“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45, NIV)
I really wanted the Snoopy Drive-In Movie. I loved that dog. This toy played short clips from the shows I could only see once a year (no YouTube). But on Christmas morning there was no Drive-In Movie. A media-playing toy was there, but it was not what I expected. There was no Snoopy and I was disappointed.
Many expectations of the Messiah circulated before Jesus’s birth. Probably the most prominent was for a military-type figure, a strong man like David or Judah Maccabee, who would free the Jews from their Roman oppressors. The gift on the top of every messianic-expecting, little Jewish child’s Christmas list was such a man.
If the Messiah Jesus’s future ministry had been widely known at the time of the first Christmas, there would have been much disappointment. Sure, shepherds praised God and Magi paid homage, but even among these early worshipers it is unclear what was expected once the package of Jesus’s life had been opened.
On that first Christmas, God gave us the most valuable gift. Instead of a military leader who could have freed His people from Rome, the Messiah came to defeat much more dangerous foes, namely, the devil, sin, and death. Jesus was nothing like anyone expected. He came not with a sword and a military strategy but as a servant with a redemptive plan. You see, God, as a wise parent, knew what we needed and gave appropriately. As appealing as worldly power and military victory are to the oppressed, the dark sin that enslaves us is infinitely more damning.
Our desired gift meets a perceived need, often selfishly determined. The Jews wanted military victory and the judgment of their enemies. We want the immediate satisfaction of power, wealth, comfort, pleasure, etc. Instead, God sent His Son to die for our sins. Disappointing? Maybe initially. But once understood, God’s gift is eternally appreciated. It is the greatest gift.