Tag Archive | Messiah

What Made Mary Special?

What made Mary special? Was there something in her background that made God choose her? Did she have a high place in society?

Let’s look at some background to try to answer those questions.

Mary was a young girl (maybe as young as thirteen) from an obscure town. Actually, when one of Jesus’ future disciples heard where Jesus was from he said, “Nazareth?! Can anything good come from there?”

The person Mary was engaged to be married to was a not a wealthy man. He was a carpenter. Mary likely had a hard but normal upbringing. Mary’s name in Hebrew (“Miriam”) could be connected to the Hebrew word for “bitter.” It’s not hard to imagine that Mary had already faced much in her life that was bitter and in her lifetime she certainly would.

So, Mary’s background, upbringing, and social status did not make Mary special. What made Mary special? What does the Bible say?

Luke chapter 1 (specifically verses 26-56) is where we see the most about Mary. We can make a few observations from this passage and see why Mary was special.

1) Mary was Favored by God

Mary was favored by God (Lk. 1:28,29,30). What does that mean? The word favored here means that Mary received grace, not that she is a source of grace for others. The favor Mary received was unmerited.

So, was Mary normal? In some ways, yes. You might even say, plain. Mary herself says that she was of “humble estate” (Lk. 1:48; 52).[1] However, as John MacArthur says, “She was the one sovereignly chosen by God—from among all the women who have ever been born—to be the singular instrument through which He would at last bring the Messiah into the world.”[2] So, was she normal? Yes and no.

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Pervasive Peace through the Second Advent

In Christmas, we celebrate the advent or coming of Christ. The first coming enabled a way for peace to be realized. Humans can, through Christ, have renewed fellowship with God. Yet, as Jesus Himself said, in the world we will have trouble and tribulation.

So, if that’s the case, if in the world we will have difficulty and distress, then how can we have peace? This Sunday I get to preach on the “Pathway to Peace” from Isaiah chapter 11. I’m excited and thankful to be able to do that.

I, however, have too much material. So, I thought I’d share here, part of how that peace is possible.

First, Isaiah paints a beautiful and powerful picture of peace (see Isaiah 11:1-9). A little baby can play with a king cobra without fear (v. 8). How is this possible?

Isaiah 11:9 tells us: the knowledge of God is intimately experienced. And so: nothing will “harm nor destroy on all [the Lord’s] holy mountain.” Instead of harm, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

The Messiah will make it so not only the knowledge of the LORD is pervasive but intimacy with the LORD is too. Knowledge in the Old Testament is not merely head knowledge, but it is experiential (When Adam “knew” Eve, Genesis 4:1, it was not mere cognitive knowing, it was experiential).   

Also, we should ask, how is it that the waters cover the sea? The waters cover the sea by filling it to the fullness of capacity. God and His goodness will be experienced and known to maximum capacity! We will have the strength together with all the saints to comprehend and know “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and we will be “filled with all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3:18-19).

Look at what’s going to happen when Jesus reigns on earth!:

“Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).

Of peace, there will be no end!

Justice and righteousness forevermore!

Of course, this is not yet a reality. First, Christ came as a Lamb to be slain. Next, He’s coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (see Revelation 5:5).

In that day, when perfect peace comes upon the earth, the LORD says, “my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (Is. 65:22). The most precious moments that we experience on earth—whether that’s a Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful sunset, or being lost in a song or prayer of praise—will be multiplied infinitely.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

How ironic, how sad, that the Rejected One, is the One who brings renewal of the whole earth.

Fellow Christians, please share the message that is so needed in these days of distress. And pray for your neighbors, that they would have peace that surpasses understanding.

Please pray that the Rejected One, the one alone who brings perfect and pervasive peace, would no longer be rejected.

Christian Status

As Christians, Jesus is emphatically our Leader and Lord and His Kingdom is not of this world. His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom made up of people from Sierra and Senegal, Armenia and America, China and Czechia, Portugal and Pakistan, Mexico and Mali (and many many more). America is not and never will be Israel. And the paradigms and parallels that we try to place on America that are meant for God’s people will never work because they are not theologically accurate. 

