Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)
“This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’ life on earth, not the beginning.
The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.
The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person — not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus — existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.
Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one — namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed ‘from of old, from ancient days.'” (John Piper, Good News of Great Joy, Daily Readings for Advent)
Jesus upholds the universe by the word of His power, yet He emptied Himself and became a human. He chose to hang on a cross for you. For me. He, the Ancient of Days came forth and allowed humans He’d created to taunt Him, to beat Him, to kill Him. He, who Daniel spoke of 600 years earlier:
“I watched as thrones were put in place
and the Ancient of Days sat down to judge.
His clothing was as white as snow,
his hair like purest wool.
He sat on a fiery throne
with wheels of blazing fire,
and a river of fire was pouring out,
flowing from his presence.
Millions of angels ministered to him;
many millions stood to attend him.
Then the court began its session,
and the books were opened.”
Jesus, the Ancient of Days — reigning with such power and glory that we struggle to understand Daniel’s descriptions. Jesus, from of old, from ancient days — born of a virgin in a common feeding trough through a lowly birth. Born to die. Born that He might give forever life to those who themselves are bound for death.
Jesus! Name above all names! Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord. Jesus! Incarnated; forever existent; born to tell you the truth.
Jesus, the Ancient of Days; born to set you free.
This Christmas, behold the man!
Painting: Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!) by Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891)