Saturday, December 29, 2018

181230 Fulfilling the Law

Luke 2:21-24 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Just over a month after the birth of Jesus, we find the family going up to Jerusalem to continue the process of fulfilling the Law of the Lord. Their purpose was to “present him to the Lord”! Many times we have seen a newborn baby brought to church. We do not have the same kind of rituals that this family participated in. Instead, from time to time we do conduct a ceremony in which the family commits itself to raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In their case, they came to offer a sacrifice.
Jesus did not come into the world to undo everything that had been done before. In the Sermon on the Mount, he assured his listeners that he did not come to abolish the law. Instead, he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus performed everything required by the law and met the expectations in the writings of the prophets. In him, the Law and the Prophets came to their fulfillment.
Joseph was obedient to the heavenly vision. Let’s look at…
Matthew 1:20-23 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew gives us a record of Joseph’s experience. Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord in a dream. He was instructed to provide a cover for Mary. She was obviously pregnant and if he refused to bring her into his home more than her reputation would be ruined. Following the very law, she needed to fulfill her neighbors would have been required to put her to death. A lot of the social amenities related to marriage did not happen but the most important one did. Rather than putting her away quietly, Joseph brought her into his home.
Neither Joseph nor Mary was asked if they wanted to participate in this very dangerous situation. Mary was told that she would conceive and carry a son to birth. Joseph was told that the child was from the Holy Spirit and that he was to name that child Jesus. This was the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah “the virgin shall conceive… they shall call his name Immanuel”! Matthew added the meaning of the word Immanuel is God with us!
With the birth of the child, Mary and Joseph had certain duties…
Every firstborn male is set apart to God.
Exodus 13:1-2 The Lord said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”
Upon leading the children of Israel out of Egypt God revealed to Moses that the firstborn of all creatures belonged to him. This dedication of the firstborn echoes the sacrifice of the firstborn of Egypt as the tenth plague. Jesus, being the firstborn of Mary, falls into the role of dedication imposed on God’s people. Later, there would be a retelling of the event. This would be woven into the Passover ceremonies.
Children have a very important role in the Passover seder. Traditionally the youngest child is prompted to ask four questions about the Passover seder. The questions asked by the child are:
“Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we eat either unleavened or leavened bread, but tonight we eat only unleavened bread? On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight, we eat only bitter herbs? On all other nights, we do not dip [our food] even once, but tonight we dip twice? On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but tonight we only recline?”
Often the leader of the seder and the other adults at the meal will use prompted responses from the Haggadah, which states, "The more one talks about the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy he is." Many readings, prayers, and stories are used to recount the story of the Exodus. Many households add their own commentary and interpretation and often the story of the Jews is related to the theme of liberation.
These questions asked at the Passover celebration is drawn from the book of Exodus. Let’s look at chapter 13:14-15. And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
Later, the tribe of Levi would be set aside in place of the firstborn of the entire nation. The firstborn of all unclean animals would be redeemed by a substitute or a monetary gift. Dedicating the baby Jesus to God at the temple was a step in fulfilling the Law of Moses.
The sacrifice Joseph offered was a testimony. Provision had been made in the law to provide for poor people. After the passage of time allowing the purifying of the mother then a lamb should be brought as a burnt offering and a pigeon sacrificed for a sin offering. This would make atonement for the mother. Let’s look at Leviticus 12:6-8. “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”
The sacrifice was to be made just over a month after the birth of the child. Jesus would have been circumcised on the eighth day. Then a period of time would pass for the ritual purification of Mary. Possibly because they had had to make the long trip from Nazareth they did not have the money for a lamb. Instead, they brought two turtledoves, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. They had been met, individually, by angels and now they were going to be met by people. They had been faithfully following both the heavenly vision and the written law. A true heavenly vision will never contradict the written word of God.
Mary had many things to ponder during her pregnancy. Now that the child was born she would find herself confronted by people who had been waiting to see him. That must’ve been unexpected! Everything about their lives from the time they saw the angels was, to say the least, out of the ordinary.
They were met at the temple by Simeon.
Luke 2:25-27 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
Simeon is not identified as a prophet but he certainly was one. We have facts about him that would speak to his being a prophet. He was righteous he was devout and he was anticipating the consolation of Israel! This phrase “the consolation of Israel” probably refers to prophecies in the Old Testament that spoke of the time of redemption for Israel. He would have been very familiar with the scroll of Isaiah. He had been waiting patiently because he had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah! This was one of those situations where a man could wait for many years with confidence. God always keeps his promises and he had promised Simeon that he would see the Messiah.
Mary and Joseph approached the city with a sure and certain relief. The worst was over. Joseph had rescued Mary, the baby had been born, and now there would simply be the temple dedication and a return to Nazareth! They could not have anticipated what was about to happen. As they came into the temple this elderly man stepped forward and took Jesus into his arms. Then…
He proclaimed the Lord’s salvation.
