Saturday, February 20, 2016

Triplets of Confirmation: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Artist A.N. Mironov 2014: Jesus presented at temple


As we have seen in recent posts, God carefully orchestrated the details of Mary’s life, including her family tree, her betrothal to Joseph, and their places of residence, so that Jesus would fulfill the prophecies about the promised Messiah.

Mary’s genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) included ancestors who reflected God’s plan of salvation for all people. His mercy, grace, and love is illustrated in Adam’s rebellion (Genesis 3:6-19); Noah being spared from destruction with his family as the faithful remnant (Genesis 6-8); and Enoch, foreshadowing how those who walk with God will be raptured (Genesis 5:24). It included the patriarchs and rulers, namely Abraham, Isaac, and David, of Israel, God’s chosen nation.

Mary’s husband Joseph also was the descendant of David, confirming Jesus Christ’s claim to eternal rule on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). Joseph’s character of faithfulness, compassion, and loyalty enabled him to obey God’s commands as His servant, devoted husband to Mary, and Godly father figure to Jesus. Joseph’s home town of Nazareth, family city of Bethlehem, and temporary residence in Egypt all fulfilled specific Messianic prophecies concerning Jesus Christ.

After Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, the family spent time in three places when He was a young child. The first was a house in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:8-11), perhaps belonging to one of Joseph’s relatives who invited the new family to stay once taxation by Caesar Augustus was completed (Luke 2:1-5) and the overcrowded town began to clear out. The second was in Egypt, where they fled for safety, as Herod was bent on destroying male infants (Matthew 2:16). The third was in Nazareth, where they returned once the danger was passed (Matthew 2:21-23).

Through His angel speaking to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 2:8-11, 13,22), God commanded Joseph to take his family to Egypt, and then to return to Nazareth, with His perfect timing. In total, God spoke to Joseph in a dream three times, the first being when He told Joseph to marry his betrothed, for she was carrying the Son of God  (Matthew 1:20-21).  Each time that God spoke, Joseph obeyed and Mary followed without question, hesitation, or complaint.

As a result, not only was Jesus kept safe and alive, but Messianic prophecies were also fulfilled. It had been foretold that the Anointed One would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6), be called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:17-18), and be named the Nazarene (Matthew 2:23; Isaiah 11:1).

Given Mary’s observance of the law (Luke 2:22-24) and apparent familiarity with Scripture (Luke 1:46-47), she may have realized with every move that these prophecies were coming to pass, strengthening her faith in what God had said about the remarkable destiny of her Son (Luke 1:26-38). 

During Jesus’ early childhood, there were three occasions in Israel (two in Bethlehem and one in Jerusalem), where Mary and Joseph received further confirmation that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The first of these was on the night of His birth, when shepherds came to worship Jesus and conveyed the Good News that they had heard from the angel (Luke 2:8-20).

The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what they said to Mary, Joseph and the Babe (v. 16), only that all wondered at their news, and that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart (v. 18-19). Based on what the angel had said, the shepherds may have spoken of glory to God, peace on earth, and good will toward men (v. 14). They may have repeated that the birth of this Child in the city of David meant good news and great joy for all people, for He is the promised Savior, Christ, and Lord (v. 10-11).

Mary may not have yet realized that her Son’s gift of salvation mandated His death, burial and resurrection to pay for all of our sins, reconcile us to Holy God, and give eternal life to all who trusted in Him (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:15-19; Hebrews 9:26-28). But over the next weeks, months and years, the puzzle pieces started to fit together.

The second confirmation of Christ’s destiny occurred when Mary and Joseph traveled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to present Jesus at the temple at 40 days of age, as the law of Moses commanded for the firstborn male (Luke 2:22-28). This confirmation came from Simeon, an old worshipper who was just, devout, and waiting for Israel’s salvation (v. 25).

The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon; He revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the Christ Who would deliver His people; and He guided Simeon into the temple on the day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus there (v. 25-27).

Realizing that Jesus was the Christ Child, Simeon took Him in his arms, blessed God, and blessed Joseph and Mary (v. 34). He was now ready to die, now at peace, for God had kept His promise to him (v. 29). This precious Child he held was Salvation for Jews, Gentiles and all people (v. 30-32) who believed in Him.

