29 October 2008

"This is our son. His name is Jesus."

On Wednesday nights we gather in the Love Hub and listen to Meredith read from Two From Galilee. The story is a fictional re-creation of the lives of Mary and Joseph. We sit and listen, a chapter a week. It's quite beautiful, really.

I've started a new study on the life of Jesus. It's just a broad 30-day study from the beginning of Jesus' life (actually the prophesy of it in Isaiah 53) to the Great Commission and Ascension of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. This morning I was looking at Matthew 1:18-25, which touches on the birth of Jesus. I've heard this story so many times (usually at Christmas) but how great is it that God speaks to us every time we open the Scriptures?

So here's what's going on: Mary is pledged to marry Joseph. This is how Jewish marriages worked: a two-part process. 1) a formal exchange of vows before witnesses, and 2) the taking of the bride into the groom's family home. Now after step one, it was not unusual for the wife to stay at home for a year or so before living with her husband. This is where Mary and Joseph are at. The scripture refers to Joseph as Mary's husband (Mt. 1:19) because they had made the public vows. So Mary's still at home and Joseph gets word that Mary is with child. Verse 18 says this was "before they came together" so all Joseph knows is his wife is pregnant and it's not his child.

Okay. Your new wife gets pregnant and you know it's not yours. Let's think about how people would react today. I think it wouldn't be unheard of for a man to let all his neighbors know how horrible his wife is and then immediately divorce her and make sure she never lives down this huge mistake she has seemingly made. But not Joseph. You see, Joseph is a righteous man (v. 19) and he is a man full of compassion, care, and mercy. And because he loves Mary, he does not want to cause her public shame. So he plans to divorce her quietly (because as a righteous man, ignoring the situation and bringing Mary into his home anyway simply wouldn't be right).

Can you imagine the heartbreak Joseph felt? He loved this woman and now this has happened and he must divorce her. Can you imagine the conversations he might have had with God about this? But alas, the divorce must happen. But (v. 20) "after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream." It's surprising Joseph was getting much sleep at a time like this, but luckily he does and an angel tells him, "do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." So here's what this meant for Joseph: Mary did not break the law. Mary was not an adulteress. Mary was still a virgin. There is no reason for righteous Joseph to keep Mary out of his home.

Wow! Do you think Joseph finished up his eight hours of sleep before getting out of bed? I like to think he was immediately up and praising the Lord for his faithfulness. He probably had a lot of questions, too. It's not every day women conceive from the Holy Spirit. When Joseph woke up (v. 24), he obeyed God. Nice work, Joseph. As a righteous man, Joseph is obedient. He took Mary home as his wife. He also didn't have any union with Mary until she gave birth. This fulfills the prophecy we see in Isaiah 7:14. (sidenote... I was reading about Isaiah and they think it was probably written as early as 500 BC. Have you read Isaiah 53? It's like Jesus' life for laid out right there for you! 500 years before it happened! Wow, God!)

So there it is: the basics of Jesus' birth. Can you imagine being the parents of the son of God? Sarah Beck and I were having a conversation about this over coffee (by coffee I mean mint hot chocolate and chai latte) this afternoon. Sure would make it easy if your child was Jesus, huh? Never sinning or anything. I had to laugh picturing Jesus' relationship with his parents. I'm sure it was absolutely amazing but if it's anything like our typical childhoods today it might look like this:

Joseph: Oh, hey Jesus, did I ever tell you about how I met your mom? Or how crazy it was leading up to your birth? I thought she was unfaithful to me but I really loved her, so I made plans to divorce her quietly, and then this angel came and told me in a dream that you were conceived by the Holy Spirit -- truly a work of God! So I obeyed God and....

Jesus: I know.

(haha. It's okay to laugh; it's not biblical, just fun to think about. Oh, and note on the young Jesus pictured.... probably not real accurate. This is some cute kid painted up by an artist. Isaiah 53:2 says that "he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.")

They called him Jesus. Matthew 1:21 says: "She will give brith to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Joseph was probably stoked he was getting a son. He probably didn't know what it all meant but the thought of this son saving people from their sins probably sounded great (even if it was confusing). Joseph was probably familiar with the sacrifices being made as people tried to make atonement for their sins and find favor with God. And even though Joseph was righteous (a word used to describe Zechariah as well; it means he was God-fearing, law-abiding and was upright in the sight of God), this doesn't mean he didn't need saving. Joseph wasn't without sin (Jesus was). Jesus died on the cross for Mary and Joseph, too.

How perfectly God works everything out. He's had this planned out from the beginning. He knew exactly how Jesus would enter the world, just like he knows how every one of your days will play out (Psalm 139:16). How in love I am with this sovereign God! What love.


Anonymous said...

I always wondered if Mary and Joseph told their other kids, "Hey, why can't you be more like your brother, Jesus?"

Anonymous said...

That last comment was from me, Mom

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