Christmas time is upon us as we enter this first week of advent, a time when we remember the expectation the people of the first century had for the coming messiah, and also anticipate the second coming of the messiah ourselves. But key to being prepared for the second coming is understanding the reason and the history of the first coming of Christ. In the beginning of the world God created everything perfect, but sin entered the world through the first man and the first woman and the perfect world was broken. God has been promising ever since to fix it, and fix it he will, but in his timing. Key to that promise was the reversing of the sin and death that entered the world through Adam and Eve, an end that could only come through someone who could fulfill their original purpose: To live in harmony with God, free of sin. Jesus. And Jesus was always the plan. As God is casting the people out of the garden of Eden he says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). The son of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. Jesus. But even before Jesus came God had provided ways of atoning for sin, he gave the Hebrew people the sacrificial system. He also swore covenant with them to be their God if they will be His people. Israel, however, could not keep this promise and so were sent into exile in Babylon. And while they eventually returned from exile physically they were still very much in exile spiritually. This caused the society to be divided into different factions: The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the Essenes. Each of them had a different reaction to the exile. The Pharisees had somewhat of an over correction, where failure to follow the covenant lead them to exile, their response was to follow the law to the letter and even beyond. Where the law said to give 10% they were compelling people to give 80%. The Sadducees great desire was to make peace with their oppressors, the Romans. The Zealots wanted a military victory over the Romans and the Essenes saw the whole system as corrupt, so they retreated to the desert. Each faction then had their own expectation of who the Messiah would be. The Pharisees expected a great priest, while the Sadducees expected a peacemaker. The Zealots expected a military leader to lead a rebellion and overthrow the Romans. The Essenes waited for a great prophet. And in many ways Jesus did all these things, just not in the ways anyone would have expected. He is our great priest who has restored right worship with God. He is the prince of peace. The Roman empire eventually became the Roman church, and he was the great prophet the Essenes were waiting for.
Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promises, and of the covenant we swore with God. God made himself into flesh to show right worship, and came from the line of Israel to fulfill all that was written and promised through the old testament. He is our model for how to live, and our promise of eternal life. Where all sin entered the world through Adam, all righteousness comes from Jesus. He is the first born of the dead, promising that death is not the end, but only the beginning. That through him comes true worship and true holiness.