Another Christmas has come and gone, in which we, theoretically, remembered the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to miss that message of Christmas entirely, but even for those that recognize it, its significance is often missed.
It’s almost like a children’s story. Here’s the “little Lord Jesus,” as one song puts it, being born in a manger surrounded by cattle. Mary and Joseph are a nice couple, and shepherds come and then wisemen come, although they weren’t actually there that night. It’s cute.
But just as prophets looked ahead to the birth of Jesus, Jesus’s birth looked ahead to the reason He came—His death.
The very first prophecy in the Bible looked not at Jesus’s birth, but what would be accomplished through His death and resurrection:
And I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. –Genesis 3:15
God spoke of the offspring of Eve—Jesus—crushing Satan’s head, while Satan would crush Jesus’s heel through the crucifixion.
As prophecies continued to be sent over time, both the birth and the death of the Messiah were spoken of many times. Isaiah spoke of His birth:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. –Isaiah 7:14
And later spoke of His death:
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. –Isaiah 53:8
Over time, the One labeled the Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5), be an heir of David (II Samuel 7), have a messenger to prepare His way (Isaiah 40), be betrayed (Psalm 41), be crucified (Psalm 22, which has a number of specific crucifixion prophecies), be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53), and rise again (Psalm 16).
It would be right to ask if this all spoke of the same person. The Jews’ reaction to Jesus show that all of these prophecies were speaking of a single person—the Messiah, or “anointed one”:
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. –John 4:25
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. –John 1:41
Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? –John 7:41
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? –John 4:29
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. –Matthew 2:4
The person that was to be born the Messiah was understood to be the same person that would die as the Messiah.
At Jesus’s birth, it was prophesied multiple times that He should die.
When the shepherds were told of Jesus’s birth, they were told that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). He would save the world by dying for it.
A man named Simeon was told by God that he would see the Messiah before he died. He said this when he saw Jesus:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people…” –Luke 2:29-31
Simeon also realized that Christ would be killed, telling Mary that “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35).
Since Mary had the same knowledge as any Jew about the Messiah, yes, Mary did know that Jesus would “one day rule the nations” and “save our sons and daughters.”
And, as the rest of the Gospels say, Jesus did go on to be crucified for the sins of the world, be buried, and rise again.
The end must always be seen in the beginning. Centuries before Jesus came in the flesh, prophets said that He would not only be born, but that He would die. When Jesus was born, there were predictions of His death. Jesus’s primary reason for coming in the flesh to Earth was not to teach us things or heal people. He came to Earth to die a substitutionary death for the world. When we remember His birth, we must remember the reason why He came.