Christians belong to an entirely different kingdom. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. The paradigms that people have that have Americans or Christian Americans as the promised people is gravely wrong. God’s promise to bless the nations is not a promise to America, it is a promise fulfilled in The Son of Abraham, Jesus. All the nations of the earth are blessed in and through Him.

Christian citizenship and allegiance first belongs to our Lord Jesus’ Kingdom, and only secondarily to any merely earthly kingdom. Our hope also needs to visibly be in the Lord Jesus, the supreme Lord of the universe that actually suffered as a servant for His subjects, and not in any earthly power. We work for change and we work with sacrificial love, but we do not have our hope wrapped up here.

As Christians, it is also important to remember, we work primarily at the heart level as Jesus did, and as surgeons do, not mainly on the symptoms level. Our overarching desire is to change the cause, pull the root. We believe primarily in transformation from the inside out and not mainly in the mere reformation of society. We don’t want to rearrange the furniture on the Titanic, we want as many passengers rescued as possible. We don’t mainly want to save America, we mainly want Americans saved. So, even while we work for progress on the policies we believe in, our hope is not in them. We know, as it says in the book of Revelation, the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven; it is not constructed here (21:2).

The Christian hero and hope is a seemingly powerless middle-eastern refugee carpenter with olive skin that was crucified as a criminal and rejected outcast. That’s who Christians identify themselves with and place all of their hope in. Not in the seemingly powerful people, politicians, or political parties who have technology and Ph.D.’s, money and influence, beauty and charisma. 

Further, we should not even lead people to believe that our hope is in people or any earthly power. “The hope within us” that is supposed to be communicated and seen is that Christ is Lord (1 Peter 3:15). It may not always look like He is in the world around us, but the reality is that He is. Jesus rose from the dead and demonstrated in space and time that He is Lord and He is coming back soon. It is also important to remember that when we tell people about our hope in Messiah Jesus, that we do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

When the onlooking world sees Christians, they should see we have hope that transcends this world. “Christ in us”—not a mere person, policy, or political party—is the “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). The exiles spoken of in Hebrews made it clear (11:14) that “they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (11:16). May that be clear for us too! May we make it abundantly clear that we are looking for and longing for the country the Lord has prepared for us (v. 14).

Societal Analysis

It’s very interesting and perplexing to me that as a society we want and we are begging for and demanding what is good. We are acknowledging that things are very wrong in society. That seems to be the case no matter where you are politically, whatever side you find yourself on.

We acknowledge there’s a problem, but as Plato pointed out a very long time ago, good people make for a good society. That seems to make clear sense. Yet, society seems soiled. Thus, we have found the problem, and it’s me.

When someone is sick there’s a medical analysis. This entails five different elements:

  1. The Ideal (of what’s healthy)
  2. Observation (of symptoms/signs)
  3. Diagnosis (or analysis of disease/disorder)
  4. Prognosis (or prediction of cure/remedy)
  5. Prescription (or instruction for treatment/action for a cure)

I believe that society is in need of an analysis. What are we observing? What’s the problem? Can it be fixed? If so, how?

We are observing a lot of problems or symptoms: violence, racism, inability to patiently discuss important issues, pride, etc. What is the disease? The disease seems to be a problem with people. Many people lack goodness. What’s the cure? We must be good. What then is the solution? We must learn to be good. That is the prescription. That is the treatment.

This seems very shallow and very simple. But it is not. Stick with me.

If we want a good society, we must have good people. Yet, I’m not sure we even have an understanding of what “good” or healthy even is. Do we even have a starting place for what constitutes good or healthy? If not, how could we possibly arrive at a prognosis or prescription let alone be in a place to give a diagnosis?!

The English writer and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, once said, “What is wrong is that we don’t ask what is right.” We have no way by which to measure what is wrong and what is right. That is an obvious problem. You can’t build much with a standard that’s not standard.  

