On Tuesday, Feb. 5, I spoke in chapel at Ouachita Baptist University for its Christian Focus Week. The theme of the week was “Here am I.” I look at Luke 1:26-38 at what it means to say “Here am I” to God and what it looks like in the kingdom of God. If you really want to do great things for God, then what will that mean?Read More
Monday marked one year since Philip started bleeding rectally. He was four.
Anniversaries are a funny thing. On the one hand, you are thankful for how far you’ve come. On the other hand, those anniversaries bring back to mind those dark days, and it’s almost like you can taste the worry and anxiety that you once felt.
When Philip started bleeding we were very concerned. Perhaps we would not have been so concerned had not just two weeks prior (the first week of December), I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. A week and a half before my colonoscopy, I woke up and saw blood when I went to the bathroom. Following my colonoscopy, I remember groggily getting into the car with the help of a nurse and looking at Osvaldo as soon as the door closed. I could tell then he was sad. He told me I had ulcerative colitis, and I cried. Receiving a diagnosis, even if it isn’t cancer, makes you feel vulnerable, fragile, and aware of your mortality.
But it wasn’t just my recent diagnosis that made us worry that December Monday. Osvaldo had been suffering from ulcerative colitis for 12 years! What was so strange was that our gastro doctor said our colitis was identical—in the same spots of our colon. I didn’t know whether I should be angry with God that we both had an identical disease or laugh because what are the odds! I told a friend, rather sarcastically, we should just be called, The Colitis Family.
When Philip began bleeding, we were concerned but it was difficult for us to believe that it was related to colitis at first. It would be too coincidental that he would start showing symptoms for colitis three weeks after I did.
That week was not only the longest week of our lives to that point but it ushered us into a very dark time. I’m crying even now remembering.
Four days before my bleeding began, I gave two talks on Matthew 6:25-34 at my church for its Fall Coffee event. In this passage Jesus addresses anxiety. “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I told the women who had gathered for coffee that Thursday morning that circumstances change in our lives but our faith is in One who doesn’t change and who loves us. God is a good Father who loves us even when our circumstances might try to tell us otherwise. It’s interesting that the appeal to not be anxious comes after the Lord’s Prayer. I argued that it is within the context of prayer that we are able to be strengthened when worry and anxiety overcome us. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt. 6:8). Little did I know how much I would need this sermon, this reminder that God is good and He loves us no matter what our circumstances would have us believe.
A year ago Monday began a long journey and one we are still on. That week in December took us down a dark internal journey as well. As parents you love your child more than anything in this world, and when something abnormal begins to happen it triggers the fear of every parent—that of losing their child. Coupled with that fear is the fear of your child suffering, of your child not developing, of your child being left behind, etc.
This Sunday we will mark one year when we took him to the ER because the bleeding had increased. Next week will mark one year that Osvaldo and I were convinced that Philip had colitis and when we finally got Philip an appointment with Children’s of Alabama Pediatric Gastroenterologists for early January. This Christmas Eve and Christmas will mark a year when, as we were in Texas, Osvaldo and I were so troubled in spirit that it cast a shadow over the holiday. We hardly could put forward a smile or sing happily along with carols without crying. We were tense as we both dealt with worry and sorrow differently. We remember those nights in Texas as Philip lay asleep looking at him with worry about what lay ahead.
“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ … Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42: 3, 5a)
A dear friend put it so well: “I was afraid of not knowing and I was afraid of knowing.”
We lived for more than two months of not knowing. I will never forget the first doctor’s appointment with Philip’s gastro doctor. Philip knew something was wrong with his body. As he sat on the paper-covered office table waiting to be seen, his face became worried and his lips began quivering. He was scared. I held him, and he cried. We all cried; we were all scared.
It would take an hour and a half for his colonoscopy to finish in late February. When the doctor came in to see us, he broke the news that Philip had colitis. But given the location of his colitis, they felt like it was behaving more like Crohn’s Colitis. Prior to the exam, we had come to terms with a colitis diagnosis but worried about Crohn’s. Colitis is much easier to deal with than Crohn’s. Colitis only affects the colon; Crohn’s affects the throat all the way down to the rectum. When we heard the word Crohn’s, we were crushed. Osvaldo and I held each other and for the first time sobbed deeply. Relieved to finally have a diagnosis, we also broke down under its weight.
