The Word tells us that Satan is like a hungry lion prowling about looking for sinners to devour. Since we are all sinners, he looks to devour all of us. Here in Matthew, the Lord reassures us that Jesus – born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit – makes us, that is, “His people safe from [our] sins.” And this is why Joseph is told in a dream to name his son, Jesus. Jesus’ name – Yeshua – means “to deliver, to rescue.”
I can’t think of anything better than God rescuing me from a prowling lion ready to devour me. And so, I am safe from my sins.
How about you?
“for that thing that is born in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall make his people safe from their sins.”
In case you wonder why we don’t understand God, He tells us the reason. He says as far as the heaven is from the earth is similar to how far above us are His ways and His thoughts. God is beyond us, above us, raised up from us.
For why my thoughts be not your thoughts, and my ways be not your ways, saith the Lord. For as (the) heavens be raised (up) from (the) earth, so my ways be raised (up) from your ways, and my thoughts from your thoughts.
Makes understanding the reason behind Christ’s entrance into the world a bit easier, however. If God is so far removed from us, then His coming as an infant – actually on the earth – makes perfect sense. How else are we to grasp who He really is? So much better is Jesus than Moses. So much better is the new covenant than the old – hearts not of stone, but of flesh and blood where God’s love is written directly by His Holy Spirit.
That Jesus comes to earth is because God is raised up from us. Jesus descended to us so that we might live again.
I love the juxtaposition in Isaiah of the Son given to us; the Son who is also the Father of the world to come [or to coming!].
“Forsooth a little child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and princehood is made on his shoulder (But a little child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and princehood is placed upon his shoulders); and his name shall be called Wonderful, A counsellor, God, Strong, Father of the world to coming, A prince of peace [and his name shall be called Marvellous, Counsellor, God, Strong, Father of the world to come, Prince of peace].”
Jesus’ birth is long anticipated. Isaiah knows He is coming and yet speaks of Him in the present tense: “But a little child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and princehood is placed upon His shoulders.” Jesus is here and now, but He is also in the future where He is “Father of the world to coming [or to come!]”
God is human and divine, simultaneously. Isaiah barely grasps this, yet here it is in his words – words the Holy Spirit writes through him: “A little child is born to us.” “And His name shall be called God, Strong, Father of the world to come, Prince of peace.”
Until the shepherds – who hear the word of the Lord through the angel who stands beside them with their flocks of sheep outside Bethlehem – see the Christ Child in the manger, they do not believe. Once they see the Child, then they tell others and those others wonder “of the things that were said to them of the shepherds.”
“And they hieing came, and found Mary and Joseph, and the young child laid in a feed-trough [put in a cratch]. And they seeing, knew of the word that was said to them of this child. And all men that heard wondered, and of these things that were said to them of the shepherds”
On the other hand, Mary hears the words but keeps them together with what she already knows. She stores all this knowledge in her heart, and does not speak.
But Mary kept all these words, bearing together in her heart.
The shepherds once again glorify and praise God for what the angel tells them and for what they now hear and see – they recognize that what is told to them is true.
And the shepherds turned again, glorifying and praising God in all things that they had heard and seen, as it was said to them.”
Mary is like someone in shock; soaking up everything that happens without fully understanding. She’s been through childbirth in less than ideal conditions; now strangers clamber to see her newly born son. Animals moo and bleat and stink. She’s barely presentable, not much like our nativity scenes, I imagine. All this young mother can do is “keep all these words, bearing together in her heart” which will break.
The night Jesus is born, shepherds keep watch over their flocks of sheep in the hillside pastures around Bethlehem. An angel of the Lord appears to them, stands beside them. The “clearness of God shines about them” and they are filled with “great dread.” The angel tells the shepherds not to be in dread because he comes with a sermon of “a great joy.” The angel proclaims the first evangelism – that “a great joy shall be to all people. For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.”
The angel says this joy is for all people.
“And shepherds were in the same country, waking and keeping the watches of the night on [upon] their flock. And lo! the angel of the Lord stood beside them, and the clearness of God shined about them [and the clearness of God shone about them]; and they dreaded with great dread. And the angel said to them, Do not ye dread; for lo! I preach to you a great joy [lo! soothly I evangelize to you a great joy], that shall be to all people. For a Saviour is born to day to you, that is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.”
