The Opening of the New Testament

Crowns of glory for the brow of the Lord Jesus Christ shine in the opening chapters of the New Testament. He came into the world as Heir to all the promises made to Abraham and David, for He was the Son of David, a true and proper man, with full title to all David's dominion. But He is also David's Lord, his root as well as his offspring, and as such His throne is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of His kingdom. Yes, though in the weakness of human babehood, the names and titles given to Him as quoted from the Old Testament Scriptures declare His divine majesty and reveal His Godhead glory.

We start the history of His earthly life with the announcement made to Joseph by the Angel of the Lord: "Fear not to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." At once there springs to our minds the declaration in Psalm 40 which we give as it is quoted in Hebrews 10, "Wherefore when He comes into the world He says, sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not but A BODY HAST THOU PREPARED ME. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God." But who was He for whom this body was prepared, and who before He came into the world, before there was a world to come into, bound Himself by a solemn oath to do the will of God? Who in the wide universe could take up that will and complete it? Surely only the uncreated Son whose eternal dwelling-place is the Father's bosom.

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS for He shall save His people from their sins." His name appears in capital letters on the first page of the New Testament and rightly so, for He is the subject of the Book — His life, death, resurrection, ascension to His Father's throne and His coming again — there would have been no New Testament but for this story, it is God's story — the gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. What a wonderful name is His; it is fragrant with meekness and gentleness, grace and truth, holy love and great compassion; it is His human and personal name; the name given to Him in the manger at His birth, and nailed to His cross as His accusation at His death; a name of reproach among men, but carrying with it Divine glory for its full meaning is "Jehovah the Saviour." We cannot doubt this when we see the reason for which the Name was given Him. "Thou shalt call His name JESUS for He shall save His people from their sins." Israel are His people; He came to save them, and He will yet do it. It was written by the prophet that He was the Lord of His people, "and the Lord their God shall save them in that day as the flock of His people" (Zech. 9:16). He had said to these people. "Thou art Mine… I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour … I, even I, am the Lord and beside Me there is no Saviour" (Isa. 43); and again, "I will have mercy on the house of Judah and will save them by the Lord their God" (Hos. 1:7). And they shall see Him again and shall say, "Lo, this is our God … He will save us; this is the Lord … we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9).

"Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." That He should come in flesh was the only way if men were to know the heart of God and be saved. The movement must be from His side. It was thus that God intervened in mercy not for the Jew only, but for mankind. "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not of the Gentiles also? Yea, of the Gentiles also." "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved." The manner of God's intervention demonstrates beyond all question the utter inability of man to save himself. This is the Lord's doing and it is both marvellous and miraculous in our eyes. Men have had no hand in the matter at all, except to believe and to receive the blessing resulting from it. Emmanuel is a great name. Only the Son could bear it and He did bear it most blessedly and well. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth." "God was manifest in the flesh." If men were to be saved God must come Himself to do it, and His very nature demanded this for "God is love."

The arrival of the wise men from the east in search of Him who was born King of the Jews made an unhappy sensation in Jerusalem; it was not welcome news that they brought to that city that killed the prophets, and had grown hoary in its sin and pride. King Herod, the Edomite usurper, was troubled at the tidings and all Jerusalem with him. He would know the certainty of the matter, and gathering together the chief priests and scribes, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. They knew the Scriptures and gave answer without hesitation. Seven hundred years before the prophet Micah had written, "Thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall shepherd My people Israel" (N.Tr.). They did not give the complete prophecy. It is strange that they omitted that part of it which in striking terms spoke of His divine glory. "Whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting." We do not know what those eternal goings forth were, but we do know that the heavens declare the wonders of His goings forth in creative wisdom and power. But now we have a more wonderful thing; He had come forth from the Father in the greatness of His grace. How beautiful upon the mountains were His feet bringing good tidings and publishing peace, and how accessible to the worst of sinners was He. Yet the good news that He brought from heaven called forth no response in the hearts of His own. He came to His own, and His own received Him not. The same Scripture which tells us that His goings forth were from everlasting, foretold the solemn fact of His suffering and humiliation — "they shall smite the Judge of Israel with the rod upon the cheek." The Shepherd and Judge of Israel submitted to that; "His visage was so marred, more than any man's." Jesus is the Shepherd of Israel, the good Shepherd, and the Shepherd of Israel is the Lord; He is God. So the prophet cried, "O Jerusalem, Behold your God … He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, and shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom" (Isa. 40). But yet again, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, even against the man that is My fellow, says Jehovah of Hosts; smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered" (Zech. 13). The good Shepherd gave His life for His flock.

The great red dragon stood up to destroy the Man-child as soon as He was born (Rev. 12), and to escape his murderous intention through Herod, Joseph, at God's bidding, took the young Child and His mother by night and departed into Egypt, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son."

But there was bitter sorrow for the mothers of Bethlehem, "for Herod was exceeding wroth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof from two years old and under, according to the time that he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are not." But what comfort there would have been for them if they had turned to the Scripture which spoke of their sorrow. There we read, "The Lord has appeared of old to Me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an ever-lasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee… Thus says the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall he rewarded says the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy; and there is hope in thine end, says the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border" (Jer. 31).

There is one more passage that we must quote. On entering upon His public ministry the Lord Jesus went and dwelt in Capernaum "that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by Esaias the prophet saying, The land of Zebulun and the land of Nepthalim, by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" (Matt. 4). What was this great light that the people Saw? The chapter from which these words are quoted tells us. "For to us a Child is born, a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father (Father of eternity), the Prince of peace: of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. Upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9).

It is to this glorious person that we are introduced at the opening of the New Testament. He is the door by which have enter into the infinite and eternal blessings that are laid open to our souls in it, and there is no entrance to them at all except through Him, "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4). And those who would enter the blessings of the New Testament and claim the name of Christian apart from this Divine Saviour are thieves and robbers of the glory of God, and their portion is the outer darkness.