After the separation from God that comes from sin, where do we find hope? In the third week of our sermon series called The Story, David Marvin shows us what Redemption is and how we can appreciate the gospel as we celebrate Jesus’ birth in the Christmas season.
The Story: Your Next Chapter
Christmas Eve 2021
The Story: Restoration
The Story: Redemption
The Story: The Fall
The Story: Creation
After the separation from God that comes from sin, where do we find hope? In the third week of our sermon series called The Story, David Marvin shows us what Redemption is and how we can appreciate the gospel as we celebrate Jesus’ birth in the Christmas season.
What's up, Watermark family? My name is David. I work with The Porch and young adults on Tuesday nights, and I'm so excited to be back jumping in as we continue the series The Story. Let me start with a question for the audience. Who, by show of hands in this room, in your house does a fake tree every year for Christmas? Oh, wow. Man! The vast majority. Who does a real tree, the authentic friends here? Does anyone do a frosted tree, just out of curiosity? Kind of the Frosted Mini-Wheats version of a tree. That tree never makes sense to me.
Anyone who goes out and actually cuts down their tree? Their family tradition is they go somewhere and cut down a tree. Okay. All right. Well, in my house, we do a real tree. We don't go cut it, because we just go to Home Depot. We don't churn our own butter, and we go have someone else cut it for us. So, we do a real tree in our house. This is actually a real tree that is up here. Often, a real tree is called a living tree.
One thing that is true about a real tree is it is no longer living, for sure. In other words, the moment it is cut off from its roots, it has begun to die. You can bring it into your home and dress it up and make it look pretty and put lights on it or put ornaments on it, but by New Year's Eve, you're going to clearly see that it is dying. It will begin to wilt. As anyone who has a real tree experiences, the fact that it has been cut off from the source of life… It is no longer alive. The effects of that lead to decay, and you clearly begin to see that.
Now, what does that have to do with redemption, which is what we're talking about this morning? Well, last week we talked about the fall, and the fall was where sin was introduced into our world. In essence, what happened to our world and every person who's a part of it is what happens when a tree is cut off from its roots. It may look okay, but given enough time, you're going to see the effects of decay and death happen.
When the fall happened and sin was introduced, our world began to die. We experience the effects of this everywhere we look. You see people getting sick and people dying earlier than they should or people just dying in general in life and the brokenness that's a part of it. God began to introduce a plan to reconnect… Just like a tree would need to be reconnected to its roots in order to live, God began to introduce a plan to reconnect our world and each person who's a part of it to the source of life, and that plan was redemption.
This morning, I want to talk about redemption. Redemption by definition, if you look it up in the dictionary, is the action of saving or being saved from sin, evil, or error. This morning, I want to look at three aspects of God's plan of redemption. I want to look, specifically, at who it's for, where it's from, and what it does. We're going to look, specifically, at the Christmas story, because we're in the midst of Christmas. You guys were handed ornaments as you walked into the room this morning. Those are going to play a part in a second.
We're going to look at God's plan of redemption that he introduced in the Christmas season. Matthew, specifically, is where we're going to look, in Matthew, chapter 1. Matthew writes his gospel, and after 400 years of silence and the nation of Israel waiting for God to deliver them, to show up and to send the Messiah, Matthew begins to write how God would introduce the Savior of the world and introduce his plan of redemption.
Matthew says this in Matthew, chapter 1, starting at verse 1: "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram…" I love the name Ram. That is like a nose tackle waiting to happen.
"…Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife…" Verse 16: "…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah."
When Matthew launches into his account of the arrival of Jesus onto the scene, he does something very interesting. Genealogies in the first century were a really big deal. They would be akin, basically, to a résumé. In order for somebody to be the Messiah, they had to prove that they were related to King David, because the nation of Israel knew that through David's line, or his ancestors, there would come the Messiah.
So, Matthew sets out, and he's going to prove that Jesus is related to David, but he does something else that's really interesting inside of his genealogy. He does something most of us would not do in that he seems to highlight the most scandalous, twisted aspects of the family tree of Jesus. What do I mean by most of us would not do?
In other words, if you remember when you were dating your husband or your wife, there was that first time when you introduced them to your family over the holidays or over Thanksgiving or over Christmas, and there were almost some nerves that came with it, where you were trying to prepare them and tell them, "Hey, you're going to meet my crazy uncle, and he's going to have a weird British accent, and he's not even British," or "You're going to meet the person in my family who has all this dysfunction."
You kind of want to either hide that person or avoid that from happening too soon before you get serious in the relationship, because you don't want to scare them away and be like, "We're all crazy, which means I'm crazy." Matthew does the exact opposite. He launches into the gospel that he's going to write by highlighting, not hiding, the most broken, twisted branches on the family tree of Jesus.