If good individuals make for a good society, as seems to make sense. Perhaps the first and foundational prescription is to return to the conviction that there is such a thing as “good.” And not merely what is good for the subjective individual, but a good beyond and above us that corrects us.

In any field of work you have to have a standard, a means to measure; a way to know what is healthy and what is not. We have an idea of when one is overweight because we understand that there is a range of healthy weight. How can we prescribe a cure when there is no standard for what is good or healthy? And how can there be hope when there is no standard of healthy?

We, as a society, for the most part, don’t have a clear way to say what is good. And we don’t have a pathway to make good people. If anything, we have many conflicting things shaping people. Porn is prevalent and it makes objects of people and materialism is too and it plays down the importance of people in place of the value of objects. Ours is a conflicted society. 

I believe the disorder in society comes from a plague more destructive than any pandemic, and that plague is sin. Its signs are everywhere. In my heart and actions, and yours too.

The diagnosis is deadly if not dealt with. The plague exponentially increases if not dealt with. It wreaks havoc on the scale of the Tsar Bomb. It leaves devastating effects on generations. It leaves gaping holes in individuals and is the downfall of society if not dealt with.

The prognosis, however, thankfully reveals that progress is possible. But it will be slow and painful. And it entails admitting there’s a problem; a problem, a plague, not just out there in the world, out there in others, but in me.

When someone observes a ghastly problem and knows the cure we inherently know the right thing to do in that case. It is to cure. Humans often fumble around talking about problems and we hustle around trying to cure. But all the while only grasping at what it meant to be truly healthy. We half see and so we get the diagnosis, prognosis, and prescription wrong. We always have.

I believe, however, that hope is not lost. I believe Messiah Jesus, the Healthy One, has brought the cure. He who did not have the plague took our problems, our sin, upon Himself on the cross. He showed us the cure, it is Himself. It is love. Death is the only answer. Death to self. We must die to self, we must love.

We must turn from our prideful and sinful ways and trust in Jesus our loving cure. Jesus gives us 1) the ideal of healthy, 2) the observation about what’s wrong, 3) the diagnosis, 4) the prognosis, and 5) the prescription. Without the provision of those five elements the only prognosis is death.

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? That is the all-important question. That is the hinge on which history hangs.

That question has been a question for centuries. John the baptizer even said, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). Islam says Jesus is a prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is a mighty being, even a god. But not God. They do not believe in the Trinity.[1]

So, who is Jesus?

For us to answer that question, it’s important that we consider what Jesus Himself said. So, who did Jesus Himself say He was? Jesus is asked about His identity in the Gospel of John. People asked Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (John 8:48).

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The Ascension

“The LORD says to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’
2The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.’
5The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.”
—Ps. 110 (cf. Acts 2:33-36)

As we saw in the previous post on the resurrection, Peter looked at Psalm 16 and showed how Jesus’ resurrection was foretold. In Acts 2 Peter goes on to show that Jesus is now at God’s right hand, as Psalm 110 foretold. Jesus Himself had quoted from Psalm 110 and stomped His critics (see e.g. Matt. 22:41-46). And when you look at 110:1 it’s not surprising that they were stomped.

So, we see that Jesus is at God’s right hand until… Until He makes His enemies His footstool. That means that Jesus is coming back—and the New Testament repeatedly says soon—to bring judgment, and pervasive peace through that judgment.[1]

Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that He is indeed the Lord and Messiah.[2] As the Lord and Messiah, He is coming back soon to vanquish every foe and establish His forever reign of peace. In His second coming, He will bring the Kingdom that was expected at His first coming.  Read More…

The Resurrection

“I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
                           —Ps. 16:8-11/Acts 2:25-28 (cf. Acts 2:22-32)

Peter refers to this Davidic Psalm in Acts chapter 2. He said: “Fellow Israelites, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today” (Acts 2:29). In short, David’s dead and his body rotted. David did, however, as a prophet tell us that one of his descendants would sit on his throne (v. 30). So, David seeing that in advance “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: ‘His body was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay’” (v. 31).

Paul says it a little differently. He says King “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36). King David saw corruption. His body decomposed. So, David is not the “Holy One” that the Psalm refers to.

