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Do you need a Saviour?

Gospel according to Luke 2:8-12


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Gospel according to Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

There is an exhibition on Alexander the Great at the Australian Museum.

Alexander the Great lived in 4th century B.C. He became the king of Macedonia by the age of 20, and built the largest empire at the time by the age of 30.

I am no good at world history and know very little about the Alexander the Great.

But when I saw this picture of Gonzaga Cameo, one of the attractions of the exhibition, I was shocked.

It is said that this was made about 3rd century B.C.

Can you believe that this was made more than 2,000 years ago?

I could not believe at the first glance.

I am astonished by the skill of the worker who made this two thousand years ago. It also makes me wonder about the journey this Cameo went through over many people.

When you look at this Cameo, would you say that this is fake? Would you say that it cannot be as old as two thousand years?

Rather, I expect many will be astonished by its unchanging beauty over two thousand years.

Today's Bible passage was also written about two thousand years ago. It was originally written in ancient Greek, the language that Alexander the Great used, and now translated into Japanese or English.

The author of this Gospel, Luke, was said to be a doctor and Apostle Paul's disciple or friend. Paul called him, "dear friend Luke, the doctor."

This manuscript that Luke wrote carried messages that touched many people's hearts over two thousand years.

Let's read this passage again from verse 8.

V8, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night."

This night was not an extra ordinary night for the shepherds.

They were outside the town of Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born.

It was a usual routine for the shepherds to keep watch over their flocks at night.

At least one person was keeping watch without sleep in order to protect the sheep from dangers such as wolves.

It was an ordinary day, but suddenly... V9, "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified."

Do you find something strange about this description?

For start, how would Luke know about this incident? He was not there.

Actually, when we continue to read the Bible, this is no strange.

After this incident, the shepherds visited Mary and Joseph, and told them everything what had happened to the shepherds.

V19 reads, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Jesus' mother, Mary, was not supportive of Jesus when he first started teaching people about God. She visited Jesus with his brothers to bring Jesus back home, thinking Jesus went crazy.

But by the time when Jesus was dying on the cross, Mary was there with Jesus. She continued to stay with Jesus' disciples.

So, as Luke was said to "have carefully investigated everything from the beginning" (Luke 1:3), it is not surprising that Luke heard the story of the shepherds from Mary herself, or from disciples who heard the story from Mary.

What is more problematic, I suppose, is the fact that this passage tells us that "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them."

One of the reasons why some people consider Luke's story as some kind of fake is because the story tells of the existence of the angels.

Are angels real?

Do you believe angels exist?

Have you seen an angel?

People who don't believe God exist, would not believe angels exist.

But some of the people who do believe in God may have difficulty accepting the existence of the angels.

I am one of them.

An angel?

What does he or she wear?

Doesn't it make you wonder?

"The glory of the Lord shone around them"? What kind of phenomenon really it was?

I don't know.

But that I have never seen an angel does not prove that angels do not exist.

You know swans exist.

In the past, people in Europe thought that a swan was always white. (In Japanese, a swan is called "white bird".)

They did not believe that a black swan exists. (In Japanese, "a black white bird.")

In Australia, there is a black swan.

If you have never seen a black swan, then you would not believe there is such a bird as black swan.

You may think it is a fake. You may have difficulty accepting the truth, if you have not seen it yourself.

Do you know of an animal called a platypus?

A platypus is a mammal but it has a beak like organ.

Long time ago, a stuffed platypus was sent from Australia to England. People in England did not believe that the stuffed platypus was a real animal. They thought it was a fake.

But a platypus, a mammal who has a beak like organ, does exist.

It may be difficult for you to accept its existence, if you have not seen it for yourself.

I think the existence of the angels is the same.

For us, the existence of the angels is too strange. It is easier for us to think that it is a made up story. It is difficult for us to accept its existence.

But if you have seen him or her once, you will understand its existence is real.

When you meet with an angel, please don't tell him or her that I said "An angel is like a platypus."

As strange as it may sound, God's angel appeared to the shepherds.

It is no surprising that the shepherds "were terrified."

If you know for sure that you have met with God's angles with the glory of God shining around you, you too will be very terrified.

It was a special event happened two thousand years ago.

The Bible does not tell why God chose to send his angels to the shepherds who were at the time outside of the Bethlehem.

In Matthew's Gospel, Magi (wise men, astrologers) who were studying the movement of the stars visited the newly born Jesus.

Shepherds were Jews, they were poor, and were socially of no significance. Magi were probably not Jews, they were rich enough to bring expensive gifts to Jesus.

God brought the good news of his salvation to both kinds of people.

Verse 10, "But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

The purpose of the angel's visit is to bring the good news of great joy.

What was that message?

Verse 11, "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

The "town of David" was Bethlehem, where the king of Israel, David, who lived another 1,000 years ago from then, was born.

According to the Old Testament, another king of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

So shepherds went to Bethlehem. If they asked around "Are there a baby born today?" then they would have found Mary who was seen by the people as pregnant.

I don't know what sheep was doing then, but when the shepherds found the parents with a new born baby, and if the new born baby was in a manger, then they would know that the baby was the Saviour that the angel spoken about.

The angel said, "A Saviour has been born to YOU."

"You" of course refers to the shepherds and Jews, but it also can refer to human as a whole, as opposed to the angels.

"A Saviour has been born to US."

"To US."

Do you need a Saviour?

If you ask someone you know, "Do you need a Saviour?" what would he or she reply?

