Frustrating, isn’t it? We decide to live a different life, we are determined to believe again, inspired to dream again, encouraged to have hope again then suddenly, life seems to attack us. We decide to “see to it” that the light within us is fully displayed, then experience a full on frontal attack and we are surprised.
Why are we surprised? It happens every time we try to move in the right direction. Resistance.
Christmas celebrates hope coming into the world. Light enters our darkness. Hope comes but the ENEMY STRIKES BACK!! God moving toward us in the birth of Christ was met with resistance. King Herod was THE king in the region where this baby was born. His response to this BORN-KING in BETHLEHEM was not so welcoming. Herod’s only interest in this young child was to preserve his own grip of power.
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”” Matthew 2:16-18 NIV
However, Joseph and Mary escaped south to Egypt with the baby. They return after King Herod dies and settle down in Nazareth. By the time Jesus had called his disciples and began his ministry another King Herod rules.
Jesus was not only opposed by the political power brokers. During his ministry, the religious leaders and teachers of the law have designs on this famed teacher from Nazareth who has garnered quite a following. If only he can be turned…
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:15-17).
A refusal to pay the imperial tax could give way to rebellion and given Jesus’ fame and following, these religious leaders could have been trying to use his influence to stir a rebellion, so they might come to power. That they were joined with Herodians may indicate Herod’s desire to redirect this movement for his advancement. Jesus refused…
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away” (Matthew 22:18-22).
Even his followers were tempted by the “dark side” (Excuse my Star Wars preoccupation, but there are many parallels). Peter rebukes Jesus when he tells him he would “…be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Even Judas betrayed him.
You threaten people. You back a dog into a corner and they will fight back!
Listen to the religious leaders plotting against Jesus:
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs.If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:47-50).
When you upset the empire, expect the empire to strike back. Pilate had him flogged and crucified only to appease the people and maintain his position of power.
Evil’s grip is strong.
Evil and evil men arrested, tried, judged and executed Jesus, but it was God’s plan all along. Listen to Peter’s words from the book of Acts:
“…listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:22-23).
It was God’s deliberate plan. Evil did not triumph. Evil did not nail Christ to the cross.
God’s love for you sent His Son. Christ’s obedience to the will of the Father fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, because we could not. Hope born on Christmas day lives today. Jesus “…made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-9).
Evil’s grip is strong. God’s grip is stronger.
Hope born Christmas day, lived a perfect life and died innocent. Hope crucified. Hope died. Hope buried in a tomb.
Hope resurrected on the third day, lives now!
True God. Real People. Lasting Hope.