

 Next on the list we have a Jesus that is presented by many of the tele-evangelists—one that we’ll call Jesus, the investment banker.  This is a Jesus that has come to make us all rich (even though He Himself had no where to lay His head and when He was crucified all He owned were the clothes on His back).

Yet these people contend that it’s His desire that we all drive Cadillacs and Mercedes, that we live in palatial houses and are able to take extravagant vacations.  All we have to do is invest our money with Him (which means giving it to the T.V. evangelist’s ministry) and we will receive a tremendous return for our investment—a hundred fold or more.

This Jesus isn’t the Jesus who said, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on the earth…” (Matt. 6:19-21)  No, this Jesus basically encourages greed and materialism.  He is a Jesus that didn’t come to save us from perdition but from poverty.

3.    Jesus, the environmentalist

Third on the list is Jesus, the environmentalist.  On Nov.19, 2002, the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled, “Religious Leaders Target SUVs.”    The article went on to say: “Top executives of the world’s two biggest auto makers plan to meet this week with religious leaders who are trying to make the fuel economy of U.S. vehicles a religious as well as environmental issue. Among those leaders is an evangelical Christian group that plans to roll out a TV ad campaign arguing that gas-guzzlers are contrary to Christian moral teachings about protecting people and the earth. The tagline for the ads is “What Would Jesus Drive.” (A play on the popular Christian motto: “What Would Jesus Do” or WWJD)

One of the leaders, the Rev. Jim Ball who heads up the “Evangelical Environmental Network” said, “We hope that when Christians go to purchase their next vehicle, they will ask: ‘What would Jesus have me drive?’ We think the answer would be that He would have you drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle that truly meets your needs.”

More recently, a number of well known pastors have gotten behind environmental policies and legislation that seeks to reverse the effects of global warming and other environmental issues.  I think as Christians we should take care of God’s creation, it’s just that some people have turned the creation into a god and Jesus into an environmentalist.  It trivializes who Jesus really is and what He is most passionate about.

He summed up His entire reason for coming to earth with the statement:

“I have come to seek and to save those that are lost.” (Luke 19:10)  

Further He prayed in John’s gospel (17:9):

“Father I don’t pray for the world but for those whom You have given to Me…”

The Book Revelation teaches that God will someday destroy the earth as a judgment upon those who have turned it into an object of worship.  Planet earth is terminal and won’t be healed until Jesus returns. But this group still believes that Jesus came not to save people but to save the planet.  Somehow I just can’t see the Lord Jesus Christ walking around the Sea of Galilee spearheading a “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” campaign.

4.    Jesus, the psychologist

 Today the Church has become glorified group therapy, and Jesus has been turned into a psychologist whose sole purpose for existing is to make people happy by fixing all their problems.  Contrary to what many believe today the goal of our Christianity is to bring glory to God not a better quality of life for ourselves.

To accomplish this God is at work in our lives not to make us happy but to make us holy. This means that He will allow trials and tribulations to come upon us to grow us and ultimately to mature us.  He does this because He is far more concerned about our eternal rewards than He is about our temporal comforts.  So who’s right? Who is the real Jesus?

We need look no farther than the announcement given by the angel to Mary predicting the Christ-Child’s birth:

Luke 1:35 (NKJV) 
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God. Why did He come? He came to save us from our sins–as the Lord revealed to Joseph in a dream:

Matthew 1:21 (NKJV) 
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus came the first time to save us from our sins–He is coming again to reign as King over a kingdom that will never end as the prophet Isaiah prophesied:

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV) 
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

“What Child is this?” The carol goes on to answer triumphantly—“This, this is Christ the King!

Many people don’t have a problem with the baby Jesus.  They tenderly imagine the Christ-child lying in that manger—so helpless, and might I add harmlessAnd as long as He remains—“The Christ-Child, the Babe, the Son of Mary” they will tolerate Him and even feign love for Him. When He is proclaimed the Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Who came the first time to die for sinners and is coming again to judge the living and the dead—that’s the Jesus they will not tolerate, cannot handle and refuse to bow the knee to.

A Baby Jesus is cute and harmless and makes no demands on a person’s life—but a full grown Jesus who is King, who demands they get off the throne of their life so that He can take His rightful place as King and Lord; a Jesus who demands worship and obedience—that Jesus is a threat and a danger to them living however they please and that Jesus must be done away with.

This was exactly what motivated King Herod in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus—to keep Him from someday removing Herod as king and reigning in his place.  Let’s never forget Who Jesus is and why He came to earth. He is Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, who is coming again to judge the living and the dead and to establish a kingdom that will never end.

He didn’t come to save us from depression or poverty or to give us a better quality of life (unless of course you’re referring to the inward joy and peace and love that He fills us with when we get saved!) He came to save us from our sins and to invite us to be a part of His coming kingdom.

Oh, won’t you come and bow the knee and receive Jesus as your Savior and King?  Oh, come and lets worship Christ the King, not the social reformer or the investment banker or the environmentalist or the psychologist—but Christ the King!

May the Lord richly bless you this Christmas season as you walk with Him day by day.

Pastor Phil