Revelation 1:17-20, Encouragement

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and Death.  Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My hand, and the seven gold lampstands:  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”  (NKJV)

Isn’t it interesting, in Scripture, when people see the Lord or a demonstration of His power, they don’t get all excited and jump up and down.  They’re more likely to fall down, in fear and awe, in amazement and wonder.

As one example, Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.  His response?  “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts,” v. 5.

We’re not given an example of what Isaiah meant by “unclean lips.”  Because of the “fame” of Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:15, as a result of the things listed in that chapter, it could be that the people were lamenting his passing and saying, “What shall we do?  Uzziah is dead.  How can we replace him?”  It could be that in the midst of this mourning and depression, Isaiah saw the LORD, reminding him that even though Uzziah might be dead, God was not.

This is pretty much the thrust of our text in Revelation.  Now though no  one was dead, John was in dire straits.  But the Lord whom he served, and on account of whose word he was in exile, v. 9, was very much alive and in charge.

Who is this One whom John saw?

Hear His own testimony.

“I am the First and the Last.”

Someone else had already said that.

Isaiah 41:4, “Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?  I, the LORD, am the first; and with the last, I am He.”

Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  ‘I am the First and I am the Last; beside Me there is no God’.”

Isaiah 48:12, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called:  I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.”

These three verses quote God speaking to Israel, telling them that He was First and Last.

In Revelation, Jesus applies this title to Himself.

He says, “I am the First and the Last.”

The original language is stronger: “I, I am the First and the Last.”  As it were, He underlines the statement.  He had already called Himself, “the Almighty,” v. 8.  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus is never called, “Almighty.”  According to them, He’s only ever called “Mighty God,” as in Isaiah 9:6.  I don’t really see how this helps them.  What kind of God is Jesus?  And, then, how many “gods” are there, after all, if He is only a “mighty God” and not “Almighty”?

Was He deluded?

Deranged?

Deceived?

If He was any of these three, – if He is not God – then, in truth, He is no better than any of the founders of other religions.  In fact, He might be worse; I don’t know that any of them actually claimed to be God.

If He is not God, then He was guilty of blasphemy and the Jews were right to want Him dead.

There are those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God, that such an idea was tacked on later by Christians.  That is not true.  The Jews who heard Him in John 8:58 clearly understood His claim.  That’s why they tried to kill Him, v. 59 – and why they couldn’t.  Indeed, that was the real reason He was crucified, John 19:7; Matthew 27:39-43.

Our Lord’s comment to John was “do not be afraid.”  And throughout the rest of the book, with all the judgments, all the terrible things, that John saw, we don’t read that he “feared” again.  His Lord was alive.

This is the crux of the matter.  Resurrection was the “sign” that the Jews would be given that Jesus was who He claimed to be, Matthew 12:39, 40; 16:4; Luke 11:29.  Matthew’s accounts follow two notable miracles, the healing of the demon-possessed deaf mute and the feeding of the four thousand (men only.  There were likely several thousand there, counting women and children).  Luke’s account gives our Lord’s denunciation of the Jewish leaders for their refusal to recognize Him and their demanding of “signs” – in the face of the signs they saw!

As far as the world is mostly concerned, Jesus is still dead, or might as well be.  That is, if He even existed.

But the Cross is empty, and so is the tomb.  Christianity is the only “religion” of which that can be said.

The tomb is empty.

The One who lay in it says, “I am He who lives,” v. 18.  “I am the Living One.”

Now, He did die; He was dead.  Literally, He “became dead.”  There are those who blasphemously assert that He only fainted, or that there was some sort of a “Passover plot” in which the Lord faked His death.  But it’s hard to imagine that the disciples would suffer all that they endured following a Man who had appeared to them barely alive.

