The first Christmas – a lost and lonely world fell asleep that night not understanding the magnitude and importance that the night held. A babe had been born in Israel that would change the course of human history. Born to a virgin, heralded in by angels, found among the unclean animals, hail to the Savior of the world. The God of all was to be born among the animals Jews were prohibited from touching. The Master of destiny was to be visited and worshiped by shepherds, the lowest of Jewish society. In this hopeless wreck we find Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all.
The Messiah was to be someone that heralded in a time of peace, a time of God’s kingdom, for the Jews. He would be an earthly conqueror of noble blood that would defeat the enemies of the Jews and lead them to victory. He would be a king who would establish God’s kingdom and authority upon this earth. The righteous would be blessed, the sinful would be judged, and the wicked would perish. This Messiah left sinners with little to no hope of being redeemed.
No sinner would dare dream that the Messiah would come from his or her own culture. No sinner would dare dream that the Messiah would come for him or her and not the “righteous.” No sinner would dare dream that the God incarnate would walk amongst His creation once again, not to utter, “Why do you hide from me” but instead to declare, “I love you and you belong to me.” No sinner would dare to dream that the Messiah would come and bring salvation to him or her, but He did.
In the comic books and movies, the hero never dies, and if he does it is only after he has exacted his vengeance upon his foe. In the movie “Man on Fire” Denzel Washington’s character Sonny loses the very thing that is most precious to him, a little girl that he has been hired to protect. He goes on a rage of killing and vengeance and in the end gives up his life for her. Turn to Spiderman and the underdog Peter Parker fights against overwhelming odds with his super human strength to restore order to a destroyed city. This is the tale of the hero in American literature and even in the American paradigm. The hero saves all, is strong, is admirable, is popular, and if he must die he only does so after justice has been served.
Enter Jesus Christ who, essentially, is the antithesis of the American hero. There was no pomp, no panoply, when God came to earth. Was Jesus a hero? According to the ideal hero Jesus Christ falls short. He physically rescued no one, he did not defeat the enemy (as it appeared), and he resisted the three temptations that make a hero. Satan offered Him the three things that people were looking for, yet he did not take any of them. Were Christ born in modern America, He would not be a hero, He would not be heralded; He would simply be another man.
He could have been a hero of the people, turning inanimate objects into food, or a hero that ruled the land by the law simply by standing atop the temple, and He could have been a hero turned king just by taking the kingdoms from His tempter. He did none of these things. Instead He chose to become nothing and to die on an obscure cross under obscure leaders in an obscure Roman province.
Jesus was so insignificant during that time that hardly anyone had heard of Him. It took years for words of this Jew from Galilee to reach the ears of Rome. A true hero, according to our standards, would have not died so soon, he would not have allowed himself to be taken so soon when his message needed to be spread. The enemy had him trapped and instead of breaking forth and killing all who stood in his way, he died.
Christ seems so implausible because, to us sinners with finite minds, He is implausible. What hero tells us to love our enemies? What hero would demand the forgiveness for his executioners? What hero would command his followers to carry swords yet when those swords needed to be used, to put the swords away? What hero would willingly walk to the cross when so many more needed to be healed? We find it hard to believe in Christ because he started as the underdog and ended as the underdog: that does not happen in American folklore. We like stories of those who rise above their situations, of those who defeat all odds and win. Christ, on the other hand, had all odds against him and the odds overtook him.
Christ is not the American hero nor is he the expected Jewish Messiah, at least not under the Pharisees’ terms.
Jesus seems implausible because he destroyed and continues to destroy all preconceived notions concerning the Messiah. People expected an earthly conqueror. Instead he conquered life itself. People expected an earthly liberator. Instead he liberated us from sin. People expected a righteous judge who would stand on the law. Instead he came as a graceful companion. People expected an earthly king whose monarch would never perish. Instead he came as a merciful king whose kingdom had already been established in eternity. People expected a fully human hero to rescue them from the burdens of this world. Instead He came down as God in the flesh, the Son sent by the Father, to save his creation from themselves. People expected a hero that would live for the people. He died for them. Yes, Christ goes against all of our preconceived notions and does not fit our idea of a hero, but that is because he is so much more.
Sinners, then and now, dare not dream of a Messiah, a Savoir that at the snap of His fingers would forgive them of their sins. In all of human history grace has been lost on the unclean. India had its untouchables and in our own society we too have the untouchables. We call them AIDS victims, homosexuals, homeless, prostitutes, whores, drunkards, cheaters, and the list goes on. In our paradigm these people do not deserve to be loved. They have done nothing to warrant love, but only to warrant judgment. Even they do not find themselves worthy of love. No sinner would dare dream of a Messiah that would take him or her as is.
Sinners dare not dream of a God who would take on the sins of the world and die for them. Sinners dare not dream of a Messiah who would love them, when they deserved punishment. Sinners dare not dream of a Father who would send His only begotten Son so that they might be forgiven. Sinners dare not dream of reconciliation with a holy God. Sinners dare not dream of the beauty that is Christ, God incarnate, living amongst His creation in order to redeem it.
Thankfully God does not base His will or plans upon what humans dream. The Father, in His infinite and perfect love and wisdom, sent His only Son down to die for the elite of society as well as the lowest of society.
What sinner would dare dream that he or she would be placed upon the same level as a top-level government official? Yet this is exactly what Christ did. He took the known world and turned it right on its head.
At the foot of the cross that person you see begging on the street corner for food is equal with you. At the foot of the cross that girl who sleeps with every guy is loved just as much as you are. At the foot of the cross Osama Bin Laden has as much of a chance to be forgiven of all of his trespasses as you do. At the foot of the cross, where all sinners repent of their ways, die to themselves, and take on Christ, all become equal.
What sinner would dare dream of a Messiah that would bring kings and paupers, presidents and civilians, terrorists and peacemakers into the same family? What sinner would dare dream that God would take him from his sinful state and transform him into a new creation? While not everyone accepts this gift of love, those that do receive complete forgiveness for previous trespasses. They receive grace, a concept unique to Christianity. What sinner would dare dream they would receive unmerited favor with God? No sinner could have dreamed, no sinner could have comprehended, no sinner could have fathomed the fact that Jesus Christ was here to bring a new message to him, to save him, and offer a way out for years to come.