Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Warrior in the Manger

When you look into that manger in Bethlehem, you need to see a warrior. Jesus came to do battle with the Enemy and to defeat him for our sake. He would defeat the Devil in his life, he would defeat him on the cross, and he would defeat him by the empty tomb. Each victory was for us so that we would be able to resist the Devil’s deceptions and temptations in our lives. Because Jesus came to defeat the Devil, a face-to-face battle with the Devil was inevitable. The life of the baby in the manger would march toward a moment when the Devil would throw everything in his arsenal toward Jesus. All of history hinged on that battle.

Soon that baby would grow into a man, and he would face what Adam faced: the seductive temptations of a deceptive enemy. He would stand toe-to-toe with Satan as the second Adam. The defeat of Jesus would spell our doom, but the victory of Jesus would guarantee our hope of countless moral victories as we too would face the seductive voice of the Tempter, whispering lies into our ears. You see, Jesus is the Chief Warrior, the Adam the world longed for, but the final battle is not over. We still live in a broken world that doesn’t function as God intended. We still battle with temptation outside us and sin inside us. Seductive voices greet us every day, working to get us to step over God’s moral boundaries. You could argue that life on this side of eternity is war. So it is a huge comfort that at Christmas we celebrate the birth of the second Adam, the Chief Warrior, who came to do battle on our behalf, to win victory for us, so that by his power we could resist, stand fast, and conquer. By grace Jesus was willing to come to earth and to stand in Adam’s place, so that we would be graced with daily victory over temptation and sin. The Christmas story is the first chapter in a war story; this war was fought on our turf and for our sake by the hero of the story, the God–man, Jesus.

I want to contrast two historical moments for you. The first is that horrible moment when Adam and Eve faced the Serpent, bought into his deception, and rebelled against the wisdom, goodness, and authority of God. How could you possibly overstate the horrors of evil that were unleashed in that moment? The effects of that one act of disobedience are moral, emotional, rational, environmental, relational, political, and spiritual. Nothing in the created world was left unharmed. We still pay a daily price in the struggles of life and faith in this fallen world.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:1–7)

Contrast this with another historical moment: the Christmas story is God responding to the cry of the world, now damaged and darkened by sin, for a second Adam. This Adam would need to be a perfect man, with the moral power to stand against the Enemy and not succumb to his tempting voice in any way. No person on earth was qualified to be the second Adam, so God sent his Son, Jesus, to stand in that place for our hope and salvation.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

       “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

       but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

       “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’


       “‘On their hands they will bear you up,

       lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

       “‘You shall worship the Lord your God

       and him only shall you serve.’”

 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matt. 4:1–11)

So tomorrow, when you celebrate Christmas Day, remember to celebrate the birth of the Great Warrior. He won the victory that you and I could have never won. That victory is our hope in this life and in the one to come.