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The Mystery Of The Manger Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
December 23, 2021 1:00 am

The Mystery Of The Manger Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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December 23, 2021 1:00 am

Why do people make a big deal about a baby in a manger at Christmas? There seems to be other more pressing problems and conflicts in life. Yet, there is no weightier division than that between a holy God and sinful man. Two thousand years ago, that dividing wall was breached in a feeding trough in the tiny town of Bethlehem. There was no room for Jesus then. Will you welcome Him now?  Click here to listen (Duration 25:02)

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The conflict between Palestinians and Jews is as old as the Bible, and this division is symbolic of another division, that between a holy God and sinful man.

Two thousand years ago, that wall was breached in a feeding trough behind an inn in the tiny town of Bethlehem. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, as you continue teaching about the mystery of Bethlehem, what is our focus today? Well, once again, Dave, we're going to talk about the incarnation. Of course, we're going to speak about the Christmas story, but hopefully in a way that will be compelling, convicting and enlightening. And you know, I'm so glad, and I'm sure that you are glad as well, that we don't have to understand the mystery in order to appreciate it, in order to worship the baby in the manger. God, a very God. Well, my dear friends, today is the last day we're making available to you a book entitled The Bible Code, Finding Jesus in Every Book of the Bible.

And every one of these sections is two or three pages long. It's a wonderful book to give to your friends. It's one that you can enjoy as we think about the new year. The title again is The Bible Code, and we make this resource available because we think it will help you on your spiritual journey and help others as well. And as we come to the end of the year, we're reminded of the opportunity to give to ministries. We know that there are many ministries that we can all give to and that we support. But thanks in advance for helping us as we speak the Word of God in 20 different countries in three different languages.

Could you connect with us today? Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com.

That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for helping us. Together we are making a difference and we rejoice in the mystery of Bethlehem. All of us love to sing Christmas carols. And I think a favorite not just among children but among all of us is the one that speaks about Jesus being in the manger. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

We sing it every year and we sing it many times every year and we still love it as we do the other carols. We've heard these stories many times but today I'm going to take a fresh look at a very familiar passage of the Bible. It may indeed be one of the most familiar to all of us. And that is Luke chapter 2 verse 7. If you want to turn to it in your Bibles, you may. Luke chapter 2 verse 7.

Many of you will know it by memory. But first of all, let's go to the city of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in commotion.

There are many different people and they are all trying to find a place to stay. Because remember the very same decree that brought Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem is the same decree that brought many other people to Bethlehem as well. We look at a couple and we notice that they are very ordinary.

The man clearly is an ordinary tradesman and his wife is about to give birth. And we see them walking around and there's no room in an inn. Now you must understand that Bethlehem was often a place where caravans stopped. They preferred even to stop there maybe rather than in the big city of Jerusalem. And these caravans needed a place to stay and there would be animals in a cave and there would also be an inn where the people stayed.

Sometimes the two were very close together. And so the Bible says, and now we're in our text today, chapter 2 verse 7, the famous verse, and she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room or no place for them in the inn. You know there is no reference in the Bible to an innkeeper. We as preachers and myself included used to preach against that guy. You know that innkeeper, he kept Jesus out because Mary and Joseph were looking for a room and he said no.

Well we don't know whether or not there was an innkeeper. I hope that if there was he made it to heaven and all of us ask his forgiveness for what we've said against him. I do have to say however that he would have done it ignorantly because he would he didn't know that Mary was bearing the Son of God.

You and I do deliberately what he did in ignorance. Jesus said whoever receives a child in my name receives me. You want to receive Jesus? There's room in your heart for Jesus?

Then there should be room in your heart for a child. He also said that if we go into prison and clothe those that are naked and give food to the hungry, we've done it for him. So we have an opportunity to do what that mythical innkeeper apparently had an opportunity to do, but we have more knowledge. Now I'm very interested in the manger story and we'll be looking at the manger in just a moment, but first of all let's spend a few moments to analyze this question. Why was the manger necessary?

Why the stable rather than the inn? You know even though it says there in Luke chapter 2 verse 7, last phrase, there was no room for them in the inn, even though that's a reference to a specific historical event, I can't help but think that it's also a metaphor of the life of Jesus. That's the whole story of his life and it's still true, no room for him. For example, there was no room for Jesus in the religious world. As a matter of fact, his most ferocious enemies were the religious establishment because he was always revealing their hypocrisy.

He was always telling them that they were emphasizing externals rather than what was going on in their hearts and so they hated him. They made him look bad and when it came time for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate asked the question, who do you wish that I release onto you, this man or Barabbas? And they said release Barabbas, but as for Jesus, crucify him. No room for him in the religious world and it's still true. Oh, I know people like to talk about Jesus but he's a no frills Jesus.

