Yes, what you believe matters
One of the most important take-aways from the Christmas story in the gospel of Luke is that yes, what you believe matters.
This past Sunday, I finished up my Christmas series from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2. There in my church with very few people over the age of 45 and a rock band, I got to teach about the hypostatic union. Wait! Don’t leave! This is important!
Don’t worry, we’re not going too far into the theological weeds, but the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology describes the Hypostatic Union this way:
In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.
When Jesus was twelve, he knew he was God…
I taught about Jesus’ trip at the temple at age 12. In that story, we see that from the time Jesus was a boy, he knew his place with his heavenly Father.
After a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus’ family headed home to Nazareth. At the end of their first day of travel, they realized Jesus was missing. Luke describes three days (Yes, parents, THREE DAYS!) of searching before they found Jesus. He was in the temple.
When Mary and Joseph found Jesus, Mary asked him how he could do this to them! Jesus’ simple reply was:
“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV)
Pretty simple question, right? But, it has HUGE implications. From twelve years old, Jesus understood who his Father is. In his question, Jesus implied that he understood his deity — he understood himself to be God!
Even though Jesus was not considered an adult at twelve years old, his family was devout enough he would have understood that to claim God to be his Father was a claim that he, himself, is God. In John 5:17-18, John writes about Jesus:
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (ESV)
Jesus didn’t become God. He was God…
One of the misunderstandings many people have about Jesus is that he didn’t become God or understand his God-ness until much later in life. (Most people point to his baptism when God spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.) I recently saw a cable program — sorry, I can’t remember what show or network — where John the Baptist had to talk Jesus into believing he was the Christ at his baptism.
Instead, we see here in Luke 2 that Jesus knew who his Father is and, subsequently, his own God-ness nearly eighteen years before his baptism. We also see in Luke 2 that his God-ness is not simply an idea his parents had taught him along the way. Jesus’ understanding amazed everyone as he was being taught in the temple. (Yes, the religious leaders taught him.)
For a long time, I believed Jesus was teaching the religious leaders in the temple. However, Luke very clearly described the religious leaders teaching and Jesus listening and asking questions. Jesus learned from the religious leaders. Just a few verses later Luke wrapped up the second chapter of his gospel by writing:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52 ESV)
And, Jesus was completely human, too…
Jesus learned. Jesus grew up. Jesus’ life displayed not only his God-ness but his human-ness as well. So, it’s also important for us to understand Jesus’ humanity. He experienced everything we experience. Jesus felt, hurt, laughed and loved. He understood what if felt like to bring his parents joy as well as frustration. With the exception of sin, Jesus lived as we live. That’s why the writer of Hebrews could write about him:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
Then, Jesus died…
Then, of course, he died. I don’t know about you, but dying kind of scares me to death. When I think about exhaling my last breath, I get a little weak in the knees. Jesus knows that feeling. But, he also knows the feeling of what comes next. After Jesus died like we will all die, he experienced resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote about Jesus’ resurrection. He told us that because Jesus rose, everyone who trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection will share in his resurrection:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? …But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20 ESV)
So, believers, Jesus understands you. He feels what you are feeling. He knows what dreams and fears feel like. Jesus even knows what it feels like to draw his last breath. He also knows what it will feel like to draw the next resurrected breath.
We serve an incredible God. He came to earth and became human — while remaining completely God — for us. He understands our humanity. And, when we trust in him, we share in the victory his death purchased for us. We receive the gift of eternal life by believing he died on the cross in our place and rose from the grave. Then, we follow him who purchased salvation for us.
So, yes, what you believe matters!
If you are ready to trust in Jesus, send me a note. I would love to talk with you about it!