Anniversaries are a funny thing. They not only bring up the memories of that one day but they set into motion remembering what follows that day. Perhaps because Monday’s anniversary marked a new way of living for our family: giving Philip medicines three times a day, hospital stays for complications, change in diet, pain management, etc. Monday’s anniversary reminds us that Philip has an incurable disease.
But we have a lot to be thankful for. Monday, on his one year anniversary, Philip is not showing any signs of blood. He’s gaining weight; he’s growing. He’s happy, and doing well in school. He’s alive. There are many medicines on the horizon for Crohn's and colitis and much research is being done. Who knows? Perhaps one day his disease will be curable! We also recognize there are many parents whose children receive a diagnosis that ends in death. We remember that many parents will be celebrating Christmas this year without their child. Osvaldo and I pray for these parents often.
It’s been a difficult year, but what I said on Nov. 13 is still true, even--or perhaps especially so--after our diagnoses. Even while we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, God was with us. His presence sustained us. His Word was our food. The psalmist responds to his own question, Why are you cast down, O my soul, not with a because. Like me, perhaps the psalmist knew exactly why he was cast down. But he answers with what will lead his soul out of the place of deep sorrow. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Hope in God. That’s all we could do. All we could mutter to God in prayer was “Have mercy.” But it’s not what we were able to do this past year but what God did. He sustained us. He held onto us. He enabled us to hope. He enabled our feeble prayers. He did not let anyone snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). And He was with us and will continue to be with us on this journey. Thanks be to God.
I began missing Cambridge the moment the taxi driver drove us out of the city toward London.
It is funny what a place can do to someone. I am homesick for Cambridge, even if it was my home for a brief moment in time. Her streets, churches, colleges, bicycle paths, foliage, river, parks, and people have all left an impression on my heart and mind, and if I close my eyes I am immediately transported back onto her streets on my bicycle soaking in the sights, smells and sounds.
As I continue to reflect on our sabbatical and specifically our time in Cambridge, I am humbled by the many spiritual lessons I have learned. But this particular lesson is one that the Teacher continues to teach and one that I hope He doesn’t stop teaching. And it is this: Cambridge points to something better – a better home.
I have been homesick before. I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to pursue a masters degree having no immediate family less than seven hours away. In fact, I had no family east of the Mississippi River. I was alone and missing home.
When we were living in Cambridge, I, also, had moments of homesickness, especially around Thanksgiving. Not only did we not have family to celebrate with us, but since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it was for all practical purposes nonexistent in the world in which we now lived.
Even though I have had these homesick moments before, this time living back in the States missing Cambridge has been different. For one, I have a deep longing to be there. But what makes this homesickness especially different is that every time I think of Cambridge, God redirects my thoughts to the new heavens and the new earth. It is not as if missing and longing for Cambridge is a bad thing (it’s not!), but longing for Cambridge has been the impetus for longing for something better than Cambridge. The Holy Spirit has used Cambridge to point to something better than itself.
For those of us living in places free of persecution, it is easy to romanticize and memorialize this world as if a particular place will bring about inevitable happiness or as if there is truly heaven on earth. When I have had these types of moments with Cambridge when I only remember the good and not the bad, I will talk to some of my American friends living there. By the end of our conversation I am reminded quickly the things that I hated about living in England: no clothes dryer, a hot and cold faucet, high costs of living expenses, not prescribing antibiotics unless you are “dying,” its often impractability, and leaving dishes to dry without rinsing off the soap. To put it succinctly, Cambridge is not perfect.
If I move back to Cambridge tomorrow, I would not necessarily have a better life. To be sure, I would find many things to complain about and I am sure I would be restless at times. I will not have reached heaven on earth. Cambridge, ultimately, would not be my final home, nor would I want it to be.
Yet, coming back from Cambridge reminds me of what it means to long for something better, for something that I love, for a place I want to go. Jesus has redirected my longing for Cambridge to longing for that promised, blessed new earth when all will things will be made right and when all will be at peace and rest because God will be our God and we will be His people. Knowing Jesus has given me a foretaste of what is still to come. His presence has put into my heart a longing for that eternal home.
