The Gift

December 17, 2014

It is one of our funny, family Christmas stories. By funny, I mean awkward, painful, and only slightly humorous at the time. It has become funnier with time and retelling.

My wife and I purchased a Christmas gift for one of our nephews. The gift was a hardback copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, one of the books in The Narnia Chronicles. This C.S. Lewis children’s story is a favorite in our family. I had read it in college and had wished it had been read to me as a child (and yes, the books are old enough that it could have happened). Before our son was born, we had purchased a set of The Narnia Chronicles, so they were his first, earthly possession. I say this to indicate from our point of view, this was a precious gift.

Our nephew opened our gift and immediately his face fell with disappointment. He threw the book on the floor and stormed off nearly in tears. The adults experienced the laughter of awkward moments. As I said, it’s become funnier with the retelling.

To be fair, he later read the book and enjoyed it, and maybe he wasn’t old enough at the time we gave it. But I suspect that many of us have that awkward, painful, and only slightly humorous gift story to tell.

Gift giving involves the transaction between two parties: the giver and the recipient. What is precious to the giver may not be precious to the recipient. If in doubt on this point, please check the gift exchange line the day after Christmas at your nearest, busiest store.

This brings me to the most important gift. God gave his only son. God had no more precious gift to give. The gift was costly beyond measure. The price included the suffering of crucifixion and death. It was costly to be a sin offering for others, and our need for the gift couldn’t be greater.

So how have your responded to this precious gift? Have you headed to the exchange line for what the world can offer in its place? Or have you received with joy and learned how precious is the gift!

The Prophesied Christ

December 6, 2014

Early Christians did not counterfeit the prophesies about Christ. The first century Jewish understanding of the messianic prophecies and the Christian’s claims about those prophecies are not far apart as Arlie J. Hoover notes in his book Dear Agnos: Letters to an Agnostic in Defense of Christianity (pp. 209-210).

The best proof that Christians didn’t invent the messianic argument is that long before Christ the Jews had a body of messianic literature that agrees substantially with what Christians said of Christ. Both Jew and Christian expected that the Messiah would be a descendent of Judah and David, be born at Bethlehem, be filled with God’s Spirit, be a king and priest, rule with justice, bestow peace, have a glorious and enduring kingdom, subject the gentile nations to his law, and so on.

What some of the Jews in their unbelief failed to recognize was the fact that along side the passages that depicted the glory of the Messiah were those darker passages that also depicted his death and resurrection.

The important point to note is that the prophesies were written before the birth of Jesus. We can know that from the Jewish literature of the time, the manuscripts of the Old Testament that date before the first century A.D., and the translation of the Old Testament into Greek which dates from 200 to 100 B.C. We do not have to worry about the criticism that would claim the prophesies were written after Christ to make it look like Jesus had fulfilled them.

That means the messianic prophecies need to be taken seriously as evidence about Jesus. The number of prophecies to consider are numerous. James E. Smith in his What the Bible Teaches about The Promised Messiah treats 73 prophecies. Alfred Edersheim listed 456 passages which were interpreted as Messianic in ancient Jewish literature. J. Barton Payne in his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy identified 1239 predictions in the OT (6,641 verses) of which 127 (3,348 verses) were personal Messianic predictions.

Josh McDowell in Evidence that Demands a Verdict (p. 167) gives an interesting statement on the odds of Jesus fulfilling the various Old Testament prophecies. McDowell notes that one mathematician calculated the odds of fulfilling eight key prophecies as 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The fulfillment of these prophecies by Jesus is evidence of God’s intervention and omniscience. They are an important part of the evidence to authenticate Jesus as God’s promised Messiah.