By Jasmine Timm
By the time you finish reading this sentence, four babies will have been born throughout the world. A few of their mothers are celebrating the gift of a long-anticipated newborn, but of these new mothers, there is perhaps one whose pregnancy caught her by surprise.
More than 2,000 years ago, a young, betrothed woman found herself quite surprised as the Lord sent an angel to tell her unexpected but very good news. Even though she had yet to be with a man, she would give birth to the heir of King David’s throne. She would be the one to deliver the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. She would be the mother of the King of the world, God incarnate (Luke 1:30-33).
Months later, her child was born in a dark, obscure town outside of Eden. It was certainly an unexpected birth to those who watched, and Mary and her company rejoiced over the fact that she had been chosen by God to participate in His plan of saving the world from the darkness of sin. Days after giving birth, Mary received even more news about this child when the prophet Simeon told her:
“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”Luke 2:34-35
Thirty-three years later this mother, Mary, found out exactly what this prophecy meant as she stood in a garden of tombs outside the gates of Jerusalem. The people had expected her Son, Jesus, to take the throne inside this city as the long-awaited King of Israel. Instead, Mary stood in this garden as the prophecy given to her decades earlier came true. Her soul was pierced as she watched her Son die the shameful death of a criminal, naked on a wooden cross. This was not the “good news of great joy” she had expected.
Just as Jesus’ arrival was unexpected, so too was His deliverance. He came as a whisper in the dead of night, a baby born to two obscure parents, destined to be not only King of Israel, but King of the nations. The heir of the throne of David was expected to come with fanfare to dominate His political enemies. Israel thought He would be somebody powerful and impressive. Instead, Mary looked up at the Messiah as He breathed His last breath. It was a painfully unexpected ending, but it was not the end. It was the necessary means, ordained by the Father, to deliver a people out of darkness and back into marvelous light (I Peter 1:29).
At the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, something terrible happened. Darkness entered their hearts and minds. Separation wedged itself between them and their Creator. They were stained by sin and could no longer live in the holy garden, so God cast them into exile. Their rebellion trickled down through the centuries and permeated our hearts. We were born tainted by sin (Romans 5:12-14), hopeless and in need of rescue. The terrible news is this: if no intervention is provided, we will be engulfed by the darkness of sin that threatens to spread like cancer through our entire beings. This will result in death, and we will never return to God’s garden. But God brought good and unexpected news, long foretold by the prophet Isaiah (1:18, 53:11-12).
Jesus, the spotless Lamb, the Light of the World, took on flesh to take on our sin, which was red as crimson. But God’s Messiah came and turned our crimson sins into lamb’s wool. By His own blood, the Lamb of the world washed our blood-stained hands and hearts and clothed us in white. He took on our sin as a sacrifice to restore us to the holiness we were intended for.
Jesus’ deliverance included dying on a wooden cross, crafted from a tree which He created. It included dying outside the gates of Jerusalem, where His rightful throne was. His death took place in a garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden and the death that entered because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. But this time, the obedient Messiah would die in a garden for disobedience that did not belong to Him. This was not how Mary nor the people of Israel anticipated the arrival of God’s deliverer. In fact, as we read throughout the Bible, it’s likely not how we would expect the story to go either. However, it was exactly as God intended. His deliverance was not accomplished with force or dominance but by sacrifice and humility (Philippians 2:5-8).
Just as suffering was introduced to the world in the Garden of Eden, the Messiah suffered for our sins in order to bring us back home to the Garden. His suffering abolished ours. It was an unexpected deliverance from an unexpected Messiah, but His saving work enables us to expect a future full of glory with our Savior, who will reign as gracious King (Philippians 2:9-11).
Right now, as you read this sentence, the suffering Immanuel is reigning as the triumphant King of the universe. And right now, His mother, Mary, is back in the presence of her Son, who is now her Lord. The story makes sense to her now. Jesus wasn’t the deliverer we expected, but He was the One we needed.
This Christmas, we celebrate our suffering Messiah. He has known our suffering, and He promises to be with us until He returns to consummate His kingdom in a renewed world, a restored Eden. Until then, He dwells with us always, never leaving us, and having suffered for us, always knowing our deepest pains and taking them as His own. (Matthew 28:19-20, Hebrews 4:15). We wait outside the city gates for our King to return, and when He does, He will bring us to a better city, the restored Eden we are built for. His return will be unexpected, but this time He will return in power. He is coming soon.