Cambridge is not my final destination. The new earth, where God and man will dwell together again in perfect peace and love, that is where I am headed. That is where I long. And, until then, I will be homesick for something better than Cambridge. I will be homesick for Home.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
"But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." Hebrews 11:16
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" Revelation 21:1-5a
When we sin as Christians, we immediately (should) feel shame.
When I lose my temper with my spouse or child, when I hurt a friend with my words, when I break the rules, or when I lie, what inevitably results is shame. I feel so ashamed I don't know how to face myself let alone God. What will God think of me? Will he still love me? Will he be able to forgive me again or for such a sin as this?
These are thoughts and questions many of us experience in the heat of our shame. How do I approach God? How will God respond? Many times in my shame I want to run away or hide from God. Have you been to that place?
I think a good place to turn in our Bibles to address these questions is to the very beginning. Prior to the Fall, the author of Genesis describes the condition of the first man and woman in the garden as that of innocence and purity. They "were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:25) as a result of being in a right relationship with God.
Then some time later the serpent enticed the first couple with his lies and the woman and man fell for it and sinned against God. Because of their sin, they went from being in a state of honor to a state of shame. "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked."
They tried covering up their nakedness, their shame, with some fig leaves, but when God came "walking in the garden in the cool of the day" they still hid themselves even though they were "clothed."
"But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?' And he said, 'I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.'"
Why was Adam still afraid of being naked if the text just told us he and Eve had made clothes for themselves? There are several possible reasons. Possibly "because I was naked" meant he was now conscious that he was naked. Possibly because his attempt at clothing was poorly done and he still felt ashamed to be naked. Possibly because it signified that he ate the fruit and sinned. I think all three possibilities are very plausible. The point is that when Adam and Eve sinned it caused distrust in their relationship with God that was once full of trust.
But God, after issuing the punishment that was justly deserved, looked upon this first couple whom He had made with compassion and mercy. He saw them in their misery and shame and before sending them away performed an act of mercy. He clothed them. "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (3:21).
God takes their shame and covers it with grace. He replaces their poor attempt at clothes with something better that will cover them, protect them and keep them warm. To be sure, though, the garments -- this act of mercy -- came at a cost; it costed the lives of animals.
The beauty of this account is that it is both historical and universal. The Genesis account tells us the story of our ancestors as well as the story of our own humanity. This story, in addition to being about a particular time in history, is a dramatization of what happens every time we sin.
How often have you hid from the Lord because you were afraid and ashamed over your sin? Our sin breaks a trust that we have with our God and causes us to doubt and fear Him. But what I witness about the character of God from the very beginning proves to be true over and over in Scripture. That is that in our misery and shame God looks down on us with compassion and acts mercifully toward us.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:4-7)
When you sin, instead of running away or hiding from God, turn to God in repentance knowing that He is rich in mercy and will look upon you with compassion.
Here is the cool thing. When Adam and Eve left the garden they left with clothes stained with the blood of animals. When we as the people of God reenter the garden we, too, will be clothed with garments made by God. But these garments will be white, and they will have come at a different cost. This time it will not be the cost of an animal, but rather it will have come at a greater cost — the blood of God, the incarnate Son.
"'...For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure' — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints."
"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law ... the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."
God's mercy which was evident from the beginning continues throughout time, even to today, until the kingdom of God is fulfilled. So when you sin, when you experience great shame, turn to a God full of compassion and mercy who wants to meet you and cover your shame.
"When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him." Luke 24:30-31
Read Luke 24:13-49.
Just about all of us have heard or said the saying, "I'll believe it when I see it!" When a president promises to do something -- "I'll believe it when I see it." When you hear that someone has changed their notorious ways -- "I'll believe it when I see it."
There is a person with whom I have had numerous conversations about becoming a follower of Jesus Christ who continues to tell me that he needs just one more proof to believe. In fact, the last time we spoke about it, he had just bought some lottery tickets. He said that if there was a God who loved him, he would win. Well do you know that this person won $500! Next time I saw him and reminded him about our conversation, he said, "Nah. That wasn't God; that was just a lucky coincidence." He claims that he just needs one more proof. But until he opens his heart to belief there will never be enough proof. For even if God out of his mercy continues to show proof after proof, this person will continue to reinterpret it as something other than God. He has a heart condition called unbelief.
