He Took My Place
According to Doug Batchelor in his book, Broken Chains, “There's a story about two Filipino brothers, identical twins, who lived in Manila and made their living by driving jeepneys, Filipino taxis. Though they were twins and had similar jobs, they lived very different lives. One was married and had children; the other was single. Then one day, the married brother accidentally struck and killed a tourist with his taxi. Accused of reckless driving, the twin was sentenced to twenty years in the notorious Manila prison—a devastating fate that would leave his wife and children without an income.
“One day, his twin came to visit him in prison. He said, ‘Brother, your family desperately needs you. Put on my clothes and take my visitor's pass and I will put on your prison uniform and serve the rest of your sentence. Go to your family.’ So, while the guards were not looking, the twins exchanged clothes, and the married brother walked out of the prison unchallenged. Do you think the twin who was freed could ever stop thinking about the sacrifice that his brother made in trading places with him?”1
At this Christmas season we are once again reminded of another who made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of you and me. It’s the heart of the Christmas story, but you ask, “What is so significant about Christmas? Why is it celebrated by millions all around the world every year? Is it just a time for giving and receiving gifts, for families to get together, and for having a holiday from school and work—or does it have far great significance?”
The answer is yes. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ—the dividing point of human history, not because it introduced the changing of our dating system from B.C. (before Christ) to A.D. (from the Latin anno domini which means in the year of our Lord), but because Christ’s birth was when God, the creator of the universe, stepped directly onto the world stage of human history in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.
But why did Jesus come to earth? This, like many things, can be difficult to understand. For example, I can’t see or understand electricity, but I believe in it because I see evidence of its reality all over the place. And while we have never seen God, if we open the eyes of our understanding, we will see evidence of his existence every-which-way we look. As God’s Word says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”2
So why did Jesus come to earth? Simply put, God sent his Son, Jesus, to earth as a babe because he loved us with an everlasting love and did not want us to perish because of our sinfulness.3 But, you say, if God is a God of love, why does he allow so much suffering in the world today? And how could a loving God ever send anyone to hell?
What many fail to realize is that when God created mankind he placed them in the Garden of Eden—a perfect environment where there was no sickness or suffering. But God didn’t create our first parents as puppets on a string to involuntarily respond to his every wish and command. Not so. He created them with a free will so they could voluntarily choose to live in harmony with God’s will or go their own way.
Here Adam and Eve had total freedom to eat from every tree—“trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food”4—except from just one tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had everything they could ever want with only one exception. Then came the test: “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”5
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