Why would he do that? Because Matthew is communicating a message that he's going to launch into for the next 28 chapters, and these people who are a part of Jesus' family are the point of the story he's about to write. Why do I say he highlights? Because you can miss it if you just read it quickly. Look at the language he uses as he highlights the first point.
He came back and lied to their father Jacob, saying, "Oh man! He must have gotten killed or eaten by a lion or something happened." Because of jealousy, Judah sold his brother and lied to their father. For years and years and years, at every holiday and every festival, there would be an empty seat at the table, and Judah knew.
Judah did something far worse that Matthew further goes to highlight. He says this: "…Judah the father of Perez and Zerah…" These two twins. "…whose mother was Tamar…" Now, I don't know what you know about the story of Judah and Tamar, but it's probably the most Jerry Springer story inside of the book of Genesis.
Why do I say that? Well, Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah, and Judah slept with his daughter-in-law. Now, in his defense, he didn't know it was his daughter-in-law. He thought it was a prostitute, which I don't know if that makes it any better. Yet this was the one, out of all of Judah's children and all of the sons Jacob had, who God would introduce. Matthew goes out of his way to say, "Do you know what else is in the family tree of Jesus? Incest."
Matthew is just getting started, because where he goes next is: "…Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth…" He introduces two additional women, which was unusual. In the first century, you almost always would write a lineage, and it never included women. It was the custom of the day. But he introduces two women who are both foreigners.
Ruth, as you may know, was a Moabitess. Basically, he's saying Jesus was not a pure-blooded Jewish person. He's very intentional. Matthew is trying to communicate something that all throughout the Bible is communicated, that God's heart is for all people everywhere. Of course, in the line of the Messiah, there are going to be people who are not even full-blooded Jewish people, because God's heart is for everyone.
He's trying to course-correct a misunderstanding that a lot of his readers would have had, that God is all about the Jewish people. In other words, they would have thought God really is focused on, loves, and wants to save just the Jewish people. In that day, they thought God was up in heaven saying, "Give me a J, give me an E, give me a W. I'm all about the Jews." "We love God. Yes, we do, because we're Jews." Matthew is trying to say his heart is for everyone.
He also introduces us to a woman who had an occupation that was one of the most scandalous of all of the people in the Bible, a woman named Rahab. I don't know what you know about the story of Rahab, but Rahab is found in the book of Joshua, and Rahab was a prostitute. In other words, the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of Jesus and the great-grandmother of King David was a prostitute.
If you're writing the genealogy of anyone, are you going out of your way to say, "Oh yeah. By the way, Great-Memaw sold herself for sex, and here she is"? That's what Matthew is doing. Why? Because Matthew knew these aren't just part of the family tree of Jesus; they're the point of the gospel he's about to write, because redemption is for sinners.
Jesus came from sinners because he came for sinners, because every person who has ever lived is broken. Matthew is going out of his way to highlight inside of the family tree, it's not nearly as pretty as you may think, and hanging on some of the branches are scandals, including prostitution and incest.
Then, as though he's twisting the knife, he says this: "David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife…" I want you to think about that verse. Why would he put it like that? He brings up another woman, but he doesn't even use her name. He goes out of his way to remind his readers of the story that woman was a part of.
I don't know what you know about David and Uriah, but Uriah was one of David's mighty men. He was one of his closest friends or confidants. He had these 30 guys who were his closest guys. Uriah was an incredible warrior. One day, he was out at battle. David was the king, and he was home in the palace, and he was walking around on the roof. Uriah was out there fighting battles for King David.
David is walking around on the roof of his palace, and he sees a woman taking a bath (who just happens to be named Bathsheba, because God has a sense of humor). He says, "Who is that woman taking a bath over there?" and he sends someone to go check and see. They say, "Oh, that's the wife of Uriah." David says, "Bring her to me," and David sleeps with her. A few weeks later, there's a knock on the door, and David is told she's pregnant.
David goes into cover-up mode and tries to think, "Oh no! What do I do? I've been caught. I've had an affair, and I've slept with one of my closest friends' wives. What should I do?" Instead of coming clean, he says, "I know what I'll do. I'll bring him home and try to get him to sleep with her." As it happens, none of that happens to work, so eventually, David says, "I have to take things into my own hands," and after committing adultery, he decides to murder the husband of the woman he slept with.
Matthew, knowing the Savior of the world, who he walked with for three years, says, "As I launch into this, I want to highlight the brokenness of the people who maybe you see as picturesque or manicured and showcase…not hide, but highlight…the scandals, because Jesus came for sinners, because redemption is for sinners."
