Christians believe that this person lived a sinless life, died a brutal death and was raised triumphantly from the grave. He ascended to the right hand of his Father in heaven. Fact is truly stranger than fiction – the everlasting God became ‘contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man’. Remarkably, not once does the Bible try to explain the mystery and wonder of it.
What is the good news?
Christians hold these breathtaking claims to be historical facts. But even these amazing events do not in themselves constitute the gospel – the ‘good news’ that broke like a thunderstorm upon the ancient world. Two little words transform these mighty, unfathomable events and make them ‘good news’ – the words ‘for us’!
The staggering wonder of the incarnation is not that the Son of God ‘became flesh’ but that he became flesh ‘for us’. The shepherds were told, ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you’.
The glory of the Saviour’s sinless life is not that he lived among men but that he lived for men – ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many’.
The glory of Christ’s cross is not that he died, but that he died ‘for us’ – ‘Christ died for our sins’. The huge significance of his resurrection is not that he came to life but that he was raised ‘for us’ – ‘He was … raised to life for our justification’.
Every moment of Jesus Christ’s life was lived ‘for us’. Even now, in the glory of heaven, he ‘is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us’. And from his place in glory he will come again at the end of the age for us – to ‘gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’.
It is when we stop and ponder those two little words ‘for us’ that we begin to see the undeserved kindness – or grace – of all that God has done in and through his Son. Consider for a moment how God’s own Word, the Bible, describes the way we are by nature. We are ‘sinners’, ‘enemies’, ‘rebels’, ‘ungodly’, ‘wicked’, ‘disobedient’, ‘children of wrath’, ‘corrupt’, ‘blind’, ‘ignorant’ and more of the same. It is unflattering to say the least, yet that is how God sees men and women who are without Christ.
And yet it was ‘for us’ – for just such rebels and sinners – that God sent his only Son into the world. He didn’t do it for angels or animals. He didn’t come to save self-righteous people – Jesus came to save sinners like ourselves.
When we sing Christmas carols about the incarnation of the eternal God, we need to remember that it was ‘for us’ he came. The cradle and the cross of Christ are not doctrines to debate or spectacles to behold, but gospel acts to glory in. All for us! What infinite mercy, what adorable grace, they display.
Possessing God’s great salvation
But let us be clear. When the Bible says that Christ was born for us, and died for us, and rose again for us, it is not saying that he did these things for everyone. The ‘us’ who benefit from the saving work of Christ are those who put their trust in Christ alone – asking him to rescue them from the coming judgement and restore them to a right relationship with God.
The sin-vanquishing, God-pacifying, glory-inheriting salvation that has been won by Christ belongs only to those who are ‘in Christ’. And how do we get there? One thing alone can take us ‘into’ Christ – and that is faith.
Now faith is not a human faculty but God’s gracious gift. Nevertheless, those who receive that gift must employ it – only deliberate self-abandoning trust in Christ can put us in possession of God’s great salvation. Without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ men and women, boys and girls will be forever lost – for ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’.
Whatever else we do this Christmas we need to cast ourselves upon the mercy of the only Saviour of the world.