24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
As we come to this passage on Mark, we see a mother with a desperate need. Just like any mother, when it comes to your children/child, you always want to be there for them. When they are sick or going through some circumstance in life, you would want to help your child as much as you can. As we can see from our story, how does this… Syro-Phonician woman, (Canaanite/Gentile) help her daughter with an unclean spirit living inside her? Basically, being possessed by a demon.
She faced a tremendous need and was determined to get to Jesus to receive the help she desperately needed. She was content to receive the crumbs that fell from the Lord’s table.
While our circumstances may be much different today, no doubt we have all faced a great need at some point in our lives. We have been confronted by a situation that was beyond our ability to resolve.
During these situations, we need to come in faith as the woman in our text. When we lack the ability, and are unsure of what to do, Jesus can provide for our need. Jesus possesses great power, and cares for those that are His. He is more than able to provide for you and I. With these thoughts in mind, I want us to examine the challenges this woman faced. Many think, that her problem was only for her daughter. Let us examine…shall we.
This mother from our story, had a request. Jesus departed into the area around Tyre and Sidon, apparently seeking some rest and solitude, V.24. Although Jesus desired to remain hidden, it didn’t take long for word to spread that He was in the area. He is quickly approached by a mother in desperate need.
For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of Jesus, and came and fell at His feet. The text doesn’t reveal how long she had been in this desperate situation, but the mother recognized the great need. Clearly… she had no control over this unclean spirit… after all, how could she? She has heard of Jesus, and knew that He alone can help.
Often these spirits were difficult to cast out. While Jesus had no problem with them, the disciples faced difficulty at times with unclean spirits. Following an encounter when they were unable to cast a spirit out of a young boy, they questioned Jesus about the difficulty, and He revealed the solution. Mark 9:29 – And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. We all face situations in our lives that require the Lord’s power and provision. This mother knew in heart, that Jesus was the only one that can help her, & her daughter.
This is an important aspect of faith that is often overlooked and neglected. Some view the Lord as their personal “genie in a bottle.” They assume that He is waiting for them to rub the bottle, so He can appear and meet whatever request they have. While I am thankful for the Lord’s care and provision in our lives, I am also aware of His deity and my need to worship Him. Every prayer, and every request we make of Him, should be approached by a time of worship and adoration!
Now… is where her difficulty lies. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation. We are not given the woman’s name, but she is identified by her race and nationality. She was a Greek. She was not a Jew, but of a Canaanite descent. While the Jews may have tolerated her existence within the city, she would not have been welcomed or wanted among the Synagogues or within their fellowship, she was an outcast to the Jews. The Canaanites had rejected Jehovah in the Old Testament, and continued to live in rebellion and idolatry. She was not welcomed among the Jews because of her identity.
So…if you think about it, how is she going to approach Jesus with her problem, when the Jews would have nothing to do with her? As I thought of her difficulty, I was reminded that each of us were in a similar situation at one point. We were all born into a condemned race through Adam. We were born in sin, separated from God, and without hope. We lived according to the lusts of the flesh, having no desire for the Lord. Apart from Him we were hopeless and alone.
There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
So, at one point, you and I, could not approach God either. No different than the mother in our story. But she was desperate, we were desperate. She did not care that she was a Greek woman, she needs help. You and I, we need that same desperate feeling… that same desperate need of Jesus everyday.
Although she was a Canaanite, she came to Jesus in faith, desiring for Jesus to cast the unclean spirit out of her daughter. She needed a miracle and believed that Jesus had the power to provide for her need. If you notice her desperation…she did not just asked Jesus once…
The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
She kept on begging and begging Jesus to heal her daughter…to deliver her daughter. If we are all being honest, I am sure that at one point or another, we too were in a desperate need for Jesus to do the impossible.
This passage is a beautiful picture of grace. One deemed unworthy came before the Lord, passionately seeking His touch. Like this woman, we must be people of faith, willing to continually bring our needs before the Lord. Often, we face situations that require prolonged, persistent prayer. We cannot give up on our loved ones or the different needs we face. We must be willing to continue… seeking the Lord to meet our need.