Let’s look at Luke 2:28-32. He took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon’s vigil was over. He had seen God’s salvation! And, as a prophet, he proclaimed that this child was prepared for all people! This child was going to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles! This child was to be the glory of Israel! And then…
Simeon warned the parents of Jesus.
Luke 2:33-35 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
As they stood in amazement, and it would seem a crowd must’ve been gathering, Mary heard some ominous words. This child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel. This child would be opposed! For the next several years Mary would harbor these words in her heart. Especially the promise of a sword that would pierce her own soul. Certainly a reference to the grief she would feel when she watched her son being tried, beaten, and crucified!
The second prophetic figure was…
Anna, a prophetess, who spoke of redemption.
Luke 2:36-38 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna is identified as a prophetess. Female prophets appear in the Old Testament as well as the New. They were rare but real! The first woman identified in the Bible as a prophetess was Miriam the sister of Moses. Deborah was a prophetess who judged Israel.
Anna was 84 years old and like Simeon, she was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. She was a very godly woman who spent her time worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. Observing the crowd gathered around Simeon, Anna came forward and began to praise God and then she began to spread the word. The Messiah had come and he was this baby boy. Nothing could have been farther from the expectations of the Jewish leaders. Perhaps that’s the only reason the word didn’t get carried to Herod before the Magi came.
They returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew.
Luke 2:39-40 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
After they returned to Galilee we have no account of what their life was like. Luke tells us that Jesus came back to Jerusalem when he was 12 years old. This would have continued the process of fulfilling the law. Once again, he would go into the temple. While he was there he amazed the teachers and rabbis. A part of the mystery of the God/Man was the reference to his growing, becoming strong, and filled with wisdom. The favor of God was upon him!
One reference we do have is found in both the gospel of Mark and the gospel of Matthew. In these accounts, Jesus is confronted by the residents of Nazareth. They were amazed at his teaching and said, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” (Mark 6:3). This indicates that they knew the human side of him but not his divinity. Certainly, some of them would’ve been in the group of pilgrims during his visit to the temple at the age of twelve. Likely they forgot all about that! These people had not been impressed by him during the many years he had lived among them.
During those years in Nazareth, his time would have been taken up by the day-to-day activities of learning carpentry from his adopted father, Joseph. Since Mark identifies him as “the carpenter” we can assume that he took over the shop when Joseph died.
Matthew gives us a different account filling in the time between Jerusalem and Nazareth with a trip to Egypt no doubt using the gold brought to them by the Magi. We don’t really have time now to talk about these wise men. I hope no one here is unimpressed with Jesus, our Lord, and Savior. He is the only way of salvation!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

181223 A Man Born of a Woman

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Matthew tells us that Mary, while still a virgin, was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit! Luke adds “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy -- the son of God.” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35). Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary without a human father. John adds to the discussion, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever. Let’s look first at his humanity.
Of course, Joseph looked at the situation as a man would. An angel appeared to Mary some several weeks before Joseph was confronted with the fact that his betrothed wife was going to have a child. He knew this child could not be his and could have had her put to death. Instead, he determined to send her away quietly. Because he was a just man and unwilling to shame her. So, God sent an angel, possibly Gabriel, to explain to him that the child Mary bore had been conceived by God himself.
As I said, Mary had been visited some weeks before that by the angel Gabriel. We don’t know how long before Joseph was informed of the situation but it was long enough for her to be seen as pregnant. So I would guess a few weeks at least. Mary would have been the most startled person in the story. Joseph thought of it all as merely human until he was confronted by the angel of God. One thing I think we should pay attention to, Mary was not asked to enter into this agreement. She was simply told, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
All of this came about so that mankind could be delivered from the consequences of sin.
Salvation must come from the Lord. Let’s look at the first prophecy found in Genesis 3:15. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
What we see here is a future struggle between Satan and the child of the woman. This is not something that could have been done through a child of a human couple. Indwelling sin would have been transferred from his human father to Jesus. God promised in the very beginning that he would bring a child born of a woman who would crush Satan under his feet. God would bring about by his own power, not by merely human effort. The birth of Christ is a remarkable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort. Salvation must come from the Lord God!
Now let’s look at part of Luke’s account…
Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
The child to be delivered by Mary would be fully human through the supernatural work of God! At the right time, God sent his son, born of a woman. Not conceived by a man. This was the assurance given to Mary. Did she understand all that the words of the angel implied? Of course not! She could only know that God himself had chosen her for his own reasons and no matter the consequences she must obey. Of course, Mary did not know the song, Trust and Obey, but she certainly knew the attitude that produced the song as well as her son.
