‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10)
Every Christmas, TV programmers pick up on the seasonal theme with some typically cheesy movies.
If you’re looking to chill in front of the TV over the holidays but want something edgier than Miracle on 34th Street or Home Alone, consider an action flick—something with a life-and-death rescue quest at the heart of the storyline. Because that’s the heart of the Christmas story.
Which means that even the first Die Hard instalment has more to do with Christmas than the fact that Bruce Willis saves the day during an office Christmas party.
Jesus coming to Earth was a supernatural rescue mission. Jesus even described it that way, saying: ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).
The phrase ‘Son of Man’ is a Jewish term that simply means ‘a man’. Jesus used it to show his identification with our humanness. He didn’t seek us out us as a stranger, unfamiliar with our situation, but as someone who knew what it means to live in this world and who was prepared to do whatever it took to bring us back to God.
But Jesus was not only human; he was also the divine Son of God. That’s because his mother, Mary, was pregnant by God’s Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:21 records what Mary’s fiancé was told to reassure him that he child she carried was God’s, not some other man’s: ‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (which means “the Lord saves”), because he will save his people from their sins.’
Because Jesus was human and divine at the same time, he was the only one able to set us free—as God willingly dying in our place.
This brings us to a second meaning of ‘Son of Man’. It’s also used as a code word for ‘the Messiah’, whom Jews believed God was sending to send to save his people. The Old Testament prophet Daniel wrote about seeing a vision of ‘one like a son of man’ with ‘authority, glory and sovereign power’ over all people and whose kingdom would never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14). Jewish religious leaders interpreted Jesus’ use of the ‘Son of Man’ title as a claim to be the expected Messiah.
Another name for Messiah is ‘Christ’, which is where we get the name ‘Christmas’.
The ‘lost’ that Jesus came ‘to seek and to save’ refers to the entire human race. Cut off from God because of our sin, we needed God to take the initiative. There was no way we could save ourselves.
Even though he knew he must suffer and die, Jesus undertook his mission willingly.He told his friends: ‘… the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses. They will sentence him to death and hand him over to foreigners, who will … beat him and kill him. But three days later he will rise to life.’
Unlike those few movie heroes who die for a cause, death wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus. The resurrection proves that Jesus’ rescue mission was an unqualified success.
By Christina Tyson (abridged from War Cry, 17 December 2011, p7)