But for Mary, despite this amazing revelation, it was not all good news. Simeon told her that Jesus was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; for a sign which others would speak against; and that her own soul would suffer unimaginable grief as she watched the sword pierce her Son (v. 34-35).

Through Holy Spirit inspiration, Simeon spoke to Mary and not Joseph, which was appropriate as the Bible does not mention Joseph after the incident where Jesus, still a youth, remained in Jerusalem, causing His family quite a panic (v. 41-51), as we shall see next week!. Evidently Joseph, who was likely older than Mary, did not survive long enough to see Jesus embark on His earthly ministry, nor to see His crucifixion or resurrection.

Thankfully, God did not leave Mary alone to ponder Simeon’s troubling prophecy, for Anna was at hand to affirm the Good News that Jesus was the promised Savior (v. 36-38). Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser. She was elderly, and had been married for seven years but now had been widowed for 84 years.

Despite this burden, Anna showed her faithfulness to God by never leaving the temple, fasting and praying to God night and day. She came to comfort Mary “in that instant;” she thanked God; and she witnessed to all in Jerusalem that Jesus would one day redeem them.

Mary’s third confirmation regarding the destiny of her Son came in Bethlehem, when Jesus was a young child (Matthew 2:1-12). Wise men reading Scripture prophecy about the future King of the Jews knew that He would be born In Bethlehem; that He would be a Governor; and that He would rule Israel. They sought Him, rejoiced when they saw the star leading to Him, and followed the star straight to the house where Jesus, Mary and Joseph were living.

On arrival, they entered the house that the star had identified, saw Jesus, and fell down before Him. Then they worshipped Him, opened their treasures, and presented three gifts to Him; gold, frankincense and myrrh. They heard God warn them in a dream that they should not report back to King Herod, obeyed God, and returned home by traveling another way.

How Mary's heart must have overflowed with thanksgiving, amazement, and yet sorrow as she contemplated what would happen to her Son. Now His Divine destiny was confirmed not only by shepherds, and even by prophets, but also by the wisest men of their day, who had sacrificed their time, treasure and pride to honor Him.

Did Mary understand the significance of their gifts – gold fit for a King (Revelation 17:14;19:16), frankincense because He is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), and myrrh, used to anoint a body for burial, because He was born to die? Whether she knew it then or only as she saw the events of His earthly ministry unfold, it is certain that she submitted to God’s perfect plan, obeyed His Word (Luke 1:38-39), and trusted in His Son (her Child) as her King, Lord and Savior (Luke 1:46-47).

Just as her ancestor Abraham trusted God (Genesis 12:1-12; Hebrews 11:8) to reveal His perfect plan in His perfect timing, one step at a time, so did Mary, and so must we. Only then can we experience the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), joy in the Lord (Psalm 21:1), and the fulfillment that comes from hearing Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

Praise God that He gives us the reassurance, confirmation, and direction at every bend in the road, if we stop, look and listen to His messages!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Denise! You are a blessing!
      Laurie

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  2. Dear Laurie,
    That was a heartwarming story surrounding the Nativity. It also goes to show that these events should not be confined to the Christmas season, but as you have demonstrated, read, meditated over, and acted upon all throughout the year.
    Reading about how different characters were saved just by looking at the baby and believing in their hearts that he is the true Messiah, is in itself very encouraging, as Paul confirmed later (Romans 10:9-10,13) - as this same faith also applies to us. What wonderful news indeed! Thank you for posting, and I look forward to next week's installment.
    God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      Thank you for your confirmation that we can learn much from studying the lives of Mary and Joseph as they cared for Baby Jesus, even apart from the Christmas season, just as we can and should ponder His death, burial and resurrection every day of the year, and not just at Easter. I truly appreciate your ongoing encouragement and uplifting comments.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  3. What amazes me about the story is that a people who spent so much time in religious pursuits and supposedly serving God as the Jews could be so totally oblivious of the fulfillment of the prophecies they claimed to believe in. Only a very few, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and the wisemen and Mary and Joseph themselves seemed to take any notice of God's promises being fulfilled.

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    Replies
    1. So true, Donald! It is a warning that it is easy to be consumed by religious practices based on man's traditions and yet have the heart far removed from the One True God. Praise God that His faithful remnant will be looking up and recognize the signs of His appearing. Thanks as always for sharing your insights, and God bless,
      Laurie

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