Christmas in the Words of Christ
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Christmas in the Words of Christ

Selected Scriptures  (ID: 3578)

Christmastime provides a great opportunity to reflect on what the Bible says about the birth of Emmanuel, “God with us.” In this Christmas concert message, however, Alistair Begg challenges us to consider the reason Jesus came, in His own words. The book of Mark records that before healing a paralytic man, Jesus gave him some life-changing news: his sins were forgiven. This same grace, regarded as outrageous by the Pharisees at the time, is extended to all who cry out to Him in their need. He came to grant forgiveness!

Sermon Transcript: Print

Tonight, in the songs that we’ve been listening to and enjoying, we have heard all kinds of things that are true about Jesus: that he is the Savior who is born; that his name was called Jesus because he would save people from their sins; that he is Emmanuel, because he is “God with us”—he is both truly human and truly divine.

And yet, you know, when you think about this, you realize that it’s a bit like a birthday party when you were a child: you go to the birthday party, and you take stuff for whoever’s birthday it is; and then, if it was a birthday party similar to what I would go to, most of the children just ended up playing with all the stuff they brought, and people would say, “Well, whose birthday is it?” You know? “Where is he?” “Oh, he’s over in the corner somewhere.” Nobody paid a bit of attention to him at all. We just played with all the stuff. And you know, it’s a fascinating thing, but you can do Christmas in that way as well. You suddenly say to yourself, “Now, wait a minute. Whose birthday is this? Why are we actually here?”

And so, one of the things that’s important to do—and I would encourage you to consider it as you go into this Christmas season—is not only to rehearse the things that are said about Jesus but to consider the things that are said by Jesus. For example, children say all kinds of funny things and, as they grow, memorable things that will be written down and held against them for the rest of their lives. But of all the strange things that you hear children say, how could you ever imagine the first recorded words that come from the lips of Jesus in the Gospels? What is the first thing he says? The first time when he has a speaking part, he says, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you realize that I had to be about my Father’s business?”—or, “Didn’t you realize that it was sensible and proper that I should be in my Father’s house?”[1] Because he was in the temple, and he was with the fellows and debating and discussing, and it was a quite amazing encounter. And Mary and Joseph come up.

Now, here’s the answer to that question, “Did she know?” No, she didn’t know. And how do we know? Because the Bible tells us so: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” “And,” says Luke, “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them … to Nazareth,”[2] and he lived in their home. And then you’ve got all these years of silence. What’s that, thirty minus twelve? Eighteen years of silence.

And then we hear from him again. And he says the most amazing things. For example, he says, “I have come down from heaven.”[3] Who says, “I have come down from heaven”? Only somebody who came down from heaven. So this boy that was nurtured by Mary—and we now know the answer to the song—is now declaring that he has come down from heaven, and he says, “The reason I’ve come down from heaven is to do the Father’s will. And the Father’s will is that all who look to the Son”—that was himself—“and believe in him will have eternal life.”[4]

God still loves the world even though the world has turned its back on him.

In other words, when he said to Mary and Joseph, “Did you not realize that I had to be at my Father’s business?”—if you think about it in those terms, then Jesus was, if you like, on a business trip. He was on a business trip from heaven. And the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the triune God, had determined in eternity that since the world would turn its back on God, instead of leaving the world to itself, they would send someone to save the world, and that someone the second person of the Trinity, Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, he says, “For this purpose I was born.”[5] It’s quite remarkable. And that’s why I say to you, you should think about it.

Mark’s Gospel is distinct from the others. They’re all distinct from each other. But Matthew and Luke have the birth narratives, John begins back in eternity, and Mark, if you like, gets straight at the business. In other words, there’s no birth narrative. It begins, essentially, with John the Baptist and then goes directly to Jesus. And so I want to tell you what happens when Jesus steps forward. What does he say? Because, remember, we’ve heard lots of things said about him. What about what is said by him? That’s why I have my Bible here, so you will know.

“After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God”—the good news that God still loves the world even though the world has turned its back on him—proclaiming the good news “and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled’”—in other words, “All the stuff in the Old Testament that has been pointing forward is now fulfilled in me” (a remarkable claim)—“‘the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”[6]

Well, that’s the word that goes out. The religious people are immediately not pleased. But folks who are wondering about their lives, wondering about their future, trying to make sense of their existence are very keen to hear what he has to say. And he begins to do miraculous things, which you would expect. If God came down, the surprise would not be that he did miracles; the surprise would be if there were no miracles. And so he heals the leper, and he deals with the demons, and the crowd begins to grow. And he gets up early in the morning, and he goes away by himself. And then the disciples come, and they find him, and they say to him, “Hey, Jesus, this thing is going terrifically well, and everyone is looking for you. We’re off to a flying start.”[7] Now, what did Jesus say? Because remember, we want to know what he said. He said, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”[8] Okay.