Then he brings up Solomon, who, if you're familiar with the Old Testament, had hundreds and hundreds of wives, disobeying God, wives who would lead him eventually away from the God he wrote about, whom he worshiped. Then he brings up Ahaz, who is claimed to be the worst king in Israel's history, who would sacrifice his own son in idol worship, because Matthew is highlighting redemption is for sinners.
Why do I say that? Why would I say Matthew is going out of his way to highlight those? Well, I don't know if you know who wrote the book of Matthew. It was Matthew. Matthew had a story. Before he met Jesus, Matthew was a tax collector. He was an outcast of society. In other words, tax collectors were seen as people God wanted nothing to do with and, candidly, as people who wanted nothing to do with God.
In order to become a tax collector, you had to basically say, "I don't believe in Israel. I don't believe in the God who's there. I've abandoned my people, and I don't think there's going to be any consequence." They weren't allowed to go to temple, or to go to church, and worship God. They were seen as people who wanted nothing to do with God and God wanted nothing to do with them. One day, Jesus, the Savior of the world, perfection in sandals, walks up to Matthew and says, "I want a relationship with you. Follow me." In Matthew, chapter 9, it says this. Matthew is sitting at a tax collector booth.
"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'"
In other words, Matthew saw the Son of God face-to-face. He knew exactly what Jesus was like, that he came for sinners, he came from sinners, and that was not just part of the family tree; it is the point of the gospel he's about to write, because redemption is for sinners. He, with incredible clarity, goes out of his way to highlight the brokenness that made up the family tree of Jesus, because there is not a person in the world, apart from Jesus, who doesn't have brokenness in their family tree and in their life, and that's the point he's trying to highlight and hit home.
Specifically, if you're in the room and you feel like you're too far gone or you feel like God doesn't want anything to do with you, if Matthew were here, he would say you're exactly the type of candidate God wants a relationship with, and he has been seeking you, whether or not you even realize it. Even the fact that you're here is a reflection of the fact that God is seeking you, even if you can't see it or even if you don't believe it.
It's similar to this. My daughter is 3 years old, and we'll do what parents do with their kids, and we'll play hide-and-seek. When they're 3, they don't totally understand the game in that they will go hide, and they'll hide somewhere where they're basically hiding behind a pencil, and they're covering their eyes, and they think you can't see them. She'll go and hide, and as a parent, you almost have to intentionally try to be like… Her name is Monroe.
"Oh, where could she be? Monroe, where are you? I can't see you." She thinks, because she's covering her eyes, that you're not near or that you can't see her, because she thinks if she can't see you, then you're not near or you can't see her. That's funny when you're 3, but in my experience, there are a lot of people who live their entire lives that way with God. They think, "If I can't see him, he must not be near or he's not seeking after me."
Matthew, if he were here and sitting eyeball to eyeball across the table from you, would say, "God has been seeking you since the moment you took your first breath and will be until the moment you take your last. God is seeking sinners. Redemption is for sinners. That is not part of the tree; that's the point of the gospel." So, redemption is for sinners. Then we're going to look at where redemption is from and where Matthew goes next.
Verse 18: "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together…" They're engaged. "…she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this…"
Basically, Joseph and Mary are engaged, and Mary shows up one day and says, "Joseph, it turns out I'm pregnant." Think about what your response would be in that moment, if she says, "Hey, I'm pregnant, and the father is God." If you're engaged in the room, you'd go, "Okay. What? I bet it is." I mean, how do you explain that to other people? "Oh yeah. The father is God, and this is Joe, and we're going to get married soon."
He decides to do what any rational person would do. "Man, I don't know that I can make this work. You're not just pregnant. You're crazy." Then an angel shows up and says this to him in a dream: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
The name Jesus is a translation in English of the Hebrew word Yeshua, or Joshua. In other words, when Joseph is hearing that, he's going, "Wow! It actually turns out to be true. She really is pregnant by way of the Holy Spirit, or of God, and how all that works, and I'm going to call him Yeshua, or call him Joshua, because he will save his people." That made sense. They were waiting for a messiah who would save his people, just like Joshua delivered and was a conqueror who saved his people in the Old Testament.
But the angel adds a few words that are at the heart of what God's plan of redemption is: "…he will save his people from their sins." Now, my guess is that took Joseph back a second, because he's going, "Saved from their sins?" One thing Joseph was not looking for in that day was a solution for sins. "Hey, angel, we have a solution for sins. It's about three miles up the road. It's called a temple where you go in and sacrifice." The angel would say, "The ultimate sacrifice, and the only sacrifice that is actually a solution for sin, is the child Mary is carrying," because redemption is for sinners and it is through a Savior.
