Monday, December 24, 2012

New Beginnings


It is apparent at this point that we all have made it through the end of the world…whew. :-) We can now count on “business as usual”.  For the Mayans, they consider this a time of “new beginnings.”  I think this is an appropriate theme for today.  We are going to consider some "new beginnings."  This time of year, people focus on the birth of Jesus.  Today, we care going to consider how Jesus got here…that is, His lineage.  Now, this is not for everyone…some folks would just as soon read Leviticus as go through the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. But, genealogies are important, and we should spend some time discerning some of the important pieces of information from them…particularly Matthew’s.  Matthew was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, a Jewish tax collector by trade…and probably not a friend of Simon the Zealot before they both became acquainted with Jesus.  His gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is one of four eyewitness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, and it is written primarily to the Jewish people…but it is for all of us to understand.  This is exemplified in part by the fact that Jesus’ family tree begins with Abraham, the father of Israel, the nation of the Jews.  Matthew opens his gospel with a careful account of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events that accompanied it.  The virgin birth of Jesus, by Mary, through the Holy Spirit is a central doctrine for those who are Christians.  We know that Jesus was born in the flesh, but His was a situation that was surrounded with questions and concerns. 

Genealogies were very important for the Jews, for without them they could not prove their tribal allegiances or their rights to inheritances.  Anyone who would be claiming to be “Son of David” would have to prove it.  It was necessary for Jesus to establish His rights to David’s throne.  So, this list of names is a vital part of the gospel record.  It is also significant that the genealogy shows that Jesus is indeed a part of history…it is truly "His-story." All of Jewish history prepared the way for His birth.  God, in His providence, accomplished His great purpose in bringing His Son into the world.  The genealogy also illustrates God’s wonderful grace.  It is unusual to find the names of women in Jewish genealogies, especially since names and inheritances came through the fathers.  Yet, in this list, there are four references to women from Old Testament history…Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.  Each of these women would seem to represent some form of marital irregularity, but each one was vindicated by God’s blessings for their faith.  (Not that a child being born to a betrothed virgin is irregular :-)...we can certainly see the reason for the connection). What it signifies is that Jesus came through human heritage…and although that heritage was imperfect, He was perfect.  It also reveals that it would require more than human pedigree to make Jesus the heir to David’s throne.  This is why His divine heredity is so critical.

Finally, the fact that Matthew omits some names from his genealogy shows that he is not as interested in a chronology, but a theology of Jesus’ ancestry.  In vv.16, 18, Matthew makes it clear that Jesus’ birth was different from that of any other Jewish boy named in the genealogy.  He points out that Joseph did not “beget” Jesus, but that Joseph was “the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”  It is important to note that betrothal was significant to the Jewish people at that time, being equivalent to…that is, having the same authority as…marriage.  The significant exception was that the man and woman did not live together.  The man and woman were recognized as husband and wife, and at the end of their betrothal period, the marriage was fulfilled.  If somehow a betrothed woman became pregnant, it was considered adultery.  But, the Lord revealed the truth by His angel to Joseph so that he would not punish or divorce Mary when he discovered that she was with child (fulfills Is. 7:14).

Jesus was the most unique of all children ever born.  Being eternal God (John 1:1, 14), He existed before Mary and Joseph or any of His earthly ancestors.  If Jesus had been conceived and born just as any other baby, then He could not be God.  It was necessary for Him to enter this world through an earthly mother without the need of an earthly father.  So, by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, a virgin (Luke 1:26-38).  Some philosophers, and even some religious leaders, have sought to discredit this virgin birth, yet it is Biblically accounted, true, understood and accepted by faith and foundational to Christianity.  Jesus came to mankind to be Savior…Jehovah is Salvation, Christ…God’s anointed One and Immanuel, which describes who He is…God with us.  Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.

Dr. Len Broughton was a medical doctor before God’s call came for him to be a minister. As a medical student, he rejected the virgin birth of Christ. Later on, he began to practice medicine out in a country town. One Sunday, he decided to go to a church meeting. The doctor would say shortly thereafter, "that country preacher knocked more skepticism out of me in half an hour than that which I had received during all of my years at medical school." This is how he did it. In his sermon, he said, "if there is anyone here troubled about the mystery of God becoming man, I want to take you back to the first chapter of Genesis and the first verse. The opening words are… 'In the beginning, God…'". I felt like he was looking directly at me when he said, "let me ask you this: Do you believe that God was in the beginning? Do you believe that before the beginning began that God was?" I said to myself, "yes, I do believe that." He proceeded, "if you believe that God was ahead of the beginning, you believe the only mysterious thing in the universe." Dr Broughton considered, "if I can believe that, God knows that I can believe anything else the Bible says. I had gone to school and traveled through the mysteries of reproduction and cell formation. I now believed the One supreme mystery of the mysterious universe… 'In the beginning, God'…and the greater mystery included all lesser mysteries."

What has happened in recent decades? People have quit believing “the mystery.” The philosophies and theories of man have more so become the standard by which men measure themselves. (And we see how well this has been working in our society).  I thank God that He saw fit to introduce “the mystery within the mystery”…the birth of His Son, born of a virgin. We are all part of a grand genealogy that began with our father Adam and flowed through Abraham, David and down to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was all intentional…it was all critical for us. Far be it from us not to accept God’s mystery as it is…the mystery of birth, the mystery of His life. Praise the Lord for a day when we can magnify the precious life that God has given us.

Blessings, Don

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