29 Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. 31 So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them. 32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
In our passage today we’ll see the power of Christ displayed over physical diseases in
verses 29-34. Let’s take on these verses in two parts. The first half goes like this, When you bring Jesus to your home… We see this in verses 29-31: “Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. 31 So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.”
1.The setting. Look at verse 29: “Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. After the synagogue service everyone headed to a Village Inn, only they didn’t have one. It was common for this service to end at noon and then people would gather in homes for Sabbath lunch. The scene now moves from a public encounter in the synagogue to a very private event in a home.
We know from John 1:44, that Simon and Andrew were originally from Bethsaida. It’s likely that Peter had purchased this home in Capernaum because that’s where they had moved their fishing business. Note that Peter still had a house and that he used his home for hospitality. He fully followed Christ and yet as a follower he was to care for his family and use His home for God’s glory and to make Jesus famous.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered a home in Capernaum that is near the site where the synagogue stood. Ancient writings have been discovered on the walls with the words “Lord” and “Christ” in Aramaic, Greek, Syriac and Latin. They’ve also found first century fishhooks and graffiti references to “Peter.” Tradition says that this house was only about 100 yards from the synagogue.
When Peter left everything to follow Christ, that meant that he gave everything to Christ. Too often we categorize the spiritual and the secular. We put worship and prayer and Bible study into the spiritual pile and things like work and hobbies and relationships and family into the secular pile. Listen… When you repent and receive Christ, when you forsake all to follow Christ, it means that everything becomes spiritual – your family, your house, your possessions, your finances, your job, your hobbies, your relationships, your schoolwork, your activities, because everything matters to Jesus.
Peter’s priorities had changed when he met Jesus, the people in his life and all of his possessions now belonged to Jesus. He could still enjoy them, but he had transferred ownership of everything to Him. Have you made this same transfer?
2. The sickness. We’re told in verse 30 that Peter had a mother-in-law. That probably blows some of your minds because you’ve been taught that Peter was never married. That’s something the Catholic Church advocates and since they believe Peter was the first pope, they restrict popes and priests from marrying. 1 Corinthians 9:5 clearly states that Peter had a wife, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” Cephas is the Armaic name for Peter. We see this in John 1:42 when Jesus says, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). If you’d like to dive deeper into this, see Galatians 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 15:5.
It’s clear that Peter was married and that he cared for his mother-in-law, “Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever…” The idea in Greek is a bit stronger than that she was just lying down with a fever. The sense is that this fever had so affected her that she was thrown into a sickbed without any hope of ever getting better.
The phrase “lay ill,” means that she was flat on her back. The word “fever” refers to “a fire in the bones.” Because of the kinds of diseases that were prevalent in that marshy area around the Sea of Galilee at the time, it’s possible that she had malaria or typhoid fever. In the Gospel According to Luke, we read that she had a mega, or “great fever.” This is not surprising that Luke would give us this diagnosis since he was a physician. It was common back then to categorize fevers as “small” or “great”, so this tells us that she was in a life-threatening situation. It’s important to know that in the ancient world “fever” was a disease itself, not just a symptom. Plus, they had no Advil or Tylenol, to comfort the one who was sick.
Are you aware that as part of our discipleship we’re called to care for our families? This is clearly stated in 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
“and they told Him about her at once.” I love how they told the Lord about the problem. In essence, they were interceding on her behalf. They didn’t know what else to do or who else to go to. A crisis does that, doesn’t it? Even pagans will pray if the problem is big enough.
3. The Savior. We see what Jesus does in verse 31, “So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.”
• He came. Don’t you love that Christ comes close to us in our time of need? Luke tells us that He/Jesus… came “took her by the hand and lifted her up”, and He didn’t stay at a distance but came near. Our greatest need when we’re hurting is to experience His presence. I love Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and is attentive to their cry.”
• He touched. Jesus could have snapped His fingers or just said a word but instead He took her by the hand. Jesus did the same with the blind man in Mark 8:23: “He took the blind man by the hand.” There’s power in touch, isn’t there? It was a big deal for Jesus to touch her because according to the Talmud (a Jewish commentary on the Old Testament), touching anyone with a fever would have rendered one unclean. But with Jesus, the touch did not defile the healer, but healed the defiled! When Jesus touches someone, everything changes!