You see, we don’t know the first thing about a crucifixion.  We’ve cleaned it all up and sanitized it – made it “respectable”.  We wear a cross as pretty jewelry.  But there was nothing pretty about it, nothing “respectable.”  In the first place, condemned criminals were often scourged before and as part of their execution.  Our Lord was scourged, Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15.  Again, we know nothing of such a thing.  We’re all concerned about “the rights” of the poor criminal, regardless of how violent he is or how many horrible crimes he’s committed.  We handle him with kid gloves.  There was no such insanity with Rome.  I’m not advocating harsh or unjust treatment of offenders, but perhaps less emphasis on them and more on their victims and what they did to them might be in order.

The Roman scourge was made of leather strips embedded with bits of bone.  At least one description of a scourging tells us that the flesh and muscles of the back were torn away and one could see ribs.  Some died because of it, never making it to a cross.  Then there was the crucifixion itself.  Crude spikes driven through wrists and ankles and the cross dropped into the hole made for it, jarring and tearing the already suffering body.

We know that Jesus actually died.  He “became dead.”  Pilate was astonished when Nicodemus came to ask for the body and sent a centurion to make sure that Jesus was really dead, Mark 15:44, 45.  Those crucified sometimes lingered for days; it had been only a few hours with Jesus.  The centurion wouldn’t have been a new recruit, but a hardened veteran, well-acquainted with what death looked like.  It would have been his life if he had been mistaken or lied about it.  In addition, there had been that spear driven into Jesus’ side, John 19:31-37.  This had been because the Jewish leaders wanted the executions to be completed before the Passover began.  What the soldiers saw with the spear satisfied them.  He was already dead.  There was no need to break His legs.

This is why Nicodemus wanted the body.

There was no doubt; He died.

He died, and….

…was buried, and that was the end of it?

That’s what the enemy wants us to think.

He was “dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.”

Someone has commented that the “behold” should have come before the idea that such a One as Jesus could have died….

That’s why He came.

Sometimes you will hear someone say that God died for our sins.

While I understand what they’re saying, it isn’t true.

God cannot die.

This is the ultimate reason for the incarnation.  God doesn’t just “forgive” sin.  His justice and holiness require that sin be paid for.  An animal couldn’t do that, though its sacrifice looked ahead to that One who could.  An angel couldn’t do it.  There would be no correspondence between its death and the sin it was supposed to pay for.

Man sinned; man must die.

But “Man” is flawed, sinful, rejected.  He has no currency with which to pay that sin debt.

His death is the result of sin, not its remedy.

There isn’t a single individual born of the union of a man and woman whose life and death can do anything about sin.

This is why God sent His own son, born of a woman, in the likeness of sinful flesh to do something about sin, Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4.  There is no Biblical basis for the idea that Mary herself was sinless or had been conceived without sin; she herself admits her need of a Savior, Luke 1:47.  Why would she “rejoice in God my Savior” if she were without sin herself?  She wouldn’t need a Savior.

It was necessary to Jesus be born of a human mother in order to be fully human, but without a human father in order to be completely sinless.  It was also necessary that His conception be of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35, in order that He be fully God.

But not only is Jesus “alive”; He is alive forevermore, v. 18.  Paul put it like this, Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him, Romans 6:9.

On the contrary, Jesus says that He has dominion over death:  I have the keys of Hades and Death,” Revelation 1:18, emphasis added.

I think it can be said that we live in “perilous times.”  I don’t know what’s going to happen in and to this country.  I’m afraid the country of my youth is irretrievably gone.  Regardless of who wins in November, January will usher in new and uncharted territory.

It doesn’t really matter.

Democrats and Republicans don’t hold the keys to the future, to death.  My Lord holds them.  Only when He returns to this earth will things be straightened out.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

 

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March Memories: In The Flesh.

[We continue in “March Memories” with another post on the person of the Lord Jesus, who was and is so much more than we really have any idea about.]

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….  John 1:14.

See also Philippians 2:5-11.

I suppose this is a continuation of “The Third Genealogy,” where we focused on the deity of Jesus.  He was truly God.  If He isn’t, then there is no hope of salvation at all.  But, as John also emphasized, He was also truly human, with a real body.