Some people think that they don't need a Saviour.

"I will not rely on other people, I will stand with my own feet."

Many may think that such an attitude is actually a noble one.

Many may think that it is to be praised to make an effort with your own strength and to achieve something.

Many may think that to rely on others is to show your own weakness.

Those who think they don't need a Saviour would not have come to church and been listening to my talk.

But please consider for a while.

Even if someone is thinking that "I have been living with my own strength, and I am going to live with my own strength, I don't need a Saviour," that someone has already been "saved" by many people.

That we can live in Japan or in Australia relatively peacefully compared to the countries where there are wars and terrorism, isn't it because there were people made effort and we have been "saved" by them?

In fact, we have already been saved by many people.

Not only by people, but also we have been saved by God who is the creator of this world.

Even if we think we live by ourselves, that there is the earth, the sun, the water, the air, the food, and we can live by them, isn't it because we have been saved by God who provided them?

It is not possible that one does not need a Saviour, I consider.

We all need a Saviour, in one way or another.

But some may think this way. "Yes, I need a Saviour, but I don't think there is a Saviour who can truly save me. It is no use to rely on such a non-existing Saviour. I will be disappointed if I do, so I don't need a Saviour."

When we look at the history, we will find many fake Saviours who claimed that they were Saviours.

Ryuho Ohkawa of Happy Science is said to claim that he is the most high God El Cantare incarnated.

Moon Sun Myung of Unification Church (he died this September) was said to claim that he was Jesus Christ returned to earth.

What is the evidence that Jesus is the only true God who became man?

As there are so many fake Saviours, how can we believe that any one of them is true?

But please consider this carefully.

That there are so many fake Saviours in this world does not negate the existence of one true Saviour.

Indeed, Jesus said; "Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many." (Mark 13:5,6) "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible." (Mark 13:22)

Jesus has already told us that there will be many fake Saviours in addition to one true Saviour.

I don't know why God allows the existence of fake Saviours. It is very confusing.

But, just as God allowed the existence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, if we do not have an option of choosing God or choosing something other than God, including any fake Saviour, then we cannot express our faith in God.

Do you need a real and true Saviour?

From what does this Saviour save us?

Today's passage does not quite tell us what does Jesus, the Saviour, do.

Let's read another passage from Luke chapter 5. Please think about what Jesus is going to save us from.

Luke chapter 5 verse 17. "One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick." "Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus." "When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."

(They were not impudent enough to go through people but impudent enough to take tiles from someone's roof.)

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."" "The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"" "Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?" "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?" "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home."" "Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God."

The tiles were put back by paralytic's friend, I hope.

What do you think Jesus will save us from?

The Bible tells us that Jesus has all the power to heal our sickness, fill our needs, and even to raise the dead.

But I don't think it is necessary for everyone to be healed, to be filled of the needs that we think we need, and not to die.

Apostle Paul had some kind of physical problem. He prayed many times to God so God would take his problem away. But God did not take his problem away.

Instead, God said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you." (2 Cor 12:9)

Paul needed to have his weakness.

There is only one thing that everyone needs.

Everyone needs his or her sins to be forgiven by God.

For this reason, God had sent Jesus to this world.

What is sin?

Sin is to live my own way, not following God's way.

Paul told us that every one of us is a sinner from birth (Ephesians 2:3).

Our nature is sinful.

We have been taught to do good and not to do evil. Yet, we often fail to do good and often do evil.

Deeds are not the only things we express our sinfulness.

The expression of our sinful nature not only includes stealing, murdering, or adultery.

It also includes being jealous, envy, unsympathetic, and despising others.

Can you say to God, I am not a sinner?

I don't know you, but I expect you know yourself.

We all have sinned against God.

If you hate anyone, you have sinned against God.

If you are envy of anyone, you have sinned against God.

If you despise anyone, you have sinned against God.

Because of our sinfulness, this world is filled with evil, hatred, and suffering.

If we will not repent our sins, we will never have peace with God.

Can you say to God, "God, I am a sinner, please forgive me."?

If you can say to God, "Please forgive me," then God will forgive all your sins.

Because for this reason, in order to forgive our sins, God has sent our Saviour, Jesus, to this world.

Jesus was already punished by God on the cross for our sins, on behalf of us.

This is the message of our salvation given to us two thousand years ago.

Isn't it strange?

If we choose to do so, we are capable of ignoring this message.

If we choose to do so, we are capable of thinking that this message is a made up story.

There are many other messages, fake messages about fake Saviours.

But, according to Luke, this message is one and only true message of salvation, one and only true message of forgiveness of our sins.

By this message, God has provided the path for us to rebuild our peaceful relationship with God.

At the beginning, I talked about my astonishment of the beauty of this Gonzaga Cameo made two thousand years ago.

But we know that even this Cameo will one day perish.

The message that an angel told us, the message that a Saviour was born to us, has not been changed and will not change for ever.

Jesus Christ is the Saviour.

Let's pray.

If you are willing to ask God for his forgiveness, please pray with me as follows:

Dear God,

I have been ignoring you and rebelling against you.

I know I am not worthy to be accepted by you.

Please forgive me.

Thank you, you have sent Jesus to this world.

Thank you, you have forgiven my sins by punishing him on behalf of me.

Please change me so that I may live according to your will.

In Jesus' name, I pray.


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Produced by Hajime Suzuki
Special thanks to my wife Louise for her constant encouragement and patience