Initially the mother did not receive the response she would have liked, but she persisted in her petition and faith. Notice if you will…
27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
“Let the children be filled first”, Meaning the children of Israel. Although in Gentile territory, Jesus remains His priority towards the children of Israel. On the surface this response seems harsh and somewhat out of character for our Lord. However, as we study Scripture and seek to understand this statement, we discover that Jesus was never harsh with those who came to Him in genuine faith. This was not a statement of rejection, but rather of conviction and revelation. The woman recognized Jesus as a man of great power, being willing to humble herself before Him.
She may have even believed that He was the promised Messiah. It appears that Jesus is seeking to lead her forward in faith, not only recognizing that He was the Christ, but that He was the Savior for all, including her. Clearly Jesus had come to the house of Israel, but He would not reject those of genuine faith. He sought to increase her faith, and for her to embrace Him as Lord. If she was to receive her request, she had to believe.
The second part of His response seems even harsher, “for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” But again, that was never Jesus’ intention. He is seeking to bring her to faith in Him. It would not be right to take the bread of the Gospel and carelessly cast it out to those who had no desire to serve the Lord or embrace Him as the Christ. Salvation is a work of grace through faith. All would not receive Him as the Christ, and He had no desire to carelessly deal with those, much like the Pharisees, who lacked faith and rejected His deity.
Let’s look at her response… “And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”
This desperate mother had come in faith, and she was committed to receiving her petition. As Jesus spoke of giving the children’s bread unto the dogs, (Israel’s salvation) she declared that even the dogs are allowed to have the crumbs that fell from the table. She was desperate with just receiving little crumbs, if she could. She knew the Lord had the ability to meet her need, and she desired to receive even the smallest portion of His grace. Her faith in the Lord realized that even the smallest touch from the Him would be sufficient.
While this woman was a Canaanite, her faith stands as a model for all. She knew the problem she faced was not beyond the Lord’s ability to handle. We need that type of faith today. We must trust the Lord to meet every need we have. Like her, we must recognize His power. He is able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond anything we could ask or think. His power is beyond our ability to comprehend, and even the smallest touch in our lives is more than enough.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Was her request granted by our Lord? After bringing her request to Jesus, and remaining persistent in faith, Jesus provided for her need….
29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
Her commitment to the Lord by faith compelled Jesus to grant her request. In the same story written in the book of Matthew…
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
A Canaanite woman came with great faith and Jesus granted her request. Her faith was essential, and it brought the result she desired.
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of faith in our lives. Faith is essential for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is essential to maintain our fellowship with the Lord. We will never be able to continue in our Christian journey apart from faith. Faith is also essential as we come before the Lord in prayer. As we pray, we must believe that Jesus can and will meet our needs.
This Canaanite woman had come to Jesus in faith, and He did not disappoint her. She returned home with the promise that her daughter would be delivered, and when she got there the unclean spirit had departed from her. Faith brought her to Jesus, faith sustained her through the trial, and faith brought deliverance.
Passages such as these offer great encouragement as we are reminded of the power and ability of our Lord. We all face varied difficulties in life. Maybe you have prayed many prayers of faith and have yet to receive the answer you desired. We must remember that the woman had to remain persistent in the faith. The initial response from Jesus did not promise healing, but she persisted. While Our Lord Jesus, doesn’t always answer in the time or manner we hoped, we too must remain committed to the Lord and depend on Him to meet our need in His time and according to His will. He knows what we need, and He has the ability to provide!
I don’t know what you are facing today, but I am certain that Jesus is aware of your need. If you are struggling in life, desperate for His touch, come to Him in a prayer of faith. Trust Him to meet your need according to His divine will.
If you are unsaved, or unsure of your salvation, there is hope for you in this passage as well. A Canaanite woman came in faith and was received by Christ. He will do the same for you if you will come to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus can save you from sin, can save you from whatever situation you’re in, but you have to believe solely in Him. Only He can do the impossible in your life.
John 6:37-39 (NIV)
37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
One Christmas afternoon, a little 5 year old girl named Ruth visited a church. The Pastor went over to say hello, and to welcome her. The Pastor asked the little girl, “so…did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, "No… but then it’s not my birthday!"
Isn’t it easy to get so wrapped up in the celebration that we forget what it is we are supposed to be celebrating? The world does that. It has become politically incorrect to say Merry Christmas- they want is to say Happy Holidays or Merry X-mas. We have the Jewish day of Hannakuh, or the African celebration of Kwanzza to compete for the place that belongs to the Son of God. But even without buying into the world’s ways, one can easily forget what Christmas is all about by forgetting Jesus.
