Are You the One?

Matthew 11:1-3

December 8, 2015 | Ray Pritchard

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When it comes to Christmas, every preacher faces the same challenge. How do you tell the story to people who have already heard it many times?

Sometimes you get help from an unexpected place. I’d like to quote from an article called “Ho, Ho, No. The Anti-Claus is Coming to Town” (Wednesday Journal, December 1, 1993). The article described a visit by a man named Tom Flynn, who was going to explain to rational, freethinking people why they shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. In 1993 he published “The Trouble with Christmas,” and made hundreds of media appearances as the “Anti-Claus.” As a secular humanist, Flynn urges other non-believers to ignore Christmas altogether. Here’s the key quote:

“If Jesus is not your Savior, Christmas is not your holiday.”

When I read those words, my mind started running in three or four directions at once. But after thinking about it, I decided Tom Flynn had a point. After all, Christians believe that 2000 years ago something happened.

“If Jesus is not your Savior, Christmas is not your holiday.”

Something supernatural.
Something totally out of the ordinary.
Something humanly unexplainable.

We believe God invaded our world in the form of a tiny baby boy. That’s a stunning thought, if you think about it, which we rarely do. We sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the Incarnate Deity,” without pondering what those words mean. It’s easier to sing about Christmas than to ask what it’s all about.

Something happened that had never happened before.
Something happened that has never happened since.

We believe that a long time ago, in a forgotten corner of the Roman Empire, in a tiny village where there was no room in the inn, a baby was born to a frightened young couple who swaddled that baby and laid him in a feeding-trough. Nothing could have seemed more obscure.

Just another Jewish baby.
Just another exhausted mother.
Just another concerned father.

Jesus wasn’t the only baby in Bethlehem. He certainly wasn’t the only baby born that night. Today and every day 353,000 babies are born around the world. While the number wouldn’t have been as high 2000 years ago, we can safely assume Jesus was one of many thousands of babies born that same day.

That baby–and no one baby!

I’m pointing out that we believe something extraordinary about one particular baby, born in one particular place to a particular set of parents. That baby—and no other baby—was God in human flesh.

What are the chances?

When it comes to Christmas, we unashamedly confess that behind the carols and candy, behind the decorations and the parties, behind all the concerts and all the sermons, behind all of it lies an undeniable historical truth: that 2000 years ago God became man in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We not only believe that. We have staked our lives upon it.

But what if it’s not true? What if there’s nothing there behind all the singing and all the celebrating? What if Jesus was just another baby? Or what if he never came at all?

What if the “Anti-Claus” is right?

What if the “Anti-Claus” is right?

Let me say again that Mr. Flynn is certainly right about one thing. If Jesus is not your savior, Christmas is not your holiday. When you read the story of Christ’s birth, you can’t miss the fact many people weren’t ready for his coming, and many people didn’t believe it. Even among the people who knew Mary and Joseph, there were those who had their doubts.

The central question then becomes: Is it true? Did he really come? Is Jesus really “the one”?

An Honest Question

In order to think about this properly, let’s go to Matthew 11:1-3. That’s the story of John the Baptist, who was in prison because he confronted King Herod about his flagrant immorality. While he was in prison, John the Baptist had a question that goes right to the heart of Christmas.

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

“Are you the one?” That question echoes down the corridors of time, and it resonates with men and women in the 21st-century.

Jesus, are you the one?
Are you really the Son of God?
Or should we look for someone else?

You may think those questions sacrilegious, but God doesn’t. He’s not intimidated by your skepticism or embarrassed by your doubts. After all, eternal issues are at stake. If Jesus is the one, then you’d better be sure about it. If he’s not the one, we’d all better figure that out as soon as we can so we can find out who is the one and follow him.

A Seven-Fold Answer

“Jesus, are you the one?”

There are many lines of evidence we might follow to answer that question, but I want to focus on one the Jews of the first century would have understood. Bible scholars tell us the Old Testament contains over 300 references to the coming Messiah. If you start in Genesis and go to Malachi, you can find something about the promised Messiah in virtually every book. Out of those hundreds of references, I want to focus on seven particular prophecies that help us answer the question, “Are you the one?”

#1 Born of a Woman

We start in Genesis 3:15, which takes us back to the dawn of humanity, in the moments after Adam and Eve first sinned against God. Feeling the pangs of guilt and shame, they hid from the Lord. This is what the Lord said to the serpent who deceived them:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (NIV).

