Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
–Matthew 12:40

This week, we are looking at God’s great Christmas gift to us–His Son, Jesus Christ. There are several reasons that God’s gift of salvation can come only through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only leader who ever claimed to forgive sins. No founder of any other religion ever claimed to be able to forgive sins. For example, Buddha said, “There are no living beings to whom the Lord Buddha can bring salvation.” But Jesus said He had the authority to forgive sins. Jesus consistently taught that His primary reason for coming to earth was not to teach us how to live but to die for our sins and provide salvation. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” In Matthew 20:28, He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In John 11:25, He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

Jesus also claimed to conquer death. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples that He was going to die, be buried, and be raised again from the dead. Matthew 16:21 says, “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 be raised up on the third day.” Jesus said His resurrection would be the proof that He was the Son of God. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Even Jesus’s enemies understood what He was saying about the sign of Jonah. After Jesus was crucified, the religious leaders began to get nervous because they understood His prophecy that He would rise again from the dead. So they went to Pontius Pilate on that Saturday. “The day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I am to rise again.” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last deception will be worse than the first’” (Matthew 27:62-64). They were saying, “We have to guard this body, because Jesus claimed He was the Son of God and said He would prove it by His resurrection. If His apostles steal the body, then they will say Jesus is who He said He was.” So they asked Pilate to give them a Roman guard unit. Pilate agreed. What happened? Jesus overcame that Roman guard unit. He was raised from the dead.

Jesus is the only religious leader who claimed He would be raised from the dead–and then actually did it. That is what makes Jesus different.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “God’s Exclusive Christmas Offer to You” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2013.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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