December 27, 2020 Jesus: The Son of Mary
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
During our 4 Sundays in Advent, we looked in Matthew chpt.1 and heard about the genealogy of Jesus. In 17 verses, Matthew lists the names of 3 sections of 14 generations each from Abraham up to Joseph. So, Jesus is called ‘the son of…’ a number of people because his ancestry can be traced back thru a whole line of particular people as he fulfilled the promise as the coming Savior, who would be the offspring of Adam & Eve. With our 4 Sundays, we thought about Jesus as the Son of David, & Abraham, the Son of ‘scandal’ = because of the particular sinners in his family tree, and the Son of Joseph.
Today, we complete this little series with Jesus, who is the ‘Son of Mary’, as recognized & praised by Simeon and Anna in the temple 40 days after his birth. And our verse from Matthew 1 is vs.16: “And Jacob [was] the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
Some Bible scholars are bothered that the listing of Jesus’ ancestors in Matthew’s gospel is not ‘ship-shape’. They complain that -it seems- that some people are left out, and the numbers of generations don’t quite add up. In order for Matthew to cite 3 parts of 14 names means that he left-out some names. I believe there are intentional & spiritual reasons for how the HSp guided Matthew to write; but some commentators question Matthew’s ability to count; accusing him of not being a very good historian. I mention this, because you might hear those commentators claim that this is one reason why the Bible can’t be trusted; it has errors
-they say-; and they try to get you & me to trust them more than Holy Scripture itself.
They don’t like it when the names & the numbers don’t ‘add up.’
Most of us don’t lose sleep over some particular oddities in Holy Scripture; there are actually quite a few things in the Bible that can make us scratch our heads & say ‘hmm, well that’s weird,’ or ‘that’s not how I would record this event.’ If you’ve ever traveled to a different country, or maybe talked to some missionaries who have lived in other cultures,
you know that the way various peoples /view life, /view history, /& handle daily things in their culture can be quite different than our culture. What’s normal for them seems weird to us.
The same thing is true between eras in human history. St.Matthew was a Jew from 2,000 years ago. So when the HSp tells the heavenly gospel thru him to his original audience of mostly Jews, we are going to struggle to understand why it was written the way it was. This should not make us upset or doubtful about the accuracy or intentions of the writer, OR about what God wants us to know for our salvation. So, let’s be on our guard.
Don’t be put off by so-called ‘experts’ or scholars who criticize the Holy Scripture, because things aren’t written ‘the way they would.’ I say, that’s why God didn’t choose them to write for Him! The Lord has some very clever, & sometimes hidden, reasons why He wrote His Bible the way He did. We should give thanks for what we can understand today; and pray the Lord to help us grow in our understanding tomorrow. Our lack of understanding something does NOT take away our faith & trust in the good news of Christ, which the clear gospel brings to us.
It IS sad that, when some people don’t have the exact answers they expect, they walk out on God’s Word or Church. But faith says ‘what is written, is written.’ Someday we can ask God about those curious things when we get to heaven. I mean, *how much more does God need to prove himself to us than with what he has done and he has written down for us? Its far more likely that things don’t add up because our fallen mind can’t add them up as God intended; rather than that the HSp made mistakes in His Holy Scripture.
Some things about the birth of Jesus thru Mary don’t make human sense. Since He was expected to be born in King David’s royal city of Bethlehem, *why would God chose a young girl over in Nazareth? This Messiah was to be greater than king David; so *why wasn’t he born in a palace, & not in a stable? He should have been wrapped in imperial silk & imported cotton, not the poorest material of swaddling cloth. He should’ve been announced by a palace messenger, & attended to by the royal midwife, protected by the royal guard. Instead, he’s practically out in the cold & on his own.
To the Jews of that day, they were tracing the Messiah’s ancestry back to a royal lineage, and they forgot how king David started out as a lowly shepherd boy in the house of non-royal Jesse. Things about this Jesus just didn’t add up to them. But, this was God’s way.
God made the birth-announcement thru some lowly shepherds, who came into town with a non-sensical story about a sky filled with angels, and the message of where to find the royal Christ & holy Lord; He would be lying in an animal food-trough. None of that made sense at all, right down to a young, unmarried & unknown girl, giving birth to the promised Messiah.
At least Mary understood that God does not have to operate the way the world & its experts operate; I guess old Simeon and Anna understood that, too. So, while she wondered how she, an unmarried & inexperienced virgin, could bear the Son of the Most High, her response was, “I’m your servant, Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
(Lk 1:38). Her faith was not dependent upon God doing things according to human sense; but just trusting God to do what He wanted, & it would be good. She already knew her once-barren cousin Elizabeth also conceived in a way that was highly improbable. And the angel reminded her that nothing is impossible for God.
We’ve heard that phrase quite a few times this advent season. And while we do believe God can do anything, we also know there’s no reason for us to expect God to work outside the normal channels, until He decides to do so. And we have to be able to hold those two things in our minds, at the same time, and not doubt either one. On the one hand, God can do anything; on the other hand, 99.999 percent of the time, God will work things thru ordinary means.
God created this very ordered universe; and ‘natural order’ is how things always work. We have to be able to count on ‘gravity’, and on chemicals & physics acting the same way all the time. That’s how our life in His creation works. At the same time, God himself is outside of His creation, so He’s not bound by those laws-of-nature, which He made for you & me.
