Two thousand years ago, in Bethlehem, something happened that would change the world forever – our Saviour and King was born.
This was a long anticipated event, yet when the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Saviour, they were filled with great fear.
Recognising this fear, the first words the angel spoke to them were:
Why were the shepherds afraid of the angel? And how was the birth of Jesus the antidote to this fear?
To find the answer to these questions we need to go back to the garden of Eden… to the first instance where we see fear recorded in the Biblical narrative.
The origin of fear
After having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam spoke the following words to the Lord:
“…I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked…”
Adam feared the presence of God because he was naked. Having eaten of the forbidden tree he had rejected the sovereignty of God, and thereby lost his “garment of light”, becoming naked, and fear entered into him.
What are we fearful of?
The Old Testament contains many examples of people who were fearful of the presence of God, these include:
- The nation of Israel who feared God at Mount Sinai.
- Gideon feared when he perceived that he was in the presence of the angel of the Lord.
- Isaiah feared when he saw the LORD in a vision.
This fear was also present in the New Testament – Zacharias was fearful when the angel of the Lord appeared to him to announce the promise of the birth of his son, John.
As fallen man, having rejected the sovereignty of God, we fear His presence, because to see Him, in our naked state, results in our death.
“…for there shall no man see me, and live.”
We can now understand why the shepherds were so afraid.
The antidote to our fear
Yet all of this changed at the birth of our Saviour and King.
“For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
At His birth, the angel proclaimed that we need no longer fear. Our Saviour had arrived. Through His death on the cross at Calvary, Jesus would pay the price for our sin – which is our rejection of Him. He rose on the third day as our King, having conquered the power of death. Our relationship with Him could now be restored, our nakedness could again be covered by the garment of His light.
It is as we recognise Jesus as our present day King that our garment of light can be restored, as it was by Adam’s rejection of His Sovereignty that it was originally lost.
Seeking the King
On resurrection day, Mary Magdalene sought her King. He appeared to her and called her by name.
“…But Mary stood without the sepulchre weeping… because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him… Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me… Jesus saith unto her, Mary…”
The significance of calling someone by name is lost in our modern day context. Calling someone by their name signifies that a deeper level of relationship has been reached.
Whilst it is common today to address someone by their name this has not always been the case. Only a short time ago it was common practice to address someone by their title, rather than their name. Names would only be used once a relationship had deepened, and become more intimate.
So when Jesus called Mary by name He signalled to her that a deeper level of relationship had been reached, and thereby took her into His possession.
This concept of “calling by name” and “taking into possession” is further illustrated in the relationship between the House of Israel and the LORD.
“…O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine.”
Mary Magdalene illustrates Israel, the bride-to-be – who is redeemed, called by name and is the treasured possession of the LORD.
When we, as Israelites, seek our King He will call us by name, and we will become His treasured possession to be clothed in His garment of light.
What is the garment of light?
The garment of light is illustrated by the profound words that Jesus spoke to Mary, wherein He stated that:
“His Father is her Father, and His God, her God.”
By these words, Jesus gave witness to what had already taken place in Mary’s heart. He recognised her total allegiance to Him as King.
These words, that Jesus spoke to Mary, echo the words spoken by Ruth to Naomi, just before crossing the Jordan en-route to Bethlehem. It was at this point that Orpah departed and returned to “her people” and “her gods”, whilst Ruth “clave” to Naomi, and said:
“your people, my people and your God, my God.”
(Ruth 1:16 literal Hebrew translation)
This was a profound statement of allegiance and loyalty on Ruth’s part. It was for this action that Boaz, her redeemer, later “clothed” her with the name “Virtuous Woman”.
“The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust…
“And now my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou require: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”
So here we can see that the garment of light is the recognition of the present day reality that Jesus is our King.
How do we see Jesus?
As Christians, we all see Jesus as our Saviour, but do we also see Him as our present day King? Are we like Mary Magdalene and Ruth, who gave Him their full allegiance and were clothed with those glorious garments of light? Or are we like Adam, Eve and Orpah who looked to another?
When we see Jesus not only as our Saviour, but also as our King, we can come fully into His presence. We can stand in His presence without fear, as we are covered by His garment of light.
We recognise that He is Sovereign. Darkness no longer has a claim over us.
It is by displaying His light that we are finally able to fulfil our destiny as Israelites – to present His glory to all nations.
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”