It is hard to grasp that this is the last Sunday of 2020. As we come to the close of this year, I have decided to preach a “one off” sermon. I guess technically it is not a one off since it is a series that we will pick up throughout the year (and maybe longer). There are times throughout the year where Pastor Sam and I have decided that we would take a week to preach whatever we like as we transition from one sermon series to the next. This is one of those weeks. Today I will start a series from the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 1and we will come back to at various throughout the next year.
Purpose of the Letter
The Epistle of 1 Thessalonians is a letter the Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica. The church is believed to have been a mixed local congregation made up of a few converted Jews and many Jesus believing former pagans. It is believed that it was a predominantly Gentile congregation; so, it is assumed that they were young in faith and unfamiliar with Jewish traditions and more specifically Christianity. Almost immediately after its establishment this young congregation faced persecution from both unbelieving Jews and Gentiles which was not uncommon at this time.
Paul’s reason for writing this epistle was to encourage this young congregation. Unfortunately, the apostle was unable to properly disciple this group of believers because of his premature departure from the city due to a riot (Acts 17) so he may have been afraid that they would not stick with the faith during their intense persecution. Initially Paul had wanted to visit the believers of Thessalonica, but he was hindered. Since he was hindered, he sent his travel companion, the young pastor Timothy, and upon his return to Paul he gave him the great news that all was well at the Church of Thessalonica. Timothy not only reported about their faithfulness in the midst of persecution but also that the church was in fact thriving amidst persecution.
City of Thessalonica
At the time of Paul’s letter (50 - 60 AD) the city of Thessalonica was a large port city located on Aegean Sea and had a population100,000 to 200,000 people and it was the capital of Macedonia. It was a wealthy commercial center due to its location on a harbor. It was a religiously diverse city which meant that it had “something” for everyone. It was a prominently pagan city and represented traditional Greek worship and philosophical thought, Roman imperial worship (Caesar worship) and the city housed a couple of temples dedicated to the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis. There was also a sizeable Jewish community in the city so, naturally there was a synagogue as well. The Apostle Paul had planted the church of Thessalonica (as a result of preaching in the synagogues) but as previously stated was forced out of the city prematurely due to a riot that was the result of Paul preaching the Gospel thus, he was not able to return.
Imitators of Christ
Read vs 1 - 10
Vs 2: " We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers."
Paul begins his letter much like his other Epistles by telling the recipients of the letter how thankful he is for them and that he is praying for them. Prayer is such a powerful tool, and it is one we do not utilize nearly as often as we should. I am as guilty as the next person concerning neglect of prayer, but it is one primary avenue that God has given us in keeping in communication with him and we, like the Apostle Paul, must be disciplined in maintaining this line of communication. I often think God must be in heaven scratching his head in wonder as to how we must be disciplined to make time for him. If you are anything like me I can sometimes get so consumed in life that I forget to talk to the Creator the one I claim matters most in life and I forget. I forget!? I am baffled as to how often I neglect the primary source of power in my life simply because I either forget, I don't want to, or I think I don't have the time.
The reality for many of us who neglect prayer is we aren’t so much forgetful as we don't feel like praying every day. I sometimes don't make time to pray. I sometimes think prayer boring. Nevertheless, I claim it is one of the most important and necessary disciplines of every believer’s life. God constantly reminds me of the words and actions of Paul in this first part of Thessalonians.
In Paul’s life I'm sure when they were put in prison for a crime they never committed the last thing they "felt" like doing was praying... But that's what they did. I'm sure when the mobs were surrounding them and beating them they didn't have the time to pray... But that's what they did. I am also sure that there were times when they would have rather been out doing something other than praying... But praying is what they did. WHY? Because it was their lifeline and they saw the value of prayer. That's where I want to be in my walk with the Lord.
Vs 4: " For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,"
How is that for reality? For we KNOW that God has chosen you. Do you understand this and believe it? God. Chose. YOU!
Surprisingly, people have problems grasping and believing this truth of God’s election. There are many people who do not like the idea that they had no part to play in receiving Christ. They believe that they chose Jesus and not the other way around. I think people hold this view because they feel that by God choosing them, they lose the freedom to have a will of their own. However, Jesus says in John 15:16, " You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." It cannot be more plainly than this. God chose you unto salvation. He gave you the faith to believe and as a result we are saved and redeemed by God’s grace. Since this is true, because of God’s grace we are truly free to choose; how so?