In the first place, the body of our Lord was indeed a real body.  Some have supposed that He was merely an apparition or a phantom, only appearing to have a body.  But His body was as real as yours or mine.  Though He was truly God, He was also truly human.  His body developed in Mary’s womb just like any other baby.  His birth was like any other.

Really, it’s the “virgin conception” that made Him special, though He was born of a virgin.  He grew and developed just like your children or mine, Luke 2:52.  I’ve often wondered if He “spoiled” His parents for their other children.  Yes, I know there’s a huge discussion about this, which I won’t get into here, with a large percentage of professing Christendom believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity.  It’s enough for me that Matthew 1:25 clearly says that Joseph and Mary enjoyed normal marital intimacy after the birth of Jesus.  And Jesus being called Mary’s “firstborn” is meaningless if He were her “only born.”

Second, it was a human body.  Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and that “flesh” was truly human.  There is also a discussion over whether or not Jesus could have sinned.  I’ll only say that I don’t think it was possible for Him to sin – He is holy, harmless, and undefiled, Hebrews 7:26.  As I’ve said elsewhere, Satan had no “hook” in Him to get Him to sin.  Sin is not essential to being human. Adam and Eve were perfectly and completely human as they came from the hand of their Creator.  Sin may have “entered” the human race, but it isn’t essential to us, and one day will be gone from those who have been saved.

Third, it was a “prepared” body, Hebrews 10:5.  The conception and birth of Jesus wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing; it was carefully planned and prepared for in eternity past, 1 Peter 1:20.  In Matthew 1:22, we read that all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet….  The immediate context refers to the virgin birth, but the virgin herself didn’t just appear out of thin air.  I think it can be said without exaggeration that “all this” includes everything from the very creation of Adam himself.  After all, the human DNA for the Lord’s body would have to have been present in Adam and carefully and providentially safeguarded through all the generations from Adam to Jesus.  Wasn’t the seed of the woman promised from the very beginning?  If not in Adam, then when was it introduced into Mary’s ancestry?

Fourth, it was a sacrificial body.  Jesus came into this world to be an offering for sin, a sacrifice for sinners.  His body was carefully prepared to be the sacrifice which would take away the sin of the world, that is, of the human race considered as a whole.  The only ones individually who can say their sins are paid for are those who have believed on Him for salvation. Unbelievers are still subject to God’s wrath, John 3:17, 18, and will still pay for their own sins, though that debt will never be paid.

Finally, it is a resurrected body.  Jesus truly died; He truly rose again from the dead.  Some have questioned this with the idea that a resurrection would somehow have cancelled out his payment for sin.  But the resurrection is the receipt, if you will, for that payment.  Without the resurrection, we have no way of knowing if His death was any more effective in that regard than the death of the others who died with Him that day.  Furthermore, read Paul’s defense of the physical resurrection of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15.  If there is no resurrection from the dead, then there is no salvation from sin and, as Paul put it, if there is no salvation, then Christians are to be pitied more than any other humans.
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(Originally published March 17, 2013.)  edited and new material.

The Baby at Bethlehem.

I belong to a facebook group where there’s been a rather spirited and lengthy discussion going on about celebrating Christmas.  There are earnest people on both sides of the question. Though I personally don’t like all the trappings that obscure the true meaning of Christmas, I have no problem with celebrating His birth.  Apparently, some do.

I thought the best post of them all was by a person who included a cartoon.  The cartoon showed the nativity scene with Mary, Joseph and the Baby, but also showed Santa, a chair, an elf and lights and a camera.  Santa has his arms outstretched, but Mary is holding Jesus away from him, and the caption, which I have altered slightly, has her saying to Santa, “Why in the world would we want a picture of Him with you?”  I’d have included it here, but my low-tech mind hasn’t figured out such high-tech thingys.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.  Perhaps some of you who have been with me for a while will find the rest of the post familiar.  Though not completely copied, it is taken from a post published last year at Christmas.

In all the celebration of Christmas, even with the nativity sets included, have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord Jesus is the only historical figure who apparently never grows up.  Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday, which is how I can remember it.  This year, there was a news item about his being remembered.  It was very short, yet it was from the standpoint of his life, not about his birth.  And yes, I know there are those who deny the Lord’s historicity.  Not interested in that here.