Paul goes on to say, “But He whom God raised up did not see corruption” (v. 37). Ding, ding, ding! Jesus is the Holy One! He is the long-awaited Messiah and forever King!

David knew that the LORD would place one of his descendants on the throne. How did he know this? Because…

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The Committal

“For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God…
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’”
—Ps. 31:4-5, 13-14 (cf. Lk. 23:46-49)

Jesus’ life was bathed in the language of the Psalms. Yet, when Jesus quotes Psalm 31 He doesn’t quote it exactly. Instead, He says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).[1] And so, Jesus’ dying moment was one of trust in His Father. Jesus trusted as He taught us to pray (“Our Father in heaven…”—Matt. 6:9-15). Jesus trusted as He brought a way for us too to go to the Father (Jn. 14:6).

And so we see that Jesus who cries out in despair—trusts God.[2] And we see He laid His life down. Jesus committed Himself into the care of His Father[3] and said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) and breathed His last. Jesus was in control of His life, and He laid it down. The fact that no one took His life from Him but that He laid it down[4] also implies that He is able to “take it up again” (Jn. 10:17).

It is because Jesus trusted God His Father in His life and in His death, and because He freely laid His life down, that we have access to the Father. Jesus makes a way for us by being the perfect sacrifice. Jesus always perfectly trusted God.

So, through Jesus we can have God as our Father. We can go to Him in prayer as Jesus taught us (Matt. 6:9-15). We don’t have to be anxious like unbelievers because we know that we have a heavenly Father who knows all that we need (v. 32). And we can be assured of our Father’s love and care for us because He loved us so much that He sent Jesus (Jn. 3:16).

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Jesus is Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
                             —Ps. 22:1-3

Jesus is Forsaken

On the cross, Jesus cries out and quotes Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God,[1] why have Thou forsaken me?!”[2] This is especially pungent because Jesus, unlike all other humans, did not deserve to be forsaken.[3]

Jesus’ forsaken cry comes at the end of three hours of darkness (Matt. 27:45). This is in great contrast to other momentous occasions in Jesus’ life. At Jesus’ birth, the star led the way and angels announced His arrival (Lk. 2:8-14).[4] At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens were torn open and a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At Jesus’ transfiguration “a cloud overshadowed them,[5] and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to Him’” (Mk. 9:7).

Yet, when Jesus is on the cross crying out His forsaken cry the sky is dark and there is no voice from heaven.[6]

However, it is through Jesus being forsaken by God that a gentile centurion[7] says, “Truly this man is the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39). It is through Jesus being forsaken by God that the temple curtain is ripped in two (Mk. 15:38)[8] and we can now, through Jesus Christ, boldly go to God our Father (Heb. 9:2–3, 12; 9:24; 10:19–20).[9]

Jesus cried His forsaken cry so that all who trust in Him will not have to for all eternity.[10] Jesus died in agony, crying out, “My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me?!” so that we could die in peace. The voice that called out to Abraham to not touch Isaac is silent for the Son of God so that we too could be spared. 

Later on, the psalmist says: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (Ps. 22:14-15 cf. 69:17-21).

That too was Jesus’ experience. He was forsaken by God. His life was poured out like water as He drank the cup of God’s wrath and suffered severe thirst. John 19:28 says, “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’”[11] And so we see, the One “who had made gallons of wine for a wedding party, who had spoken of living water that would quench all thirst forever” was dying with a parched tongue and the sour smell of vinegar on His beard.[12]

Jesus died in the dark. Thirsty. Forsaken by God.

Yet it is through Jesus being forsaken that He opens the way for whosoever will to come to God through the way that He made. Jesus is the way, He is the gate (Ps. 118:20; Jn. 14:6).

Reflections

  • It’s helpful to realize in the midst of suffering that God takes our suffering seriously. In fact, “God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.”[13]
  • Jesus, because He Himself suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). Jesus was “made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (v. 17). So, as you struggle and strive in this fallen world, remember Jesus sympathizes with your weaknesses, because He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned (Heb. 4: 15). 

