Sunday, September 25, 2016

THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS - LUKE 2:39-52


Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth, in the region of Galilee. In one sense, he was a normal child. He grew and became strong. He increased in stature (size). He was fully human after all. He had a human body.

But Jesus also showed that he was a special child. He was filled with wisdom. That is unusual for a child. Jesus’ intellectual development was not hindered by sin or depravity. He advanced at full capacity intellectually. He was never lazy or rebellious.

The favor of God was upon him, says Luke. And of course it was, for the Father loved the Son for all eternity.

This wisdom and favor would be noticeable in a child. The people of the town would take note that he was not an ordinary child. After telling us this, Luke relates a story to show it to us.

When Jesus was 12, his parents took him to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. When a boy turned 12, he was considered an adult. This is what the bar mitzvah is about. It means son of the commandment. He became responsible for the requirements of the covenant, such as attending the feast days.

When they returned home, Jesus stayed behind. Likely, many families from Nazareth traveled together. The women walked together and talked. The men walked together and talked. The children ran and played as they walked along. Then at night, the families found each other and spent the night. But on this occasion, Joseph and Mary could not find Jesus. They looked all over the groups of their relatives and friends, but he was not around.

Not finding him in the camp, they headed back toward Jerusalem, looking for him along the road, then in the city. You can imagine how scared they were, wondering if something bad had happened to him.

It was only after three days they found him. He was at the temple, sitting with teachers, listening and asking them questions. Here is where the “full of wisdom” part is shown. He asked intelligent questions, causing the teachers and others listening to be amazed at his knowledge of the scripture and his understanding.

Mary and Joseph were also astonished. They probably had three strong emotions. First, amazement at his knowledge and understanding. Second, great relief that he was safe. And, third, anger that he had caused them this turmoil.

It was the last emotion that drove their response. Why have you done this to us? We have been in great distress! (48)

Jesus’s response is not one of repentance or regret, but wonder. Why did they look for him? Did they not know he had to be at the temple, his father’s house? (49) It was the natural thing for him to do. He likely felt drawn to the temple to be in the presence of his Father, a small semblance to the fellowship he had as the eternal Son in heaven.

There is an interesting play on words here by Jesus. Mary said “your father and I have been searching for you”. She knew that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but had assumed the social role as father and head of the family.

Jesus responded that he was in “my Father’s house”. He, at 12, reminds his mother that his real father is God the Father, and that he has a greater claim on him than Joseph. Jesus knew, at age 12, that he was the Son of God.

Jesus’ words also show that he knew he had work to do on behalf of the Father. Another translation of his words is “about my Father’s business”. You may have this as a footnote in your Bible. Jesus knew he had work to accomplish, given him by his Father, and he was doing that work. Therefore, he was exactly where the Father wanted him to be.

Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus stated this plainly. He said “I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)

He also said “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)

These words of Jesus to Mary, by the way, are the first words of Jesus recorded.

Verse 50 says Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was saying. Mary added this to the things she “treasured up” in her heart. These are things she determines to remember and to think about as Jesus grows up to fulfill what the angel told her at the beginning.

We see here that Mary did not understand all of the details of what would happen with her son. She obeyed God based on a broad outline of what she was told, but encountered many things she did not understand. It is a good example for us. We often do not understand the things that happen to us, but believe God because we know he has promised to be with us and deliver us into eternal life.

Verse 52 tells us Jesus increased:
in wisdom
in stature (size)
in favor with God
in favor with man

Jesus had a human mind, being fully human. That is why he had to increase in wisdom.

But as a human being, there were things he did not know. When the bleeding woman touched him in a crowd, he asked who coached him. (Mark 5:30) He did not know the day he would return, saying only the Father knew. (Mark 13:32)

How then did Jesus know supernatural things at times? The Father revealed them to him through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there were times when he knew what would happen in the future or what someone was thinking.

This is another example of the humiliation of Christ. In heaven, he, as God, knew all things. But he took on human flesh, including the human mind, and had the limits of humans.   He did this for us, to accomplish our salvation.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Exiles

Revelation shows us that God designed us to live in his presence. The final picture of Revelation is that of redeemed men and women living in the presence of God on the new earth. (Rev. 21-22) As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, God created us to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

This gives us something to look forward to. It gives us hope.


It also creates a tension in us. Being redeemed, we want to know God and be in his presence. We want the world to be put into submission to him. Instead, we see rebellion against God everywhere and everywhere the effects of that rebellion. 


God does not resolve this conflict for us in the present age. Instead we live with constant reminders that this world in this age is not aligned with God or us. This conflict keeps us from getting too comfortable with this world. It redirects our focus to God from material things. It makes us long for the new creation.