• He lifted. I love that Jesus lifted her up. He came down so He could lift her up. She couldn’t get up on her own. Listen to 1 Samuel 2:8: “He raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap.”
• Fever left. We have every indication that the fever left immediately, which was amazing in itself. It was common in that culture to use elaborate incantations that would take a long time and then they still wouldn’t work. Some so-called faith healers on TV, urges listeners to send in seed money for a miracle. Not so with Jesus. Christ came, He took her by the hand, and then He lifted her up and the fever left.
This is a big deal because Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would have a healing ministry in Isaiah 35:5-6: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Matthew 8:17 tells us that Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons, “to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’” This shows how caring and compassionate Christ is. He feels every fever. He carries every cancer. He bears our brokenness, and He takes our transgressions.
4. The serving. The end of verse 31 implies that she served them immediately: “and she began to serve them.” Have you ever recovered quickly after a fever? It generally takes some recuperation time, doesn’t it? Your bones ache, you feel weak and all you want to do is sleep. Especially for us men. Have you heard about the “Man Flu”? It’s an illness that causes the male to be helpless and sicker than any other family member. I’m told that in females it’s called a cold.
But for Peter’s mother-in-law she was completely helpless and sicker than any other family member. And yet, there was no recovery time. She didn’t get better gradually. She was healed and went right into helper mode.
Anytime you encounter Jesus the natural response is to serve Him! This word for “serve” is the word we get “deacon” from. It literally means to “wait on tables” and was also used of the angels ministering to Jesus at the end of His terrible temptation in the wilderness.
Peter’s mother-in-law made her life immediately available to Jesus and His ministry. We have been saved to serve, healed to help and touched, so that we touch others. By the way, the female followers of Jesus seemed to understand the necessity of serving more quickly than the guys got it. Mark 15:41 says that a number of women “followed Him and ministered to Him.” Luke 8:2-3 tells us that many women provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their financial means.
Let’s look now at the second half of our main idea from verses 32-34: “At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
The reason they waited until sundown was because they were prohibited from carrying anyone on the Sabbath, because that would have been considered work. Sabbath started at sundown on Friday and ended at sundown on Saturday.
I imagine it like a countdown clock before the start of a big event. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the setting of the sun so they could bring battered/sick people to Jesus. This makes me think of Malachi 4:2. When the sun sets “The sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”
The people who came had all sorts of problems. Some were suffering from sickness and others were sabotaged by evil spirits. Some were diseased and others were demon possessed. Broken legs and broken hearts gathered outside the home. Some couldn’t walk so they were carried. Verse 32 says they were “brought,” which means, “to carry as a burden.”
The people who came had “various diseases,” which means manifold, or a wide variety. Remember this, Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. The older I get the more convinced I am that everyone is suffering – emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually…or all the above.
According to verse 28 the fame of Jesus’ name spread throughout the region when Jesus cast out a demon and now that He has brought physical healing to Peter’s mother-in-law… crowds line up to see Him. In verse 33 we read that the “whole city” was gathered at the door of the house. The tense of the verb suggests that the crowds continued to come. People knew that Jesus was not only at Peter’s home but that He could help those who were hurting.
Can you imagine this scene as people pounded on Peter’s door? I wonder what it would look like if people gathered on our front lawns because we brought Jesus home with us from the service today. Here’s the deal… When Christ shows up, the crowds will be curious.
Verse 34 says that He “healed many.” What this means is that He doesn’t heal everyone in this life. In this world there will be woes and challenges and disease and cancer and fevers. And while we should pray for healing, we must realize that sometimes His will is to not heal.
Jesus silenced the demons because He didn’t want their testimony, “And He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him.” It’s interesting that the demons wanted to declare who Jesus was but were not permitted to do so. Jesus wants us to speak about Him, but many of us walk around muzzled.
Before we assume that all these people were putting their faith in Jesus, it must be pointed out that many just wanted a miracle. They wanted relief from pain and affliction but weren’t ready to repent and receive salvation. While Jesus healed many who were sick and cast out demons, He came for a different purpose. He extended mercy but He was also on mission. He was merciful.
We’re to gather with God’s people to worship and then bring Jesus home with us so that we grow in our faith. We then give to others by serving and finally we go with the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations.
Let’s allow this passage to percolate in our lives. Here are some action steps.
