If you believe that Messiah has already come, why do you want Him to come a second time?” my Jewish friend asked as we sat in a quiet corner of a church in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The question took me by surprise, but from my friend’s point of view it made perfect sense. She expected Messiah to come as a conquering king, bringing peace on earth by crushing all enemies and bringing justice to the land.
More than 2,000 years ago no one expected to find the Messiah in a manger. It was so strange that an angel told the shepherds it would be a supernatural sign (see Luke 2:12). No one expected the Messiah to grow up in the wicked town of Nazareth, but He did. When He came to the riverbanks of the Jordan for baptism, the Messiah blended in with everyone else until John the Baptist pointed Him out. When He provided crowds with food to fill their stomachs, thousands eagerly accepted the temporal gift, but when He offered them spiritual nourishment that would fill their hearts and minds and souls for eternity, they turned away (see John 6:53-66). Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they had expected.
What kind of Messiah are we looking for? A type of Santa Claus to whom we present our long wish lists? A conqueror who will take care of all our enemies—now? Or do we want a Messiah who will save us from ourselves? a Messiah who will take away our stony hearts and give us hearts of flesh? a Savior who will open our eyes to see that His ways are always better than ours, and that by dying to self we will truly live?
The Messiah in a manger is not about earthly gifts, power, might, or glory. Instead, He was born to die that we might live—with Him, now and forever.
Gina Wahlen is special assistant to the editor. This article was published December 20, 2012.