The Crib and the Cross are Made from the Same Wood, part 2
The Crib and the Cross are Made from the Same Wood, part 2 by Rev. L. John Gable
December 10, 2017
This past week we looked at Helmut Thielicke’s intriguing quote, rather his profound theological proclamation, that “the crib and the cross are made from the same wood.” As we discussed, we are familiar with Old Testament prophecy which anticipated the coming of the promised Messiah, but then were surprised by how much prophecy there was at the time of His birth announcing who He was and what He had come to do.
We hear the angel announcement, “You will name Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sin” and readily recognize that Jesus came to be our Savior. His name itself means, “Yahweh or God saves.” He came to do what His name says He would do, namely, to save us.
But let us be clear in understanding that Jesus came not only to be our Savior. He came also to be our Lord.
We generally use those terms together and quite often interchangeably, but are they really the same thing? If we have accepted Him as Savior does that, by default, mean that He has become our Lord as well? I’m not so sure it does, or let me state that more clearly, I’m quite certain that it does not.
To call Jesus Savior is to recognize what He has done for us. Scripture tells us “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners”…you, me, the whole world. We accept Him as Savior when we consciously make the decision, either by deliberation or in desperation, that we need Him to do for us what we know we cannot do for ourselves, that is, to save us from our sins. In that instant, or in that moment of decision, Jesus becomes for us, each of us individually, our Savior.
But in that instant does He also become our Lord? I’m not so sure He does, or again, I am quite convinced that He does not. To accept Him as Lord requires yet another decision, an on-going decision. A Lord is someone who has authority over us; someone to whom we have to answer; someone to whom we are obedient; someone, as in Jesus’ case, before whom we bow down and worship. And I am quite certain that not everyone who cries out “Lord, save me!” has fully taken in to consideration the requirements of that “Lord” part.
Candidly, asking Jesus to be our Savior seems to me to be a “no-brainer”. It requires nothing on our part except the recognition that we are desperate and in need, so we cry out, reach out, call out for someone to rescue us, and Jesus is willing and able to do exactly that. But once saved, is that all there is to it, or is there something more that is asked of us? There is. Once saved this Savior of ours asks us to submit to Him as Lord; to live our lives in a new way; to be from that moment on committed to being shaped by His will and do His work, under His guidance and direction. Once we accept Jesus as Savior He invites us then to take the additional step, to make the additional commitment and submit to Him as Lord. The act of salvation, the act of being saved is “transactional”, it happens in an instant; but the act of living under His Lordship as a follower of Jesus, the act of daily picking up our cross and following Him, of learning to do life the “Jesus way”, is “transformational”; it is an on-going, life-long process of being shaped and formed in to the image of Christ.
This is where becoming a Christian is perhaps the easiest thing one is ever asked to do, while being a Christian may be one of the most difficult. Yet this is exactly what it means to say that Jesus is both my Savior and my Lord.
Can Jesus be our Savior without being our Lord? Conceivably, yes. By His gracious goodness God is quite able, and apparently quite willing, to save us without any up-front commitment on our part. Remember, God’s grace always precedes our response of faith. However, what He really desires of us is our continued participation in the saving work He is doing in the world, and in order to be a part of that, we must submit to His Lordship, His leadership, to following in His way.
Scripture is clear in teaching that Jesus came to be both our Savior and our Lord. Admittedly, to be our Savior, He needs our “yes”, our opening of the door of our hearts to Him for He will not enter where He is not welcomed. To be our Lord, however, He needs that same welcome, not just once but continually.
In our Luke text this morning Mary is visited by an angel of the Lord and is given the news of this pending birth. God needed Mary’s “yes” in order to work His saving purposes through her, and in an act of faith and submission, despite her questions and concerns, she gave it. “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to Your word.” In her response Mary was submitting to God’s Lordship over her life.
The angel then tells her who this child will be and what He will do. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.” Mary is told that the ancient prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah, the chosen One of God, would be fulfilled through the birth of her child. The One she was to name Jesus would be the inheritor of the throne of the great King David, and further, that His Kingdom would last not just for a lifetime but for eternity. The child conceived in her was to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. That is some birth announcement!
Now we move forward through His life and ministry, beyond His death and even beyond His resurrection to the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection when the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. We read a portion of Peter’s sermon that day as it is recorded in Acts 2. Peter picks up this theme of Jesus following in David’s footsteps and fulfilling the ancient prophecies. Peter is masterful in honoring David’s past which his Jewish listeners would have greatly appreciated, but then he says, “Our ancestor David both died and was buried and his tomb is with us today.” Point being, David, as great as he was, was still just a man, like any one of us, who lived, died and was buried. However, this Jesus who also lived and died has now been raised from the dead, and He lives still and is exalted at the right hand of God. This Jesus is no ordinary David. He is David to the extreme.