Do you remember the devotional from table 3, the feeding of the 5,000? We discussed that even though Jesus' disciples continued to follow him and witness miracles upon miracles, they still struggled with disbelief. Jesus even asked them once on a ship, "Where is your faith?" Now here we are 15 chapters later and the disciples are still struggling with belief. You would think that after three years of living with Jesus and after listening to Jesus prophesy about his death and resurrection, the disciples would have their Welcome Home banners and signs ready to greet Jesus outside the tomb. Instead, they are hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jerusalem religious leaders (cf. John 20:19). Where is their faith? Did they not believe who Jesus said he was and believe that he would do what he said he would do? If Jesus' prophecies had come true concerning his own suffering, the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, then isn't there reason enough to believe that what he said concerning his resurrection would come true as well? Didn't they believe that the same one who had power to bring back others from death would have that same power over his own life? Rather, when the women returned to share the news about the empty tomb, Luke tells us concerning the apostles that "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them" (Luke 24:11). Basically they were saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." But would they?
Our passage begins with two men who were not part of the Twelve but were in the larger group of disciples of Jesus; they were leaving Jerusalem to go to Emmaus. We are then told that Jesus joins them. The Greek here is emphatic -- it is Jesus himself! Did you notice the many references to sight and belief and recognition in this passage? I immediately think of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel who rebuked those who had eyes but could not see. "Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears but hear not" (Jer. 5:21). Cf. Isaiah 6:10 and Ezekiel 12:2. What these prophets were saying was "even though you have eyes to see you cannot perceive or believe." Metaphorically speaking, the eyes of their hearts were closed. You think you see, the prophets would say, but the truth is you are blind and unable to perceive the things of God.
In light of this, we read now in Luke 24:16 that "their eyes were kept from recognizing him." Did they physically see a man walking along with them? Yes. Did they recognize that it was Jesus come back from the dead? No. Why were their eyes kept from recognizing Jesus? I posit to you that it was their unbelief that kept them from perceiving. Did you catch the irony? The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof or reason to believe, but when Jesus shows up it is their unbelief that keeps them from seeing him. Read that again. The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof or reason to believe, but when Jesus shows up it is their unbelief that keeps them from seeing him. "I'll have to see it to believe it." But when they saw it, they couldn't recognize it! Luke already told us that they did not believe the women. Then we are told that Jesus notices they were sad -- grieving. And then there's their testimony. Don't miss this! These two men tell Jesus that some of the women disciples returned from the tomb to the larger group of disciples and told them they saw an empty tomb and angels who testified that Jesus was alive. (Proof #1) Then, "some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said." (Proof #2) But, despite these two testimonies and proof of an empty tomb, they said, "but him they did not see." These other disciples wanted proof. They wanted to see Jesus in order to believe. Now Jesus shows up but they cannot see him, meaning they cannot recognize him. Wow! Chew on that for a moment. Jesus says earlier in his ministry to those following him, "But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe" (Jn. 6:36). Is perhaps the reason you cannot see the proof of God because you do not believe?
Jesus continues in his kindness and patience and doesn't abandon the disciples but continues to reveal himself. The first way he does this is by expositing Scripture. He starts in the beginning and works his way through showing how all of God's Word finds its fulfillment and crown in Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:27). All of Scripture acts as one voice proclaiming the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus will do this again when he appears to those disciples who are still in unbelief in verse 44.
And now we approach our final table scenes. In verse 29, we are told that Jesus is invited in as a guest of honor, but as so often happens, the roles reverse and he becomes the host, seen in the breaking of bread. This mention of the breaking of bread should not, in my opinion, be interpreted as a eucharist meal, but rather a meal of fellowship like we see with the first two tables. Do you remember how I mentioned back in the feeding of the 5,000 that this sequence -- took, blessed, broke and gave -- though a common practice in first century Jewish antiquity is only used by Luke in three places? I suggested that this is a literary device to connect the three stories together -- the feeding of the 5,000, the Passover meal and now the Emmaus meal. It is in the breaking of the bread (v. 31, 35) that the eyes of these two disciples are opened.
