Inside View Nov/Dec 2020

When we tour Israel each spring and fall, we always visit Galilee. Why? Because much of Jesus’ ministry occurred there. Following His first miracle in Cana, Jesus left Nazareth and settled for three years in Capernaum along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). He visited many of the area communities and often took a boat to the other side of the lake to get a break from the crowds that followed Him.

It would have been natural to expect Immanuel, God with us in human flesh, to spend most of His time in Jerusalem where the Temple stood. But He didn’t. He visited Jerusalem each year for three Jewish holy days, but it was too dangerous for Him to stay there because the religious leaders saw Jesus as a threat and sought to eliminate Him.

Even though these leaders prided themselves on their study of God’s Word and the Jewish faith, they were ill-prepared for God to live with them. They did not understand what Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), “God with us,” would look like.

Many people knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem and the line of King David. Yet, as the crowd debated who Jesus was, some said, “Will the Christ [Messiah] come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (Jn. 7: 41–42). Later, religious leaders told Nicodemus, “Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee” (v. 52).

These leaders knew little about Jesus’ entrance into the world or that His birth was carefully orchestrated by His heavenly Father. Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem, as the Scriptures foretold. But the scholars apparently spent more time trying to discredit Jesus than trying to investigate Him.

They didn’t know both his mother and earthly father were direct descendants of King David. All they saw was an uneducated Galilean. Yet this fact was a sign that Jesus was unlike anyone they had ever known. He taught with wisdom and authority, unlike other teachers but exactly as one would expect from God.

Fearing the masses would turn from them and follow Jesus, the Jewish leaders dispatched officers to arrest Him. Yet the officers returned without the Christ. Asked why they had not arrested Jesus, they replied, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (v. 46). They could see what the leaders could not: Jesus was unique, unlike anyone else.

Despite the miracles He performed and the remarkable words He spoke, many people still failed to recognize Jesus was God in flesh, dwelling with man. In His prayer to His heavenly Father before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus declared what it meant when someone recognized Immanuel: “They . . . have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me” (17:8). He repeated this thought in His prayer, “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me” (v. 25).

Understanding that Jesus was God who became flesh and dwelt among us is essential to eternal life. Believing in Jesus Christ involves recognizing both Jesus and His Father who sent Him. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (v. 3). Only Jesus Christ, God with us, was capable of becoming the final, perfect sacrifice for sin; paying the sin-debt we owe God; and rising from the dead.

It is almost beyond comprehension that God would lower Himself to dwell with His rebellious creation and give His life for our sins. But this is the miracle of Christmas: God became flesh, Immanuel!

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