The Most Ironic Story Ever Told
Vol: 159 Issue: 24 Wednesday, December 24, 2014
The story of the Virgin Birth, sinless life and blameless death of Jesus Christ, an itinerant Jewish preacher from the Judean village of Nazareth is often and rightly called “the Greatest Story Ever Told.”
What makes it great is its theme. A Child born to a young Jewish virgin and (as was supposed) a Jewish laborer of low estate Whose birth is announced by angels.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
The Child is the Son of God, come to bear the sins of the world. He grows to maturity, living low as a laborer in Nazareth until He is called to ministry during His baptism in the Jordan by His cousin John.
Jesus preaches repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. He teaches love of God and to love one’s neighbor. He lives a blameless and perfect life, is condemned as the King of the Jews and crucified for the sins of the world.
Three days after His execution, He rises from the dead to announce that the hereditary penalty for sin imposed on all men since Adam had been paid. In evidence, He offers His own Body, showing the nail scars and the side wound.
“This is the price paid on your behalf for sins. Believe in Me, and Him that sent me, and thou shalt be saved.”
THAT is why it is the greatest story ever told. But what makes it ironic is the WAY that it is told – as a Christian story. The story actually begins way back in the Book of Genesis.
Abram was the son of an idol maker named Terah who lived in the great city of Ur in modern-day Iraq. The Bible relates that Abram was called by God to a new land that God would show him.
By faith Abram undertook the journey.Genesis 15:6 says;
“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
But Abram wanted a guarantee, nonetheless.
“And he [Abram] said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (Genesis 15:8)
It was then that God proposed a blood covenant after the manner of the Chaldeans
“And He [God] said unto him, [Abram] Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram knew what to do next, since this was something he was familiar with.
“And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”
The blood covenant worked this way. The animals were slaughtered and cut up. The pieces were intermingled and then carefully arranged to form a kind of aisle through which the two parties to the covenant would walk together, hands joined.
The principle of a blood covenant, and the symbolism of the animal parts was clearly understood to Abram. Whoever broke the covenant would end up like those piles of animals.
A blood covenant was, by common custom, a joining of 2 or more persons, families, clans, tribes, or nations, where the participants agree to do or refrain from doing certain acts.
What God proposed was a patriarchal covenant. The patriarchal form of covenant is a self-imposed obligation of a superior party, to the benefit of an inferior party. Something like adoption by agreement.
In this form, the terms the parties use to refer to each other are: father and son. And God’s proposal included not only Abram, but extended to Abram’s seed forever. Abram’s seed, as we learn in Galatians 3:29, are the Jews and Christians that are “heirs according to the Promise.”
What promise? The one made by God to Abram and to his heirs and guaranteed by a Chaldean blood covenant.
Abram waited, driving away the carrion eaters from his grisly creation, waiting for God Himself to come down, join hands with Abram and together, they would swear a blood oath. God would be the Father of Abram and his descendents, who would then be required behave as sons of the covenant.
Genesis 15:12 records that as Abram waited for God, a deep sleep fell upon him. During that deep sleep,
“it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Genesis 15:17-18)
Abram didn’t join with God in passing through the aisle. The Bible says that God took TWO forms that Abram saw as a “smoking furnace” and “a burning lamp” to symbolize that the covenant was “signed” the requisite two times – but both times by God.
By passing through the aisle alone, God signed the contract — alone — for both sides, binding Himself to keeping both parts.
And THIS is where the Christmas story begins. Of the covenant that God signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul explains,
“Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” (Galatians 3:15)
The covenant could only be confirmed when the price demanded for its violation was paid in full.
When the Law was given to Moses four centuries later, it was assumed by the Jews that to break it was to break the Abrahamic Covenant, for which the penalty was death. Remember, somebody had to die.
But God signed on behalf of Abraham, and Paul pointed out the blood penalty required of the covenant was paid in full.
“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.”
The covenant demanded satisfactory payment for its violation and no one guilty of violating it was qualified to stand in full payment except those that signed it. The penalty for its violation was death.
Justice required that someone keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son as it demanded.
So Abraham could not pay the penalty on behalf of his seed. Abraham was already under penalty of death. But somebody had to die for justice to be satisfied and the only signer was God.
The terms of the Abrahamic covenant required God Himself to step out of eternity and into space and time where He could be subject to the death penalty justice demanded.
Two thousand years after the first covenant, an angel announced that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
Unto WHO was born a Saviour? Unto the Jews of Israel, first. And then to the Gentiles
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew FIRST, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
That is what makes it the Most Ironic Story Ever Told. Christmas is the most Jewish of all holy days. It is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant whereby the terms demanded were satisfied.
But to most observant Jews, Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates something to do with the Christian God.
That is the irony of the story. It is a day that celebrates the birth of a Jew from Nazareth, born unto them in the city of David, which is Christ the Lord.
So this Christmas, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And pray for His Chosen People that they will receive Him as their King. And may our God richly bless you and yours, until He comes.
Shalom. And Merry Christmas.
Featured Commentary: Setting the Captives Free ~ Lea Sylvester