You might be asking yourself, Why was it in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened? Luke doesn't tell us why but just that they were opened. I've heard said before that perhaps there was a unique characteristic trait of Jesus in how he broke the bread that made him different from others which then enabled these two men to recognize him. Likewise, I've heard it said that perhaps there was something magical or miraculous in the act of the breaking of the bread that caused their eyes to open. I'm not convinced of these two possibilities.
However, what I am more convinced of is that Jesus was gracious to his disciples, who had already found forgiveness of sins through repentance, to open the eyes of their hearts so that they could see him and believe. What Jesus does in this moment of opening their eyes is characteristic of how he has responded to his disciples throughout -- with patience and love. At the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus responded to their lack of faith by proving again who he was and what he could do. Then at the Passover meal Jesus, over bread and wine, tells his disciples again about the events that are about to take place, reinterprets the bread and cup for them, and then says it is all "for you." So I don't think it's a coincidence that in the moment that Jesus gave physical bread to these two men, they recognized for the first time the bread of life. In Jesus' love and mercy, he made himself known again to them at the table.
Let me conclude with this. When Jesus appeared to the other disciples, he had them touch him to know that he was real. He then ate a piece of broiled fish. A spirit cannot eat; Jesus had a bodily resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). He then sums up one last time the message the apostles are to preach -- Christ's identity and mission. Jesus suffered (fully human) and rose from the dead (fully God), so that repentance and forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all people. Remember our first two tables? The theme for both of those tables was forgiveness of sins! Those first two tables were a precursor for what was to come. Forgiveness of sins finds it realization in the cross and resurrection. This is the good news we are to bring to all people.
Yes, we are also to love our enemies, to serve the least of these, to show others mercy (Good Samaritan), to not neglect the needs of others, and to welcome the lowly and most sinful to our tables. But these acts of love and mercy are only a mirror of and response to the love and mercy Christ has first shown us as we preach, "that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." Preach, teach, model, live out and embody this message in the name of Jesus Christ.
What about you? Are you just needing one more proof before believing Jesus is who he says he is and has done what he has said he will do? Or, is the testimony of these disciples and Scripture enough? If you had one more proof, would you even be able to see it? Maybe like the father in Mark 9 prayed, you too need to pray, "I believe; help my unbelief." Perhaps you are a follower of Jesus, meaning you have found forgiveness of sins, but you still struggle with doubt and unbelief at times. You are not the first disciple nor the only one to struggle in this way. But take comfort. If you belong to Jesus, as his disciple, he will continue to reveal himself to you and to open your eyes. He will not abandon or forsake you as your faith is seeking understanding.
Wherever you are or whoever you are, you are invited to the table. Exclusions don't apply; no particular dress attire required. Come as you are. Come and dine at the table of Jesus Christ this Easter; there you can find forgiveness of sins.
(The image was downloaded from kingofpeace.blogspot.com. Aspects of this devotional came from my Bible study for mymissionfulfilled.)
Thank you for following along with me in this #ComeDine devotional series. I hope that they've been a blessing to you as you prepare for Good Friday and Easter. With love, Kristen
It took me from 10:30 a.m. yesterday morning until 8:30 last night to set-up, put lights on and decorate my 9-foot Christmas tree. During the midst of the endeavor my father-in-law asked me how many lights were on the tree. I stopped to give a good estimate and said, "3,000." He then asked if I knew how many hairs I had on my head. I laughed. "No, do you?" "Yes," he responded. "24,000." He laughed. Of course he didn't know. But God does.
Yes. I immediately thought of Matthew 10:30 and Luke 12:7. "Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."
"Do you really think God knows how many hairs are on every person's head in the world?" my FIL asked. "Do you know how many people are in the world?" 7 billion people (I just checked!) "Yes," I said. "Only God could be big enough to know that. Only a person who is bigger than the Universe, who created it all, who is so big that even the heavens cannot contain him, could know something like that."
Then my eyes glanced over to my WorldCrafts nativity to a little baby wood figurine of Jesus. When I ponder the greatness and bigness of God in light of the story of Christmas, I am left in awe and wonder. The God of the Universe, the One who cannot be contained, became small through the Son, contained Himself in a woman's womb, became a baby, so that we might be reconciled to God. Take a moment to read John 1:1-18 and note the paradoxes.
Jesus was timeless but became time-bound. Jesus had no beginning yet was born. Jesus was God and was human. Jesus made all things yet was birthed through that which He created. God is unseen and yet God is seen through Jesus.
