“Christ was handed over by God into the hands of sinners.” Now normally we think of that expression in terms of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, condemnation, and execution. But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” He gave His Son to the world. In other words, it was at the birth of Jesus God handed over His Son into the hands of sinners. We consider the hands of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, magi, Simeon, and Anna as being sinful hands which received Him favorably through faith and love. That was the small minority in our world, which is always filled instead with those who remain hostile towards God and His ways.
For many, God had come too uncomfortably near to them. Herod, the chief priests, elders, and all Jerusalem were all disturbed by the news that a new King of the Jews had been born. Herod sought to get his hands on this newborn king to kill Him. And while God thwarted his efforts, there would come a time 33 years later that the evil design of sinful man would have its way. Yet what they meant for evil, God meant for good.
We are finishing up another bruising political season among us. While some in that arena may not know they are persecuting Christ, their policies and legislation at times assail His Church. Thus they have received Him in their hands, unwittingly doing Him harm – “they know not what they are doing.” Our Lord, the Savior of all sinful mankind, still comes through the Church, but too uncomfortably near for some. While they may seek to strike out in evil, God always turns such evil into blessings for His Church.
While avoiding putting our trust in princes, we consider those who govern us a part of our annual Thanksgiving. We give thanks to our gracious Lord who provides for our bodies and life, using even the evil of the unbelieving world to bring blessings upon His Church and the entire world. When Christians celebrate Thanksgiving, it is not limited to their temporal blessings, but most importantly the eternal blessings from the hand of our gracious God.
We now once again are about to celebrate Christmas, acknowledging how God came near to us by sending His Son to be our Brother. He came down to us in the flesh to live the perfect life we are required to live but fail to produce and to die the death we are required to die so that we might live.
In the Bethlehem stable, when it was time for the Virgin to deliver, He was delivered into the hands of sinners. Sadly, many at this blessed Christmastide act as Herod did. They find Jesus the Christ too uncomfortably near and seek to banish Him from their lives and even from the celebration of His own birth. But by God’s grace, there still are those whose hands, having been washed clean by His blood through holy baptism, receive Him with joy and gladness.
Dear Christians, God has handed over His Son to you. Therefore, raise your voices in joy because you know and believe the goodness God has worked by delivering Him over for your offenses and raising Him for your justification. Power in the hands of sinners is held through the threat of death, but in the hands of the King of kings, it is always through the promise of life.
Good Christians all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending his beloved Son.