This is one of the most wonderful time of the year…today it’s Christmas Eve and many are waiting with anticipation to see what gifts we will get. Many are wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper, decorated with bows, and pretty ribbons.
One very special night, the world received to most precious Gift. A Gift that we can unwrap everyday for all eternity. “The Gift Of A Lifetime”.
I want us all to see that on that day…when baby Jesus came…He gave us all…an instant Gift.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Because of the birth of this baby…because of the life that now existed in Him…we all can received the gift of life, the gift of hope, the gift of forgiveness, most of all, the gift of eternity.
21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Having received the most precious gift…and that is our Lord Jesus, we have received the gift that will take a lifetime to unwrap. When Jesus was born that day in Bethlehem, it was just the beginning of the gift unwrapping.
You see…Jesus came wrapped in swaddling clothes…a gift for us all to know, to receive and to unwrap, and not just once, but everyday for the rest of our lives.
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Just when we think we have unwrapped all we can…like the last present on Christmas…God allows you and I, to unwrap a little more of His wonderful Gift everyday, like…
The gifts like peace, joy, love, faith, kindness, gentleness, meekness, understanding, application, revelation, tribulation, and on and on. Having the Gift that was wrapped in swaddling clothes, comes with an enormous value…
2 Corinthians 9:15
15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Who can begin to put a price on the gift that God has given us through His Son Jesus? The Shepherds realized what an enormous gift they had been given.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
The wise men understood as they tried to bring gifts to present to a King, but they knew that His life was worth much more than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But this is all they could come up with, this was that they could give to the King.
What gift can compare to never dying, never suffering, crying, feeling pain, but to live eternally in a place called paradise? This is indescribable at best, and it is of enormous value…it was the greatest Gift ever given. It was given to each and everyone of us FREELY…it costs us nothing. The Gift was from God…and the life of His One and Only Son.
Many time’s when we get things that are precious to us…that are of enormous value, we want to keep it for ourselves. But... that’s not what Jesus wants us to do…He doesn’t want us to keep it, He wants us to give it away. I know its wrong to brag about the gifts that we receive, but believe me when I say this, brag about…tell everyone about “The Gift Of A Lifetime”.
This gift that we have been given that takes a lifetime to unwrap was meant for us to give to others. It is not just our gift, but a gift for all to receive. The Shepherds in the field realized that…look at vs. 17-18…
Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
This time of Christmas is a time to give the most precious, indescribable gift ever given…to spread the word of what you have been given, and been told about this Child. Let everyone around you see Jesus in you.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
They realized that they’re life would never be the same again from that day forward. Such is the same response to all who embrace the gift of the Christ-child.
Before I received this precious Gift…I walked this earth alone…forsaken…without hope, and without life. But after receiving this Gift…Jesus walks with me everyday…I will never be alone.
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Because a Baby named Jesus was born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, born to do the will of God…to be the perfect Gift for all who believe. We have received “The Gift Of A Lifetime”. Yes…this gift that takes a lifetime to unwrap, enriches every life that receives it.
I know many of us can’t wait to unwrap those gifts that await us when we get home. But I want to remind us all that the unwrapping of the most precious gift of all is not just to be unwrapped once on Christmas day. It is a gift that is meant to be unwrapped everyday…for the rest of our lives.
Church…As we unwrap that Gift we all can see that it is…A Gift that is instantly ours when we receive it. A Gift that takes a lifetime of unwrapping. A Gift that’s of Enormous value. A Gift that is to be given away. A Gift that enriches every life that receives it.
My family and I, greet all of you a very Merry Christmas….
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
The customary age to be engaged among Mary’s people was around thirteen & fourteen, so most likely she was a young girl when parents arranged her engagement to Joseph. Its even customary to arrange such marriage while they are still babies. The angel Gabriel visited her and announced that she would bear the Savior of the world.
Jewish society treated unmarried pregnant women with shame and scorn, and yet Mary remained strong in her faith. Expecting the worst from Joseph, her family, friends, society, she gratefully accepted God’s will for her life.
Mary was an ordinary woman with extraordinary godly character that gave her an uncommon faith. Completely trusting in God…in every way Mary was a good and faithful servant.
The angel shared good news with Mary. He said she was highly favored, that God had chosen her to be part of His wonderful plans. The angel said that the Lord was with her. Now, this is important. Mary most certainly needed to know that the Lord was with her. She needed to know that what was going to happen was part of God’s plans.