This is really huge, especially if you've been in church a long time. Here's what we forget over time. We begin to think, "You know, I go to church. I give tithe. I pay my taxes. I'm a pretty good person" and begin to think, "My relationship with God is based on my behavior," or I begin to think, "You know, I kind of deserve to have a relationship with God." Matthew would highlight every person who has ever existed in this room can only approach God through a Savior.
God is out there, and he's more interested in every person having a relationship with him, which is why he would send a Savior. The world didn't need a second chance; it needed someone to save them from themselves. God, first and foremost, is not here to control you, to condemn you, to hurt you, but to save you. Many people, when they think about God, don't think of him first and foremost as "Hey, I am here to save you," distinct from every other world religion that's out there, which is, "Earn your way to God. Behave in a certain way. Accomplish these tasks."
The message Matthew is going to highlight and the message of Christianity is "God sent a Savior, and anyone who accepts what Jesus did on the cross, dying in their place for their sin and rising again, can have eternal life." God is here, first and foremost, to bring good. It's funny how much of our world… When they think about God, they think this person, who is primarily here to save them, is there to harm them or hurt them or take from them or rip them off.
My kids, and if you have kids in the room… There's this phase they go through where, especially in the holiday season… You go to the mall, and you go see Santa, and Santa is terrifying to little kids. Like, every child, for whatever reason, when you go sit them on his lap… It makes sense. He has white hair and a white beard and this red suit, and kids have never seen this before, and they're like, "Who is this man?" "Here, sit on this stranger's lap." They're terrified.
Here's a picture of my daughter who goes and doesn't understand that Santa is a man who is primarily there to bring good about in your life, yet if you think about it, for a kid, you can get why they would be terrified. In fact, my son, last year, when he was 4, for months after Christmas (this was well into the new year), was terrified of Santa. He would scream at night, and I'd go into his room. It would wake him up, and he'd be like, "Can you make sure Santa is not here?" True story.
He had heard the story of a guy who breaks into your house and comes in. He's like, "Is he going to take anything?" "No, no. He's here to bring good gifts." "I know, but I don't want the stranger. Can you make sure he's not in the house right now?" It makes sense that, as a kid… You're trying to explain, "No. This is a good break-in." He's like, "I don't think it is, Dad." It's hilarious, because it's this person who's solely here to bring good about to you, yet with the wrong perspective, you think, "Oh, he's here to take from me."
Matthew's message to the world is God is here to give to you…specifically, to give his own life for you…not to take. There's a little part of all of our hearts that thinks, "Oh man! God is not pleased with me. He probably is disappointed in me. He probably wants me to not have as much fun. He probably wants to take from me. He probably wants me to do more." Matthew would say above all of that, God is a Savior, and he came to save you and me, specifically, from the debt our sins created, a debt none of us could pay, because redemption is through a Savior. Not through how much you do, not through your actions…it is through Jesus.
Matthew and the Christmas story highlights God is here to save you from your sins. Now, how does he save us from our sins? That's the third idea I want to highlight, and to do so, I want to go to John's gospel, where John gives us his version of the Christmas story. John says this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." He's talking about Jesus.
"Through him [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." He walks through his Christmas story. Then a few verses later, he introduces us to the first depiction of Jesus we're given when Jesus arrives on the scene. It's from John the Baptist, where John is describing who Jesus is, and he sees Jesus walking toward him. In other words, the first encounter we see in the book of John is an encounter between John the Baptist and Jesus.
Here is how John describes him. Verse 29: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" God would send a Savior to bring about redemption and, in doing so, remove the sins of all who trust in him. Redemption is for sinners, it is through a Savior, and redemption is the removal of sin. That's the language John uses. The one who came to be a sacrifice to take your sin and my sin… That is the message of Christmas: one would be born and placed in a crib to soon go to a cross to die for you and me and to remove sin.
What's funny about Rahab… The only time in the Bible where Rahab is mentioned and it doesn't have "Rahab the prostitute" is Matthew, chapter 1. In other words, in James, in Hebrews, in Joshua, when Rahab is mentioned, it is "Rahab the prostitute." Matthew, as he's writing, goes, "Just Rahab, the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Jesus." What is most significant about her is not her occupation, her sin, her lifestyle. It is her relationship to Jesus.
The most significant thing about any person who has ever lived is their relationship to Jesus, and if they have trusted in him, then through God's plan of redemption, they have experienced the removal of sin. It's so fitting that the family tree, like I said, would be broken and messed up, because all of us have brokenness in our trees. In fact, if I were to lay out my family tree, the things I could contribute or bring into from my own life would reflect sin and brokenness…sin of anger, pornography, sexual sin, pride.
