Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | December 2, 2020

Christmas Spoiler Alert

(4 Minute Read plus video. 2Dec2020)

Do pictures of manger scenes bore you? Here is one with an unexpected intrigue.

There’s a quirk in one of the works of Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden (1399–1464). He was internationally famous during his lifetime for his religious artwork. But one painting of his from about 1455 depicts the magi worshiping Jesus with a twist.

Adoration of the Magi
by Rogier van der Weyden
He who holds the universe together humbled Himself to be born as a man.

Spoiler Alert!

A spoiler lurks in this painting that points to a fundamental secret of Jesus’ life.

Can you find the tiny spoiler in the van der Weyden painting? Try to find it before reading the answer down below.

The spoiler in van der Weyden’s painting points to a sacred and solemn truth that Jesus knew but which was mostly hidden throughout His life. Do you see the spoiler?

Hint: Imagine racing with the shepherds to Bethlehem to see what the angels had announced and kneeling in the scratchy straw to worship the long-awaited Baby Messiah. Or imagine arriving with the magi at Joseph’s house in Bethlehem to worship Him who had been born King of the Jews. Is there something in van der Weyden’s painting that you certainly would not have seen at the manger or at the house?

Why Jesus?

Why was Jesus born?

The earthshaking truth is that
He was born to die!
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

There were spoilers throughout the Old Testament hinting at this profound truth. The entire sacrificial system spoke of blood sacrifice needed to expiate sin.

Jesus dropped spoilers about it to His disciples multiple times, but they didn’t catch on.
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34 ESV)

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 ESV)

Jesus told His disciples,
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)

None of the disciples could grasp this revelation. It was simply too hard for them to fathom. Even Peter, so close in companionship and devotion to Jesus, could not accept this truth:
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21-23 ESV)

However, Peter and the apostles eventually understood the spoiler as explained in Peter’s Pentecost sermon following the Resurrection:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a Man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him from the dead, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:22-24)

Peter went on to say that David prophesied Jesus’ death and resurrection, referring to David’s words in Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. (Acts 2:25-36) Peter’s preaching pointed out the Old Testament forecast and inevitability that the Holy King born in Bethlehem would be executed and miraculously raised.

After Eden Word Became Flesh

Artist’s Spoiler Revealed

So what is the spoiler in van der Weyden’s painting?

Did you look for something in the painting that in reality would not have been there?

Did you find it?

Ready for the answer?

The spoiler is . . .

. . . the tiny crucifix (Jesus on a cross) affixed to the stable post above Mary’s head.

There was no crucifix at the manger for the shepherds to see. Nor was there one in Joseph’s house for the magi to view.

Van der Weyden’s scene illustrates a shocking but profound reality — the Lord Jesus Christ was born to die. Although not literally visible, there was in fact a cross looming over the manger in Bethlehem.

The crucifix in the painting is an anachronism. But it is van der Weyden’s way of hinting at the overarching purpose of the birth of Christ. The birth of Jesus is important, but only because of what it would eventually lead to — His death on the cross for people’s sins.

Meaning of Christmas

What is the significance of Christmas? Here’s a 2-minute YouTube Christmas video from Living Waters on the meaning and reason for Christmas:

Question Mark Cufflinks

Questions to Ponder

1. Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season. How do you plan to honor Him?
2. In what sense are you and I the reason for the season?
3. Can you think of someone who needs to understand the reason for the season? Do you have a plan to explain it?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday December 2, 2020 A.D.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. (Romans 6:3-5 ESV)

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  1. I spotted it right away. I just passed it off as the artist trying to convey the message that Jesus was born to die. I try to convey the same message in my outdoor Christmas decorations. I have a wooden cross with a four-point illuminated star in the center. I have a twig wreath with a red bow at the head and two red bows at the arms representing the blood He shed. Then, at the foot of the cross, I place an empty manger with a red bow on it representing God’s gift to us with the ultimate gift of His Son’s life. However, you are technically correct; there would not have been a crucifix in the house. Also, according to Matthew, the family was in a “house,” not a stable, when the magi arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great decoration ideas — eye-catching and full of meaning to deliver a message. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great and interesting article until you get to the topic of X-mas. Where in the Bible does it say we are to adhere to this “man-made” holiday, or any holiday man has invented. I find it interesting that with all the literature we have today to investigate and learn from, we still are doing what our ancestors were doing hundreds of years ago. X-mas is not a “Biblical!” Our entire neighbor celebrates this “man-made” holiday yet you could not find the Holy Spirit present in many homes with a search warrant! It is a commercial holiday that gets people emotional and drives them to overspend their budget and keep the wheels of democracy going. We are not to be part of this world but separate from this world. I know what you are thinking. I am a member of some building/ sect that does not believe in celebrating X-mas. My wife and i left the “man-made” building over 5 years ago and have never looked back. We realized that the building was all about money and keeping the bills paid. Question? Do you believe CHRIST JESUS would be happy about this holiday, of any holiday the mixes worldly things with HIM, our LORD and SAVIOR? Does X-mas promote the life that CHRIST JESUS Himself taught, lived and died for? I pray that anyone reading this stops and prays about the “man-made” holiday called X-mas and consider if CHRIST JESUS would be be happy with what is going on in HIS precious name. Man’s holiday of X-mas is based around a huge lie that there is a Santa Claus! Is that something that sounds like it should be anyway related to our Beautiful LORD and SAVIOR CHRIST JESUS? Pray about this and do some research on the origins and practices of X-mas. We cannot continue to practice heathen ways just because our grandparents and parents practiced them. We must seek the truth and worship our HEAVENLY FATHER the way HE demands, not the way we want to and the way we like to. In peace and love.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for reading and commenting. You are right that the secular world has commercialized Christmas to the exclusion of worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Friend, there are different ways to look at Christmas as well as Easter. I celebrate my birthday, why not Christ’s birthday? I believe Christ is pleased by our remembering the events leading to his earthly birth. I believe he is pleased when we sing those beautiful spiritual songs to honor him. I feel moved to give more than usual to those less fortunate and those who are alone. I do that because Christ set the example, so yes, I believe he is pleased.I give Christmas cards and gifts to neighbors and friends and I make time for fellowship. I inconvenience myself because this is my way of honoring Christ’s birthday. I see people in church on cChristmas Eve that only attend once a year. However, it is one more opportunity for them to hear about Christ. Maybe the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts.
    We haven’t had a Christmas tree for years because it’s hard for us to drag it out of the attic at our age. Such precious memories of coming home from Christmas Eve services, sitting and looking at the tree and talking about the Christ child. Or holding a grandchild who is learning about the virgin birth. What a wonderful time for families to reunite and enjoy a meal. Maybe a prodigal will return home because of the traditional family gathering.

    During Christmas people make larger donations to charities, volunteer in shelters, visit retirement centers. There is something that tugs at the heartstrings during Christmas. I believe it is the Holy Spirit.

    I feel sad that everything is commercialized. You are right, it has nothing to do with Christ. But, you can’t throw away the good to get rid of the bad. Use it as an opportunity to speak about your faith in a non judgmental manner to others. Show them by example and with kindness why our lord deserves to have a day to be honored. Tell them it isn’t the date, but the love that matters. You, through kindness could lay the foundation for a conversion.

    I doubt anything I have said will affect you and that’s ok. We both love the Lord. I hope your heart overflows with love and joy and you seize any reason to talk about Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

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