"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 19, 2018
In Luke chapter 1, beginning with verse 27, we read about the angel Gabriel appearing to a young girl, named Mary. I don't know what Mary was doing at the time, perhaps she was washing clothes or baking bread or sewing on her wedding garment for her marriage to Joseph. I believe that it was just a normal, ordinary day. Suddenly, an angel was there speaking to her. "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!"
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to name him, Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor, David, and he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"
I'm sure that Mary was initially stunned and wondered if perhaps Gabriel was sharing this message to the wrong girl. "How can his be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God."
That was a lot for Mary to take in! Was her mind racing with thoughts such as, "What will Joseph say to this... will he believe me when I tell him what just happened; and that I will supernaturally conceive and give birth to the promised Messiah? What will my parents say.... I wonder if this angel could stop by and tell them what God's plan for me is; after all, this a lot for them to take in. Will the neighbors believe me?"
Yet Mary's immediate response was, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." She was willing to carry the Son of God in her womb for nine months, and be His earthly mother. She must have been a young woman of great faith.
Nine months passed, and she and Joseph went to Bethlehem and there the baby was born.
I wonder what Mary thought when she looked upon the face of this miracle baby? She had supernaturally conceived and carried this baby for nine months. The angel, Gabriel, had told her that this baby would be holy, and be called the Son of God. This was the long-awaited promised Messiah that Isaiah had prophesied about over 700 years prior to this.
Wouldn't you expect that baby to be absolute perfection? The most perfect, beautiful baby to ever be born in all of earth's history? Wouldn't you think that there would be some type of holy aura; a divine, holy glow to the face of this Savior? Was that what Mary was expecting to see when she got her first glimpse of the Messiah; this holy child that she had just given birth to?
Let's read Isaiah's description of Jesus. This is his words: "There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him." (Isaiah 53:2)
The Jewish Bible says, "He was not well-formed or especially handsome; we saw Him, but His appearance did not attract us."
When Mary looked at this baby that she had given birth to, did she wonder at his appearance? Did she think, "This baby looks nothing like I had expected! He's not very cute. He has a face that only a mother could love!" When she and Joseph had other kids, was Jesus the homeliest of them all? Was He the boy that the neighbors looked at and thought, "Wow! Where did that kid come from? He sure doesn't look like the rest of the family! He can't possibly be the Messiah; the Son of God would be more handsome than this boy."
The prophet said that there was nothing that would attract people to Him or make them want to follow Him. He didn't look like royalty, nor was He majestic. Jesus was just a plain, ordinary, nondescript human. That doesn't fit our image of what a Heavenly King would have looked like.
Let's take a moment and compare Israel's first king and this heavenly King.
1 Samuel 9:2 gives this description of Saul: "The most handsome man in Israel -- head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land." Other versions of this verse word it: "A choice and handsome man; and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people."
In our minds, it seems as if that should have been the description of God's Son, the Savior of the world, the long-awaited promised Messiah! It seems backwards.
We like everything nice and neat and tied up with a bow. We want life to be pretty and kind and peaceful and problem free. We think as children of God, we shouldn't have to endure hardship; life shouldn't be ugly. The thought of a homely, ugly Jesus messes with our minds. We want to think of Him as our hero, our Savior, the one who came and gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins -- and He is; but He didn't look like the heroes portrayed in the movies. He wasn't the tall, dashing, handsome, muscular star of the show that draws everyones attention, like a matinee idol.
So really, had we been living back during the time when Jesus came to earth, would we have accepted Him as the Messiah? Would we have looked at Him and recognized Him as the Savior? Would we have followed Him and welcomed Him into our home? Would we have sat and listened to His teachings for hours at a time? Ladies, would He have been someone that we would have willingly encouraged our husband to follow and minister alongside, had we been married to one of the twelve disciples (hopefully, not Judas!)? Men, would He have been someone that you would have wanted to learn from and been willing to follow and take orders from; someone that you would defend when the crowds questioned and when the Pharisees and High Priests found fault and were trying to destroy Him?
I'm sure that we would all like to think that we would have looked beyond His appearance and would have recognized WHO He was, and been willing to whole-heartedly follow Him. We would like to think that we wouldn't be so shallow as to have rejected Jesus because He didn't look as we thought He would have. Even had we heard the teachings of Isaiah in the temple, would we really have believed that Jesus would be unattractive and have no characteristics that would draw men to Him?