Which is why Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. Because Mary’s life was about to be turned upside-down forever. And that’s never an easy thing to handle.
Generally, change is hard. Positive changes we generally welcome. A better job, a new relationship, an improvement of some kind in our lives. But even then, a change comes with certain difficulties. Getting used to the new thing takes time. Getting married for example is wonderful, but then you have to accept the fact that you are no longer one, but two. Your daily routines will change. Some things good, and some…not so good. But, It’s a welcome change, and it’s still a change that takes some getting-used-to.
Now, picture Mary’s changes. She was engaged to a good man, Joseph. They were going to be married. Remember that back then, an engagement was practically as binding as a marriage. To end an engagement was the same as divorce.
Let’s look at what Mary was about face, and how her life was about to change forever. An angel showed up and told her she was going to have a baby. That would be stunning enough. Let’s pause there for a moment. Even if girls got married as teenagers back then, and it was expected, you tell her she’s pregnant out of wedlock, too. Nowadays, it’s become accepted. Back then it was disgraceful and considered sinful.
Mary was entering a whole new world by becoming pregnant. That was a change that she seemed to embrace well… why? Keep in mind, the angel told her that, “the Lord is with you” and that the angel told her not to be afraid. She was reminded that she is not alone through all of this.
As if that weren’t enough… As if hearing the news that you were going to have a baby isn’t life-changing enough. Throw in the fact that it was impossible for her. She was a virgin. She had never been with a man. And throw in the fact that she would be having a baby out of wedlock.
On top of it all, we must not forget the main point of the story… the shock of being pregnant with the Son of God. That’s what this is all about. This was no ordinary baby, this is the Savior of the world! You see, Mary’s plans weren’t being changed just for the sake of change. Mary’s plans were being changed because it was for the greater good. It was for everybody’s good. Even if the changes were not going to be 100% pleasant, they were still certainly good.
I think at times, that describes God’s plans. They may not always feel good or safe. At times we may not understand why God is allowing certain things to happen in our lives, but still the outcome is good, and it’s all in accordance to His plans. Mary and Joseph, had to face hard and challenging times, because of this pregnancy. But they still went through it. The Apostles, and the disciples after them went through a dangerous life. Many believers over the years have lost their lives because they were willing to follow their faith. Look… if you think that following God’s plans will always lead you to green pastures and beside still waters, you’re in for a shock. Read your Bible and you’ll know what I mean.
We may go through the storms, and times even go through the shadow of death, but Gods plans are always good. God’s plans for Mary’s life were good. She was favored. The Lord was with her. She had found favor with God. God chose her for this special task that will change the course of history forever. You can see the excitement in Mary’s voice as she sang her song in…
Luke 1:46-55 The Song Of Mary
46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him, From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
She was excited to be part of God’s plans. She took the angel’s words to heart when he said, “The Lord is with you…Don’t be afraid.” As excited as Mary was, I wonder if she knew what was in stored for her baby. Keep in mind that Mary was well versed in scripture, she knew about the prophesies of the coming Messiah. She knew what was in stored for the life of her Baby. She just didn’t know when, or how soon.
You see, there were almost as many prophecies about a suffering Messiah as there were about a kingly Messiah. The people were excited about the Messiah coming to rule, but they didn’t piece it together that the Messiah would also go through sufferings, torment, and death.
Psalms 22 can show us so much of the life of the Messiah…
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
Mary knew all of these things. Mary knew what her Baby (Jesus) was going to go through. These Psalms give a good picture of Jesus’ suffering.
Wait…there’s more prophesies about the Messiah, that Mary knew…
Here’s the betrayal of Judas…
12 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So, they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,”
Says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.
Isaiah also has a lot of prophesy about the Messiah, and Mary knew each and every one. She had to go through all of these. Could you imagine, each and every time that she looks at her Baby… she knows what is to come in His life,
I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;
I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
Just as there were many who were appalled at Him, His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness.
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him, the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested?
For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death,
though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin,
He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
You see, this is the sword that would pierce Mary’s heart. (Luke 2:35) Her firstborn would suffer this fate, and she would see it. Is this safe? Is this pleasant? No, of course not. But this was Gods plans.
Is it good that these things happened? Yes, most definitely! It was good for us that Jesus had to suffer, because it is through His suffering that we find forgiveness. The angel told Mary not to fear God’s plans for her life. “Don’t be afraid of how God will do His will in your life,” Gabriel told her. Perhaps he would say the same thing to us. Don’t be afraid of what God wants to do in your life. Don’t be afraid of how His plans are changing yours.
Let me read to you a short letter from a devotional that I read about a woman of extraordinary courage…
Lisa Beamer, whose husband died as a hero on Sept.11, 2001, reflects on the loss of her dad. She says, “Slowly, I began to understand that the plans God has for us don’t just include “good things”, but the whole array of human events. The “prospering” he talks about in the book of Jeremiah is often the outcome of a bad event. I remember my mom saying that many people look for miracles – things that in their human minds “fix” the situation. Many miracles, however, are not a change to the normal course of human events; they’re found in God’s ability and desire to sustain and nurture people through even the worst situations. Somewhere along the way, I stopped demanding that God fix the problems in my life and started to be thankful for his presence as I endured them.”
So, what of your plans does God seem to be changing? What is not turning out the way you wanted? What is God leading you to do, that you just don’t want to do? What is happening that you don’t know if you have the courage to handle?
Let Mary’s story remind you… don’t be afraid. Things may not turn out the way you expected or wanted, but if you let God do what He does best, things will turn out good. It may not seem safe, maybe not easy, but if its in Gods plans, then its good. His plans for your life and mine are already planned, but that doesn’t exclude painful journeys along the way.
What would have happened had Mary not believed Gabriel’s words? Would she have disqualified herself from being the mother of Jesus? The fact is she did believe, she did obey, she did trust in what she heard and God did fulfill His words in her.
We can trust God even in the most difficult of circumstances because no problem is too tough for Him to handle and no challenge is beyond His power to overcome. God has the ability to do what He says He will do!
Let me close with a part of Mary’s song that you and I can hold on to…
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him, From generation to generation.
So… what fear do you need to surrender to Him today? Fear of a new job or new home? Fear of the future and all that it holds? Fear of loneliness, fear of failure? What changes are you afraid of? I encourage you to spend some time talking to God about them in particular, and ask Him for strength to do the right thing anyway.
That same God that took hold of Mary’s life, is ready to use us as we magnify His love, His forgiveness, His grace, His mercy in our lives. God wants to use each of us as part of his work, and Christmas is a wonderful time for it. Carols are playing everywhere, and if you listen to the words, many point to the birth of a Savior, God in a manger, Immanuel, the God who left heaven to come and live among us, to save us from our sins.
Again…let me remind you, Christmas is not about parties, & gifts. Its all about the greatest Gift, and that is Jesus!
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
We so often talk about Mary as a godly woman, an example of virtue, faith and obedience. Perhaps because Joseph was Jesus’ stepfather, he seems to be neglected when we examine the Christmas story.
If I was to be honest with all of you, I never really thought about Joseph until now. While working on this message, I discovered that, Joseph never spoke. There was not a single word recorded in the Bible that Joseph spoke. All we know is that an angel appeared to him, spoke to him, and all that Joseph did was to listen and obey.
Of course we can all say…after all that has happen, Joseph had to have said something? But nothing was ever recorded. Not even out of anger or doubt. (How is this possible Mary? How could you do this Mary?) Nothing…not a single word was recorded.
How do you think Joseph took the news of Mary’s pregnancy? Just to give you a short background. Back in those days marriage was pre-arranged. This marriage was likely arranged when Joseph and Mary were little kids! A legal contract would be signed with the details put in writing! They grew up knowing who they would marry and didn’t question it (divorce rate low then!)
During their engagement period, which normally lasted about a year. Now they were allowed to spend time together and start getting to know each other (taught to learn to love each other! (not fall in love) Love is a choice, a decision, a commitment! (Eph. 5 God commands men to love their wives…a decision, a command from God, not just a feeling)
Joke: little boy said, I hope a pretty girl moves into the neighborhood on my side of the street! Someone asked, why your side? cuz someday, Ill want to get married and momma won’t let me cross the street!”
Oh yeah… in their time, Mary would have been considered an adulterer. Being engaged is the same as being married already. Look at the passage, In verse 18 it said, “Mary was betrothed to Joseph”. (Engaged) Then on verse 19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly”. ( Put her away secretly, in another translation, was to divorce her) So... Being engaged in those days were the same as already being married, without the being intimate part.