Someone commented to me that we do celebrate Jesus’ death at Easter.  That is true, for without Christmas there would have been no Easter.  Still, we don’t normally associate those two events, His death at Christmas or His birth at Easter.  When we observe the birthday of any other figure, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc., we talk about what they did, not so much about their births.  Only Jesus stays in the manger on Christmas day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Could it be that nobody’s threatened by a baby?

True, Herod was, but his was a unique case.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way.  They have no real interest in the youngster, no responsibility toward him or her.  He certainly poses no threat to them.

What about the Baby in Bethlehem?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now there weren’t ignorant pagans in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  They were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  After all, they were the chosen nation.  No other nation had ever enjoyed that privilege.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they had to repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

Jesus told them that unless “their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the Pharisees especially were looked up to as the height of virtue and righteousness.  And there were good Pharisees, who lamented the “street-corner Pharisees,” as much as our Lord, who scolded them more than once for their hypocrisy.  Still, the idea that something more than what they had was unthinkable.  After all, they were the guardians of Israel and her heritage.  No wonder they perceived Him as a threat to them and to their way of life, cf. John, 11:48.

Even though Jesus was mostly against the leaders of the nation, it  doesn’t seem to have taken long for them to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20; John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat for folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way.

But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, then He’s a threat.  People don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told they’re sinners and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love”, not righteousness, about a “better place”, not that other place.  They want “health”, not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

The Scandal of Christmas

That first Christmas…

So long ago…

What was it like?

Granted, it wasn’t called “Christmas.”  Those involved probably had no real idea at all of what was going on, and what the result would be of this one single day in their lives.

And we’re not concerned with the present celebration of Christmas.

But…

What was it like for them…

Mary, Joseph and the Infant?

For the most part, it was a time of scandal.

  • There was the scandal of immorality.

Remember, Joseph and Mary hadn’t yet been married, though their engagement was as binding as a marriage.  It could only be broken by divorce.

Now, there are professed Christians who are quite comfortable with the idea that Matthew or, more likely, someone much, much later who just used his name, invented the story of the virgin birth in order to make the best of a bad situation.  After all, living together without the benefit of marriage, or other “adult situations,” are quite acceptable and very common in our day, even among church people.

It wasn’t like that back then.  There were those who lived in immorality, to be sure, witness the incident of the Samaritan woman in John 4, but it surely wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today.

When Mary came back from her three-month visit with her cousin Elizabeth, no doubt she had begun to “show.”

We’re given no details of this at all, except the angelic visit to Joseph, who was the other concerned party in all this.  But what was the reaction of her parents?  What did the townspeople think of it, this hurried, sudden marriage of Joseph and Mary?

I’m sure it wasn’t all loving and accepting.

Then, too, there was Joseph.  How did this affect him?  His reputation?  Beyond his perplexity about what to do with his beloved, there is nothing.

And there was a third party affected by this.

  • There was the scandal of illegitimacy.

This concerned the Lord Jesus Himself.  If His conception was no different than any other conception, then the Mosaic Law shut Him out from the nation.  Deuteronomy 23:2 says, One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD;  even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD.

He could have no access to God.  He certainly couldn’t have become our Redeemer.

There could be no salvation – no reason to “celebrate Christmas.” 

  • There was the scandal of ignorance.

Except for a few shepherds, who were socially among the lowest of the low, no one else beside the little family knew anything of what was going on.  There were no floodlights, no fireworks, no “breaking news” on the local TV stations – if they would have had them. True, the shepherds made known what they had seen and heard, but who listened to shepherds?

No, just another birth, another little baby.

Life went on.

What about the wise men?

  • There was the scandal of indifference.

Though they’re always part of a nativity set, the visit of the wise men was probably more than a year later.  After Jesus was born, Matthew 2:1, not “when”, the men found what they were looking for, not in a stable somewhere, but in a house, Matthew 2:11.