Prayer

God, we are thankful and amazed that You are mindful of us. But we know that You are. And You even sent Jesus to bear the wrath that we deserve so we could be welcomed into friendship with You. Thank You, God. Be praised by our lives we ask, because You deserve it. We ask this through Jesus our once forsaken Great High Priest. Amen.

Notes

________

[1] Jesus said, “My God, my God” and so we see both Jesus’ personal relationship with God—even though He doesn’t say “My Father, my Father” here since He’s quoting the psalmist—and His continued trust in God (Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 258).

[2] Forsaken me in this context means “to cast off,” “reject,” “to be far from,” “to hide God’s face from,” “to turn in anger from,” “to forget” (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity, 256). “To be forsaken by God means that he has allowed this to happen and does nothing to help. So it is somewhat misleading to say—of the psalmist or of Jesus echoing his words—that he feels forsaken by God as though this were an understandable mistake. What Jesus experiences is the concrete fact that he has been left to suffer and die. God has, in this sense, abandoned him, not merely in psychological experience but in the form of the concrete situation that Jesus experiences” (Ibid., 257).

[3] So, we could read the text: “Why have You forsaken Me, Me of all people?!” We know the truth, however. We know that Jesus knew that it was God’s will that He bear the sins of many.

[4] See Colin R. Nicholl, The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem.

[5] God’s presence to bless is often seen in atmospheric symbols like clouds. We see this for example in the Exodus (Ex. 13:21).

[6] In Scripture darkness sometimes expresses God’s judgment as well as His nonappearance to bless and protect (see e.g. Ex. 10:21-22; Is. 8:22; Amos 5:20; Zeph. 1:15).

[7] This centurion would have observed many deaths and many crucifixions. And so, he is in a unique position to recognize the purity and power of Jesus. The centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Lk. 23:47), after he saw Jesus call out and say, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and breathe his last (Jn. 19:30/Lk. 12:46). The centurion must have been amazed by Jesus’ composure and everything else that had taken place surrounding Him. For example, the centurion may have seen the way Jesus treated His enemies (v. 34), His promise to the criminal on the cross (v. 43), His prayer to God (v. 46), not to mention the ominous darkness (v. 44).

[8] “The curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was an elaborately woven fabric of 72 twisted plaits of 24 threads each. It was 60 feet (18 m) high and 30 feet (9.1 m) wide. No one was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place behind the curtain except the high priest, and he only once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Heb. 9:2–7). Torn in two signifies the removal of the separation between God and the people” (The ESV Study Bible note on Matt. 27:51).

[9] As D.A. Carson has said, “At the very moment when Jesus gives up his spirit (v. 50), Matthew reports, ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom’ (v. 51a). This is not some mere datum of interesting destruction. The destruction of the curtain makes a theological statement” (D.A. Carson, Scandalous, 34).

[10] D.A. Carson, Scandalous, 36.

[11] Yet in Jesus’ thirst, He was given sour wine. So, “What David was offered in metaphor, Jesus was offered in fact” (Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 266). See Ps. 69:21; Matt. 27:34, 48; Jn. 19:28.

[12] Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew.

[13] Keller, The Reason for God, 31. “The cross is God’s act of self-identification with all people in that extremity of the human condition and that heart of all suffering that is the absence of God” (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 267).

The Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
                             —Ps. 22:1-3 (cf. Matt. 27:45-49)

 

On the cross Jesus cries out and quotes from Psalm 22: “My God, my God,[1] why have Thou forsaken me?!”[2] This is especially pungent because Jesus, unlike all other humans, did not deserve to be forsaken.[3]

Jesus’ forsaken cry comes at the end of three hours of darkness (Matt. 27:45). This is in great contrast to other momentous occasions in Jesus’ life. At Jesus’ birth, the star led the way and angels announced His arrival (Lk. 2:8-14).[4] At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens were torn open and a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At Jesus’ transfiguration “a cloud overshadowed them,[5] and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to Him’” (Mk. 9:7).

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