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About this series
The Hope of Christmas
Hope has tremendous power - the power to heal, to help you keep going, and to inspire! 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote to the people of Israel who needed hope: "For unto us, a child is born, unto us, a Son is given. The government will rest on His shoulders and He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The hope of that message was for them then, and it's for us today! In this series, Chip reminds us that Jesus is all those things. Those are titles God gave Him and titles He claimed. If you need hope, join Chip for these messages. You'll be comforted, encouraged, and inspired!More from this series
What do you expect this Christmas? Good or bad, consciously or unconsciously as your mind travels through: Okay, I get shopping done, do this, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, a day or two before, a day or two after. Just, what do you expect it’s going to be like?
And for some, it might be, Oh, man! I expect it to be great. It’s going to be warm and I’ve got family coming in. Our whole family is going to be together. Or, Some of the kids are coming back from school. Or, All of our families are in different parts of the country and my three roommates, we are going to go do this and it’s going to be great.
And for others, you’re going to go travel somewhere and be reconnected and your expectations are like: Christmas is going to be wonderful and warm and rich and deep.
And for others, your expectations are a little different. You basically – it’s not that you’re being negative, you’re just realistic. You’re thinking, This is not going to be good. This is the first Christmas that I have been single since the divorce. This is the first Christmas since maybe one of my parents, or my brother, or one of my kids died.
This, for many, is a Christmas like it’s just chaos. You’re going to have to go to your in-laws and the one guy always wants to talk politics or religion and you’ve got a brother-in-law who is a jerk and you’re just praying, Here’s my expectation: God, give me enough grace just to be nice for two and a half days. And, right?
And for others, it’s just a really depressing time. You’re thinking, I don’t know what I am going to do. Now, I want you to get thinking about what your expectations are, because here’s the principle, you might even write it on the notes I put there.
What you consciously or unconsciously expect to happen, even how you think God will work or might work, can blind you to God actually working in a way that is different than you expect. See, if you have this expectation like, Oh, it’s going to be great. It’s going to be this, it’s going to be that. And there are some struggles or difficulties or pain and all of a sudden, Well, God, where are You?
Or, the flip side, I just want to endure. He always has a bad attitude. God couldn’t be at work. What if, if your antennae was up, This is a breakthrough Christmas. What if God is going to intervene in some ways and use you?
See, what you expect consciously, or unconsciously can blind you to the very thing God might want to do. And you know what? You’ll miss it.
I learned this the very hard way my very first Christmas with Theresa. We had just gotten married, gotten married in the middle of December. Went on our honeymoon, it was cut short because of a family emergency. So, we went back to see her dad’s brother, who was in critical condition.
And then we had our little Christmas and we didn’t have any premarital counseling, and my expectations of marriage were somewhere between unrealistic and lunatic-ic. And because of our various backgrounds we had decided we were going to be sexually pure and we were going to do this God’s way. And I had this formula that if you did it God’s way, it’s going to be awesome. And she was the sweetest, nicest, most wonderful person. I was head-over-heels.
And so, it’s Christmas, this is going to be oh-so awesome. And I’m not even going to tell you what the issue was. But the day after Christmas we had our first argument. We didn’t have any arguments dating. We didn’t know what we were doing.
And I remember having feelings inside of me toward this beautiful, sweet, lovely woman that I didn’t think I could ever have. Like, “She is so ticking me off!” And then she actually said a couple things that I never dreamed would come out of that sweet, wonderful mouth to make me feel like this! And I remember walking out the door and getting in my car and driving around for about an hour thinking, Have I missed it? Is this the wrong person?
And it was – and instead, God was doing a breakthrough. And He wanted to crush some of those unrealistic, crazy expectations and started us on a journey of: you need to learn to communicate, you both have a lot of baggage, you’ll need to resolve some anger. You just have to…
And I would have completely missed if my little Hallmark Christmas wouldn’t have gotten interrupted by God.
You say: Well, what does this have to do with the Hope of Christmas? At the time that Jesus was born, I want to give you a background of Judaism. If you are a Jew living in the Roman Empire, you are deeply oppressed. It’s very – economically, it’s over the top. One of the Herods that was put in place over the Judean area wanted to make a lot of points with Rome, so he had all these building programs he was doing and naming them after Caesar. So, the taxes are off the chart.
You’re living under oppression. The political situation is dismal. The religious leaders are carnal. So, you’ve got economic pressure. A Roman soldier at any time could tell you, “Here, pick up my bag. Go for me.” The tax collectors were Jews that weren’t faithful and they would double charge you.