Vs 6: " and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit,"
The evidence of salvation in a person is a changed life. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that after they received the Gospel by word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they became imitators of them (Paul and his travel companions) and ultimately imitators of Jesus Christ. There are a number of times in the Bible where Paul tells his readers, "Imitate me". Most of the time he writes, "Imitate me and imitate the Lord." He actually equates the two. He essentially says, "If you imitate me, then you imitate Christ." Seems kind of prideful, doesn’t it? I do not think Paul is being prideful or exalting himself by saying these things. I think he was simply saying, "Do as I do because I am imitating Christ."
Vs 7: “As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
Affliction and joy; these are two words that you rarely see together in a positive manner. A general study through the book of Acts would lead you to see one common denominator throughout; and it is joy amidst trials and persecutions. We see many examples throughout Acts where the Apostles receive a beating and leave a city rejoicing because they were considered worthy of the cause. We see in some accounts that Paul and Silas were singing in the prison... Singing??? There are so many times that we read the believers rejoiced after or during trials and persecution.
The early church has set a great example and precedence when it comes to having joy in the Lord. We should also imitate the Thessalonians and no matter what we face, we would want to receive the word of God with joy of the Holy Spirit.
Vs 8: “For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith, in God has gone out. Therefore, we don’t need to say anything.”
It is important to be a church that preaches and lives out the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too many churches spend much of their time, energy and resources trying not to be too "churchy". So many work hard to try to be a "cool" or "relevant" place to go where people don't feel like they are in church. Some churches do not want to be too preachy because it will not attract people. They want to remain “positive” and “encouraging” at all costs, which is not always wrong. However, some go so far as to eliminate words like sin, salvation and Hell because those are archaic, negative or "not relevant" in this postmodern society.
Jesus' plan for the Church was/is much simpler than what it has become. People often think of the church as the building and forget that the Church is not necessarily a physical place, but a gathering of fellow believers who set out to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For me personally, I would rather Southside Church be known as a body of believers who "ring out the word of the Lord" instead of being a church consumed with building maintenance, marketing and "keeping up with the times” all the while neglecting the Word of God.
Vs 9 - 10: “for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idolsto serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
This is another quality about the Thessalonians that I admire. They turned from idols to serve the "living and true God." They were not star struck with royalty and celebrities. They didn't allow money or possessions to rule their lives. They had forsaken all of this for the living God.
Since the Thessalonians have turned from idols and worshiped the "living and true God" they now anticipated Jesus' return. They were living with the hope that Jesus would return soon and they anxiously awaited the day. I can understand how they felt. I look forward to Christ's return as well.
There are a lot of "theories" on how and when Christ will return. There are the Pre-tribulation view, Post-tribulation view and the Mid-tribulation view (if you want to know what these words mean you look them up or search them on Google). Theologians have argued for years about how and when Christ will return. But the God’s honest truth is we don't know when or how Jesus will return. God's word says, only God knows the day, the hour and the time. People get all up in arms arguing about when, where and how and the truth is we need to stop divisively arguing and debating and focus on living our lives as though Jesus may return any day. This is all we know… Jesus will return some day (as the Bible says) and it will be a glorious day for the believer.
I have covered a lot of ground this morning so I have a few points to highlight so you can easily apply this first chapter to your life personally. They are as followed…
I pray that I can live my life for Christ that I could be an example to others and to live a life pleasing to him that I could encourage others to imitate all I do because I imitate Jesus Christ. What does that look like for me? What does that look like for you? How would living this way change the way you live your life now? If you knew people were watching you (and they are) and using you as an example what would you and I do different? Would it change the way I talk? Would it change the way I treat others? Would it change the way I drive? The answer is yes, it should and would. So may we all strive to live lives where imitate Jesus everyday?
We are in the final week of our four-part Christmas series entitled THE REAL MARY. This series is designed for us, as evangelicals, to gain a biblical view of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, was and how the nativity story should give us a proper perspective and understanding as to who she is and what transpired that first Christmas. So far, we have seen Mary as the willing servant, the obedient follower, and last week we looked at Mary’s encounter with the Shepherds.
