Merry Christmas! “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Mt. 11:12). This is not a verse often quoted during Christmas. One of the reasons is that it is the source of a lot of confusion. Since Christmas is a time to reflect on the coming of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Jesus, describing the effects of His coming is appropriate. The lead-up portrays John the Baptist, from prison, wondering if he should be looking for the Messiah in someone else. Jesus’ authoritative teaching and His powerful miracles, juxtaposed with ongoing oppression, did not seem to make a lot of sense to people who believed that Messiah’s arrival was going to set Israel free from political subjugation (Mt. 11:1-3). John’s question is understandable. Jesus, God in the flesh, and His disciples suffered violence to their reputations, possessions, and persons. Happily, the key verb in this verse could also be translated to read, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven advances forcefully, and violent men take it by force.” Christmas is a forceful advancement of the kingdom of Heaven. And there is a lot of resistance. Jesus here describes that reality.
Evil never gives up, but God’s plan for effecting peace with man is an unstoppable freight train of salvation, proven by God’s direct announcement of it to the serpent immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:14-15) in the Garden. God then reiterated His salvation plan throughout the law and the prophets (who were killed for saying so). And Jesus, who came for the express purpose of fulfilling the plan, was born under threat of infanticide by the ruler of the day, Herod (Mt. 2:16).
God promised to deliver man from the realm of sin and death and His purposes cannot be thwarted. But while making a way for peace with God, those who refuse to submit to Jesus, wage war. The peace spoken of regarding the coming of Christ is between God and the people who submit to Him. This same advent of peace brings struggle. A few verses earlier Jesus clarifies the strife His disciples should expect saying, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34). At Christmas, Jesus brought both peace and war.
The birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, was an invasion, a forceful advancement, a premeditated decision to take back what is His, redeeming mankind and the world from the kingdom of death. The coming of John the Baptist overlapping with the birth of Jesus represented the dawn of a new age, the kingdom of heaven coming. But violent men will not let go of their power, attacking the King and those who represent Him. There was then, as there continues to be now, much resistance. Jesus said we should expect it, even as John received the message from the Messiah in the darkness of a prison cell, “the blind receive sight…and blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Mt. 11:5a, 6).
In the presence of darkness, light can’t be anything other than an invasion, the darkness fleeing, shadows bowing.
Jesus is the light of the world. This metaphor presumes the world is a dark place, “And the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn. 1:5). Even the father of John the Baptist prophesied about Jesus as “the Sunrise from on high…to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Lk. 1:78-79).
|At Christmas, Jesus brought both peace and war.|
Here is the uncomfortable truth: When we step out of the darkness and into the light, we become a target. Too often Christians try to mitigate this reality by hedging and compromising on the truths of what it means to be human under God. But scripture warns against these attempts saying, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Ja. 4:4).
He came to contend, but not with man. His coming represents a full-frontal attack on the reigning kingdom of sin and death. He came to enter into the darkness of death through the cross, dispelling it with the light of His presence. Jesus became sin on our behalf in the sight of God the Father, drank the full cup of the wrath of God’s perfect justice upon sin, and the darkness simply could not comprehend Him. So it is that He arose from death victorious, becoming Lord even over the grave. Jesus’ self-sacrifice at the cross is a death blow to death—violence to end all violence, the hope of resurrection. As the kingdom of Heaven continues advancing forcefully, citizens of His kingdom need not fear the violent men, those that threaten us with our old enemy, death.
Rejoice! For Jesus tells us; “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteous, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:10).
Serve Women. Save Babies. Never Stop.
Noelle came to CompassCare several weeks ago to confirm her pregnancy. Her plan had been to get a chemical abortion if she was not yet past the ten-week gestational limit. Noelle said she cannot imagine being a teenage mother. She worried her parents would not accept her child or support her in raising him. Noelle’s ultrasound exam revealed a seven-week-old baby. When she heard the heartbeat she said, “That makes me almost cry.” Read more.
Competing with the Abortion Empire Nationally
CompassCare is leading the charge to protect pro-life pregnancy centers by coordinating with a team of 30 lawyers to combat violence and censorship, opening a new medical office with the capacity to serve 25% of all women considering abortion in NY’s Capital Region, rebuilding and expanding the firebombed Buffalo facility, and launching telecare and state-of-the-art telecare in 10 strategic regions across the U.S., including New York City. Learn more.