The first time I held my babies, their innocence overwhelmed me. They were helpless and perfect, not even a hint of malice in their searching eyes. But after thirteen years of parenting, I am under no illusion that my children are perfect. As a matter of fact, their flaws often mirror my own. We lose our tempers quickly. Hunger and fatigue highlight our tendencies toward sin. Unwelcome sarcasm is dished out like a second helping of lunchroom mystery meat.
I remember the day my firstborn revealed her sin nature. I established a clear boundary. She looked me straight in the eye and crossed it anyway. I was a bit surprised it came so early but not surprised that she made the choice to do the wrong thing. Since the beginning of mankind, sin has been a part of the human condition (see Romans 5:12).
During the Christmas season, we remember Jesus as a baby. We find him in nativity scenes everywhere and on church platforms looking so sweet and innocent. Anyone who has held a newborn can imagine the holy glow he must have radiated on Christmas morning.
Because he was the Son of God, I’m guessing Jesus’s innocence didn’t fade when he hit what for most of us are the “terrible” twos. He never morphed into a defiant “threenager.” Mary never asked him twice to do his chores. Joseph didn’t need to lecture him on respect after an eye roll. He made it through his early years without crossing the boundaries his parents established.
In the New Testament, we get a close look at the last three years of Jesus’s life. During his public ministry, he never slipped up. He didn’t let hunger and fatigue affect the way he treated people (Matthew 14:13–21). When interrupted, he showed compassion and kindness (Mark 1:40–42). Even during Judas’s betrayal, Jesus didn’t strike back (Luke 22:47–51). The holiness of the Christ child stayed intact until Jesus’s final breath.
I find it easy to accept the fact that God is holy. It’s harder for my mind to grasp the fact that Jesus remained holy while wearing the flesh of man. He walked through the same temptations we face and never caved (Hebrews 4:15).
Holiness should be rewarded. At the end of his life, justice would demand Jesus receive only the applause of heaven for a life well lived. Instead he willingly accepted the punishment of a criminal.
Instead of hearing cheers from the crowd, he heard them yell, “Crucify him!”
Instead of receiving a pat on the back, he received twenty-nine lashes from a torturous Roman whip.
Instead of walking a victory lap, he walked the shameful road to Calvary with a cross on his back.
Instead of wearing the champion’s wreath, he wore a crown of thorns.
Instead of being placed on a platform of honor, he was lifted high on the cross.
It’s not fair. Jesus lived a sinless life yet received a sinner’s punishment. Innocence meets guilt. Holiness meets wrath. How painful for both the Father and the Son.
Why would the holy Son of God willingly endure a punishment he didn’t deserve? Love. He loves us so much he entered this world as a sweet baby boy, knowing how his life on earth would end. He maintained his holiness despite temptation. When it came time to take on the consequences of our sin, he stretched his arms wide to bear it on our behalf.
When you see baby Jesus lying in the manger this Christmas, remember his holiness, and remember his sacrifice.
“He was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.”
(Isaiah 53:5–6 NLT)
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man. They have three children. In the quiet minutes of her day, you will find her at the keyboard or curled up with a book–always with coffee. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.
Photograph © Gareth Harper, used with permission