Today I will conclude our series as we will look at one more significant aspect of the biblical Christmas story. Once again I will not focus primarily on Mary but I would like to look at our final encounter from a different perspective… today we will look at Mary’s encounter with the Magi.
In Matthew 2 we are introduced to a group of people known as the Magi, or more commonly known as “the three wise men” as they came to Jerusalem to see this new King. These visitors of Mary and Joseph are believed to be and often portrayed in the Nativity story as three kings or three wise men, but the truth is we do not know how many there were, and they were almost certainly not kings. There were definitely three gifts given (thus why we some believe there were three of them) but there was probably a larger group present.
Who were the Magi? Why were they following a star? What were they expecting to find as they sought this king of Kings? These are some questions I will answer today in our time together. “The Magi of old were a class of priests among the Persians and Medes, who acted as the king’s advisors, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently referred to by ancient authors.”  The Magi also possessed occult skills in interpreting dreams. However, Matthew’s Magi do not interpret dreams, but they do discern and decipher the stars (or at least one), and they are from the East. Whether ‘the East’ from which they came is Arabia, Babylon or elsewhere is uncertain. Regardless the Magi of the Gospel of Matthew are regarded positively as they are the ones who receive guidance from God, and they are not adversaries to be dealt with. It is incorrect to read off this description any assessment of astrology, either positive or negative; the interest we have in this is account is elsewhere and it concerns the star and the child.
Matthew 2: 1 - 6
Vs 1: The Magi came to Jerusalem seeking a king who was prophesied to be born. Interestingly they were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Even though they were pagan priests who had little regard for the Jewish God they had an interest in this particular prophecy because the prophet Daniel was a prince and the chief among this very class of wise men. Daniel’s prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ would be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.  For informational purposes or for the curious a reading of Daniel 4 gives insight as to how Daniel was in fact the “chief prefect over all the wise men or Magi of Babylon…”
Vs 2 - 3: The Magi came to Jerusalem following a star. They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. This concerned Herod because this “so called” King who was to be born had the potential to put his “job” in jeopardy. Many people in Jerusalem didn’t think he (Herod) deserved to be the king since he was not from the lineage of David.
Vs 4 - 6: When Herod heard about this child king he inquires of the Chief Priests and they come to the conclusion that this King the Magi sought was to be born in Bethlehem. (according to Micah 5:2).
Matthew 2: 7 - 12
Vs 7 - 8: So, Herod meets with the Magi secretly to commission them to find this child so they would return to tell him where this king was. In Herod’s response we can see his devious nature as he blatantly lies to them and tries to use them for his advantage. We find later in the reading that Herod plans to have the child king murdered, but at this point he tries to convince the Magi to find the child and let him know where he is located, so he could “worship him.”
Vs 9: The Magi followed this star in the sky. Since they were star gazers, this came natural to them. As they followed the star it rested over the house Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in.
Vs 10 - 11: When they arrived, they “were overwhelmed with joy”. Some translations say, “They rejoiced with very great joy.” These pagan star gazers came seeking the Messiah and alas they found him. When they entered the house, they saw Mary and Jesus and their first response was worship. Matthew writes, “and falling to their knees they worshiped him.”They bowed down and worshiped him. The Greek word for bowing down means “to fall down, throw oneself to the ground as a sign of devotion, before high-ranking persons or divine beings.” The Magi knew they they were in the presence of greatness as they worshiped him and then gave their gifts.
Ironically, as Warren Weirsbe writes, “The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were ignoring the King.  The people most likely to seek the king of the Jews could care less and the people least likely to seek the King of the Jews fall down before him and worship Him.
Little Baby Jesus
Contrary to what most believe and have been taught the Magi did not visit a baby lying in a manger with the shepherds on the night he was born. Matthew tells us the Magi visited the child in a home. The way the story is told certainly sounds like everything happens one event right after the other in one night. Truth be told the Magi had to travel from a far distance, they went to Jerusalem first to find out where the King was supposed to be born and then travel Bethlehem. In a few verses (vs 16) we are told Herod had all children from the ages of one to two years old murdered. So, this would suggest the Magi visited a child who was probably 1 to 2 years old (probably 2 years).