Therefore, at any time, and for any reason He sees fit, He can make absolutely anything happen. We cannot order Him to do that; and we shouldn’t expect the impossible; but our faith has absolute certainty that He will do whatever pleases Him; and that will be good & right for us.
So, When Mary went to visit her cousin, her song was one of praise to the God who not only does the improbable, but also can do the impossible. For He is the God who can bring down the mighty, and exalt the humble. He can fill the hungry, and send the rich away empty.
And for the sake of all the ordinary people; all the named and the un-named generations in every family tree, God has us remember this humble servant – Mary, and call her blessed, for she faithfully bore the world’s one & only Savior for all of us.
Martin Luther preached about ‘Mary’s Song’, which we call The Magnificat. He said, “When the holy virgin experienced what great things God was working in her despite her insignificance, lowliness, poverty, and inferiority, the Holy Spirit taught her this deep insight and wisdom, that God is the kind of Lord who loves to exalt those of low degree, and put down the mighty from their thrones; in other words: God likes to break what is whole and make whole what is broken.” (AE 21:299).
What Mary, Simeon & Anna believed is also a significant part of our faith, too.
We will acknowledge that -in this world- the rich & powerful appear to get away with a lot of advantages, unfair privileges, selfish & terrible things. Humble, lowly & righteous people get the shaft. In a sinful world, that’s ordinary, & as reliable as gravity.
But as God’s people, we know that -even this life- is more than those earthly things.
Even if we’re not aware of God’s working in our own lives, we have His Bible, and in there we have seen how God can do the extra-ordinary things, to the blessing of His trusting people. He does the impossible, when it pleases Him. This is why the evil world and the powerful devil cannot crush the Lord’s people. *How is it that the wicked can’t just exterminate all of us, and just be done with Christians once & for all? Because God sees all, and protects His people.
Jesus was born as the Son of Mary in order to be God’s greatest sign of impossible mercy & care for lowly & broken sinners, whom He exults with grace & blessing beyond what the world can give. Jesus was born in order for us to inherit a kind of life that is impossible on this earth & impossible for rich people to buy or wicked people to steal. And yet, in Jesus’ name, that abundant life is reserved in heaven for those who believe & are baptized in Christ.
This has been God’s restoration plan from the very point of that first sin. Altho God had to kick Adam & Eve out of the Garden of His presence, He made a promise: one of their own offspring would crush for them the serpent’s head. The Old Testament is full of signs pointing us forward to the fulfillment of that promise. Not every name in Jesus’ family tree had to be recorded for us. But we do hear about /Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob; /Judah & Tamar; /Rahab & Ruth; /David & Bathsheba; /and finally Joseph & Mary.
Thru them, we see how God was at work, weaving His plan of salvation thru each generation, right up until the Holy Spirit came upon Mary with an ‘impossible’ conception == (which is not the same thing as the Catholic’s ‘immaculate conception.’) But, by God’s working outside the laws of nature, the virgin conceived, and ‘bore to us a Savior, when half-spent was the night.’ God’s plan will never make human sense to worldly people; but to God’s believing people, this is the promise of our eternal hope.
So, Jesus the Son of God was also the Son of Mary. He was seen among us like one of us with a human nature, by which he ate & drank, wept & laughed, slept & worked.
But unlike us, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit to be of the same substance with the Father; to be truly God, without sin, perfect & holy in every way. In order to fulfil the promise of saving us from the guilt of our sins, He was born covered in blood, and he would die covered in blood. And by His holy blood, our debt is considered ‘paid’, & we are cleansed before God. That’s how God used the ordinary things to accomplish the extra-ordinary gift of new life for you & me.
*Does that way of our salvation make sense to us? It doesn’t make sense that the Son of heaven would get up from the table and, with a towel and basin -like a servant- wash his disciples’ feet. It doesn’t make sense that the Holy One of Israel would associate with an adulterous Samaritan woman, or heal the Roman centurion’s servant. It doesn’t make sense that this famous, royal descendant of David would associate with tax collectors & other sinners.
Most of all, it doesn’t make sense that the Son of God would come to die. But that’s just the kind of Lord he is; and in His wounds, we are healed. And it doesn’t make sense that on the 3rd day, Jesus’ body was not still laying in the tomb. But the natural laws of death gave way when faced with God’s will & power of resurrection. In this faith, when things don’t add up, that doesn’t make us run away from God. It actually makes us run back to Him, and take comfort & courage in the fact that He has done -& will do- whatever it takes to bring us into His eternal life.
Even now, God is working thru the ordinary things. Such as: His written Word, & thru the preaching of that Word in His faithful Church, & thru plain water, and normal bread & wine.
Even now God is working on the hearts & minds of his humble people in order to save us & spread the good news of great joy that is for all people; that our Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in the city of David, and laid in a manger. So, Matthew’s genealogy omits a few names; but God’s design for Matthew’s gospel goes beyond tracing every name in every generation; it is being used by the HSp to open dead-hearts & closed-minds to believe that God has fulfilled in Jesus His saving promise to the world.
Our salvation was impossible. But then, the virgin was found to be with child. The Savior was wrapped in swaddling cloth. The King was lying in a manger. The Prince of Peace was announced to shepherds, and welcomed by two ordinary old folks in the temple.
The Son of unknown-Mary shows himself to be the Son of the Most High, who stills the wind & waves with a word, who shares our human troubles, who takes up our infirmities & carries our sorrows; who forgives all our sins and strengthens us in the life we have now and in the hope we have in the life to come. Jesus does the impossible for us.
Thanks be to God! Amen.