1. Take care of your household. Is there anything you need to do to reconcile this relationship?
2. Live out your faith wherever you are. Are you helping your children learn about Jesus? Are you taking Jesus to your workplace? Have you invited Him into your hobbies, your sports, and other activities? Do you take Him with you?
3. Ask the Healer to bring healing to you and others. Sometimes Jesus heals miraculously. Other times He does it through doctors and medicine and surgeries. And sometimes we won’t receive healing until we’re in heaven. Let’s not be like Asa, who neglected to ask for healing in 2 Chronicles 16:12: “Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” Remember that God loves to hear from His children. That’s why it’s a relationship.
4. Find somewhere to serve. The question should never be whether you will serve. The real question is where and when will you serve? We have not been lifted up only to lie back down. I know that interacting with people are hard to do at this time but be sensitive to Holy Spirit when He does bring someone your way. The possibilities are endless because the needs are unending. If you’re saved, settle this truth, you’re a servant.
5. Ask the Savior to save you. We all have a sickness called sin and Satan is out to destroy us. Our fever is fatal and there’s no way we can help ourselves. We’ve fallen and we can’t get up. Ask Jesus to come and He’ll come. And He’ll touch you and then lift you up. Repent and receive Him into your life and then follow Him wholeheartedly. He died in your place, taking your punishment, His blood paying the price for all your sins. And then He rose from the dead on the third day, showing His power over sin, sickness and Satan!
Remember that Jesus did not save you just to leave you. He save you because your precious, He did after all died for you. Jesus loves to hear from you when you are, thankful, in need, suffering, when you’re ill, in trouble, you name it. Jesus wants to hear it. So…speak/ talk to your Savior/your Christ.
Duty And Devotion
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What brought you here today? Was it a sense of duty, you feel a sense of obligation, a responsibility to the Lord for all that He has done for you. Is it possible to serve the Lord out of habit rather than out of love?
In Luke chapter ten Jesus has been discussing with a Jewish religious leader the two great commands of the Scripture, that we are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus has just used the story of “The Good Samaritan” to illustrate how we should love our neighbor and now he uses the story of two sisters, Martha and Mary, to illustrate how we should love God.
The story that we are going to read about today (Luke 10:38-42) takes place in the village of Bethany which is located just outside of Jerusalem. From what we can learn from this passage and in John chapters 11 and 12, Martha lived with her sister Mary and their’ later to be famous brother Lazarus. It appears that Martha is a widow for she is the head of the household. Here in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Jesus and His disciples sit down for some relaxation away from the press of the crowds. Here is a home that Jesus had been many times, a place that He knew He was loved and accepted.
Both sisters are delighted to see Jesus, but as you will see they express their enthusiasm in very different ways. In verse thirty-eight we are told, “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. (39) And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”
People have varying temperaments, some are active always needing to be busy, never able to sit still. Others are thoughtful, willing to sit back and think things through. Martha is a very activity-oriented person, her sister appeared to be of the more thoughtful nature.
I believe that we many times have wrongly contrasted Martha and Mary, as though each Christian should make a choice to either be a worker like Martha or a worshipper like Mary. But in so doing I think we miss the point. The Lord wants each of us to imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work, and to achieve balance in both.
Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet soaking up the Word, and not “do” anything. But her big sister, Martha was looking around at all the guest and sees the need to prepare a meal. Martha was obviously a great hostess, she got up and began to prepare food for Jesus and all those there with Him. Martha looked and said to herself “What privilege to prepare a meal for the Master!” Mary on the other hand would have said, “What a privilege to sit at the feet of the Master.” Is one right and the other wrong? No. Duty and Devotion are both necessary but there must be a balance.
Every action, every relationship, every institution has a basic focus, which is its reason for existence if it hopes to succeed, if loses that focus it will fail. When you lose your focus, which why you do what you do, then you are in trouble. This afternoon, I want us to look at this story and what it teaches about the cost of a loss of focus.
1. Loss Of Focus Caused Martha To Resort To Self-Pity (v. 40)
All of you ladies can know what entertaining unplanned visitor’s is like and why Martha is flustered and feeling more and more frustrated with each passing moment. The first part of verse forty tells us, “But Martha was distracted with much serving” the sense of the word translated “distracted” here is “to be pulled away” or “dragged away.” The implication is that Martha wanted to hear Jesus herself, she wanted to be seated at his feet too, but she was pulled away by her sense of her “duties.” Fretting about the meal has robbed her of the joy of her service to the Lord.