That is why the Bible refers to us as strangers. We see Old Testament pictures of this in the exile. The Israelites lived in Babylonia, but it was not their home. They never fit in there completely if they worshipped God, not conforming to Babylonian standards and religions. They were strangers longing for another home. That home had a temple where God’s presence dwelt in their midst (before it was destroyed).


Peter understood this and used it as a metaphor for the Christian life. He wrote to Christians in Asia as “elect exiles”. (1 Peter 1:1) He also called them sojourners. (1 Peter 2:11) A sojourner is someone staying someplace temporarily. If you take a business trip to Los Angeles from your home, you are a sojourner there. You dwell there for a time, but it is not be your home. Peter was reminding them that the world of the Roman Empire was not their home. They needed to look forward to the future home and live according to the standards of the one who makes that home for them. Therefore, Peter says, as sojourners and exiles abstain from the passions of the flesh. In other words, do not adopt the standards of this world. Rather live as a citizen of the next world, one dominated by the presence of God and complete holiness. When we read this text, we read it as Peter telling us this world, and whatever country we live in, is not our home. We must not adopt its ways. 


Hebrews 11 speaks of the faithful as “having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. It says “For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had the opportunity to return. 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 11:13-16


There are two ways to deal with this tension. One is to give up and surrender to the standards of this age. It resolves the conflict, gains you acceptance with those devoted to this age, and provides some temporary relief. 


This is not the Biblical way. Paul told us not to be conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds to know what is good, acceptable and perfect in the will of God. (Romans 12:2) 

Instead of giving up, of conforming, or even hiding away, let the conflict drive you to focus on God and to experience his presence. You do this in prayer, Bible reading and in worship. Long for the next world. Recognize your status as a stranger, exile and sojourner.


And remember your hope: eternity in the presence of God in the new creation.

 

 

Thursday, September 22, 2016


The Trinity in Action in Luke

The Father sent the Son to save, the Son took on humanity, and the Holy Spirit brought about his conception. Luke 1:35.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Humility

Humility is not simply feeling small and useless - like an inferiority complex. It is sensing how great and glorious God is, and seeing myself in that light." - Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

DEDICATING BABY JESUS - LUKE 2:21-38




The Obedience of Mary and Joseph
2:21-24

Mary and Joseph were obedient to the word of the Lord. In this passage, Luke tells us four times Mary and Joseph did something for Jesus in accordance with the law.

First, they were obedient to the law of circumcision. She had Jesus circumcised on the eighth day. (21) This was required by God as a sign of his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. You can read about this in Genesis 17. Circumcision was required of every male born or brought into the covenant family. (Genesis 17:11-12) It was a sign of the covenant. It was to be done on the eighth day of the child’s life.

It was important that Jesus keep all the law. He had to be perfect to qualify as the sacrifice for our sins. He was the lamb without blemish, using the Old Testament symbolism. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God

Mary and Joseph were also obedient to the word of the Lord expressed through the angel. The angel told Mary to name her son Jesus. (1:31) She obeyed. She named him at his circumcision. It was important to name him Jesus, for the name is important because it is the Greek equivalent of Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves”.

The third way Mary and Joseph were obedient was in observing the time of purification. The law required a woman, after giving birth, to be ceremonially unclean for seven days. That is why circumcision is done on the eighth day. Then, she must stay away from holy things for another 33 days. That made 40 days total. She could not come into the temple during this time. At the end of the 40 days, she was to present herself to a priest at the Temple and make an offering. (Leviticus 12) The offering was to be a lamb unless you were poor, then it was two turtledoves or two pigeons. Mary gave the poor person’s offering of birds. Once the offering is made, the woman was considered clean again.

What is this about? Leviticus 12 says the woman was to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering. When the offerings were sacrificed, atonement was made for the woman.

But what is the sin that requires atonement? It is not a sin to give birth to a child. In fact, God told Adam and Eve, as representatives of all humanity, to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28) In other words, he told them to have children. God reiterated the command to Noah after the flood. (Genesis 9:1)

The normal child, though, would be born with the sin and guilt of Adam, which we call the doctrine of original sin. This is what Paul wrote about in Romans 5:12, when he said sin came into the world through one man and death through sin. The newborn child would be a sinner, inheriting sin from Adam. Sacrifice was made for this sin.

Jesus did not inherit original sin, however. His virgin birth is a testimony to that. But, he was obedient to the law, the command of God, with the help of his parents, so that he might be perfect. Galatians 4:4 tells us Jesus was born under the law. He kept the law perfectly. He was without sin.

The fourth way Mary and Joseph were obedient was in taking Jesus to the Temple to dedicate him as the firstborn. (22) She and Joseph evidently did this at the same time Mary made her offering. Luke explained that the law said the firstborn is holy to the Lord. (23) This goes back to the Passover, when God  took the lives of all of the firstborn of Egypt, but spared the firstborn of Israel who put blood on the doorposts of their houses. You can read about this in Exodus 12. This was the final plague that convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. From then on, the Lord claimed the firstborn of both men and beasts. In Exodus 13:1, the Lord told Moses “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the fist to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine”.