The Significance of the Gifts
Vs 11: The Magi come bearing gifts. There is significance in the symbolism of the gifts themselves. They opened their treasures and gave the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
All three of these gifts were ordinary gifts given to a king. So, all of the symbolism points to Jesus as the King, the Deity, The Priest and the Savior. Most likely at the time they didn’t bring these gifts with these thoughts in mind, but it is suggested that they were costly gifts and would have been sufficient to fund the upcoming trip Mary and Joseph had to make to Egypt. Either way they, along with shepherd’s who had visited previously all understood that a King had been born and this King was truly be the savior of the entire world.
There is something important in the giving of the gifts… We see the Magi worship the Messiah and then offer him their gifts. I see this as significant because before we can truly give our gifts and talents to the King, we must start with worship and then offer them up as an act of worship.
What Can We Learn from the Magi?
I find it fascinating as we look at what the Magi represent to us in the Christmas story. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi come seeking the “King of the Jews” so they could come and worship him. So far in the birth of the Savior of the world was a story for the Jews. But once the Magi enter here in Matthew, we see the story open up for the Gentiles as well. In the Magi Jesus is not only the King to the Jews but he is also the King to all nations as these Gentile (even pagan) priests from the East come to visit AND worship the Messiah. Matthew through the Holy Spirit thought it was significant to begin his Gospel account by writing about these gentiles and how God ultimately accepted their worship.
So, what is our takeaway for today? We have seen by their response the Magi knew they were in the presence of a King and we see this simply by the way they inquired about him (“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews”) and their response to the presence of the King was appropriate (and falling to their knees, they worshiped him) and by the costly gifts they brought him. Unlike the Magi, we do not come and offer kingly and expensive gifts to the Lord or lords; instead, we offer a more costly gift, our lives as living sacrifices (offerings) to him and we seek His “presence” in our lives. We understand that when we come into the presence of the King, we should respond by falling down and worshiping the king and giving ourselves as offerings to Jesus as this the greatest gift God desires from us.
In return, the life he gives us and the presence or Spirit in us is indeed the greatest gift we can receive from Him this Christmas season. We are confirmed once again that Jesus is not an exclusive Messiah who is only to be worshiped by the Jewish people, the privileged, the powerful and the pious. He is the King of all nations, both Jew and Gentile, young and old, rich and poor, we all have the honor and privilege of worshiping the humble Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is the Savior of all who come to worship him and put their complete faith and trust in him. We see that if God accepts the worship of Pagan Priests who offer themselves fully to him, He will accept the worship of anyone of us who comes to worship him.
As I conclude today, I leave you with a question… Are you like Herod who deems himself the only worthy and rightful king and who does not want to have anyone else to have control or placed on the throne other than himself? Or are you like the Jewish Chief Priest who, even though he knew a Messiah was coming, he chose to ignore this truth and go on with business as usual? We know the Chief Priest never fully acknowledged that Jesus was and is the True Son of God? He was hard hearted and an enemy of the Savior. Or will you be like the magi who will leave all behind and seek after the King and Savior and offer to him the greatest gift you can give (yourself) as a means of worship and offer yourself to him in humble adoration? Will you acknowledge that He is the true King of your life and worthy of all praise, adoration and worship?
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (713). InterVarsity Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Mt 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
We are in the third week of our four-week Christmas series entitled THE REAL MARY. This series is designed for us, as evangelicals, to gain a biblical view of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, was and how this biblical view should give us a proper perspective and understanding as to who she is.
There have been men and women throughout history who were ordinary people who went on to do extraordinary things in their lives for the glory of God. Men like A.W. Tozer, D.L. Moody, G. Campbell Morgan, George Mueller, and Charles Stanley all really had no formal training in ministry, but they all became some the most well-known and respected teachers of God’s Word in history. They were simple men who were filled with the Holy Spirit and sought to be used by God.
Today as we continue our series I am going to spend some time in Luke 2:8 – 20 as we look at Mary’s visit from the shepherds. In all transparency I will spend most of our time together talking about the shepherds and then concluding with Mary’s response. My goal is to remind us once again how God so often uses ordinary average men and women like you and me to accomplish his extraordinary will and purpose, especially in the Nativity account. We certainly see this truth today as I talk about the shepherds as they meet the young, new mother Mary. To outline the message for you I will focus our time together on these five talking points…
Luke1: 8 – 20
The Job of Shepherding
Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations in history. It is believed to have its beginnings about 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. In many societies shepherding was important to the economy. However, the occupation of shepherding was also considered a lowly job and Shepherd’s themselves were looked down upon as lowly and insignificant. They were largely nomadic and lived solitary lives away from society.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “The duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. “In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.”
What Do the Shepherds Teach Us About Christmas?
Vs 8: When Jesus’ birthday is not – On the basis of the statement that the shepherds were living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night it is often suggested that Jesus’ birth took place in early spring, since it was only at lambing time that shepherds stood guard over their flocks in the field. Luke says nothing about the actual date, and it remains quite unknown December 25th was not chosen until around 306 to 377 A.D, which was the time of the emperor Constantine. Luke says nothing about the actual date, and it remains quite unknown Many believe that December 25thwas chosen as the date to celebrate Christ’s birth because it coincided with the Roman pagan festival Saturnalia and Christians could celebrate Jesus’ birth without fear of persecution.
Vs 11: Their faith – Christmas can be considered a time for renewing our faith in Jesus Christ. It is a time where we can reflect on the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ that God gave to us and the hope of his eventual return. We see in the shepherds their great faith. They knew something was special about this baby – Their encounter with the Angel convinced them to leave the place where their sheep were and guide them to the town of Bethlehem. I am sure they did not fully know what they were looking for, all they knew was an angel proclaimed this good news to them and they set out to search for this baby who is slated to be King.
Why Did God Bring the Good News to the Shepherd’s First?
We are not certain why God chose to reveal his message of hope and salvation to the shepherds. We do know that Jesus is often associated with shepherds, shepherding, and sheep throughout the N.T. and this is significant because...
1. The Shepherds lived In Humility: When the angels visited the shepherds, he revealed the grace of God toward humanity. Shepherds were considered outcasts in the Israelite society. Their work not only made them ceremonially unclean, but it kept them away from the temple for weeks at a time so that they could not be made clean. Thus, they were not well educated in the word of God. For unknown reasons Shepherds were not allowed to testify in court, yet God chose them to be witnesses to testify the birth of the Savior of the World.
2. Jesus is the Good Shepherd: Jesus is described as the good shepherd and he is called this because he lays down his life for the sheep. Any good shepherd will risk his life for his sheep. He will fight off beasts; he will rescue them from dangerous places, and he would be willing to die to keep his sheep safe. However, Jesus is not just saying that he is just willing to risk his life for his sheep he follows through with action. When he says he lays down his life this is a matter of what is going to happen not what might happen. He appoints his life for the sheep, and he WILL die for his flock so they may be redeemed. He is not willing to give his life as an example of his love; it is love in action. He lays down his life to save his sheep who are in mortal danger. He will lay down his life so his sheep can live.
3. Jesus The Lamb of God: John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God twice in John 1 (vs. 29, 36). In the first instance John calls him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
John1:29: Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
What Can We Learn from the Shepherds?
Vs 19: “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” I cannot begin to imagine what was going on with Mary as all this transpired. By the wording Luke chooses to use, I would say that he could not as well. What does he mean? According to the NET Bible, “This suggests more than remembering. She is trying to put things together here.” Can you imagine how she felt, what she was trying to comprehend, and what the future will look like for her and her son? These are certainly things she would consider and put together in her heart.
As we close our time together observing the Lord’s Supper let us consider, ponder, and meditate on all that God has done for us. As children of God, He has given to us the greatest of gift of life by grace and grace alone. As we ponder and meditate on this truth let us put together in our hearts the call of God on our lives. What is it that he has or is calling you to do for His glory?
 Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
 Morris, L. (1988). Luke: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, p. 101). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Morris, L. (1988). Luke: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 3, p. 101). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Liefeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 845). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
We are in the second week of our four-week Christmas series entitled THE REAL MARY. This series is designed for us, as evangelicals, to gain a biblical view of who Mary, the mother of Jesus, was and how the biblical view should give us a proper perspective and understanding as to who she is. Last week I talked about Mary as the willing servant. We saw that her encounter with the angel Gabriel gave us a glimpse into the heart who Mary was as I noted that she was just an ordinary girl who submitted to God and was chosen by God to do something extraordinary for the Kingdom of God. There was nothing special, humanly speaking, about her but she was the recipient of God’s grace as she was told that she would give birth to the savior of the world. As we concluded our time together last week, we read that Mary declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said.”
The Nativity begins and ends with worship. From the moment Mary received news from the Angel Gabriel to the moment the Magi visit the child king the nativity is enveloped in worship, and first passage we will look at today proves the point. Luke 1:46 - 56 is called “Mary’s Magnificat”. The word “Magnificat” is the Latin word for glorify. This is Mary’s song or poem she sings after talking to Elizabeth in response to receiving the news from the Angel Gabriel. Mary’s sings in the presence of Elizabeth a response to the news that she is the one chosen by God to give birth to the savior of the world and her response was worship and praise. This poem is structured like a Jewish psalm and is drenched with praise to God. The inspiration for Mary’s words came from 1 Sa. 2:1–10, which is the song Hannah sang after God had given to her a son named Samuel. Mary praises God for choosing her to be the one to bring the Messiah into the world. The song is shaped around Mary’s exaltation of God.
Luke 1:46 - 56
Mary begins by praising God for who He is…
Mary then praises God for what he has done…
Worship is Followership
When we look at Mary’s song, we see it is a song of praise and worship to God. Mary has committed to fully submitting her life to God in worship. In regard to worship our hearts are formed by what we worship. The question I ask you is, “What or who do you worship? Who or what are you following?” The obvious Sunday School answer is, “I worship and follow Jesus.” However, if you truly get to the heart of the matter and you are truthful with yourself and look at what you spend your time, energy and resources on would your answer really be “Jesus”?
When I look back on my life before I became a fully committed follower of Jesus, I undoubtedly idolized music and musicians. For most of my life I was a regular church attender. I went to Sunday school as a child, and youth group as a teenager. However, from the moment I saw Peter Criss from the rock band Kiss singing the song “Beth” at the young age of six, unbeknownst to me, I was sucked into the world of idol worship. My childhood and teenage life consisted of countless hours listening to music and dreaming about becoming a rock star. When I got my first electric guitar at the age of thirteen, I diligently practiced for hours on end, and spent my hard-earned lawn mowing money on guitar lessons. From the moment I awoke in the morning to the time I fell asleep at night I was either listening to or playing music. When I joined my first band as a senior in high school, I would spend hours upon hours practicing with the band, perfecting my technic as I learned how to play multitudes of songs. Music was such an idol to me, I neglected the most important things in my life like school, family, and my very shallow to non-existent spiritual life.
I became a committed follower of Jesus around the age of 22 and I thought at the time I could mix my passion for (worship of) music with my commitment to Jesus Christ. It didn’t take long for me to realize (ironically in the middle of a song I was performing onstage) that my love for music trumped my love for Jesus. It was at this point I quit performing in my band and dedicated my life to following Jesus whole-heartedly.
Now, this is my story. My intent is not to say that rock music is bad, and you can only follow Jesus if you denounce rock -n-roll. That is not the point at all. My point is you worship what/who you invest in and submit to.
Have you ever thought this about Mary? When you think about it, the mother of Jesus also needed to submit to her Son, who was her Lord and Savior. Let that sink in for a moment. While you’re letting that soak in, turn to John 2: 1 – 5.
John 2:1 - 5
Vs 1: “a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee.” This was probably a wedding for a relative of Jesus’ or a close friendsince Mary was there and Jesus and his disciples were invited as well. The disciples in attendance were Jesus and most likely the five Jesus had with him who were Andrew, Philip, Peter, Nathaneal and the unnamed disciple (probably John). It is plausible that Mary could have been in charge of some organizational aspect of the wedding since she was the one concerned about the wine running out. This may have been her responsibility, or she could have just been concerned about the bridegroom and did not want to see him embarrassed or worse yet humiliated. Whatever the reason she went to Jesus with her concern and let him know the wine was gone.
According to historians “Wine in the ancient world was diluted with water to between one third and one tenth of its fermented strength, (i.e. something less strong than American beer). Undiluted wine, about the strength of wine today, was viewed as ‘strong drink’, and earned much more disapprobation (disapproved)”.