We should of course, take our responsibilities seriously, but not ourselves to the point that we overestimate our importance. The problem did not lie in the work that Martha was doing. It was the attitude that she was doing it with that became the problem. Martha’s problem was one of balance, between the going and doing and the sitting and listening.
My greatest fear in saying that is… that is that someone out there who is doing nothing will gratefully say “Amen” to what they think I said, and so excuse themselves from doing anything except ‘sitting”. The truth is that there are too many ‘sitters” now. The difference between Martha and Mary is not that one served and the other did not, but one served out of duty and the other out of devotion.
In our daily lives we can become so busy with the everyday things of life that we neglect the most important. In is interesting to think back, when I was a child there was a cartoon series on television called “The Jetsons” many of you may remember it. This show conveyed the common misconception of the time, that in the future modern conveniences would produce more and more leisure time in people’s lives. Loss Of Focus Caused Martha To Resort To Self-Pity and
2. Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Become Angry At Others.
Our world is full of distractions. And the more the pressure, the most tempting it is to focus on the urgent rather than the essential. Now, I think through this pandemic, with the way the world is now…have we slowed down at all? Some are now working from home, our children are now studying from home. (online) Can’t really go out and do much. Everywhere you go there are restrictions. Are we still busy? Have we slowed down to the point that we are spending more time with the Lord? Are we actually spending more time with our family?
I truly believe that Martha wanted to honor Jesus. I even believe that she began her work with the right attitude. All of you ladies can identify with what I am about to say. You begin the task of huge festive meal (like Thanksgiving) with the greatest of enthusiasm, but as time passed you came to realize that you are running out of time and you cannot possibly finish everything that you planned to do.
When that happens, you get angry – angry at yourself for letting yourself get in this fix and angry with anyone else who might have made a difference in accomplishing your goals. Martha was like that, the harder she worked the more worked up she became. Some people “burn out” in service but Martha was “burned up” in hers. It is bad enough to have to do everything. It is even worse when we can think of someone who we do not feel is pulling their weight and who has let us down. That is what I see happening to Martha.
Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Become Angry At Others and…
3. Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Find Fault With Others.
In second part of verse forty, Martha finally exploded and she comes boiling out of the kitchen, red-faced and furious and says, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me."
She doesn’t even call her sister by name. In her defense perhaps she had already done everything she could think of to attract Mary’s attention and signal her that she needed help. We all have ways that we use to get a message across. We clear our throats. We make attention-getting motions.
Martha cannot get Mary’s attention. We are even more irritated when the other person ignores us. Mary was willing to face Martha’s anger, because sitting at the feet of Jesus mean everything to her at this point. No one can force us to be devoted, it is a voluntary decision.
Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Find Fault With Others
4. Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Question God’s Care.
Whatever Martha has already done to get Mary’s attention, she is totally exasperated now and speaks directly to Jesus. There is an accusation in her voice when she says, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
Martha was angry at Mary for being so selfish and she is angry at Jesus for allowing this to go on. Notice that Martha addressed her irritation to Jesus, you have to admit that she is one gutsy woman. Martha is accusing Jesus of not caring for her, because she was sure that if Jesus really cared for her, He would tell Mary to get up and help her. Today she would say something to the effect of “Lord you know what a ding bat my sister is, but you are a part of the problem too. You tell her to get her sweet self in here and help me!” In saying this she not only rebuked her sister but also the one for whom all of these preparations are being made. Whenever our service causes us to criticize others and pity ourselves because we feel overworked, we had better take time to examine our lives! Which fruit of the Spirit are we showing? NONE!
It is interesting how Martha links Jesus’ care for her with His willingness to tell Mary to get busy helping her. Martha thought that she knew how Jesus should demonstrate His care for her. I wonder do we do that? Do we ever accuse God of not caring for us, because we have already decided what His care for us looks like?