Life was difficult and painful. And there was like this big thumb of Roman oppression. And what you were praying was, God, deliver us!
And unlike us, when we see the little Christmas card, right? It has, it’s blue, dark blue and has the sparkly, little things and it’s a picture of a manger and you can see Joseph and Mary and there’s a little sheep and everything. And then underneath in beautiful handwriting it says, “Unto us, a child is born. Unto us, a Son is given. And the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
See, unlike us, when they knew seven hundred years earlier when Isaiah said that, their hope was God was going to send a Wonderful Counselor and a Mighty God. That word Mighty God is used in Deuteronomy chapter 10, verse 17 for YAHWEH; for God. They were expecting the Messiah to come who would be a mighty God.
Do you know what the word Mighty God means in Hebrew? “Deliverer,” “Rescuer,” “Irresistible Champion,” “the All-Powerful One,” “the Warrior who goes and defeats the enemies for you.”
So, if you’re a Jew growing up in Jesus’ day and you’re waiting for the Messiah, you’re expecting someone pretty close to Superman with a cape. Cleaning things up, putting Rome down, and then what does the rest of that say? “And He will rule on the throne of David.”
And so, you have got this picture: the Messiah is going to come and He is going to take down our enemies. We are oppressed; it’s unfair. And not only that, He is going to set it up like David’s kingdom. “Remember when David was in charge and we were the world power, then Solomon and people came from the ends of the earth?” Their picture is: this Mighty God is going to take care of all of our problems.
Now, so, Jesus shows up. And, now, is He a Wonderful Counselor? Even the religious leaders said. They were astonished with the authority. But they are waiting for a Mighty God and He doesn’t fit the bill.
Because, see, what they wanted was a political and physical deliverance. Make my life work today. Jesus came to bring a spiritual and an eternal deliverance. He wanted to make everybody’s life work forever.
I want you to open your Bibles to Mark chapter 4, because one of the biggest challenges I believe in Jesus’ ministry, especially for the disciples – I want you to think about: you are one of the Twelve. You are following Him around.
You’re learning. But you’re a good, Jewish boy or girl and your picture and your expectations of the Messiah are what everyone else’s are.
It’s what you have heard since you’ve been a little child. And now you’re following this itinerant preacher and He is amazing and He does amazing things and they are miracles that are undeniable, but could He, in fact, be the Messiah? Is He the Mighty God?
As you open to Mark chapter 4, I would ask you to look at where it opens up and it says, “Again, He began to teach by the sea,” and this is the most pivotal parable of all Jesus’ teaching. He does lots of teaching, but when He gets done with this parable, He says something unique. He says, “If you can’t understand this parable, if you don’t, you can’t understand any of the others.”
Because His mother and His brothers, His ministry has come, and His mother and brothers had just come and they are standing outside and they want to see Him. And He uses this as a moment to educate people about His purpose. He says, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”
And then He looks down at a group of disciples and He says, “Whoever does the will of God, these are My mother and My brothers.” So, Jesus was saying more than fleshly relationship, people’s response to Him and they who do the will of God that raise the question: so, how would you know the will of God?
And so, as you look at chapter 4 and it opens up, this parable is one where He calls Himself the Son of Man. It’s a Messianic title. And He says the Son of Man comes and He gives this parable of the seed falling on four different types of soils: hard soil, shallow soil, thorny soil, and good soil.
And then privately, He says – the disciples say, “Well, what does that mean?” Because He says to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He says to the disciples, “Don’t you understand? If you don’t understand this one, you won’t understand anything.”
The seed is the Word of God, the Sower is the Son of Man – the Messiah. When the seed of the Truth of God’s Word goes to a human heart that is hard, the enemy takes it away. Sometimes it’s sown in a human heart, the Word of God, and they sprout up and they respond to God initially, but when there is persecution or the cost goes up, they fade away.
Other people respond deeply to God and they begin to grow and they begin to flourish and then the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches – and just the cares of other things that begins to choke out the truth of God’s Word.
But He says, “There are those,” and He is speaking to them, “who have a good and honest heart and they receive God’s Word,” Me, “as the Messiah,” as He connects Himself with the Torah and the Word of God, and He says, “their life will multiply thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold.” And He says, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.”
And then as you look, then notice He gives three quick parables where what He is doing is He is describing the kingdom of God that He is ushering in and He connects Himself with the Torah and Moses. John would even say, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God.” And he speaks, “And Jesus is the Word.”
And so, now He says to them, “The kingdom of God,” notice the first one, it’s like lighting a lamp in a room. You don’t put a basket over it. But the kingdom of God, God’s Word comes into the world to illuminate, make things clear. Its purpose is to be shared. And what does light do? It reveals darkness and it reveals truth.