The thing is, in trying to find whom they were looking for, they had gone to Jerusalem. After all, when one is looking for a King, where else to go but the royal city?

Herod had no idea what they were talking about, so he called in the local minister’s alliance:  the chief priests and scribes, Matthew 2:4.  They were immediately able to give him the information he wanted.

The sad thing, the somber thing, is that, as far as we have any record, these men, these scholars of the Scripture, never went to Bethlehem themselves to see what was going on.  The visit of the wise men had stirred up the whole city, for surely there were more than the three men commonly thought of.  Even if there were only three wise men,  taken from their gifts to the infant child, surely they had what we could call “support staff”.  Their’s had been a dangerous journey of months, and even if they joined a caravan to make the trip, surely they took provisions and guards with them.

The wise men had gone to a great deal of trouble to travel hundreds of miles, but the academics in Jerusalem couldn’t be bothered to travel just down the road.

Sad, isn’t it, that those closest to the text of Scripture were farthest from its truth.

  • There was the scandal of infamy.

The scholars may not have been interested in what the wise men said, but Herod certainly was.  He had no inherent right to the throne, but only held it through the power of Rome.  He wanted to find this Rival, not to worship Him, as he lied to the wise men, but to kill Him.

Using the time line supplied by the wise men, Herod sent soldiers to the region around Bethlehem, ordering them to kill all male children two years and younger.  He would brook no competition.

So, that first “Christmas” wasn’t all lights and tinsel.  There was a lot of sorrow and grief associated with it.  A lot of scandal.

The scandal of Christmas.

“An Eye for an Eye”.

Here is the first time such a phrase occurs in the Old Testament:

If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,  burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe, Exodus 21:22-25.

“A woman with child.”

Not “a fetus,” not “a byproduct of conception” (!), not just a lump of cells, but a “child.”

Our world may have decided that the unborn are disposable at the convenience of the mother, but God considered them to be deserving of the same protection against harm and injury as anybody who had made it through the birth canal.

And, yes, I know what the Lord Jesus said about “an eye for an eye” in Matthew 5:38-42.  I doubt that He had this particular situation in mind when He said it.

There’s a lot that could be said about the text in Exodus, which we’ll not get into.

Scripture uniformly says that God is interested and involved in the development of a child from the moment of conception.  We grant this normally is through DNA and the process of development in the mother’s womb – a “natural” process.  But because it is “natural,” science says that “God” can’t possibly be involved – there is no God to be involved.  It’s a “natural” process.  That’s all.  But where did the DNA and the process come from?  Did they just conveniently evolve “naturally” along with everything else – all those countless “everything elses” that are necessary for it to work?  And all at the same time, so that it could work?

Blind, random chance?

Mutation?

It seems to me it takes a great deal more “faith” to believe in that than it does that God created it and sees to it that it keeps on working.  It’s strange how the evolutionist and the Christian can look at the same “evidence” – the marvels of “nature,” whether through the microscope or the telescope, the intricacy and complexity of the human body – and arrive at completely opposite conclusions.  The evolutionist says, “Well, that’s just because Christians are ignorant.”

I guess it depends on what one chooses to be “ignorant” about.

Here are just a few of the Scriptures which speak about God and an unborn child.

Genesis 25:23, And the LORD said to her [Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, who was having a difficult pregnancy], “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body.” 

“Two nations.”

Not just two little boys, but “nations”.  God looked at their descendants, as well as at them.  When an unborn baby dies, he or she’s not the only one.  All those who would have descended from them also, in effect, die.

Have you ever thought about how many people it took to get you here?  You think of your parents, your grandparents, perhaps even your great-grandparents.  Just for fun, take it back 20 generations, to about the time of the Reformation.  You might be surprised at how many people were alive then, not necessarily all exact contemporaries, who contributed part of the DNA that you carry, which they got from their parents and ancestors.  They had a part in what color your eyes are, the color of your hair, how tall you are, whether you’re musical or can’t carry a tune, etc., etc.  It’s really mind-blowing when you think about it.