Part of the Martha’s problem was that she worried to much about what others were doing. Martha’s concern over Mary reminds us of Peter in John chapter 21 where Jesus was explaining to Peter what the future held for him (vv. 18-19), he only had one question he looked at John and asked, “But what this man” (v. 21). Jesus reminded Peter that was not really any of his concern. He just needed to follow Jesus (v. 22).” In today’s text Jesus by His refusal to do as Martha had asked demonstrates that, although what she was doing was valuable work, she should worry less about Mary’s choices. It all boiled down to the fact that Martha wanted to force Mary to serve Christ her way.
Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Question God’s Care and
5. Loss of Focus Can Be Eliminated by
Remembering Why We Are Doing What We Are Doing? (vv. 41-42)
In verse forty-one Jesus responds to Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. (42) But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Jesus responds with great tenderness. Notice first that Jesus did not rebuke her for making preparations for Him and the other guest. He is not rejecting Martha’s attempt to serve Him. Martha’s problem was not that she was preparing food for her guest to eat, this was necessary. But she gave too much importance to it. Today we still have to be careful that we do not let the necessary things that must be done get out of balance and distort our lives. Causing tension in our household, our relationships and most importantly, our relationship with our Lord!
The core of Martha’s problem is that she tried to impose her value system on Mary. Note that Jesus did not tell Martha to do what Mary was doing. It was Martha’s attitude that needed correction, but Martha’s work was both good and necessary. The reality is that as believers today we need to cultivate both the Martha and the Mary in each of us.
Martha came to Jesus because she wanted Him to lighten the load that day. He did what she wanted but not in the way that she had expected. He lightened her load not by having Mary help her but by giving her a new perspective on her work. When we forget why we are doing what we are doing we can get turned upside down, and we may end up feeling overworked and unappreciated.
Unless we the take time, to spend time with Jesus personally and privately, we will soon end up like Martha busy but not blessed. Martha was not wrong nor was Mary. It is case of where one did good and the other better.
The Christian life is learning to balance duty and devotion. Sitting without serving is powerless.
Serving without sitting is directionless. Serving after sitting produces power and balance.
I don’t want to close our story of these two sister’s without understanding the part they play in Biblical history. One of the two greatest confessions concerning the person of Jesus Christ was given by Martha and recorded in John 11:27, “Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” the other was given by Peter recorded in Matthew 16:16. “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The setting for Martha’s confession was that the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus had arrived and was seeking to comfort her and told her, “I am the resurrection and the life and He who believe in me will never die.” In turn He asked Martha if she believed this. Her response is one of the greatest confessions of all time, for Martha replies, “Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is come into the world.”
She evidently overcame her propensity to be distracted long enough and sat at the feet of Jesus enough to grow into a woman of profound faith. We also have more recorded about her sister Mary. We meet Mary two more times, in Scripture, and each time she is at the feet of Jesus. In John chapter twelve in what is one of the most moving pictures of sacrificial worship recorded in scripture we are told, “Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany… (2) There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. (3) Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil”
She was severely criticized by at least one apostle and possibly others for her action. Did she quit because of the criticism? No. She was one of the women at the tomb on the morning of the resurrection. When you sit at the feet of Jesus you learn not to quit because of hard feelings. You learn to turn the other cheek and go on.
In Matthew 26:13 we find that Jesus had these words of compliment to say concerning this act of Mary, “… wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” These two passages, concerning Martha’s confession and Mary’s worship, give evidence that both these sisters achieved the balance between duty and devotion.
But the question remains, “What about you?” Will you just take a moment to reflect? Where is your focus is? Have you been giving yourself to non-essentials – things that are here today but tossed out tomorrow? Through this pandemic, I think it has given every believer a time to pause…to slow down. It has given us more time with the Lord. More time with our family. Church…these are the things that are eternal.
The After Christmas Spirit
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Another Christmas has passed, now what? What do we do now? Do we just forget about our Savior birth and just wait till next December to praise our Lord Jesus?
In the Scripture today Jesus is 41 days old, and in vs. 22 His parents have taken Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord. While they were there, the Holy Spirit made sure that they crossed paths with a very devoted man named Simeon. Vs. 26-32 tell us that, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.’”
1. So as we look beyond Christmas -- Now what? First, stay close to the Lord in every situation.
This elderly widow named Anna teaches us to stay close to the Lord. Listen again to her life-story in vs. 36-37, “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and had lived with a husband 7 years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about 84 years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.”