We find three sentences of judgment in this verse: First, there will be ongoing hostility between the serpent and the woman. Eve now knows the serpent cannot be trusted. Second, there will be two lines of humanity constantly at odds with each other. Those who follow the serpent’s way will fight continuously against those who follow the way of the Lord. Third, there will come someone (the “he”) who will ultimately destroy the serpent’s power. The serpent will strike his heel in the crucifixion, but in that same event, the Messiah will crush the serpent’s head. Though a heel bruise is painful, a crushed head is fatal. One of our most beloved Christmas carols contains a verse that alludes to Genesis 3:15. Here’s the first part of that verse from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head

Where do you find this promise fulfilled? Look at Matthew 1:18 (Mary was “found to be with child from the Holy Spirit”) and Galatians 4:4 (“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman”).

# 2: A Descendant of Abraham

This one is easy to see. Just go to the first verse of the New Testament:

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). 

We know from Genesis 12 that God intended to bless the whole world through Abraham’s descendants. But he was an old man and had no son. How would God do it? He worked a great miracle in Abraham’s body and in Sarah’s body so even though Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89, God gave them supernatural strength so that she conceived, and Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. Then the line begins: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the sons of Jacob, the 12 tribes, the nation of Israel. Two thousand years later, Jesus was born as part of the line of Abraham.

# 3: From the Tribe of Judah

Consider the words of Genesis 49:10:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

In poetic and cryptic language, aged Jacob predicts Messiah (who has the scepter of power and the ruler’s staff) will come from Judah. One day all the nations will pay tribute to him.

He’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!

Luke 1:33 tells us Jesus came from the tribe of Judah. Revelation 5:5 calls him the “lion of the tribe of Judah.”

# 4: A Descendant of David

In 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Nathan comes to David and promises he will never lack a descendant to sit on the throne in Jerusalem. Jeremiah 23:5 clarifies the promise by stating that a ruler will come who will be “a righteous branch, a descendant of David.” He will rule with wisdom and understanding.

Who could that be?

Go back to Matthew 1:1, “Jesus Christ, the son of David.” When Gabriel came to Mary, he told her the son she would bear would be called the “Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32).

# 5: Announced by John the Baptist

When Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Christ, he predicted a forerunner who would announce the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah 40:3 says he will cry out in the wilderness. Malachi 3:1 says he will clear the way for the coming of the Lord. Now go to Mark 1. When Mark quotes the Old Testament, he combines Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3. He then immediately introduces John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-8). The NLT begins verse 4 this way: “This messenger was John the Baptist.”

You have Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 fulfilled in Matthew 3, Matthew 11, Mark 1, Luke 1, and Luke 7. The New Testament writers understood that those Old Testament passages were fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist.

# 6: Born of a Virgin

When King Ahaz doubted God’s promise, the Lord said, “I’m going to send you a sign that will surprise you.”

“The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

No matter how Ahaz understood this, there is no way he could have foreseen that 700 years later, God would bring it to pass through the miracle of the Virgin Birth. We don’t have to wonder about this because when the angel spoke to Joseph in a dream, he said, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 1:22). Then he quoted Isaiah 7:14.

# 7: Born in Bethlehem

Now the line narrows even further. Not only will the Messiah be born of a virgin, God now specifies exactly where he will be 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” (Micah 5:2).

Though Bethlehem was small and insignificant, the Messiah will be born there. Here’s the amazing part. Micah gave his prophecy 700 years before the birth of Christ.

All the Jewish leaders knew Micah 5:2

All the Jewish leaders knew this.

We know they knew it because when the Wise Men showed up in Jerusalem looking for the one born King of the Jews, King Herod asked the scribes about it. They quoted Micah 5:2 to Herod, as if to say, “That’s easy. Everyone knows the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.” You can read about it in Matthew 2:1-6.

Suppose I found an ancient tablet buried in my backyard. So I have the strange writing translated, and it was dated AD 1315, 700 years ago. The scholars tell me it says, “Lo, a doctor and his wife shall conceive and shall bring forth a son. His name will be called Ray. He will be born in the Baptist Hospital in Memphis in the year 1952. He will marry Marlene, and they will have three sons.”

If I said I had a tablet like that, you would probably say I’ve gone totally bonkers. If it were true, it would be amazing. But this prophecy of Micah is not a made-up sermon illustration. It predicted where Christ would be born 700 years in advance.

So here are seven prophecies about the birth of Christ:

Born of a woman.
A descendant of Abraham.
From the tribe of Judah.
A descendant of David.
Announced by John the Baptist.
Born of a virgin.
Born in Bethlehem.