So then we would expect that we would have an illustration of that preaching. You won’t be disappointed, because Mark immediately tells us an amazing story. I wish I had the time—you’re glad I don’t have the time—to tell you this story. You can read it yourself in Mark chapter 2 and verify that what I’m telling you is actually in the Bible, because it is of vital importance. It’s the story of a man who was paralyzed—couldn’t walk. He heard that Jesus was in town, and he got some of his friends to take him to meet Jesus. When they got to the place, it was hullabaloo. It was filled. There was no way in. There was no way around it except, they determined, through the roof. They go through the roof, breaking open the vegetation and so on, and down he comes. A quite dramatic picture, isn’t it? If you imagine: all of a sudden, the roof opened, and somebody came down on a bed from University Hospital and landed right here. I wouldn’t be able to do it. Some of the doctors here could do something, but I’d just stand back and let them go. But there he comes!

And do you know what Jesus said? I’m going to tell you: he looked at the man, and he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”[9] What an anticlimax! After all, the friends brought him there for one express reason: he couldn’t walk! Jesus was a miracle man. And Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven”? And the Pharisees who were there said, “This is ridiculous. This is blasphemy. Who can forgive sins? Only God can forgive sins.”[10] Well, they were absolutely right: only God could and can forgive sins. But what they couldn’t figure was that they were in the presence of Emmanuel, “God with us”! And so they began to grumble and complain.

And Jesus, knowing what was in their hearts, he said to them, “Let me ask you a question: What do you think is easier, to say, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Pick up your bed and walk’? Which do you think is easier?”[11] Well, I think they would have probably said “Son, your sons are forgiven.” Because after all, how could you tell? Well, you couldn’t tell: “Your sins are forgiven. Have a great afternoon.” But if you say, “Pick up your bed and walk,” and he doesn’t walk, then everybody knows you’ve got nothing really to say or offer.

Jesus is interested in all of your conditions, all of your concerns. But he didn’t come for that. He came to grant forgiveness.

And so he says, “In order that you might know, you religious folks, that the Son of Man”—which is a designation of God, Jesus—“that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to you, pick up your bed and go home.”[12] And immediately the man picked up his bed and went home.

Now, here’s the question: Why in the world did Jesus go at it in that way? I’ll tell you why: because what Jesus was doing was putting his finger on the man’s—and every man and every woman’s—real need. He thought the most significant need he had was the fact that he was paralyzed, in the way that you might be here tonight, and you think your most significant need has something to do with the brokenness of your marriage or the disruption of your home or the fact that you’re unsettled by this or that. And you will notice that Jesus was not disinterested in his physical condition. He healed him. And Jesus is interested in all of your conditions, all of your concerns. But he didn’t come for that. He came to grant forgiveness.

Now, why would we even care? Because we all need forgiveness! If I had time, I’d tell you about a man I played golf with, but I won’t. But he’s the first man I ever met… It was in Los Angeles, and he came to me in the middle of the golf course, and he said, you know, “I don’t like you.” And I said, “Well, that’s common. I experience it all the time.” He says, “No, the reason I don’t like you is because you said back there, on the fifth tee, you said that thing about sinners.” And he says, “You know, you should know, I am not a sinner.” “Oh,” I said, “I’m delighted to meet you.” I said, “Because I’ve only known one other person that made that claim.” And he was foolish enough to say, “And who was that?” I said, “Well, it happened to be Jesus of Nazareth.” “Well,” he said, “if you’re going put it like that…” I said, “Well, I have to put it like that.”

And then I told him, “I’m a sinner. I’m a sinner. I need a Savior.” And unless we have actually done what Jesus said—repented and believed the gospel—then we’re sitting here right now tonight in need of a Savior, perhaps relying on a religious background, perhaps relying on something that we have done or we’re planning to do.

We’ve heard a lot of things said about Jesus. We’ve listened to a couple of things said by Jesus. Here’s my final thought: Do you have anything that you would like to say to Jesus? And if you had the opportunity to say something to Jesus, what would you say? Perhaps you would say, “Well, I think it would be more like a prayer.” And then you say, “But I’m not good at prayer. I don’t know what I would say.” Well, let me pray a prayer for you, in case the juxtaposition of all the things that have been going on in your life have brought you to this amazing event tonight in order that we might hear the things said about Jesus, that we might listen to the things said by Jesus, and then that we might be able to say this to Jesus.

A prayer, and then music:

“Dear God, I know I am not worthy to be accepted by you. I don’t deserve your gift of eternal life. I’m guilty of rebelling against you and ignoring you. I need forgiveness. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me, that I may be forgiven. Thank you that you rose from the dead to give me new life. Please forgive me, and change me, that I may live with Jesus as my Ruler and Friend.”

If this or something like this is your prayer, you will be forgiven. How do I know? Because Jesus said, “This is the will of my Father, that everyone”—everyone and anyone—“who looks [to] the Son,” Jesus, “and believes in him [will] have eternal life.”[13] And I tell you, you can count on him.

[1] Luke 2:49 (paraphrased).

[2] Luke 2:50–51 (ESV).

[3] John 6:38 (ESV).

[4] John 6:38, 40 (paraphrased).

[5] John 18:37 (ESV).

[6] Mark 1:14–15 (ESV).

[7] Mark 1:37 (paraphrased).

[8] Mark 1:38 (ESV).

[9] Mark 2:5 (ESV).

[10] Mark 2:7 (paraphrased).

[11] Mark 2:9 (paraphrased).

[12] Mark 2:10–11 (paraphrased).

[13] John 6:40 (ESV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.