Christmas Proclamation

Ken Jones
Thursday, May 3rd 2007
Nov/Dec 2004

As we begin our preaching pilgrimage in this season of Advent when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I thought it fitting to begin with this particular text because in my mind it establishes the context and parameters of the birth of Christ. Furthermore, this passage gives us a remarkable insight into the mindset of the eternal Son of God as it relates to the Incarnation.

Among the things that makes this such a remarkable passage is the fact that these words taken from the 40th Psalm which was written by David are ascribed to Christ himself. Elsewhere we see the inspired words of others concerning the Incarnation. For instance the prologue of John's Gospel 1:1-18 climaxed in v.14 "And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us" or Paul's declaration in Gal. 4:4 "But when the fullness of time was come God sent forth his son to be born of a woman." Both passages make it clear that Christ was existent before his Incarnation and was sent forth by God the Father. But in our text, by ascribing Ps. 40:6 to Christ, the writer of Hebrews gives us a transcript of a dialogue between God the Father and God the Son. "When he came into the world he said…" "He" obviously speaking to the Father, "sacrifice and offering you did not desire but a body you have prepared me."

Let us consider three things from this passage as it relates to the Incarnation.

First, the Incarnation substantiates and fulfills what was presented in shadow form in the animal sacrifices. The "therefore" of verse five points back to the first four verses of the chapter where the writer speaks of the law as "a shadow of the good things to come and not of the very image of the things." He goes on to elaborate what animal sacrifices could not do, ultimately these sacrifices could not take away sins (v. 4). This is the basis of the two negative statements concerning animal sacrifices in the text "sacrifice and offering you did not desire" (v 5) and "In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure" (v 6). Of course this does not mean that the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were of no value (see 9:13), but the efficacy of these sacrifices was in the faith of those who offered them as they anticipated the substance and the one to who the sacrifices pointed. This is why when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he declared "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus came in the flesh to do what the blood of bulls and goats could not do, he was the substance and fulfillment of all to which they pointed.

Second, we learn from this passage the importance of the human body. In verse five after the words "sacrifice and offering you did not desire" are ascribed to Christ, he is then credited with saying "but a body you have prepared for me." This echoes the sentiment of Samuel's words to Saul in I Samuel 15:22 "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" – verse seven of our text gives the reason for Christ assuming a human body – to do the will of God." Heb. 2:14 says "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in the same…" Christ came into this world to do the will of God as man is supposed to do, therefore it was necessary that he take on a human body. Contemporary evangelicals have a tendency to downplay the significance of the human body, as if it were inherently evil. Hedonists, on the other hand have a tendency to overplay the pleasure and sensations of the body. The human body is neither inherently evil nor is it built solely for pleasure. Our bodies were intended for the will of God and our pleasure is to do his will. Christ is our substitute in that he has come in human flesh to do what is incumbent upon us as the image bearer of God, he has indeed borne the penalty of our sins, but he has also performed in the flesh all that God has required of us. It is because his obedience is credited to us that we can now yield our body as an instrument of righteousness. Furthermore, we have the blessed hope of resurrection bodies that will be renewed and conformed to the likeness of Christ our Savior. The Incarnation not only means that animal sacrifices have ceased but it also means we can now offer the sacrifice of praise because our bodies are included in the redemptive work of Christ.

Finally this passage emphasized in verse seven that the person and work of Christ are the primary focus of Scripture. "Behold I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of me – To do your will, O God." The volume of the book centers on Christ-this is what Jesus demonstrated to the disciples on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24. Christ is the Seed of the Woman that will bruise the head of the serpent in Genesis 3:15; he is the one that ascends to the hill of the Lord in Psalm 24; he is the chosen one of the Lord; he is the Son of David and the Lord of David; he is the sacrifice that spared Isaac; it was on him that the Spirit was fully given and he distributes gifts to men. The Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Second Coming are all the result of the fact that Christ assumed the body that was prepared for him and in it he did the will of God. Through his obedience we have salvation. As we look forward to his Second Coming let us also celebrate and rejoice in the fact that he has come the first time.

Thursday, May 3rd 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
Magazine Covers; Embodiment & Technology