The angel tells the shepherds that a token is to appear in the form of a newborn child – one they can find in a manger. Immediately after he speaks, a “knighthood” of heavenly beings appears to praise the Lord. Likely the shepherds are still in dread, but they decide to check out the message of the angel. They speak among themselves, move together to seek out the Christ Child. Only when they find Him do they believe the news of “a great joy that shall be to all people.”
Seeing the face of God brings death in the old covenant; here in the new, the angel tells Zechariah’s unborn child that he is “the prophet of the Highest” and one who “goes before the face of the Lord.” John is “makes ready [God’s] ways” as a crier in the dark night who carries a great torch to light the way.
God is come “to give science of health to His people, into remission of their sins,” proclaims John the Baptist. How does God accomplish this? “By the inwardness of the mercy of our God.” In other words, God’s own mercy visits us.
“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to make ready his ways. To give science of health to his people, into remission of their sins; by the inwardness of the mercy of our God, in the which [in which] he springing up from on high hath visited us.”
And this is the science of health – that God Himself visits us with mercy.
Joseph naturally dreads his marriage to the young maiden, Mary since she is pregnant; and that, out of wedlock. Joseph ought to report Mary, have her stoned to death per the Law of Moses. Yet, he listens to the angel of the Lord who comes to him in his sleep.
The angel of the Lord says something truly extraordinary, that Jesus “shall make His people safe from their sins.” The angel doesn’t say, “Jesus shall make His people free from sin.” Rather, the angel verifies that Jesus is to make His own people “safe from their sins.”
“But while he thinks these things, lo! the angel of the Lord appears to him in sleep, and says, Joseph, the son of David, do not thou dread to take Mary, thy wife; for that thing that is born in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall make his people safe from their sins.”
That we sin is a fundamental truth in the Christian life. That Jesus died for our sins is also a fundamental truth of the Christian life. Jesus nails the Law to the tree, and washes away the wage of death with His blood.
Mary is about 13 when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she is the Mother of God. No wonder this young maiden glorifies God, no wonder her spirit is filled with joy in God. No wonder she recognizes that despite her lowliness, God looks upon her with His grace. Mary’s humility is unmatched. Despite stating that she is blessed above all other women, she recognizes that her blessedness is not due to any action of her own, but only due to God’s own glory.
“And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit has found joy in God, who is my Saviour, because he has looked graciously upon the lowliness of his handmaid. Behold, from this day forward all generations will count me blessed; because he who is mighty, he whose name is holy, has wrought for me his wonders.”
We ought to take our cue from Mary. She never speaks of herself as a spiritual giant; she never says to another that she is holy. Rather, she glorifies God.
God glorifies Himself through Mary, making her the ultimate vessel for the Holy Spirit in the form of the Christ child.
Gabriel doesn’t come to Mary under his own power or by his own decision. He is sent, rather, to Mary by God. God sends Gabriel to a specific town, to a specific girl betrothed to a specific “man of David’s lineage.”
God doesn’t look down through time and see a young girl He knows will choose Him and then say to Himself, “Well, she’ll do.” Rather, He chooses Mary. She, by His choice, becomes the woman blessed above all women by God Himself.
“When the sixth month came, God sent the angel Gabriel to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, where a virgin dwelt, betrothed to a man of David’s lineage; his name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary. Into her presence the angel came, and said, Hail, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.”
Mary does not resist God’s call. She does question Gabriel, asks ‘how can this be?’ But God’s call is irrevocable as the author of Hebrews tells us. And Isaias (Isaiah) muses:
“What a strange thought is this! As well might clay scheme against the potter; handicraft disown its craftsman, or thing of art call the artist fool.” (Isaias 29: 16)
“For this thing the Lord himself shall give a sign to you. Lo! a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son; and his name shall be called Immanuel. [Lo! a maid(en) shall conceive, and bare a son; and thou shalt call his name Immanuel.]”
What is ‘this thing’ Isaiah mentions? ‘This thing’ is whatever wearies, not only men, but God.
“And Isaiah said, And so, hear ye, the house of David; is it not enough for you to make men weary? must ye also make my God weary as well?” (Isaiah 7: 13)
What wearies man and God? Evil. And apparently the evil existing within His chosen people – no, not the nation of Israel alone, but any one person whom He selects as His own.
Isaiah says that the child called “God With Us” will “eat butter and honey, that He know how to reprove evil, and choose good.” (Isaiah 7: 15)
Choosing good is what we can’t seem to get right. For this thing, God comes into the world as an infant, to take up our burdens and walk as we walk, to die in our stead so we might live.