Then, taking this a step further, Peter goes on to explain that even David anticipated the coming of Jesus, so he commends his listeners, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah (that is, Lord and Savior), this Jesus whom you crucified.”
By His death and resurrection Jesus is confirmed to be who He claimed to be and do what He came to do. The earliest Christian confession of faith is simply this, “Jesus is Lord!”
Now, friends, if this is true, if indeed Jesus is Lord, then we who accept Him as Savior are called to be His followers, and if He came to establish a Kingdom then we are called to be His loyal subjects, ones who live under His Lordship, obedient to His will and actively doing His work. If we do not, then it calls in to question whether we have yet come to understand what He has done for us, how He has saved us.
The second thesis in the Declaration of Barmen puts it this way, “As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of our sins (our Savior), so in the same way and with the same seriousness He is also Almighty God’s claim upon our whole life (our Lord).”
Simply put, if we gladly dare to call Him Savior, we must also willing submit to Him as Lord, not in name only, but by actually following in His way and obeying His commands.
So, what does this really mean for us today?
First – we must recognize our need. Just as we must recognize our need for a Savior, so we must also recognize our need for divine guidance. As much as we may shake our fists like defiant toddlers and cry out to God “You are not the boss of me!” the truth is we are not capable of being “the boss of ourselves.” We are out of control, or better, we are utterly incapable of controlling our own lives and destinies. We need someone to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves; someone not only who will save us but Who will also guide and direct us.
Second- we need to understand that this also is a conscious decision which we must make. God will not break us. Just as we must make a conscious decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, so we must make a conscious decision to submit to Him as Lord.
Third – we must be aware that submission to the Lordship of Christ is a daily commitment. This is not something we decide once, never to have to revisit again. It is a daily, sometimes hourly, decision we must make again and again. Will I submit to Christ’s Lordship in this circumstance, in the face of this temptation? Will I follow Him in spite of my natural inclination to go another way? Will I be Christ’s faithful man or woman in this moment, right here, right now? Be forewarned, that can be a daily struggle.
“This attitude”, rightly says T. W. Wilson, “of being yielded and available to God goes against our human tendency to want to run our own lives. And our modern culture opposes such submission. So we should not be surprised that such opposition exists.”
A bit of Peanuts wisdom. Lucy walks up to Charlie Brown and says, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Since it’s this time of the season, I think we ought to bury past differences and try to be kind to one another.” Charlie Brown asks, “Why does it have to be just this time of the season? Why can’t it be all year long?” Lucy scowls at him and exclaims, “What are you, some kind of fanatic?”
Submitting to Christ’s Lordship requires a continuing act of conformity on our part. This is the daily exercise of the Christian life which lasts a lifetime, the continual process of seeking to know the will of God that we might do the will of God. We learn God’s will through obedience.
Finally, we come to the realization that we submit to God’s will not because we “have” to but because we “want” to. By God’s grace and by the in-working of the Holy Spirit, we come to discover that the seeking, finding and doing of God’s will becomes our heart’s deepest desire and our life’s greatest joy.
There is a wonderful story about Abraham Lincoln, who one day went to visit a slave auction and was appalled at the sights and sounds of the buying and selling of human beings. His heart was especially drawn to a young woman on the block whose story seemed to be told in her eyes. She looked with hatred and contempt on everyone around her. She had been used and abused her whole life, and this was but one more cruel humiliation. The bidding began and Lincoln entered in, countering every other offer until he finally won the rights to her. When he paid the auctioneer and took title to the young woman, she stared at him with vicious contempt. She asked him what he was going to do with her, and he said, “I’m going to set you free.”
“Free?” she asked. “Free for what?”
“Just free,” answered Lincoln. “Completely free.”
“Free to do whatever I want to do?”
“Yes, free to do whatever you want to do.”
“Free to say whatever I want to say?”
“Yes, free to say whatever you want to say.”
Still not quite believing what she was hearing, she finally asked, “Free to go wherever I want to go?”
“Yes,” answered Lincoln, “free to go wherever you want to go.”
She hesitated for a moment, then said, “Then I’m going with you!”
Friends, this is the Gospel in miniature. Jesus has paid the price and come to set us free. In that, He is our Savior. As a result, we can do whatever we want to do, say whatever we want to say, go wherever we want to go. We are free!
However, He has also come to be our Lord. So, He invites us to follow Him, to say what He says, to go where He goes, to do what He does. He invites us to live under His Lordship, in obedience to His will. And if we have truly understood what He has done for us as our Savior, then we will gladly follow and serve Him as our Lord. You see, “The crib and the cross are made from the same wood.”