He's a Jesus who has been humanized and downsized and so you have references to Jesus as the one who taught us to love but no reference to Jesus as judge, coming with flaming fire upon them that obey not the gospel of God. People are interested in Jesus of the manger but not the Jesus of the resurrection, not the Jesus of the ascension and certainly not the Jesus of the glorious blessed return. So Jesus basically had no room in the religious world.

They had no room for him and it's still true today. But there was also no room for Jesus in the political world. You know, the Jews of the time, they were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. In fact, it is said that Jewish virgins hope that they would be the one who would bear the Messiah but they were looking for a king. They said to themselves, we want someone who is going to rule and is going to throw off Rome, the Roman occupation and to give us political freedom. That's why Jesus was such a disappointment to the people because here he was saying, my kingdom is not of this world. And now of course, there were those who did want to make him a king. After he fed a multitude with five loaves and two fish, they wanted a king who would supply bread.

They wanted someone who would give them all that they needed to live so that they wouldn't have to worry about bread again. But Jesus said no to that. And he was not welcomed in the political world of the day and he still isn't.

He still isn't. Just this past week, I was told about a man who in uniform, in military uniform, an American citizen, prayed a prayer at an event in the name of Jesus and he is being prosecuted for doing it because of a separation of church and state. As a matter of fact, in America, Jesus is not welcomed in the legal world. He's not welcomed in the political world. He's not welcomed in the educational world.

He's certainly not welcome in government. As far as that world is concerned, still to this day, we could put up a sign that would say, no room for you. Jesus had no room. They had no room for him in the religious world, in the political world. And there's certainly no room for Jesus in the business world.

Certainly not. You know, Jesus said the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests where they can rest, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Jesus, so far as we know, owned nothing. Could you imagine even hiring Jesus as the CFO of some business? I mean, it would be unthinkable because he wasn't into that. He wasn't into that. As a matter of fact, he irritated the money lovers.

In fact, it says that those who hated money hated him because he said, that which is greatly esteemed among men, and he's speaking about money, is detestable to God. How would you like to put Jesus into business and Wall Street? Jesus would not be welcomed. Which really leads me to an interesting question that I've often pondered, and it's deeply troubling to me. And that is the question of how would Jesus today, how would Jesus rate Christmas? What does he think of his party?

Now, just imagine this. A multi-billion dollar party being thrown for you, supposedly, and yet nobody really to speak of is giving gifts to you. Everybody's giving gifts to everybody else. And the success of the party is totally dependent on how much is spent.

So that every day during the Christmas season, we hear that we are now 1% more than last year or down from last year. And that's the evaluation of the party, period. That's it. So here, Jesus has a party thrown for him, and he's not invited to his own party. He can't show up at the celebrations. He is unwelcome.

And yet, supposedly, it's all about him. Did you know that there are teachers in the United States of America today who are being told that they cannot mention to their pupils that Christmas is a religious holiday? You know, because after all, you can't drag religion into the classroom. So Jesus clearly is not welcomed at his very own party. No room.

No room in the religious world, the political world, certainly not the business world. Now, there was room for Jesus in one place, though, and that was on the cross. And that's where some people would like to see him, and that's where they would like to keep him. Crucify him. Crucify him.

Get him out of here. Yes, Luke 2, verse 7, there was no room for him in the inn, but it was really the story of his life, and it still is. Well, because there was no room, that's why you have the beginning part of verse 7. She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and she laid him in a manger.

Beautiful verse in its simplicity. But let's think about the manger for a moment. This manger interests me. First of all, obviously, it was a manger for animals.

I grew up on a farm in Canada. I know exactly what mangers are like, at least the ones that we had. We would put hay in the manger. We would also put grain in the manger for those animals that ate grain, the cattle, yes, some grain.

And that's what mangers are for. Now, we come to this passage, and we can't get our mind around it when we think of the fact that this is not only Mary's firstborn son, but he is the firstborn of all creation. He's the one who created the world. He created the manger and all the materials that went into it.

It is so difficult for us to get our minds around it that we have sanitized the whole scene, haven't we? I don't know if it's still true, but I know that Christmas cards, when they have a picture of the baby Jesus, they always have a little halo above his head. The manger in which he is looks as if it's just been constructed by some very fine lumber from Home Depot. And the manger is there.

The straw is pure and clean. And then what has always amused me is that little donkey that's looking on, freshly shampooed and freshly shampooed and blow dried, and there he is, he's watching. And sometimes you see that this manger is even on a carpet. Let me speak to you plainly. That stable smelled like a pet shop.

This was reality. Even the wonderful carol that I like so much, away in a manger, has a sanitized Jesus. You remember the cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.

Are you serious? Of course he cried. How else would Mary know that he was hungry? And those little swaddling clothes, they had to be changed. We're talking here about a real baby, 100% man, yes, with a divine nature that was invisible to the human eye, but this was a manger for animals. I can almost see it.

