The angel said … ‘you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus was a big disappointment. He was a first-century Jew, but he was not the sort of Messiah that his people were looking for. You see, first-century Jews loved their country, but it was occupied by the Romans. They were pushed around by Roman soldiers, paid taxes to a Roman government and had the head of the Caesar on their coins. They wanted a Messiah who would save them from their oppressors, but Jesus came to save them from their sins.
In fact, Jesus came to save his people from their sins, and defined his people in a way that they didn’t like. First-century Jews were looking for a Jewish Messiah for a Jewish people. Jesus comes as Saviour, not just for Jews, but for the world. Jesus comes with a bigger vision than any narrow nationalism. Jesus is gathering his people from every tongue and tribe on earth.
No one was more disappointed with Jesus than the religious people of his day. They expected that when the Messiah came, he would praise them for all their rules and rituals, but Jesus points to their hearts and exposes them as self-righteous hypocrites. He speaks of mercy and forgiveness, and welcomes the very people they were hoping the Messiah would come and condemn.
I am not disappointed with Jesus for the very reason that so many first-century Jews were disappointed in him. I am not disappointed that Jesus didn’t come simply to kick the Romans out of first-century Palestine—in fact I delight in the fact that the Romans put him on a cross, where he took God’s punishment for my guilt. I am not disappointed in that fact that Jesus was more than a Messiah for the Jews—in fact, I delight that Jesus never turns away anyone turns back to God and follows him as their Messiah. I am not disappointed that Jesus didn’t come to praise the self-righteous and condemn those who knew they were guilt—in fact I delight in the fact that Jesus declared that ‘I have not come for the self-righteous but for people who know they are sinners;’ for I know that I am a lost cause without him!
This Christmas, I hope that you won’t be disappointed with the fact that Jesus is God’s greatest gift to the world, and that he came to save his people from their sins.