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The Godwin Family at the Rockefeller Center in New York, January 2014
The Divine Disguise
By Ben Godwin
One author wrote, “Christmas is when God came down the stairs of heaven with a baby in His arms.” What if Jesus had come as He deserved? Surely He would have been born with all the pomp and prestige of royalty. Instead, he was born in a smelly stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes used to wipe the sweat from farm animals and laid in a cattle trough (manger). The unassuming way in which He made His human debut defies reason.
Think of it, Jesus was born in a borrowed stable, preach one of His first sermons in a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey and was finally buried in a borrowed grave. But don’t be fooled by the humble beginnings. It was all part of a divine disguise. God carefully planned Jesus’ birth to be so inconspicuous that, except for a handful of people, it would go virtually unnoticed.
It’s difficult to understand why Jesus lived the majority of His life in obscurity. After His supernatural conception and birth, there is only one brief childhood glimpse of Him in Scripture—at His Bar Mitzveh in the Temple when He confounded the lawyers with His wisdom at age twelve. (Luke 2:40-51) Then, at age thirty, He began His public ministry. Remarkably, for thirty years the Son of God didn’t perform a single miracle, preach a sermon, cast out a demon, or do anything noteworthy for the sacred record. We are left to wonder why? Again, I believe it was all part of the divine disguise. Jesus’ first thirty years were so ordinary that most people of His day missed His coming altogether. The Jews expected a Messiah with the political savvy and the military skill to rid them of the Roman invaders who occupied their land. But Jesus didn’t come to save His people from the Romans, He came to “save His people from their sins.” (Matthew. 1:21)
To the Jews, Jesus was too common to be the Messiah. In fact, when Jesus stood in the synagogue in Nazareth and revealed His true identity, His own townsmen said, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Mt. 13:55) Then they accused Him of blasphemy and tried to throw Him over a cliff. After all, Messiahs don’t build furniture, do they?
Perhaps you’ve noticed how Joseph vanishes from the Biblical record after the incident in the Temple when Jesus was twelve. Joseph was probably much older than Mary (which was common in those days). According to church tradition, Joseph died when Jesus was around eighteen years old. Jesus, being the eldest son (Matthew 13:55-56), followed in His father’s trade as was customary. So during the twelve years from Joseph’s death until He commenced His ministry, Jesus toiled as a common carpenter and, no doubt, helped His mother support and raise His younger siblings. What a clever disguise! People would naturally expect the Messiah to pursue a more glamorous occupation. But from the dawn of time He had a knack for building things. But He was more than a carpenter—He was the architect of the universe! He hung the stars in space, and set the moon in place.
The divine disguise worked to perfection. The Jews, with a few exceptions, rejected Jesus and His claims to Messiahship—“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” (John 1:10-11) First, there was the geographical problem. Some of the religious leaders who were nearly convinced He was the Christ hit this little snag. “Hath not the scripture said, that Christ cometh...out of the town of Bethlehem...Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” (See John 7:40-53) Of course, we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy and the then grew up in the Galilean town of Nazareth. It is both amazing and amusing to me that Jesus never bothered to set the record straight. He simply let them argue over their opinions.
Then there is the illegitimacy question—“We be not born of fornication” (John 8:41), implying that they believed Jesus was a bastard. Yes, the recycled rumors of Mary’s pregnancy before she and Joseph were properly wed were still circulating thirty years after Jesus’ birth. Again, Jesus didn’t defend Himself or His mother’s virtue or even bother to explain that His supernatural conception fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) of a virgin-born Messiah. He simply let them have their say.
The incarnation distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Religion is when man reaches up; Christianity is when God reached down! What other belief system claims that God became a man, lived a sinless life, died a vicarious death, and rose victoriously from the grave? It is unquestionably the greatest story ever told! Then why was it shrouded in such mystery? Because, minus the mystery, Israel probably would have embraced Jesus as the Messiah, thus negating the reason He was born—to bleed.Jesus deliberately disguised Himself in order to be rejected, and His rejection and crucifixion facilitated man’s redemption. As Billy Graham wrote, “Bethlehem’s manger crib became the link that bound a lost world to a loving God.”
The Christmas story was aptly summarized by the late C. S. Lewis, “The Son of God became man to enable men to become sons of God.” Think of it—the Messiah as a baby in a manger, the Christ as a carpenter in a career, the Son of God as a common criminal on a cross. It was all part of the divine disguise. So don’t be fooled by the divine disguise, for beneath this carpenter’s cloak, you’ll find God robed in human flesh. “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Note: this article was recently featured in the Daily Mountain Eagle, a county newspaper based in Jasper, Alabama.
On top of the Rockefeller Center NY
Ben preaching at the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church
Ben at a recent book signing
Ben Godwin grew up in Tampa, Florida. He was struck by a car while riding a bicycle as a boy. Then he received a miraculous healing and began preaching at the age of thirteen. He has been involved in full-time ministry since 1987. Ben served as an evangelist from 1987 until 1994, when he began pastoral work. For the past fifteen years he has served as the pastor of the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church, thirty miles west of Birmingham, Alabama.
Ben holds a Bachelor of Theology degree from Christian Life School of Theology, based in Columbus, Georgia. He has been blessed to preach across the United States as well as Russia, Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico. He has shared his miracle testimony in hundreds of churches, schools, and youth camps. His testimony has been featured in several magazines and on numerous television and radio programs. He also hosts a weekly TV program called The Word Workshop and writes a monthly column for the Daily Mountain Eagle, a newspaper in Jasper, Alabama.
Ben's book, God's Strategy For Tragedy, explores the following themes:
- Do miracles still happen today?
- Why does God allow tragedy?
- How should we respond to tragedy?
- How can you receive a miracle?
God's Strategy for Tragedy provides solid answers to these and other questions and illustrates, both from Scriptures and real life, how God can turn tragedy into a testimony.
Watch our weekly TV program The Word Workshop.
If you live in the Jasper, Alabama, area or in Walker, Winston, Fayette or Jefferson Counties, you can view our telecast on Jasper's new digital TV 16-1 or Charter Cable channel 10 or Galaxy Cable channel 8. The program airs on Mondays @ 9 p.m. and Tuesdays @ 12 (noon). If you live outside the viewing area, you can watch via live stream at TV16HD.com. Our show features Gospel music and Pastor Ben's Sunday sermons. The program can also be seen in parts of Jefferson, Cullman, Fayette and Tuscaloosa counties. DVD's of each broadcast are available upon request.