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Happiness is… – Matthew 5:1-12

Happiness is… – Matthew 5:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2019

Folks look for happiness in many ways in our day and age. Some use exercise, sports, food, money, recreation or other activities in order to find happiness while others may look to spirituality, religion, or philosophy to try to find personal happiness. The Bible teaches us that happiness in life is not truly found until one first finds God and develops a relationship with him.

People in Jesus’ day were not much different from us except they lived more of a day to day existence. Daily food and water, safety and personal health were of the foremost concerns of their lives. Most individuals did not live past their late 40s and just about any illness could be disastrous. Purchasing or growing food and getting clean water were also daily concerns; much of their happiness in life centered on these simple things. And all of it revolved around their relationship with God. So in the following teachings of Jesus we discover what happiness is; let’s find out what Jesus taught and what he meant.


READ: Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus begins his ministry by teaching people what it meant for God to be in their midst. Never forget that up until Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection no one could be saved by faith alone. God had always desired it to be that way but people proved to be a frustrating lot and God gave them laws and sacrifices to follow. Jesus begins by teaching…

I. We are kingdom material! (Vv. 1-4)

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  1. Wanting those he had chosen to develop their full understanding of who he was and what he was about Jesus begins by teaching them some eternal truths. We discover that “when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” When my father wanted us to pay attention to what he was trying to teach us he would call us to his side so we would focus on what he had to share. Jesus was like this as well. He gets away from the crowds, goes up on a mountainside (hill for us here in the Northwest) and sat down so his followers could hear him better. We discover that in fact “His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them”. This was a common means rabbis used for teaching their students or disciples. We understand that the crowd gathered around the edges of the disciples and listened in as well to what Jesus was teaching. Jesus began by telling them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus begins here because I believe he was building a foundation. Folks wanted to know if God cared about them. “Am I good enough for God to love me?” (Hasn’t changed much has it?) The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees taught them strict religious rules and regulations instead. Jesus was not teaching them a set of guidelines to follow but rather how God saw them and how he could change them. If they realized their impoverished spirituality, they would be good candidates for the kingdom of heaven! In fact Jesus continued by telling them “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Everyone has experienced some kind of personal loss but it was more evident in the lives of the poor; especially those who understood their circumstance. If one was willing to “mourn” for their spiritual loss or poverty, they would be “comforted” by God! If they understood how much God loved them they would be more willing to follow him. God loved them for who they were not their position in life. If we are willing to see our spiritual poverty and grieve over over our condition we are kingdom material!   

  EXAMPLE: I learned from my mother-in-law that you had to have patience and use only the best ingredients in order for whatever you were cooking to turn out consistently good. Too often people think that God could never forgive them or love them because of who they are or what they have done. God loves us and willingly came to walk with us and to show us the way back to him. In fact we learn from his words that we are kingdom material!

When my mother wanted us to truly understand what she was telling us she would ask, “What did I just tell you?” Our answers would reflect if we had been listening or not! Jesus continued with his disciples and the crowd by developing what he meant by their spiritual poverty. Jesus teaches that when we realize our spiritual condition…

II. We can become the children of God! (Vv. 5-8)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

  1. Jesus understood that those who realized their spiritual position in life would be more able to receive his gospel message! So he continued by telling them that “Blessed (or happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. Meekness here is not weakness as some would have you believe. Rather it is a positional. Like a powerful horse controlled by tiny reins we are to control ourselves. It is like when one entered the throne room of a king he would willingly bow down low to the ground to display his position of humility before his king. If we want to inherit the kingdom of heaven we have to be willing to be meek in our attitude and not think of ourselves as more than we are then we “will inherit the earth”! Earth here is a familiar term every farmer in the crowd would understand because they worked it daily. In Genesis because of Adam’s sin the earth would yield its fruit at a very high cost; but because of Jesus our inheritance in heaven would be an existence without hard labor! In fact, Jesus continued by relating, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Instead of spiritual hunger the sons of God would experience fullness! Little did Jesus’ listeners realize that this would be through the power and presence of the Spirit of God! He would become our living water and our daily bread! Jesus continued, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And since God’s “mercy” is given to us as his children we should therefore show his mercy to others as well! Jesus goes on to relate that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” If we are pure we would know and see God! The heart here means who we totally are as a person. How could we be pure or holy in all we are; isn’t that impossible? And yes it is without Jesus yet he is the one who would make peace between us and God! Therefore happy or “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” As God’s sons and daughters we are to bring his peace to others. We can become the children of God!

  EXAMPLE: I know my folks did not always want to claim us as their kids all the time, especially when we got into trouble. I remember having to walk home after school realizing that my father already knew about how I had been sent to the principal’s office. There are times in the lives of parents when they wished their kids belonged to someone else. It’s normal. How good to know then that God has provided a way for us to be called his children. It should humble us, give us strength, help us to display kindness toward others, because we know God and bring his message of peace to the world! How good to know we can become the children of God!