Anna may have been over 100, because vs. 37 may mean that she had been a widow for 84 years. And over her long life, Anna teaches us that we should stay as close to the Lord as possible. Stay close to the Lord in every situation -- Even in times of stress and sorrow. Anna knew all about sorrow. She had only been married 7 years when her husband died. Did he get sick and suffer from a lingering illness? Was he killed in a terrible accident? Was he killed by a robber or a Roman soldier?
However he died, it must have broken Anna’s heart. But Anna did not make the tragic mistake so many people make. Anna did not pull away from God. Vs. 37 tells us that she did not depart from the Temple, and this tells us that Anna stayed as close to the Lord as she possibly could. That’s exactly what we should do. Even in times of sorrow.
We must stay close to the Lord in every situation. And the great news for us is that through Jesus Christ we can get closer to the Lord today than Anna had ever dreamed. Even when she was looking right into the face of baby Jesus. We can get closer to the Lord because Jesus has now died on the cross for our sins. We can get closer because Jesus is risen from the dead. We can get closer because the Holy Spirit of Christ is at work in our world right now in a way that He did not work before the cross. We can even have the Lord right here in our hearts… if we will open our heart to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. So get close to the Lord. And stay close to the Lord.
2. As we look beyond Christmas, stay close to the Lord in every situation. -- And serve the Lord every way you can.
Anna served the Lord every way she possibly could. In vs. 37 she “did not depart from the temple but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” There is no way for us to measure the blessings that came from Anna’s service.
-It was spiritual service. -- We see that in her prayers.
-It was sacrificial service. -- We see that in her fasting.
-And it was steady service. -- Anna served the Lord night and day for a long, long time.
Whether she was 84 or over 100, the Lord blessed her with a very long life, and she made the most of her life. Anna served the Lord every way she could, as long as she possibly could. And one lesson for us is that we are never too old to serve the Lord. But a bigger lesson is that we must serve the Lord while we can. Most of us will not live to 84. -- Almost certainly not to 100.
Time is short. We must serve the Lord while we can, trusting God to use our faithful service in ways we cannot see. Anna had no idea that God would add her story to His Word, or that millions of people would be blessed by it down through the centuries.
3. As we look beyond Christmas, serve the Lord every way you can. -- And trust God to surprise you with joy.
God loves to surprise His people with joy. I have no idea what kind of day Anna was having when she walked across the temple court. But I can imagine that she was in some pain -- achy shoulders or knees. Her sight must have been failing. She might have been lonely. Anna might have been carrying some heavy burdens that day. But she had no idea of the wonderful thing she was about to see.
In vs. 38, as Anna was going about her normal day, she ran right into the new-born Savior. Suddenly Anna received a new burst of joy in her life! God made sure that she got there just in time to see Simeon take the baby in his arms and say, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Anna was surprised by joy. And many times, the Lord will do the same thing for us. Maybe it’s the joy of a new baby or grandbaby, or a special time with friends, or a good report from the doctor. God likes to surprise us with His joy, and it can come in the smallest things of life. But the best joy comes as it did that day from our close encounters with the Lord. Those times when He allows us to see His Hand at work. Those times when He gives us a special touch.
Believers, God wants to surprise you with His joy. And this is so important, because Nehemiah tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. And joy is one of the most, Godly characteristics we can have in our hearts. The fruit of the Spirit is love…Then joy!
Joy is a good and proper and Godly thing. And what do you think I will do if I have this Godly joy? I will do the same thing Anna did in vs. 38: “She gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Anna shared her joy with everyone she possibly could. And that’s what the Lord wants us to do.
You see, many around us today are living in fear because of this pandemic. As they should be. This is a scary situation our world is in. It is even scarier to handle, if one does not have the Lord in their hearts. That is when we can tell them about the peace that we have in Jesus.
You may not feel very joyful today, but don’t give up on the joy of the Lord! Ask the Lord to restore His joy to you… And He will. That is of course…if you are living in sin, then joy will be really hard to find. Because sin is blocking your joy… your relationship with Christ.