The firstborn animals could be killed. Nothing consecrated to God can be used by man. They cold also be redeemed with another type of animal, which was killed. Sons, however, were redeemed by an offering.

So, in all these things, Mary and Joseph were obedient. This is despite the fact that it is likely many people talked behind their backs and considered Mary immoral for getting pregnant before marriage.

Our obedience is not dependent upon our circumstances. God wants us to obey him in all things at all times.



The Testimony of Simeon
2:25-35

Luke has been presenting people to us in pairs. We had Elizabeth and Mary. We had John and Jesus. Now we have Simeon and Anna. They were both Godly, faithful worshippers of God, they both believed in the coming of Christ and they both were allowed to see him in their old age.

The Lord used Simeon to give testimony about Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. Simeon believed in the coming of Christ. That is what “waiting for the consolation of Israel” means.

Consolation means to comfort someone in their loss or grief. Israel had lost its kingdom. They were part of the Roman kingdom. The Romans even appointed the high priest, interfering with the method of succession set forth in the law. The Romans were pagans in the sacred land, a constant reminder of Israel’s fall from the great favor of God. Part of the Messiah’s work was to comfort Israel in its losses. Its comfort, or consolation, would come through the salvation Jesus would bring.

Psalm 119:81-82 says:
“My soul longs for your salvation, I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, when will you comfort me?”

Isaiah 40:1-2 says:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins”.

Simeon was looking for this time of comfort that would come from the Messiah.

In addition, the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah (the Lord’s Christ).   And indeed the Spirit led him to the temple when Mary and Joseph were there presenting Jesus.

Simeon recognized Jesus for the Christ. He picked him up and blessed, or praised God, for letting him see Jesus. He called him God’s salvation that he prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for the Gentiles and glory for Israel. (29-32)

The phrase “light for the gentiles” is a reference to Isaiah 49:6. There the Father, speaking of the Son, said it was too little a thing for him to bring salvation only to the Jews. Instead the Father would make him a “light for the nations” so that salvation would reach all over the earth. “Nations” is another way of saying “Gentiles”.

Simeon also blessed Joseph and Mary. He told them Jesus was appointed (by God) for fall of some and the rise of others. Jesus would bring down the rich and powerful and raise up the poor and helpless. But Jesus would also be opposed. We will see later that the religious establishment of Israel would oppose him early in his ministry. That opposition would intensify until they killed Jesus. Isaiah prophesied “He was oppressed and he was afflicted”. (Isaiah 53:7)

Simeon also prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. This is a reference to her having to watch her son die on a cross. The other songs of praise were all about Christ’s glory and greatness. This is the first to speak of his suffering. Surely, when she stood on Golgotha, watching her son die on a cross, she remembered these words spoken by Simeon and knew them to be true.

Simeon’s words, given by the Holy Spirit, witness to the fact that God’s plan for Jesus all along, from before the foundation of the world, was that Jesus would suffer and die for our sins.

T. S. Elliot wrote a poem based on Simeon’s praise. It is called “A Song For Simeon”. Simeon’s praise is the fourth and final song of praise Luke records for us.

The Testimony of Anna
2:36-38

I like Luke for his portrayals of Godly women. And I love God for using women, not just men, to accomplish his plan of salvation through Jesus.

Anna was an 84 year old widow. She was also a prophetess. She was totally devoted to God. She stayed at the temple all day and night worshipping the Lord, fasting and praying. Imagine God calling you to come to church every day to fast, pray and worship him. Imagine having no family or friends to socialize with. God would be your only companion and your only focus. This was the life of Anna. And she was faithful to it.

When Jesus appeared, she began giving thanks that he had arrived. She thanked God for her salvation.

I hope you do this. I hope you are thankful for your salvation and that you express your thankfulness to God. It is a wonderful gift, free to you, costly to him, that frees you from sin and guilt to live in fellowship with God forever.

Anna also began to speak to all who were there waiting for the Christ (the redemption of Jerusalem). That is also what we do. We not only thank God for salvation, but we tell others ab out it. The news is too good to keep to ourselves.

In this passage we see the Holy Spirit at work, pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. He reveals, the sends prophecy, he inspires blessing. The Holy Spirit constantly points to Jesus.