Jesus is a category of one

That’s seven different prophecies uttered by five different people over 1200years. And all of them were fulfilled in the birth of Christ.

Unto us a Child is born . . .
Unto us a Son is given . . .

Who is he? He came exactly as God had promised. Acts 10:43 (NIV) says, “All the prophets testify about him.” Then go to the Emmaus Road where Jesus spoke to two disciples on the day of his resurrection, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”(Luke 24:25 NIV). Now I’ve just given you seven prophecies surrounding his birth, but there are over 300 prophecies about the life of Christ in the Old Testament.

Could this have happened by chance?

Consider how these seven predictions fit together:

Born of a woman. Lots of people fit into that category.
Descended from Abraham. That narrows it down.
From the tribe of Judah. Narrower.
Descended from David. Narrower yet.
Announced by John the Baptist. That’s very narrow.
Born of a virgin. A category of one.
Born in Bethlehem. That’s extremely specific.

When you consider all the evidence, you have to admit only one person fits all these details:

Only Jesus fits all the details

Jesus Christ.
It couldn’t be anyone else.

I suppose someone could say, “Yes, that’s true, but it just happened by chance.” Well, you could say that. But what are the chances? A mathematician named Peter Stoner investigated that very question. Instead of looking at 300 different prophecies, he asked, “What are the chances that just eight of those prophecies happened by chance?” After doing the calculations, he concluded the chances were 1 in 10 to the 17th power. If you wrote that out, it would look like this:

1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

If you took that many silver dollars and scattered them across Texas, they would cover the state two feet deep. Now take one of those dollars, mark it with a red X, and throw it at random in that pile of silver dollars. Then blindfold a volunteer and ask him to find that marked silver dollar on his first try. That’s the same odds that eight predictions about Christ could be fulfilled by chance. Yet Christ fulfilled over 300 prophecies! (See Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell for more discussion on the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.)

What we’re saying is, when you come to the Christmas story, either it happened by chance, or he’s the Son of God who came from heaven to earth.

A Personal Application

That brings me back to the question John asked Jesus in Matthew 11. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t answer him by appealing to fulfilled prophecy. He didn’t say, “Let’s take all those silver dollars, scatter them across Judea, and see if you can find the right one while blindfolded.” He could have made that kind of argument, but he didn’t. Instead, he appealed to the proof of lives changed by his power. He told John’s disciples to go back and tell him what they had seen with their own eyes: the blind now see, the lame now walk, the deaf now hear, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:4-5).

It is precisely because he fulfills all those prophecies that he is able to do those miracles. It all goes together.

What will you do with him?

The prophecies establish his identity.
The miracles demonstrate his power.

Let me make this personal. Because he is the promised Savior. he has the power to change your life. If he’s not the fulfillment of those predictions, then he has no power at all. But because he perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, he has the power to change your life today.

And that brings me back to the “Anti-Claus” who said, “If Jesus is not your Savior, Christmas is not your holiday.”

He’s right.

If Jesus isn’t your Savior, Christmas isn’t really Christmas to you. It’s just a fun holiday. Christmas rightly belongs to those who worship Jesus as Savior and Lord. It belongs to those whose lives have been changed by the power of Christ. Everyone else is on the outside looking in.

Is he the one? Yes, he is.
Is he your Savior? I can’t answer that question for you. You have to answer that for yourself.

After all I’ve said, you may walk away laughing. That’s your choice.
But he’s still the one.

You may say, “I don’t need him.”
But he’s still the one.

You may say, “I don’t need him.”
But he’s still the one.

You may say, “Let’s argue some more.”
When the arguing is done, he’s still the one.

In the end, Christmas must become very personal. What will you do with Jesus? He will not force his way into your life.

He loves you.
He came for you.
He died for you.

What will you do with him?

All I can do is tell you what I know. After that, the choice is yours.

He’s the one.
Is he your Savior?

Here’s a simple prayer that could change your life. Before we pray together, I remind you that a prayer is just words unless it expresses the desire of your heart. But if you are ready, you can be saved right now.

Dear Lord Jesus, I need you in my life. For too long, I’ve lived without you. I believe you are the one who came from heaven. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead. Come into my heart and save me. Amen.

I encourage you to say that prayer out loud. Even if you’ve been a Christian for a long time, it’s good to reaffirm your faith in Jesus.

We all need to make a journey to Bethlehem to meet Jesus, the one who came for us. May God give us faith to welcome him as Savior and Lord and King!

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?