4. As we look beyond Christmas, trust God to surprise you with joy. -- And strengthen your life with spiritual growth.
The Lord Himself is our model for spiritual growth, as we see in vs. 40, “The Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
God never wants us to get stuck in a spiritual rut. As long as we are in this world, the Lord wants us to be growing spiritually. God wants us to grow strong in His wisdom and grace. In Ephesians 4:13&15, Paul tells us that we should grow…
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
Peter also reminds every believer the same thing…
2 Peter 3:18
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
Pastor/Author Selwyn Hughes (some of you may remember him for your devotional, Everyday with Jesus) helps us see God’s high standards with these questions:
-Am I trying to grasp things from God’s hands or are my hands relaxed and empty so that I might receive?
-Do I shrink from painful experiences or do I welcome them in the knowledge that they will make me a more sensitive person?
-Am I so sure of God and His resources that I am free from a spirit of “demandingness” and over-concern?
-Is my goal to be happy, or is it to be holy?
-Am I more taken up with getting pleasure out of God than I am with giving pleasure to God?
-Do I have a deep compassion and concern for the plight of others?
-Is my heart clean and pure?
-Have I experienced an inner cleansing that has reached to the deepest depths?
-Am I a reconciler -- one who seeks to reconcile others to God and, where necessary, to each other?
Pastor Hughes asked these questions and then added: “Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see all of these beautiful attitudes at work in your life. Remember, we grow in grace.”
Spiritual growth does not just happen once you are saved, even if you attend services regularly. Churches are filled with people who’ve attended for their entire lives, yet they are still spiritual babies. Spiritual growth is not automatic with the passing of time. The writer of Hebrews sadly noted, ‘though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again’ (Hebrews 5:12). Millions of Christians have grown older without ever growing up.
The truth is that spiritual growth is intentional. It requires a commitment to grow. A person must want to grow, decide to grow and make an effort to grow. Discipleship begins with a decision.
Make the commitment today. Don’t let your spiritual life get stuck in a rut. Don’t let your past mistakes or failures keep you in the past. God DOES NOT, want you there. There is no growing by staying in the past. God wants all Christians to grow spiritually. But how are we going to do it? There is a whole lot to say about this, but today let me just focus on two requirements for spiritual growth…
1-Of course, we must feed ourselves on the Word of God. Peter was speaking to believers when he said: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). One problem many Christians have today is that they are starving themselves from the Word of God. And I am not just talking about coming to church on Sundays. I am talking about taking in some of God’s Word every day. Baptist Pastor, Jerry Vines said, “An unread Bible is like food uneaten, a love letter never read, a buried sword, a road map unstudied, gold never mined.”
2-We must feed ourselves on the Word of God in order to grow, but also realize that you cannot grow alone. The truth is that Christians need relationships in order to grow. We don’t grow in isolation from others. We develop in the context of fellowship. Belonging to Christs’ body.
Christmas has passed once again. But that’s not the end for us. Make it a glorious beginning.
-Stay close to the Lord in every situation. Serve the Lord every way you can.
Prince Of Peace
6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace. There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice. From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
To start, I would like to share the story behind one of our favorite Christmas hymns, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” At the time of it’s writing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln. He believed Lincoln’s election signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window when her dress caught fire and she was engulfed in flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams.
As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands. Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard was one of the results of the tragedy. The burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.” In 1862 the toll of war’s dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.” In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began, “I heard the bells on Christmas day, Their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.”
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But he kept writing – and what did he write?
And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth”, I said, for hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. It seems as if he could have been writing for our kind of day. Then, as all of us should do, he turned his thoughts to the One who gives true and perfect peace, and continued writing: Then peeled the bells more loud and deep; “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep! The wrong shall fail; the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
I want to ask you a question, are you experiencing peace today? I once read about an interview that was conducted with movie actor, Harrison Ford, concerning the subject of possessions. Harrison Ford’s movies have brought in several billion dollars at the box office. In the interview he expressed his disappointment with money. Ford said, “You only want what you do not have.” The reporter pressed him further by asking, “What do you not have?” Ford paused and muttered, “peace.”
All people need peace. God would like to give you peace during this Christmas season. Jesus is the source of that peace? We have been looking at four descriptive titles given to Jesus, as recorded in Isaiah 9:6. The last title is “Prince of Peace.” This word peace in the Hebrew language is “shalom.” This was a word of greeting used by the Hebrew people. A greeting is a pleasant word. It is a word whereby you wish a person a good day. You wish them good things. God wishes to give you good things. God wishes you well. If Jesus is the prince of peace what will that do for you?