I don't know. But I believe that from the moment that Mary felt the movement of Jesus in her womb, she loved him. I don't think that it really mattered to her what His appearance was like; she knew in her heart that this baby was truly the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world; and that for whatever reason, God had chosen her to birth Him.
Perhaps she remembered the scripture from 1 Samuel 16:7 that says, "The Lord doesn't see things the way that you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Perhaps when she held Jesus in her arms she was able to look beyond His physical appearance and see His heart. She remembered what the angel had spoken to her and felt the holiness of this baby as she held Him close to her breast.
When the disciple, John, saw Jesus in his vision that he was given while exiled on the Isle of Patmos, he saw a very different Jesus than the one whom He had ministered alongside. In fact, when John saw Jesus in His glorified state, it had such an awe-inspiring effect on him that he fell at His feet as a dead man. All strength left his body and he fell limply to the ground; he had no power to stand and look upon the Jesus. He had traveled and ministered alongside Jesus for three years, but that had not prepared John for seeing Jesus as He was upon His return to heaven.
Here's the thing; Jesus made Himself relatable to mankind when He came to earth. He was nondescript and looked just like other Jewish men. He was tempted, hurt, denied, rejected, and experienced everything that humans do.
Paul is speaking of Jesus in Hebrews 4:15 when he writes, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings as we, yet He did not sin."
We often think of God as all powerful and all knowing, which is really difficult to comprehend, but we believe that and know it. I don't have a scripture to really back this up, but here is something to think about: through Jesus coming to earth, God was able to relate to mankind in a completely different way. There is a difference between knowing something and experiencing it. For instance, I know how to take care of babies, but I have never experiences carrying a baby in my womb and motherhood.
This is just a random thought that Jon and I have been tossing around: God is all knowing, but through Jesus, He went beyond that to experiencing what it was like to be human and what that truly meant and felt like. So when scripture says that Jesus faced all the same testings as we, it's not because He is all knowing, but because He experienced it in the flesh.
Therefore, when people give the excuse for not repenting or for sinning or for not fully committing themselves to Jesus and try to justify it by saying, "God just doesn't understand what it's like! He doesn't know what I'm dealing with and what it feels like!" Yes, He does!
This Christmas, fully commit yourself to Jesus. Let Him coming to earth mean something to you. It's more than a holiday once a year. He came to mankind, in the flesh, so that He could experience what it meant to be human; but He came so that He could give Himself fully for us as our sacrifice and die for our sins. He came as a plain man, lived a plain lifestyle.... not as royalty, with servants and great wealth. He humbled Himself in ways that I'm not sure we can fully understand. Why? Because He loves us that much!
There's an old, and dumb joke I like: "Do you know how to play the piano?" "Of course I know how to play the piano. I don't have any skill for playing music, but I know how it's done."
There is a huge difference between knowledge and experience or training.
We got a piano as a Christmas present for Loretta a few years ago. I borrowed it a little, to at least make an attempt at learning to play. I didn't plan on learning to be very good, certainly not as good as Loretta is. But I wanted to have at least a little experience. I always had respect for Loretta's skill, and others'. But after spending hours at the keyboard trying again and again, I had enough experience to back up that respect I already had.
I see similar from the other side at work. I started college with about 8 years of experience working around and on control systems and machinery. So, I absorbed the book knowledge from a little different perspective. By the time I really kicked off my career, I had a lot of experience to back up the knowledge. The two work well together, and I need both of them to be successful.
There is also a huge difference between knowing the Bible, and really experiencing a relationship with God.
Puppy Chow Candy
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
9 cups Crispix cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Combine peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute; stir. Add vanilla and stir again until well blended. Put cereal in a very large bowl. Pour mixture over cereal and mix gently to coat. Next coat with powdered sugar. To do this, put the cereal mixture in a large paper bag. Add the powdered sugar; fold down the top of the bag and shake to evenly coat. Store in a tightly covered container.
Jon and I would like to wish each of you a very blessed Christmas. We pray God's favor will be upon you and your family and friends. Take time to think about what Jesus coming to earth truly means; and ask yourself if it really means anything of value to you. If not, then spend some time with Jesus and ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a new, fresh way that you've never before experienced. If so, then still find time to spend with Jesus and celebrate the reason that He came. How great His love is for each of us!
The world needs a stable influence. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon