Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Friday, September 30, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 1, Mt 1, Lk 2

Today's readings are Mt 1 and Lk 2. Tomorrow's is Mt 2.

Matthew is written by a Jew to fellow Jews. Its primary theme is to demonstrate to them that Jesus was the Messiah, descended from David with full rights to sit on David's throne. Along those lines, Matthew places a strong emphasis on Jesus' teachings, recording five major sermons in great detail, all of which build upon traditional Jewish teaching and understanding of the Scriptures.

Matthew starts out with a lengthy genealogy. The emphasis here is on Jesus' Jewish lineage, starting with Abraham. Jesus is descended from a wide variety of types. We see many familiar names in the lineup, not all of them desirable, some of them not even Jewish-born.

There's a profound lesson in this. God can use anyone He chooses to accomplish His work. No one is beyond redemption. At the same time, we also see a few of the wicked kings we read about in the Old Testament. None of them were redeemed. Yet, they were kings that sat on the throne of David. Although they were evil, God used them to fulfill His promise to David that there would always be one of his descendants on the throne. All of the kings of Judah were part of God's divine plan to establish a throne for His only Son, Jesus. God is sovereign over all things. He can even use evil to accomplish His plan. As proof, He used kings like Rehoboam, Abijah, Ahaz, the supremely evil Manasseh and Jechoniah.

In Mt 1:22-23, we see the birth of Jesus, fulfilling an 800 year old prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) concerning the coming of the Messiah.

In Luke 2, we see another perspective of Christ's birth. Angels announce His arrival, revealing the news to lowly shepherds in language the Jews would be familiar with from their Scriptures.

Jesus is circumcised and presented at the Temple where Simeon and Anna pray and prophesy over Him. Notice this --so far, Jesus has been acknowledged and rejoiced over by a young, humble virgin, a priest, shepherds, a prophet and a prophetess. All of them, pious people, setting a high expectation (in a good way) for the Son of God. Simeon even prophesies that Jesus will be a “light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:31). Yet, there is a somber, foreboding note in what Simeon has to say in Mt 1:34-35. Jesus is, indeed, salvation (Mt 1:30). But, salvation will come with pain and suffering.

12 years later, while the family is in Jerusalem, Mary and David, having lost Him, find their Son teaching and lecturing in the Temple. This is actually an important moment, preserved in detail by Luke. These are the first recorded words of Jesus. Here, we see that Jesus is fully aware of who He is and where His ministry is headed.

Notice the contrast between Mary's statement in Lk 2:48 (“...Your father and I have been searching for you....”), and Jesus' gentle correction in vs 49 ("I must be in My Father's house..."). Jesus is not rebuking Mary and Joseph. He's reminding them of something they should already know, given the events earlier in this chapter. His Father is God in heaven. He is here for a specific purpose, to do His Father's work. "I must be in My Father's house" means "it is necessary to be in My Father's House". But, it also has a connotation of Jesus being about His Father's business. A good paraphrase could be "I know you're already aware that it is necessary for me to be about my Father's business, in His house, among His people." Jesus is not surprised they've been looking for Him nor is He being disrespectful. He's surprised they don't know where to look. They've been visited by angels, seen miracles, been affirmed by priests and prophesied over by prophets. They know these things, yet they struggle with worry and concern.

This short exchange also refutes any idea that Jesus was unaware of His true identity and calling prior to His baptism.

Mary and Joseph are no different than any of us. Confronted by a crisis, we don't always respond well. Christ is always there to remind us that He is doing His Father's work, in the Temple, in Jerusalem, in the 1st century and in our hearts today. 

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