Then the next parable, He says the kingdom of God is not something that is just immediate. He says it’s like a mysterious seed. The seed is planted then the stalk comes up and then the leaves and then the fruit. And He says, “And it grows in and of by itself.” And no one understands exactly how spiritual growth occurs, but the power of God’s Word in a human heart brings transformation, over time.
And then the third little parable, He says, “Now, the last one is like a mustard seed,” which is the smallest seed. And He says the kingdom of God grows and it starts very small. People respond to the truth, then they respond to the truth.
And then it has exponential growth where, over time, it creates impact that is just super-structured where that little seed becomes a tree and provides shelter for others.
So, they have got now: Okay, man, Your teaching is awesome. I believe You are the wisdom of God. I believe You are now connecting Yourself with the Torah, the Logos, the Word of God, all that Moses said. Here’s the question: can you trust Him? Is this really the Messiah?
So, what I want to do is I want to take you on a little journey, I want you to keep your Bibles open, because I am going to walk through the story. But what He is going to do, He has been in the lecture hall. Now, He is going to take them on a field trip. And He is going to take them to four specific, impossible situations. They are very specific and they are not hard and they are not difficult – they are impossible.
And what He is going to demonstrate is the almighty power of God that He has over every situation. And notice, the author wants to be very clear that this connects to what He has just taught.
So, notice if you will, verse 33. “With many such parables He spoke to them. He didn’t speak to them without a parable. But privately to His own disciples, He explained everything.” Look at the next line, “On that day when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let’s go over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took with Him the boat, just as He was, and other boats were with them. And a great wind arose. And the waves were breaking onto the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He awoke, and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Instantly, the wind ceased.” Whoo. There was calm from this roaring ocean to glass.
“And then He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this? Even the wind obey Him!’”
Now, they are professional fishermen. They have been in lots of storms. They know what to do in a storm. This is the kind that they realized: We are done. It’s impossible. Don’t You care?
And what does He do? He has power over the natural realm and how does He express His power? He speaks. What has He been teaching about for the last whole chapter and before? “My Word, My Word, My Word, My Word, My Word.” When the Old Testament talks about: how did God create the world? “In the beginning, God said, ‘Let there be light.’” He spoke the world into existence.
Jesus is connecting Himself and now He speaks; waves and wind and nature obey Him because He has authority over them because He created them. He’s God.
Scene number one is a drowning fisherman who, on behalf of other fisherman, in desperation cried out. And notice what happens. An ah-ha, “Who is this?” And they are afraid. And in a reverential fear, they ought to be. Can you imagine being in that boat?
Scene number two: the boat lands. Chapter 5 opens up. It’s a very rocky area. The history behind it is there is actually a demonized maniac. This person, you can glance and read it very quickly if you want to, even as I’m speaking. And Jesus comes there and this man is naked and runs around naked.
And he has supernatural strength. And as you read very carefully, it will say, “No one,” or, “nothing could bind him.” They would put chains on him and he would break them. They tried to stop him. No one could break him. This was a wild-eyed, demon-possessed man who had a legion of demons in him. Apparently, as you read this story, that Jesus had spoken to him and he comes out and he says, “Do not torment me, Son of the Most High God!”
Interestingly, the only person in all four of the impossible situations who know who He is for sure are the demons. And then the man comes, the demons plead, “Don’t send us to the abyss,” the place of nothingness. They beg, “Send us into that herd of pigs,” there are two thousand pigs. And I think He gives them permission because He wants the disciples to see verifiable proof. It would be one thing to say, “Demons, go away!” And you go, “Well, did that really happen or not?” So, He says, “Yes, I give you permission.” The demons go into these two thousand pigs and they run off a cliff, smashing into the ocean.
There’s a little Greek play on words. The word there for the bottom of the ocean is like the abyss.
And so, Jesus demonstrates He has power over the spiritual world. You are living in a world, I am living in a world where there is good and there is evil. You get that today like never before. The author of evil is Satan himself. A third of the angels in a coup were taken and there is this powerful angelic being, seeking to destroy mankind. And Jesus says, “I have power over them.”
When the people came from the town, they were so terrified by what they heard and saw, they asked Him to leave. And as He was getting ready to get in the boat, the person who was cured, he was clothed, sitting in his right mind, completely transformed. He said, “I want to go with You.” Jesus said, “No, go tell,” he’s a Gentile, “go tell your family what God has done for you.”
And he goes to these ten cities and he begins to tell them, “I met a Man who spoke and the demons came out of me. The Messiah has come.”