I can reconstruct the whole scene in my mind. Here are some animals. There are a number of different mangers. They'd have had a number of mangers, primarily probably for sheep. And I can see some of the shepherds saying, okay, okay, so you have a new baby.

You gave birth over there in the corner of the stable. Here you can take the baby, and here's a manger. We'll shoo all these sheep away on this side, and you can use this manger to put your baby in. Yes, my friend, it was used by animals and possibly sheep, and Jesus, of course, becomes the good shepherd and frequently talks about us as his sheep. There's something else, though, about this manger, and that is it was not only used by animals.

It was also borrowed. You don't go shopping for a manger for a baby. You go shopping for a crib, but not a manger. So it was borrowed, and we can see here that the scene is indeed reconstructed as someone lends Mary and Joseph this manger for at least a little while. Isn't it interesting that Jesus, as I mentioned, who said, you know, the foxes, they have holes. The birds of the air, they have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Isn't it interesting that he begins his life by being laid in a borrowed manger, and he ends his life by being laid in a borrowed grave, and that's the way he lived here on earth. Jesus coming into the world, being laid in a manger.

It was a borrowed manger. It was also improvised. You know, poor people know all about this. If you're rich, you know, you're not going to get this because rich people can buy whatever they like, but if you've been brought up in poverty, you know that you can improvise. I mean, there are mothers who have taken down curtains and used the cloth to make clothes for their children, and they know what it is like to improvise. Perhaps you've been in situations where a box becomes a chair because that's all that you have, and you have to make do.

Well, that's the case here. Did Mary use straw or hay? We don't know.

Maybe. Maybe she had enough clothes with her, maybe a couple of blankets, but she had to improvise this. This wasn't built for babies. It was built for animals, but when you're poor, you make it work somehow. You know, even these cloths, you know, the swaddling clothes.

Swaddling clothes were actually pieces of cloth ripped from a larger piece of cloth, ripped into strips, and then taken, and the baby was wrapped in this to give the child a sense of security. And that's the way in which Mary and Joseph handled their challenge and handled this little one who is here. I'm interested in the manger. The question is, what does the manger teach us? What is its great lessons? Why should the Luke chapter two, verse seven, not only be a historical fact, but what do we draw out of it that should be life-changing for us?

First of all, the manger reminds us of how silently he came, how silently. Rebecca and I have been to Scotland and we have been in the very room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James, who ended up being James I of England, who ended up being the one to commission the King James version of the Bible. But I remember the room.

It is a large room and very high ceiling and then gold-guilted ornamentation all throughout the room. And the guide told us that as Mary Queen of Scots was giving birth to James, that there were a number of midwives and there were also people there to make sure that the baby wouldn't be switched with another baby. If the baby was born dead, sometimes they took another baby and that would be about the same age and substitute. So there were people there to make sure that wasn't happening. And then outside of the building, there were a whole bunch of people waiting, wondering whether or not it was a boy or a girl, wondering whether or not the child was alive, wondering whether or not Mary Queen of Scots was still alive.

Now here's Jesus. Who in the world was paying attention to the fact that Mary and Joseph were there, this couple that few people knew who came from Nazareth? Nobody was paying attention. This was not a big deal. Babies are born all the time. And I am amazed and that's why we sing how silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given. And what this story reminds us of is that God sometimes works mightily in very ordinary ways, very ordinary. Everything about this story was ordinary.

Now we know of course that Jesus was conceived of a virgin and that had to be so that he would not be tainted with even original sins so that he would be totally sinless. But the fact is that everything else is ordinary. Yes, my friends, everything else appeared ordinary.

And yet you and I know that the event was extra ordinary. Well, Christmas is indeed just around the corner. I want you to get a pencil right now because I'm going to give you some information so that you can connect with us. I'm holding in my hands a book entitled The Bible Code, Finding Jesus in Every Book of the Bible. And as you go through this book, you'll notice that a seminal verse from each of the books of the Bible is taken to show that Jesus is really part of the entire storyline. I'm opening it up arbitrarily, for example, finding Jesus in Ezra. He is our faithful scribe.

Finding Jesus in Nehemiah. He is the rebuilder of our broken walls. And again, this is the last day that we are making this resource available. Would you write this down so that you can connect with us? And thanks in advance for helping us as we near the end of the year.

We're so thankful for our many partners. RTWOffer.com. As you might suspect, RTWOffer is all one word. You can go to that, of course, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, because this is the last day that we are making this resource available to you, I'm going to give you that contact info again, RTWOffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Why don't you call right now?

1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. It's hard to imagine a more humble place to be born than in a dirty barn with animals. Next time, join us to hear more about the contrast between the King of Kings and his not-so-kingly entrance into our world. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-06 01:51:28 / 2023-07-06 02:00:01 / 9

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