This generational “identity,” if you will, is how the Scripture could say that Levi paid tithes in Abraham, cf. Hebrews 7:9, 10.

Genesis 29:31, When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb…. Here is just one of several verses which describe the Lord as opening or closing the womb.

Judges 16:17, Samson, in his foolish dalliance with Delilah, “…I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb.”  Indeed, his mother had been instructed about what she could or could not eat while she was carrying him, cf. Judges 13:13, 14.  The idea that a mother’s diet could affect her child is not a new idea.

Job 31:15, in describing why he couldn’t be harsh or unjust to his servants, male or female, Job said, “Did not He who made me in the womb make them?  Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?” 

Psalm 22:9, 10, a prophecy of the Messiah, perhaps as He hung on the Cross, cf. v.8, But You are He who took Me out of My mother’s womb; You made Me trust You while on My mother’s breasts.  I was cast upon You from birth.  From My mother’s womb, You have been My God.  If it’s argued that this refers to Messiah’s birth and infancy, that’s true, but how was the Messiah conceived, that is, if Scripture is reliable?  (Just to be certain, I believe that it is.)  Cf. Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25.  God was directly involved in this conception.

Isaiah 49:5, another Messianic prophecy, “And now the LORD says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His servant,….”   This takes us again to the virgin conception, for after His conception, the Lord Jesus developed like any other child in the womb.  All that’s mind-blowing to think about, too.

Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord speaking to Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  Cf. the similar remark by the apostle Paul, But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace…, Galatians 1:15.

Ministry, whether the prophets, the Lord’s, yours or mine, may not “begin” until after we’re born, but the preparation for it starts at conception.

We don’t usually think of it like this, but there’s an entire world involved in that little “baby-bump”.

God said to take care of it.

Voices of Christmas: Joseph

What shall we say about Joseph?  I’ve read comments ranging from, “There’s no fool like an old fool,” for him going ahead and marrying Mary after she was, as it was thought, unfaithful to him, to the idea that Joseph was an elderly man simply assigned, as it were, to “protect her virginity.”

Though the Scripture doesn’t address the issue of “age” for either of them, it is possible that Joseph was indeed older than Mary.  He’s never mentioned after the Temple incident when Jesus was 12 years old, Luke 2:41-50.  As for the other, that he was just there to protect her virginity, Scripture teaches that Joseph and Mary enjoyed a normal marital relationship after the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 1:24, 25 says that after the angel of the Lord assured him that everything was all right, Joseph immediately took to him his wife, and did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn Son. The phrase, “did not know her not UNTIL…” indicates there came a time when he did “know” her, that is, they became a normal married couple. Further, Matthew 1:18 says before they came together she was found with child…. Matthew continues with child of the Holy Spirit,” something which wouldn’t be obvious from her condition.  Divine intervention was necessary for both of them to understand what was going on.  The word “before” tells me there was an “after.”  They had other children “after” Jesus.  Matthew 13:55, 56 lists four brothers and at least three sisters.  It’s argued that these are Joseph’s from a previous marriage, but the description of Jesus as Mary’s firstborn would seem to indicate that she had “otherborn.”  Matthew 13 lists them.

What was it like for Joseph after Mary’s three-month absence visiting Elizabeth, when she came home and would be beginning “to show?”  Everything we said about Mary and contemporary attitudes about marriage, sex and virginity would hold here, except on the other side.  Promiscuity was not acceptable, though there were undoubtedly those who were guilty of it.  Indeed, the Law had a provision that if a woman came to a first marriage and was not a virgin, she was liable to death, Deuteronomy 22:13-21.

Feminists and unbelievers find these strictures offensive because they single out the woman and don’t punish the man.  However, there is no physical way to tell whether or not a man is a virgin.  And there are plenty of other verses, like the next one in Deuteronomy 13:22, which call for the punishment of the man as well in cases of sexual misconduct.

