HOW GOD STAYS IN TOUCH WITH MAN: XI

Christmas represents women as God’s favored creatures. Think of this: “To save the world, God could do without a man, but not without a woman!” Mark Twain was asked, “What would the world be without women?” He replied with one word, “Scares!” Friends, salvation would not exist! Without women, Jesus could not have come, grace would not be available, and man would forever be separated from God. The Jewish culture, in Jesus day, had an ill taste for Eve and her kind. The Apostle Paul, whom we revere as the father of Gentile Christianity, said this about women:

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (I Timothy 2:9-15).

Earlier, the same Paul had to nip his ego and accept the help and the hospitality of Priscilla, in Corinth. Priscilla and her husband Aquila were familiar with the Roman respect for fine ladies. And it was Priscilla who helped Paul to succeed in Corinth as a leader and as a teacher. Corinth was more sinful than Athens where Paul failed (Acts 18). We do learn that Paul had a change of heart. And therefore, Paul recognized women for their assistance (Romans 16:1-15). Imagine how awkward it was for the compilers of Matthew’s Gospel to include Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth into Jesus’ geneology. They hushed the true relationship between Mary and Joseph, when the couple chose not to be intimate during Mary’s pregnancy (Matthew 1). God had chosen women, which the Jewish tradition did not favor. In addition to Jesus’ birth, women played a vital role in Jesus’ Life and in Jesus’ Ministry. Before we continue on the subject of women, we need to be reminded that God did not exempt Adam from his fault! But, God held Adam accountable for his wife’s transgression (Genesis 3:9). It is also a warning for us to be affectionate with our marriage partners, and to keep them from wanting to stray. Marriage is not a one night stand, but a lifelong commitment and dedication to each other, regardless of the circumstances and of the hardships. Many guesses have been made as to what Jesus wrote on the ground, when the men dragged a woman before Him to pass sentence for stoning her as an adultress. Jesus pointed the guilt at the men and not at the woman, who very probably was seduced by these men:

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at the time, the older ones first until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asker her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned  you?” “ No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:7-11).  

IF IT HAD NOT BEEN FOR THE WOMEN, WHAT WOULD CHRISTMAS BE LIKE?

The answer to the question requires some background explanation. The Hebrew background, to this day in our time, could not and does not tolerate the idea that their God would stoop to engage a woman to give them their second David. In order to make such a concept possible, a religion where God could become intimate with humanity, the world had to be hellenized. The Gentiles were not content with a “Ghost” or a “Spirit God,” but with “One” that could be visible in the flesh. Jesus’ disciples had a difficult time understanding Jesus, who represented God as a human being. That was also the reason Jesus said, “follow me” instead only “believe in me” — a concept man ought to reconsider and stop spiritualizing the Christian faith. Jesus taught that whatever He was doing, that His followers would do even greater things.

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it (John 14:5-14).

WHO WERE THE FIRST PEOPLE TO RECOGNIZE THE TRUE NATURE AND THE TRUE PERSON OF CHRIST?

The Jewish tradition did not grant to women a male standing. Jesus, as a Man, before His return from the grave, was following the Jewish tradition when He addressed his mother, “Woman, what have you to do with me!” (John 2: 4; Greek). To the contrary, the Holy Spirit, in Luke, elevated women above men; for, without them, life could not exist. Adam named his wife Eve, “because she would become the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Lord told Joseph, in a dream, that Mary carried the Holy Spirit’s baby (Matthew 1:20-25). And John’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:29;34). The Gospel of Mark has the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven, identify Jesus as the Son of God (Mark 1:9-11). Luke, alone, gave credit where credit was due — to the women. Mary, herself, was informed by the angel Gabriel that she was to carry and give birth to the Son of God, and that her cousin Elizabeth also was pregnant and that her baby made Elizabeth call Mary the mother of her Lord:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! But why a I so favored that the mother of my lord should come to me? As soon the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who had believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:39-45).

Then, the shepherds also were informed by angels, before they went to see the “Baby Jesus.” Luke has heaven celebrate the “Birth of the Son of God,” who will live among men as their Savior. The celebration of the “Birth of the Savior” was outdoors with the simple folks, and not even in town, where David’s family once lived. David, himself, was an outdoorsman when he was called to be king (I Samuel 16:1-13).

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds sid to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:8-20).

The third time Jesus was identified, as the Lord and Savior among men, was by Simeon and Anna when the baby Jesus was presented for dedication in the temple by his parents. Both Simon and Anna were simple people, moved by the Spirit of the Lord to identify Jesus as the Christ.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And s sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong: he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him (Luke 2: 25-40).

Jesus showed early signs of being special. Nevertheless, Jesus also grew up being obedient to his earthly parents in a simple and lower class community. And yet, even as a boy, Jesus could match His understanding with the most mentally advanced in His day.

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and

men (Luke 2:41-52).

MARY ACCEPTED BEING THE MOTHER OF THE SAVIOR WITH PRAISE

Mary answered Elizabeth’s greeting as, “the mother of my Lord” with a song. Mary’s Song reveals that she was very talented and that she was a well informed young lady. She came from a family, which kept the hope alive that Yahweh would perform another miracle in Israel. It gave Mary great joy when the angel promised that she will be the mother of the Deliverer and that her cousin’s baby joined in the celebration. Mary’s Song also discloses Mary’s attitude and her reverence for God. It was a great honor to be a mother, and bear the evidence that life comes from God. A mother is only a servant of God, the Creator of life.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down ruler from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home (Luke 1:46-56).