We also see attestations to Jesus as Christ and as Savior. Angels and men and women all attest that this baby is the Savior. Luke records these so his readers will know that God made it clear: now is the time for salvation, the Savior has come.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sanctification

Sanctification

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
“The word is the God appointed means by which you will be sanctified…” Dr. Arturo Azurdia

Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us increasingly free from sin and like Christ.
 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

THE BIRTH OF JESUS - LUKE 2:1-20



Born In Bethlehem
2:1-7

Luke showed attention to detail by giving a time reference for the birth of Jesus. It was during the reign of Augustus. Augustus was the grand-nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar.





As emperor Augustus wanted his subjects listed and taxed. That task fell to the local rulers. In this case, it fell to Quirinius, the governor of Syria, who had authority over Judea.



The people were required to go to their home town for registration, so Joseph took Mary and went to Bethlehem. (4) This was his ancestral town because he was a descendant of David. That is what “of the house and lineage) means.



We see in 1 Samuel 16 the the Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem to find David and anoint him as king. This chapter refers to David’s father as “Jesse the Bethlehemite”.

Bethlehem is also important because of the prophesy that Jesus would be born there. Micah 5;2 says “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be the ruler of Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

And, it makes sense, that the one who would assume David’s throne forever would be born in David’s town.

Notice that Luke says Mary is Joseph’s betrothed, not his wife. Matthew’s account shows us that Joseph did not have sex with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. (Matthew 1:25)That was necessary for her to be a virgin when Jesus was born.  

Joseph does not get a lot of attention in these stories, least of all in Luke. But he was faithful to God and an important figure in these events.

From all outward appearances, Jesus was born in the most humble circumstances. He was born a king who would reign forever. He was born in the city of the most revered king of Israel. But no one would have known from looking. He was born in a stable, wrapped in rags and put to bed in a feeding trough for animals (manger).

As a side note, notice that Luke referred to Jesus as Mary’s “firstborn”. (6) There are some who claim that the people listed as Jesus’ brothers were really cousins and that Mary never had sex and never had other children, being a perpetual virgin. But the use of the term “firstborn” implies there were others born to Mary. She had other sons and daughters. Mark 6:3 lists four brothers and refers to sisters, indicated more than one sister.



For the world to see, he was a peasant born to peasants in a place only the lowest class people would be. A future king, born in a palace, would be heralded with all sorts of ceremony and grandeur. He certainly would not be born among the farm animals.

But, to those to whom God chose to reveal him, Jesus’ birth was shown to be that of the most glorious king ever.

Announced by Angels
2:8-21

The son of a king would be announced by a herald. Likely, his subjects would wait outside the castle for word. When the son was born, a herald would come out of the castle and announce the birth of a son, the future king.

Jesus indeed had a herald. This herald was a glorious angel. He appeared that night to a group of shepherds. (8) He radiated the glory of the Lord so brightly that the shepherds were terrified. (9)

Have you ever wondered why angels do this? Why do they appear in such great glory that men and women are terrified, then tell them not to fear? Why not just appear as normal people? The Bible does not say, but I think it is because God wants to demonstrate his glory and holiness. His glory is so great that sinful men and women cannot stand it. They often fall on their faces. They may call out “woe is me” as Isaiah did, recognizing in terror what it is for a sinful human being to stand in the presence of the Holy God.

God, though holy, extends grace to the sinful human. He says “do not be afraid”. Only through God’s grace an we stand before him without fear, as Revelation’s picture of the final judgment revealed to us.

The angel, acting as a herald, proceeded to deliver the message: the Savior Messiah was born that day in Bethlehem. He even told them how to recognize him, the baby in the manger wrapped in rags.

It is good news of great joy for all people. It is good news, it is the gospel, that Jesus was born as the savior. Salvation brings great joy, for we are freed from the guilt of sin, reconciled to God and made a child of God for eternity.

 It was not enough, though, that only one angel should announce the birth of Jesus. After all, he is the firstborn of all creation. And so a multitude of angels appeared with the first angel. They praised God. They said “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”.

Let us also notice those to whom the angel was sent and to whom the great announcement was made. They were shepherds. They were largely despised by polite society. They slept outdoors with the sheep. They wandered around as they moved the flocks from pasture to pasture. How appropriate it is that the one who would be disposed and rejected by men was first announced to men who were also despised and rejected by their culture.

After hearing the announcement and seeing the angels, the shepherds naturally wanted to go and see the Messiah who had been born. They rushed to Bethlehem and found him. They told Mary and Joseph and those who were around what the angel had told them. In other words, they witnessed. They spread the good news, the gospel as they knew it so far, to others.

And then they rejoiced. they went home, glorifying and praising God all the way home for showing them Jesus, the Messiah, the savior.

Why was Jesus born this way?

First, it was necessary for our salvation. He became human so that he could give his body to death and bodily resurrection. His birth in humble circumstances points us to this truth.

Second, to call us to be like him. Being born human was humiliation for God, for he is infinitely superior to us. He wants us to live a life of humility, giving ourselves for others.