Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Journey to the cross (through a mother's eyes) - A glorious beginning

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

Today's post begins a series of studies on the place and role of Mary the mother of Jesus and how she personally made her journey to the cross. Christians throughout history have fallen into two ditches when it comes to regarding Mary's place and role in Biblical understanding. The one extreme is to exalt Mary to the role of co-Redeemer with Christ or some level of mediation between believers and Jesus. The other extreme, perhaps seen mostly in Baptist and Protestant churches, has been to ignore Mary altogether and to make a token mention off her at Christmas. Scripture as always brings back into focus extremes. In scripture, Mary is neither exalted or ignored, but rather afforded a role in the account of Jesus' life that portrays her not as a redeemer, but one needing redemption. The cross is the only place we can make sense of all the details of scripture, with Mary being no different. With those observations we now turn our attention to following Mary through the Gospels and Acts as we consider a journey to the cross through a mother's eyes. Notice the very first thing regarding how this journey began...

Glorious start to the journey to the cross
The Gospels open with the glorious announcement to Mary and Joseph regarding the coming of Jesus. Matthew 1:18 states - "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." The initital word to Joseph had been brought by the angel Gabriel, which alone constituted a word from Heaven to man on earth. Undoubtedly the news was shocking an unexpected for the couple. Joseph reasoned within himself whether Mary had been unfaithful and Mary wondered how such a thing could even occur. Matthew 1:20 gives this reassuring statement to assuage their fears - "But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." The same angel would tell Mary in Luke 1:30-35 that she had found favor with God and that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her womb and miraculously unite the humanity of Mary to the Person of the Son to conceive the truly human man that was to be named "Jesus" according to Matthew 1:21. 

This was evidence that the beginning of Mary's journey to the cross was going to be based upon the glorious revelation of God's purpose of redemption. Prophecies such as Isaiah 7:14 that predicted the virgin birth were going to be fulfilled in her according to Matthew 1:23. Moreover, incredible words of grace, encouragement and praise about her soon to be born Son would issue forth from Elizabeth her cousin in Luke 1:39-45. When Mary hears the prophetic words of Elizabeth, she herself breaks out in praise to God over the child mirculously conceived and growing in her womb. The beginnings of Jesus' human life are heralded by angels appearing to the shepherds to announce His birth (Luke 2:1-20) and eight days after Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph bring the infant Christ to the temple.

The glorious beginning of Mary's journey to the cross seemed to have no end. Once Mary and Joseph had done their prescribed act of presenting Jesus to the Lord, a devout Jew by the name of Simeon would come on the scene. As Simeon took the infant Christ into His arms, words came forth that, at least in their beginnings, spelled forth the continuance of the theme of the grandeur of Jesus' birth. Simeon is quoted as saying in Luke 2:28-33 - "then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him."

Closing thoughts
Today we began considering a journey to the cross through a mother's eyes. We saw that the news about Jesus being incarnated in the virgin's womb was a glorious beginning. Central to the message of the Son's mission to earth was to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:23) The glories which accompanied the events of Jesus' arrival reminds us that the cross was conceived in the glory of God shared between the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit. Mary's journey to the cross had a glorious beginning, much like what takes place when followers of Jesus Christ are called by saving faith through the glory of the new birth wrought in them by the Holy Spirit. What would follow on the heels of these glorious events would seem to be a total contrast, which we will consider tomorrow... 

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