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Unbelief on Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve 2022)
Unbelief has a mysterious ability to tie knots in just about anything. Because unbelief is a function of the heart and will, it can operate in defiance of right reason, known facts, unambiguous texts, and just plain good sense. Unbelief knows what it wants, and what it wants most of all is the liberty to lock its knees and to just say no.
On one occasion, the Pharisees and chief priests sent out some officers to bring Jesus in (John 7:32). When they came back empty-handed, they were asked the reason why, and they said that no one ever spoke the way Jesus was speaking (John 7:46). The unbelieving rulers replied with a verbal sneer. Has anyone important or accredited believed in Him (John 7:48)? Nicodemus intervened and asked whether or not they ought to hear Jesus out before passing judgment (John 7:50-51). At this the rulers and Pharisees responded with another sneer. Are you from Galilee too? Check into it, bozo, and you will find out that no prophet arises from Galilee (John 7:52).
But what does Isaiah say, that prince of prophets? What did he say about Galilee?
And this was no obscure passage in an obscure book. We need to realize that this great light arising from Galilee is one of the brightest lights in the entire Old Testament—and it shines in words familiar to just about everyone here, because they are kind of impossible to miss.
That is what rises in Galilee.
And if we wanted to speak with a biblical trope, we could say that this passage has adorned a multitude of Christmas cards, in number like the grains of sand on the sea shore. It is one of the most well-known passages from the entire Old Testament.
What was the nature of this light? The light was going to begin small. Unto us a child is born. The light was going to start as a fertilized egg, and was going to appear in the world as an infant boy. This boy was doing to grow up in Galilee, but because the prophet Micah had also spoken, it was necessary for Caesar Augustus to wield what he thought was his prerogative, and to order that the whole world be taxed (Luke 2:1). As a consequence, this boy was born in his ancestral town, which was Bethlehem of Judea, but afterward His family returned to Nazareth, which was in Galilee.
Christ is that light who came into the world, and He did so in order to enlighten every man (John 1:9). Wake, o sleeper, Paul says, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14). This is the light of the kingdom that this child king brought into the world. This is the rule and realm of Jesus Christ, and the light of this kingdom is an ever-increasing light. Isaiah tells us this expressly. Does he not? “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it.”
This rule of Christ is the light, and the rule is an ever-increasing light. Not only will it never go out, it will never stop getting brighter. Christmas lights are the future of the world.
But when we look at the stupidity of our race, coupled with our venality and corruption, we find this kind of staggering promise a little hard to believe. And this is why we must pay attention to the last phrase in this promise—the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. It will not be the wisdom of man that does it. It will not be the pure motives of our parliaments and presidents. It will not be the sophistication of our universities that ushers in this state of affairs. No, it will be the zeal of the Lord.
I spoke a moment ago about the stubbornness of unbelief. We think in our folly that we can brace ourselves in such a way as that such unbelief could put God off. No, remember that the zeal of the Lord is going to convert the entire world, and will never stop growing in that world.
And so I want to conclude with a word to the unconverted. Christmas is a time of year when you are reminded more often than usual of the centrality of Christ. So if the zeal of the Lord of hosts is coming for you, then realize that whatever you do to resist will be entirely futile. There you are, barricaded in the dirty little apartment of your heart, and you have all the furniture you possess piled up against the door. You think that will do it? You think you can hold out against this Christmas message? Christmas is just the first few words of the message, and the whole thing includes His life, His passion, His burial, and His resurrection. And after His resurrection, remember how He just appeared in the upper room, with no need to use the door. So when He wants you to follow Him, He can just come in, without so much as a “by your leave,” and start cleaning things up. The zeal of the Lord of hosts is up to whatever challenges you present.
And so here is your Christmas invitation. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Come. Come now. No need to hold out, and as you should realize, no use holding out. Christ is Lord. Give up your unbelief. Lay down your arms. A prophet does arise from Galilee.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen
And merry Christmas.
Peter and John
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and [a]immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.
14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of [b]Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [c]love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of [d]Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [e]love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of [f]Jonah, do you [g]love Me?”Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If I [h]will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen (John 21 NKJV).
That You Might Believe (King’s Cross Church)
Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the [a]handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not [b]know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to [c]Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go toMy brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the [d]disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were [e]assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you!As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here,and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, [f]“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20).
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