Peace comes when we find restoration with God. Relationships can become strained and restoration needs to take place. Anytime there is division there will be discomfort. Peace will be lacking and restoration is in order.
• If a husband and wife are at odds there will be discomfort. Somebody may have to sleep on the couch.
• If workers at the office are at odds there will be discomfort. Jokes will be few and far between.
• If parents and children are at odds there will be discomfort around the house.
There was a Peanuts cartoon with Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, "I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!" Charlie Brown says, "But I thought you had inner peace." Lucy replies, "I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness"
The Bible says our sins separate or alienate us from God, but Jesus will bring peace. But now you belong to Christ Jesus, and though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought very near to Him because of what Jesus Christ has done for you with His blood. For Christ Himself is our way of peace. He has made peace.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities,
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. Webster says a prince is “a preeminent person in any class or group.” The word prince comes from the Latin word “princeps” which means first or chief. Thus, Jesus is the chief of peace. There is another interesting observation from Webster. One of the descriptive phrases says a prince is a ruler whose rank is below that of the king. That also describes Jesus. His rank is below that of our Heavenly Father. Jesus brings peace. He controls peace. If you want to find peace you find it in Jesus Christ.
Have you given Jesus first priority in your life? Some of the hard sayings of Jesus were directed toward people who were struggling with their spiritual priorities. “When Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever You go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Mt. 8:18-22. When you study the context of that passage it is obvious that the question was asked by a man who was trying to trap Jesus. Jesus was not cold hearted. He wants us to be concerned for our families. However, He wants to be first in our priorities. Is Jesus first in your heart? If your answer is YES, then you should have peace in your heart. Everything should fall in place. Your relationship with God is in the right place and also your relationship with your neighbors.
Some people might register a complaint against God because there seems to be no peace in our world. Sound familiar! Why Isn’t God doing, with everything that is going on in our world? Well… He is! This is all part of His master plan. Remember…He is still the One in control!
Was God making an empty promise in the book of Isaiah? Was God a liar? Before registering a complaint against God let me remind you of something. When Isaiah wrote this book, God’s people were not experiencing peace. They were in the midst of trials. They were experiencing turmoil. Maybe God had something else in mind? Let me offer a suggestion. When God gives the comfort of peace it will be in one of three forms.
The book of Philippians is one such example. Paul was in prison when he wrote this book. He was in the midst of a storm. In chapter 4 of that book Paul shares an awesome word of comfort. He says…
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I recall… that the word guard is a military term. It is the term used to describe a soldier standing guard. See the thought? When we come to God in prayer… He will give us peace that will guard our hearts.
There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror of peaceful towering mountains. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.
But when the king looked closely, he saw a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rocks behind the waterfall. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest - in perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why? "Because," explained the king, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."
When Isaiah wrote, God’s people were out of God’s will. They were living in rebellion and disobedience. A person living in rebellion will never find peace. When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they experienced turmoil. They immediately ran from God. They hid themselves. They lived in fear. There was no peace for them.
Jonah learned this lesson the hard way. God called him to preach in the city of Ninevah. Ninevah was a wicked city and one of the bitter enemies of the Israelite people. Jonah would have a natural prejudice toward the people of this city. Jonah thought he could avoid God’s will by running to a place called Tarshish. The Bible says Jonah sought to flee “the presence of the Lord.” He thought Tarshish would be a safe place. What he found was a whole different story. He experienced a horrible storm. He experienced the wrath of the sailors on board the ship. Ultimately, he spent three days in the belly of a large fish. Life outside of God’s will was not a pleasant experience for him.
Let me give you a verse to live by…
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
What an awesome Christmas present you would receive if you submit to God’s will today.
(1) God will sometimes comfort by taking away the storm. Jesus did this for His disciples. On one occasion Jesus and His disciples were on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose. Jesus disciples were overwhelmed by fear. Jesus spoke to the storm as if it were a puppy and calmed the storm. Sometimes He will take away the storm.
(2) God will sometimes comfort through inner peace. God will give hope that comforts. Isaiah gave a promise that God’s people would find hope in Jesus Christ.
(3) God will sometimes comfort by giving peace in the midst of the storm. God never promised that He would always take away the storm. Sometimes the miracle is to find peace in the midst of the storm.
Pastor Richard Santos
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