It's too wonderful; too lofty for me! The good news that our great God, Creator, Magnificent, Holy One sent the Second Person of the Trinity to become as small as a baby, so that we might see God, touch God, look upon God, and be reconciled with God puts me on my knees in a position of humility, love and gratitude to our great God and King!
This is the story of Christmas. God becoming man; God with us. Immanuel.
Happy Advent season! If you haven't experienced the great love of God through Jesus, I pray you will find it this Advent season. God bless.
Read Matthew 1:18-25
Christmas has ended and therefore many of us have moved on from the birth narratives of Jesus. But, if I may, I’d like to draw our attention back to the part of the narrative that focuses on the role of Joseph.
While there are several things we can learn about Jesus’ birth in the above passage, I’d like to focus on Joseph’s role and how it fit into God’s plan of redemption.
Today’s Truth Statement: Included in God’s sovereign plan of the adoption of men and women through His Son Jesus was the plan of His Son’s own adoption.
Let’s first give our passage some context.
In the book of Isaiah we find prophecies concerning the Messiah, Israel’s coming Savior. One of those prophecies is found in Isaiah 7:14, which says, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” We also learn that the Messiah will sit “on the throne of David.” (9:7) Jeremiah also prophesizes about the coming Messiah being a descendant of David (see Jer. 23:5).
But here’s the problem with these prophesies. At that time, someone’s lineage was traced through the father. A son of David would come through the father’s line. But if the Messiah is born of a virgin, and as Matthew tells us, of the Holy Spirit, then Jesus has no father to trace a lineage back to David. So how is it going to be possible for Jesus to come through an earthly father’s lineage when His father isn’t earthly?
The writer of Matthew wants us to know that Jesus IS the promised Messiah because he fulfills of both prophecies mentioned above. So Matthew begins with the genealogy of Joseph, demonstrating that Joseph is of the line of David. Then Matthew does something unusual. Instead of saying Joseph, the father of Jesus, he writes, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” But how, if Jesus is not the son of Joseph, can he be the descendant of David?
Matthew 1:18-25 answers this for us.
Jesus was born of a virgin.
The text tells us that Joseph learns his fiancé Mary was pregnant and not by him as “he resolved to divorce her quietly.” Being engaged at this time had legal ratifications. Engagements couldn’t be called off easily like today. A formal divorce would have to ensue in order to break off an engagement, and engagements could be broken if the girl to be married had been unfaithful. Joseph assumes she had been unfaithful until an angel from God tells him that it is by the Holy Spirit that she is pregnant. Thus, Jesus fulfills Scripture that he is born of a virgin.
Jesus was adopted.
By verse 21 we finally understand God’s plan and we see an answer to the dilemma mentioned above. Joseph must adopt Jesus thereby making him Joseph’s heir and a son of David. Jesus needed an earthly father in order for God’s plan of redemption to be fulfilled. God chose Joseph and Joseph obeyed. Adoptions in the Greco-Roman world were legalized when the father gave the child his or her name. By Joseph calling his name Jesus, Jesus’ adoption was made complete and Scripture was fulfilled.
The importance of Jesus’ adoption.
After the birth narratives of Jesus in the Gospels, Joseph isn’t mentioned again. But Joseph’s role and calling was very important to God’s plan. If Joseph (or any other man for that matter) had not obeyed God and adopted His Son, not only would Scripture not have been fulfilled but Jesus would have been seen as a illegitimate child. His adoption was a necessary part to God’s plan.
So what can we take away from this passage?
I am sure there are more than what I list here but here are a couple thoughts.
- We can be sure that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who God speaks about in the Old Testament. And we can be sure that Jesus’ own story is one that includes adoption!
- Like Jesus needed an earthly father to adopt him, even more so do we need a heavenly Father to adopt us! Only through adoption do we become descendants of Abraham and heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:15-17). God has done what is necessary to guarantee our adoption and to give us a new name, but it is not complete until we accept the righteousness of God through His Son Jesus. God has always had a heart for the orphans, and His plan has always been that of adoption. Jesus was willing to come to earth as an earthly orphan (so to speak) to be adopted so that we as orphans might be adopted by His Father. Praise God!