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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

06 October 2012

Week 40 Review - We've Made it to the New Testament!

September 30 Nehemiah 11-13   Psalm 126
October 1 Psalm 106;    John 1:4-14
October 2 Matthew 1     Luke 1:1-2:38
October 3 Matthew 2     Luke 2:39-52
October 4 Matthew 3     Mark 1:1-11
          Luke 3        John 1:15-34
October 5 Matthew 4:1-22  Mark 1:12-20
          Luke 4:1-15; 5:1-11     
          John 1:35-2:12 
          Matthew 13:54-58
          Mark 6:1-6
          Luke 4:16-30 

Do you enjoy reading the (probably more familiar) New Testament? Many people come to this part of the reading with a satisfied sigh. We know more of these stories. No more blood and gore (except for Jesus’ death). No military campaigns. Few endless lists of unfamiliar names. As you read the New Testament, keep in mind that Jesus was the focus of the Old Testament as well.  Please keep in mind that you are reading God’s Word. I sometimes want to skim text if I know the story. I’ve had to remind myself to slow down, so I’m reminding you as well!

I’ll be the first to admit that the Psalms aren’t my favorite chapters (bad childhood experience), but Psalm 106 was a great transition to the New Testament. We are reminded that salvation is now come in Jesus, and we received a review of some of God’s mighty acts from the Old Testament.

Matthew opens with a genealogy, a list of names that are much more familiar to us because we’ve finished the Old Testament. This list is critical because it shows that Jesus is descended from David in fulfillment of Scripture. Did you notice the five women? Why were they included in the list? Lineage came through the male. Could it be that God wanted to underscore  that He came for all? Ruth and Rahab were Gentiles. Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba were all women who used their sexuality for gain. God came for Jews, Gentiles, the wicked, the women, warriors,  wise men, kinsmen redeemers and scared young virgins… and for you and me.

Every time I read the story of Jesus’ immaculate conception, I marvel. Joseph was probably not very old, yet he was made wise through God. He was probably a laughingstock in the community when it became apparent that Mary was pregnant. His friends probably teased him unmercifully about getting rid of Mary, but Joseph had heard a clear word from God and in spite of the difficulties, Joseph was willing to listen and obey God.

How would you like to have been Jesus’ brother or sister? If you were a sibling, did you ever hear your parents say, “I wish you were more like your brother?” I wonder how hard it was for Mary and Joseph to refrain from saying that to their other kids!

We have Mary and Elizabeth, young and fertile – old and infertile. They both had “impossible” pregnancies because they were both righteous women. Neither of them played at church. They served the Lord wholeheartedly and were rewarded by God Himself with the critical piece of human history.

Jesus came to a lowly carpenter. His birth was announced to the lowly shepherds – and to the Magi who were looking for Him. From birth, His life was troubled. The visit from the wise men brought Jesus to Herod’s attention, and the gifts of the Magi probably supported the family during their flight to Egypt.

The first stories of Jesus showed three supporting characters:

The Magi were Gentiles seeking the King.

Herod was a descendant of Esau. This is a picture of the struggle between the spiritual and the carnal (Genesis 25:19-34). He was opposing the King.

The Jewish priests, less than five miles from the place of Jesus’ birth, were fond of quoting Micah 5, but when He was born in their midst, they completely ignored Him.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 (ESV)

Bethlehem means “house of bread”. It’s also where the Bread of Life was born.

I am the bread of life. John 6:48 (ESV)

Bethlehem was first mentioned in connected with Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel (Genesis 35:16-20). She died while giving birth to Benoni, “son of my sorrow”, who was renamed Benjamin, “son of my right hand” by Jacob. These names relate to Jesus because he was a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) and He is now the Son at God’s right hand (Acts 5:31; Hebrews 1:3). Jacob placed a monument to Rachel near Bethlehem and saw Bethlehem as a place of death. We see it as a place of the birth of the Hope of the world.

Not much was written about Jesus’ early life except for that temple scene. Can you imagine how frantic Mary and Joseph must have been? They didn’t just lose their son – THEY LOST GOD! was Jesus being disrespectful to his earthly parents when He reminded them that He had to be in His father’s house? I don’t think so.  He did what any lost kid should have done. He went to a safe place, a place where a parent might logically look, and stayed put. He obediently went with Mary and Joseph when they finally found Him, and then He stayed with them and learned Joseph’s trade.

How difficult must it have been for that family? Did Jesus play with others his age? Did He engage in boyhood fantasies and games? How did the other kids treat Jesus’ brothers and sisters? Obviously Jesus wasn’t getting in trouble with the local kids, but what about His brothers? Did they act out because they were always associated with Jesus? What do YOU think?

No matter what we think, Scripture is silent – so it’s not an important detail. If God wanted us to know, He would have included it J

We pick up the story with Jesus’ baptism and the voice from heaven declaring Him to be the Son of God. I’m guessing people weren’t listening very closely, because not long after that, Jesus opened the scroll in Temple and told the people that He was the Christ. They ran Him out of Temple and would have thrown Him off a cliff if He hadn’t walked away. He was truly “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3).

There are so many details of Jesus’ life recorded that if I talked about all of them, this post would be more like a novella. If any of the details stuck out to you, I’d like to know. Is there anything that made perfect sense for the very first time? Did you get confused about anything? Did you notice a detail in this reading that you’d missed previously? Let us know. We can all learn from each other!

I’ll see you next week.


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