According to the Law. Mary would be an adulterer, as judgement, she needs to be stoned to death. Keep in mind that Joseph was a just man. Which means that, he was obedient to Gods commands. God knew what Joseph must have been feeling at this time. Confusion was already starting to build up inside Joseph. That is why on verse 20, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”.
Joseph could not allow Mary to get hurt, he already loved her, Joseph was committed to her. That is how serious being, engaged/married, was to Joseph. Joseph loved Mary, Joseph loved the Lord and was obedient to His command to take Mary as his wife. It may not have been easy for Joseph, but he obeyed, and believed in the Lords command.
Joseph’s decision was to do what was right no matter the cost, to do God’s will even in the face of criticism, even if it we’re misunderstood or falsely judged! Joseph stayed by Mary’s side…made the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Why? To do the will of God!
Joseph gave the world an example of a godly man. Again…no matter what the cost. He obeyed Gods will. God helps us to be the, man/woman, that can stand for what is right. A creature that stands for the truth, stands for Jesus. Men and women, who will try their hardest not to bend for what is wrong, who will not compromise to do evil.
Joseph, believed in what the angel of the Lord told him in a dream. He had faith in God, in Mary, that she is still virtuous and pure, despite the fact that his eyes told him differently every time he looked at Mary. Joseph knew with all his heart, that Mary was his wife. And that soon, through Mary God will give the world the greatest gift ever... our Lord Jesus.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
God created Joseph to be a man of faith. God created Mary to be a woman of faith. Literally, I mean the “Author and Perfecter of our faith is in her belly”. Until this day, God has not stopped in making men and women of faith. Just like Joseph, we have to believe in what God has to say, regardless of what our eyes can see.
Let’s continue with the story of Joseph… Joseph listened to Gods command in a dream. God again would speak to him in dream.
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.
Could you imagine, Mary being awakened that evening. “Mary wake up, we have to go, gather what we have, we must leave, you and the Baby are in danger!” Still…Joseph did just as the Lord had commanded. Do you see how much Joseph loved the Lord, Loved Mary, he didn’t waste any time, didn’t even wait till morning. Joseph was not going to let anything happen to his wife, and Baby Jesus. Remember what I had said earlier, that nothing was recorded of Joseph speaking. Look at the verse, even through the panic, Joseph said not a word. “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt”.
Let’s continue, another dream…
19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.
Three times, God spoke to Joseph in a dream. Not a single word was recorded out Joseph’s mouth. He did not question God, he did not argue with anyone, Joseph obeyed each and every command, which lead to the safety of his wife Mary, and Baby Jesus.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
It must have been hard for a “just man” like Joseph to face his parents, his hometown where everybody knows each other, that his betrothed wife was pregnant. Too travel a great distance in order to protect his wife, and the Baby. He may have been ridiculed by his family, disowned maybe, received gossip from his hometown. But it did not matter to Joseph, he just obeyed, without saying a word. For a mortal man, Joseph showed what it takes to love. He was a “just man”, he loved his wife, and most of all loved God.
I can’t really add anything more to the life of Joseph, nor do I want to. Just like Joseph, being obedient to God comes with consequence from others. (Family, friends, the world) Working on this message was the first time that I really got to meet the man Joseph. Before this, I only knew Joseph as Jesus stepdad, and that he was a carpenter. Nothing about the real Joseph, and what he went through, because of obedience.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for sharing the “Christmas For Joseph”with us this afternoon. Church, what about you? Have you exchanged your reputation for righteousness? Have you sold out to God? Thats what it means to become a Christian, to give your very self to the only one who can save you from sin and selfishness, to surrender your sin in exchange for forgiveness and a life of adventure and trial, but complete with great blessing as you follow the God who loves you so much. This Christmas please remember the greatest gift of all, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
As the year 2017 comes to a close, I hope that the life of Joseph has opened your eyes, your heart, as it did mine. Joseph was a man of virtue and purity. A Man of compassion and tenderness. A Man of unwavering faith in God. Joseph was an example of obedience, love, and faithfulness.
In the end, Joseph went down in history as the man who raised the Son of God. What a privilege! Maybe, one day…in heaven, we can sit down with Joseph, and ask him how it was to be a father to a God?
Pastor Richard Santos
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