There is a reference to this in Matthew 1:19, Then Joseph her husband, being a just man…. He was faced with what the Bible said about sexual sin, and it seemed Mary was guilty.  After all, there was no other explanation for what happened to her.  At the same time, he couldn’t bring himself to demand her execution.  I believe he truly cared for her, and was extremely distressed by the whole thing.  And notice, he’s already called “her husband,” and she is called his “wife.”  This shows how legally binding a “betrothal” was.  And it shows a merciful spirit even in the face of a death penalty sin.

We don’t know how long it took before the Lord intervened.  I don’t think it was more than a day or two, if even that long.  Too much was at stake for this couple, and for Him. The Angel of the Lord told him not to be afraid, but to go ahead and marry Mary, because her child was conceived of the Holy Spirit.  Her Son was to be the Savior of His people.  That was enough for Joseph, though it seldom satisfies any but believers.  As soon as he woke up, and I tend to believe the Angel awakened him, Joseph married his betrothed, and did not know her [was not intimate with her] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.  And he called His name JESUS.  

   

In The Flesh

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John 1:14.  See also Philippians 2:5-11.

I suppose this is really a continuation of my post “The Third Genealogy,” where I focused on the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ll not repeat what I said there, but encourage you to read it, especially if you haven’t read it before.

In the first place, the body of our Lord was a real body.  There have been some who have supposed that He was merely a phantom or apparition, that His body wasn’t real.  But it was as real as yours or mine.  Though He was truly God, He was also truly human.  His body developed in Mary’s womb just like any other.  His birth was like any other.

Really, it’s the virgin “conception,” not the virgin birth, though He was born of a virgin.  He grew and developed as a child, like your children or mine grew and developed, Luke 2:52.  I’ve often wondered if He “spoiled” His parents for their other children.  Yes, I know there’s a huge discussion about this, which I won’t get into here, with a large percentage of professing Christendom believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity.  It’s enough for me that Matthew 1:25 indicates that Joseph and Mary enjoyed normal marital intimacy after the birth of Jesus.  And, Jesus being called Mary’s “firstborn” is meaningless if He were her “only-born”.

Second, it was a human body.  Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and that “flesh” was truly human.  There is also a discussion over whether or not Jesus could have sinned.  I’ll only say that I don’t think it was possible for Him to sin – He is “holy, harmless and undefiled,” Hebrews 7:26.  As I’ve said somewhere else, Satan had no “hook” in Him to get Him to sin. Sin is not an essential element of being human.  Adam and Eve were perfectly human as they came from the hand of God, before they disobeyed Him and fell from their innocence and sinlessness.

Third, it was a “prepared” body, Hebrews 10:5.  The conception and birth of Jesus wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment happening; it was carefully planned, even in eternity past, 1 Peter 1:20, and prepared for.  In Matthew 1:22, we read that “all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet….”  The immediate context refers to the virgin birth of Jesus, but the virgin herself didn’t just appear out of thin air.  I think it can be said without exaggeration that “all this” includes everything from the very creation of Adam himself.  After all, the human DNA for the Lord’s body was present in Adam, and carefully and providentially shepherded through all the generations from Adam to Jesus.  If not, when was it introduced into Mary’s ancestry?

Fourth, it was a sacrificial body, that is, Jesus came into this world to be an offering for sin, a sacrifice for sinners.  His body was carefully prepared to be the sacrifice which would pay for the “sins of the world,” that is, of the human race considered as a whole. Individually, the only ones who can say that their sins are paid for are those who have believed on Him for salvation.  Unbelievers are still subject to God’s wrath, John 3:17, 18.

Finally, it is a resurrected body.  Jesus truly died physically; He truly rose physically.  Some have questioned this on the idea that this would somehow have cancelled out His payment for sin.  But the resurrection is the receipt, if you will, for that payment.  Without it, we have no way of knowing if His death was any more effective in that regard than the death of the other two who died with Him on that fateful day.  Furthermore, read Paul’s defense of the Lord’s physical resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.  Without that resurrection, there is no salvation from sin and, as Paul put it, if there is no salvation, Christians are to be pitied above all human beings.