The Cross Not The Manger

Kent Bailey

In John 18:28-19:6 we read of the trial of Christ before Pilate. It was during this aspect of the trial of Christ that the unbelieving Jews brought unsubstantiated legal charges before the Governor, falsely accusing Christ of having attempted an overthrow of Roman authority.

During the course of these proceedings Pilate inquired of Christ if he considered himself to be a king. We also read of our Lord’s response:

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing, or did others tell it of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered up unto the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice (John 18:33-37).

With reference to the Governor’s earlier question, “Art thou the King of the Jews,” Christ responded that he did indeed have kingly claims. He also indicated that his kingdom would not be of this world and therefore was not a threat to the Roman government. There was no reason for concern on the part of the Roman governor that our Lord’s work would lead to rebellion against Rome. This statement of Christ had very clear implications: his kingdom was not secular, political, or military to be perpetuated by the sword. The goals of the kingdom of Christ were vastly different than those of Rome. Not being of this world, there would have been no reason the kingship of Christ to be involved in an overthrow of a worldly political kingdom. Colossians 1:13-14 gives evidence of the design of the kingdom established by Christ on the Pentecost following his resurrection–deliverance from the power of darkness; redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of our sins. This was the design of the incarnation, birth, and earthly ministry of Christ and pointed towards his suffering and death.

While indeed the birth of Christ is an important component of God’s scheme of Redemption the culminating aspects of such is the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ resultant in the establishment of his church. We are authorized to remember his death, but not his birth. Such is accomplished in the Lord’s supper the first day of every week (! Corinthians 11:23-29).

       There are specific errors regarding Christmas traditions: Various errors have been taught for so long that individuals assume that they are true without any evidence. There is the error of the three wise men. While indeed a plurality of wise men did visit Christ and his earthly family, we do not know the exact number (Matthew 2:1-10). Furthermore, when they found Christ he was not in the stable as tradition states (Matthew 2:11).

The time element regarding the shepherds in the fields with their flocks also has been corrupted by tradition (Luke 2:1-20). History records that the time element regarding shepherds taking their flocks into the fields. According to the Roman custom of “keeping watch” there were four watches: 6:00 pm, 9:00 pm, 12:00 midnight, and 3:00 am. This activity disproves the tradition that Christ was born in December in that during the winter months shepherds in Palestine did not and even yet do not take their herds into the fields. Regardless of the time of the year that our Lord was born, there is no authority to celebrate his birth (Colossians 3:17; 2 John 9-11; Galatians 4:9-10; 1:8-9; Matthew 28:18-20; 15:8-9).

       What we are NOT affirming: In the basic thrust of our study we are not denying the incarnation and virgin birth of Christ  (Matthew 1:18-25). We are not demeaning the birth of Christ (Luke 2:10-20). We are not denigrating prophecy (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6). We are not demoting Mary (Luke 1:26-31, 46-49). We are not formulating unwarranted conclusions (Isaiah 8:20; 1 Corinthians 4:6).

       We are accepting the truth that in the New Testament the emphasis is placed upon the Cross not the Manger. Christ depicted his death, burial, and resurrection as being the sufficient sign (Matthew12:38-40). Such was the design of God’s plan (Matthew 16:21-23). It was the fulfillment of prophecy and the purpose of his incarnation and birth (Luke 24:25-27; 44-46; John 12:27-33).

       The inspired preaching of the apostles and the first century church emphasized the Cross not the Manger. We find such in the preaching of Peter (Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-15; 4:2). We note such in the preaching of Paul (Acts 13:26-39; 17:2-3; 18:4-6). Note the emphasis of the cross in the epistles (1 Peter 1:3; 18, 19; 2:24). No where in the New Testament do we find the birth of Christ being celebrated (Galatians 6:14).

       What the Cross of Christ demonstrates: Such demonstrates the awfulness of sin (Hebrews 2:9-12). Such tells us of the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:4-10). The cross informs us of the grace of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9). That Christ became incarnate and was born (Galatians 4:1-4). Such is a demonstration of our need to obey the conditions regarding the gospel (Romans 6:3-17; Colossians 2:11-13).

With regards to Christ, let our emphasis be upon the Cross not the Manger.

Northside Anchor Bulletin. Sunday, December 24, 2017. Northside Church of Christ, Calhoun, GA. Ron Hall, editor.

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