If you were to list out the sins in your family tree, my guess is you could contribute, and certainly there's family and past scars and pain that marked your tree and your life. Matthew would say, if that's the case, you're exactly the type of person God wants a relationship with and who is a candidate to experience the redemption plan of God to remove sins and to redefine what defines you inside of your life.
I've always thought it's so ironic that there's one time of the year where everyone does this tradition. It's kind of a funny tradition if you were to explain it to someone with no context. They get a tree, and they bring it into their home. It's just as funny to have a fake tree in your home. Like, think about that. "It's not a real tree; it's a fake tree." I mean, both of them are weird. Can we be honest? If you go back 700 years, they'd be like, "Wait. You get a plastic tree? What is plastic, by the way?" (That's funny for 700-year-old jokes.)
It's a funny tradition, and then we hang things on it. The reason I think it's so ironic and funny is we hang ornaments and things on a tree (and many people do this and are not even Christian) to celebrate the birth of one who came to be hung on a tree…the only person who has ever been born with the purpose to die. In other words, you were born to live. Jesus came into the world, and he was born to die for everything broken, every mistake, decision, regret, for you, for me. We celebrate the one who was hung on a tree.
You were handed an ornament and a Sharpie on the way in. We're going to do something that is going to hopefully accomplish two things. We're going to have a chance to write on that ornament sins in our lives that Jesus was crucified for, was hung on a tree for, to remember in this season that those things were paid for.
The twofold application is that it reminds us that "My sin was so serious Jesus had to come into this world to die and be crucified for my sin." I want to encourage you, whatever degree you're comfortable with, to write on that. Maybe it's a past abortion. Maybe it's a pornography addiction. Maybe it's a current whatever struggle you're in, and to say, "That was paid for. That doesn't define me. That doesn't control me. That is not more powerful than the one who died in my place on that cross."
We're going to have a chance in a second… All over the room there are Christmas trees, and we're going to invite you to get up whenever you are finished writing that and go place it on a tree as we celebrate and leave that there. It was paid for. It is finished. It is done. As 1 Peter says in chapter 2 (speaking about Jesus), "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."
Paul in Galatians 3 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law [he broke the curse] by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing [the faith] of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [to all people], so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." We celebrate the one who was placed in a crib at Christmas to go to a cross and be hung on a tree.
We're going to have a chance now to remind ourselves and to visually say, "This doesn't define me anymore, and I am leaving it here, remembering the one, as I hang this ornament on a tree, who was hung on a tree for me." The band is going to play softly, and then we're going to close out in just a couple of minutes.
But right now, if you have that Sharpie, you can write wherever you are, and whenever you're done, you have a chance to go to any of the trees that are located here, as a visible representation. "My sin was so serious God had to die for it, but God's love in Christ is so powerful that it doesn't define me, and I'm leaving it there."
I just want to close us by speaking specifically to someone who may be in a season where you're still figuring out what you believe. I want to highlight the most important aspect of what we, as Christians, believe and remind those of us who are Christians of what we believe by bringing up what, in essence, is God's Christmas tree. In heaven, it's probably unlikely that God has one of these, but the message and meaning of Christmas and the ultimate Christmas tree was the one our Savior was crucified on.
I hope you never look at ornaments the same again, because anyone who is a believer in Christ knows the moment you bring your brokenness and sin to the cross of Christ, the ultimate Christmas tree, what you get in exchange is no longer what defines you are the things and the sins in your past, but it is that you are forgiven, free, loved, restored. Whether you believe it, whether you feel it, whether you sense it, at the heart of redemption is that exchange where Christ has redefined what defines you and removed sin in your life and placed on you: you are clean, you are washed, and forgiven.
It's the message of Christmas, and of course, it's fitting that Christ would come and be hung on a tree for all of those who would simply accept the gift. The greatest gift is not under a tree this Christmas. It was hung 2,000 years ago for you and for me. If you've never trusted in that, this is your morning. God has you here for that purpose. The reason we can hang sins on ornaments all over the room is because that doesn't define us anymore. He does. We're going to worship him now in song. Let me pray.
Father, thank you that you have redefined, for all who trust in you, our lives, our existence. Thank you that the message of Christmas is simply the message of the gospel, which is that you became a man and you died in our place for all who would simply accept your payment for their sin on that cross. We worship you now, our Savior, who was born and placed in a crib, who one day would go to a cross for sinners and broken people like me and all who have ever lived. We love you. In Christ's name, amen.