A couple of things need to be noted here. Mary was afraid when she saw the angel, as anyone would be, but she overcame her fear! She was assured that this was the work of God in her life and in her body. This child would unite humanity with the fullness of deity. We must always remember that Jesus, born of Mary, was the Son of God. To be so identified…
He had to be like his brothers. Let’s look at Hebrews 2:14-17. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to become a man, not an angel because God was concerned with saving men not with saving angels. He had to be made, in every respect, like his brothers. At the same time, he remained God so that he could become our substitute turning aside the wrath of God! There are people who want God to be a gentle grandpa, meek and mild! They are in for a very big disappointment. C. S. Lewis, In the Chronicles of Narnia, when confronted by the idea of Aslan, the lion, who is a picture of God, Lucy asks, "Is He safe?" "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." Mr. Tumnus also says, "He's wild, you know. Not a tame lion."
Without Jesus’ death on the cross, and his resurrection, all mankind would face the wrath of God! I am so grateful to God that Jesus became a man so that he could turn aside God’s wrath!
Remember, God loves all that is right and good! God loves everything that conforms to his moral character! We should not be surprised that he would hate everything that is opposed to his character. He intensely hates all sin. In order to turn aside the wrath of God Jesus paid the penalty. In order to pay the penalty, he had to be human. He demonstrated that humanity in many ways. One way was…
He experienced emotions. Let’s look at John’s account of Jesus at the graveside of his friend Lazarus. John 11:33-35 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
Jesus had been, along with his disciples, on the east side of the Jordan River. He had been avoiding the confrontation he would soon have with the Pharisees because his time had not yet come. He knew Lazarus was sick and he knew when his friend died. Jesus only came to Bethany after Lazarus’ death. When he looked around and saw his dear friends crying he felt what they felt. The Bible does not say that we are not to grieve the Bible says we are not to grieve like those who have no hope. We see Jesus’ humanity in his tears. The letter to the Hebrews tells us about Jesus’ emotions. Let’s look at Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
Jesus was emotional as a man on earth. He often prayed with loud cries and tears. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was sorrowful and troubled. He said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). The Bible tells us that Jesus learned obedience. He did not learn obedience the way we do. Most of what we learn during our life on earth is learned negatively! We do wrong, we may call it mistakes, and we suffer the consequences! The result of that is learning to obey. Jesus did not do wrong! Yet he was tempted in every way that we are — without sin! He could not have been tempted if he did not have a genuine human nature that could be tempted. The Bible is clear, “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13).
During his time on earth…
He appeared to only be a man. Let’s look at Matthew’s account of a visit to his hometown. Matthew 13:53-56 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
When Jesus came to his hometown he did what any teacher would do. He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath. As he taught, the people were astonished. They knew who he was. He had lived among them for 30 years! Apparently, Joseph had passed on since he is not mentioned in this passage. In fact, Joseph is not mentioned at all after Jesus was 12 years old. The crowd identified Jesus as the carpenter’s son. They recognized him as Mary’s son. They recognized him as part of the family even naming his brothers. They saw him as a human and could not grasp who he really was.
At the same time, he was different. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:21. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We can’t emphasize enough that Jesus had no sin of his own. Isaiah had said that the father laid on him our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6). This was done so that we would not have to pay the penalty. Our iniquity is converted into God’s righteousness! He had to be fully human in order to bear our penalty. He was…
Fully man he was also fully God. Look at Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Some 700 years before the birth of Christ we find this description of him. He was to be a child born for us! Human! His name was to be “MIGHTY God”! As a part of the Godhead is also identified as “EVERLASTING FATHER”! He became for us the “PRINCE OF PEACE”!
When Jesus walked on the water the disciples worshiped him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). This was confirmed after his resurrection.
Let’s look at…
John 20:27-28. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas had been absent when Jesus first presented himself the disciples after his resurrection. When they came together the next week Thomas was there and immediately Jesus offered Thomas his hands, where the nails had gone through, and his side where the spear had entered. Jesus challenged Thomas to believe! Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” These words were a confession of faith, not a startled outburst. Being fully man Jesus was equally fully God.
Just as…
The angels identified him. Let’s go again to the words of the angel found in Luke 2:10-11. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The good news that the angel brought to the shepherds was that a child had been born in Bethlehem. That child was a Savior! That child was the Messiah! But beyond their expectation, that child was the Lord! The word translated “Lord” is from the Greek, “Kurios”! This is an important word. Any Greek-speaking reader at the time would have recognized that in context the word “Lord” was the name of the one who was the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth, the omnipotent God.
When the angel spoke to the shepherds, assuming he spoke in the Greek language, they would have been startled! A good paraphrase of what was said to them would have been, “Today in Bethlehem a baby has been born who is your Savior and your Messiah, and who is also God himself.” It is no surprise that all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them (Luke 2:18).
There are many other places in the New Testament where this word was used to identify Jesus as the Son of the living God! That is what Christmas is all about!
We can rejoice in the fact that Jesus came into the world to be a man. Not just a man — a man/God! Much of the world’s celebrations of Christmas hardly identifies him. Let’s be sure and proclaim the Christ in Christmas. Jesus — our Lord who came into the world at the right time to fulfill centuries of prophecies about himself and to live a perfect life. Out of that perfection he could take the sins of the world on himself and free all those who would come to him in faith. Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? Today can be your day!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.