Vs 3: “They don’t have any wine.” Mary comes to Jesus with her concern for the wine shortage and there are a number of possible reasons she went to him.
The last, I believe was probably be the most credible. Mary knew there was something special about her son and she knew God was going to do great things through Him. After all, she was the chosen virgin to give birth to the Savior of the world. He was the Messiah; certainly, He could do something about the wine shortage.
Vs 4: “What has this concern of yours to do with me, woman?” At first glance Jesus’ response to his mother seems a bit harsh and disrespectful. However, the word “woman” is a form of address, in Koine Greek it is a way of speaking politely to a female person: In Jn 2.4 Jesus uses this word to address his mother courteously. In some ways it could be synonymous to the word “Ma’am”. When he says, “what does this have to do with me?” or “What business is this of mine?” or “Why are you involving me?” is a minor rebuke. In some ways Jesus, lovingly, is declaring to his mother that he is not under human authority (including his mother), any person’s agenda, or is not going to be manipulated into doing something (being a Genie of sorts). This isn’t rebellion against his mother, he is only stating a very important thing, His only bidding is to do the will of the Father.
From this point on Jesus had to start distancing himself from his mother. I can’t believe how difficult that would have been for Him or for her to accept. However, Jesus couldn’t allow himself to be so closely attached to his human mother because his bidding was to do all the Father had told him. From a human standpoint it is hard to imagine, but from an eternal perspective it was necessary. Mary, like everyone else needed to come to him for salvation. She had no special privileges and Jesus certainly was not distancing himself out of callousness, in a way he was distancing from her for her own good. In light of the cross his distancing was necessary.
Vs 5: “Do whatever he tells you.” As a mother she was obedient, and she trusted her son, so she says to the servants to do what he says. Her response shows that her gentle rebuke was taken, and she trusted Jesus was going to take care of things. D.A. Carson writes of this encounter “In short, in 2:3 Mary approaches Jesus as his mother and is reproached; in 2:5 she responds as a believer, and her faith is honored. She still does not know what he would do; but she has committed the matter to him and trusts him.”
When Jesus performs this miracle of turning water to wine it has a significant truth about God. So many commentators, theologians, preachers and Christians in general focus so much on the symbolism of the water and the wine and they miss the true point of this miracle. Not only does Jesus provide wine for the wedding guests, he supplies them with the finest of wine (the best) and gives it in abundance. We see here God’s grace in action. Did Jesus do this for Mary? Did he do it for the guests? or did he do it for the groom? I don’t think he did this miracle for any of these people. The purpose of this miracle was to reveal his glory so the disciples would believe in him and glorify God. It wasn’t about taking care of the guests, it wasn’t about being obedient to his mother, it was about showing a little of His glory so his followers would believe and testify of who He really is. It’s ultimately about God’s glory and grace. We see so much grace in this account, as Jesus essentially says, “I am not under any human authority nor will I be used as a Genie to give you what you want. But because God ultimately wants to be the source of all of your joy and because of my Father’s great love for humanity I will do as you ask.”
As I look over this passage, I conclude
So, we can conclude that since the original Christmas began with worship then the Christmas, we celebrate nearly 2000 years later should also begin with worship. We can remain in this season with thankfulness, praise and worship of King Jesus as we hold onto the promises He made that “whoever believes in me shall not perish but have everlasting life” and his imminent return is at hand.
What Does This Mean for Us Today?
The sad thing about Christmas is we often spend so much time preparing for, buying gifts or attending family gatherings that we begin to worship Christmas and not the Savior who represents Christmas. When we focus all of our attention and time preparing for the holiday and not on the Holy one, then we have turned to idolatry. Everything Jesus did was to show the glory of the Father. God delights in giving us good things, but he doesn’t give them to us for our benefit… He gives good things for His glory. In this wedding account we see Mary was concerned that the wine had run out. The groom will be embarrassed, the people will be angry, and Mary may ultimately look bad because this was her responsibility (if not her, someone was going to be blamed for the shortage). Jesus ultimately said, “Humans cannot tell me what to do because I am doing the will of the Father. However, because the Father has great love for you and wants to be the source of joy in every person’s life, I will take care of the issue… ONLY so I/God can be glorified and so people will believe.” If Jesus’ sole purpose in life was to show the glory of God and draw others into his presence… How much more so with us.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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