We all like to be thanked once in a while when we do something for someone else. It’s a nice surprise when someone thanks you for opening a door or giving up your place in line for them; you know what I mean. However not everything we do justifies a thank you and not everything we do as believers will beings us a prize, however, we discover that…

III. We will inherit a great reward! (Vv. 9-12)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  1. When we become part of God’s family it changes us. And when we are changed we become different than the rest of the world around us. Because of Jesus we will be persecuted for what we believe. Jesus taught his disciples not to be surprised by this fact. He tells them, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If we are mistreated or disdained because of what we believe it means we have been made righteous because of our faith! We are different from the world around us and our kingdom is not of this world! There are only two kinds of folks: Those who know God and those who don’t. In fact Jesus goes on to tell them, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” It has become popular to ridicule Christians in movies, on TV, and in the media. They depict us as ignorant and kind of antisocial. Evil does this when confronted with whatever it dislikes. It cannot use reason because their worldly atheistic philosophy makes no sense. And evil hates anyone that desires to live a holy life. Jesus knew his disciples would face severe persecution for their faith in him. Their world put their faith in manmade idols fashioned from wood, stone, or metal. Jesus came as a man to show the world God does indeed exist and to prove his love for mankind. After Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension, they would be the ones to share his gospel message with the world. All that was ungodly would be against them. It is just as true today as it was then. Yet he encouraged them and us by reminding us to “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The ungodly have always disdained and persecuted those who live for God and bring his message; but when that occurs we can smile and realize that the end justifies the means. We suffer now for a greater reward that awaits us. We will inherit a great reward!

  EXAMPLE: If we know the outcome and we know why it will happen, why in the world are we so worried when folks treat us with contempt for what we believe? In fact I’ve often wondered why folks get all concerned about things getting worse when they believe that things will get worse before the Lord comes back! Shouldn’t we do like John and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”? (Revelation 22:20 NIV)” Why are we surprised to see the world getting worse or folks treating believers harsher when we know Jesus could come back at any time? Shouldn’t we therefore be about sharing the good news instead of worrying so much, like Jesus shared with his disciples? After all, we will inherit a great reward!

Conclusion:

We are kingdom material! We can become the children of God! We will inherit a great reward!


This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The message, the men, and the masses – Matthew 4:12-25

The message, the men, and the masses – Matthew 4:12-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 10, 2019

In the gospels we discover not only the mystical but the mundane as well. Life is made up of both and if you do not discover this fact you will miss out on some of the shear wonderment of life itself. This is why it is so distressing for me to see the ungodliness of socialism in our nation. When individuals do away with the sacred and try to replace it with feelings it leads to society based on emotionalism instead of the holy. Mankind is reduced to animal stature and God becomes nonexistent. This is one reason why Jesus came – to display for us the sacred. God became man and walked among us.

We know much about the everyday life of Jesus because the gospels are full of narratives concerning it. In Matthew’s gospel we discover some of the details of Jesus’ early ministry. He begins to relate the message he has for Israel and mankind, he begins to put together those who would continue the ministry after his death, burial, and resurrection, and he begins to actively reach out to people around him. Let see how Jesus began his message, picks his men, and goes to the masses…

READ: Matthew 4:12-25

Rather than moan about the spiritual erosion of America believers need to get involved in sharing their faith. Just as the Israelites failed to share Christians have as well. Here we discover…

I. Jesus and the message he shared! (Vv. 12-17)

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

  1. Interestingly we learn in John’s gospel that Jesus in fact began his ministry in the Jerusalem area but the other three gospels have Jesus beginning it in the northern part of the country. Yes Jesus did turn the water into wine in Cana but we see him beginning his ministry in John in cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem the first time in John 2 and his interaction with Nicodemus in John 3. We learn that the possible reason is that it probably did not last very long because shortly after Jesus’ own baptism John the Baptist is imprisoned. And so “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.” It was too soon to bring to much focus on his self and if Jesus had begun immediately in Jerusalem what he did in Capernaum it might cause undue attention, especially after chasing the money changers out of the temple with a whip! However, it also fulfilled what Isaiah had foretold. So, “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’” Though Isaiah was probably using these two tribal names to represent the Northern Kingdom, it is remarkable that Jesus’ upbringing and early ministry was mostly in that very area near the Sea of Galilee. The area was known as Galilee of the Gentiles and it is here Jesus begins to share the message of God. After John is arrested he leaves Jerusalem and goes to those who are open to hear what God has to share. This is a good example for believers to follow even in our day and age. If those who you begin to share Jesus with do not want to hear what you have to share you have to move on to those who are ready to listen! “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Here we discover Jesus and the message he shared!

  EXAMPLE: The time was ripe. God had come as Jesus and folks needed to turn their lives around because his kingdom was “near” meaning right now! While we can lament over the condition of the world it should inspire believers to be even more about the ministry of sharing the gospel message of the good news of Jesus! Never before in the history of our nation do people need to turn away from their sin and turn to the Lord! And how good to know that Jesus paved the way for us and we learn in Jesus’ life about how he immediately began his ministry. It is here we discover Jesus and the message he shared!

When sharing your faith it is good to have fellow believers around you because they can pray with and encourage you. A band of friends can help keep you focused and here we discover…

II. Jesus and the men he chose! (Vv. 18-22)

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

  1. We learn in John’s gospel that after John the Baptist had baptized Jesus he told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” when Jesus passed by. They followed Jesus and asked him where he was staying for the night and Jesus invites them to join him. The Apostle John and Andrew were these two men. John writes that later Andrew excitedly goes to get his brother Peter and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” Yet here Matthew infers that evidently both had returned to their profession as fishermen and so now “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.” So here we discover from Matthew they “were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen”. While they had gone back to their regular lives they were destined for greater things and Jesus knew it. He tells them “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus would take them from looking for the best places to capture fish to sell and make them into men who captured men for the kingdom of God! However their willingness to follow Jesus would come at a cost. They would have to decide if they were willing or not to follow him. Matthew tells us that “At once they left their nets and followed him.” However Jesus wasn’t done. “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.” We find the Apostle John had also gone back to being a fisherman with his brother James. Mark writes that Jesus “gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17 NIV) and the connotation is that their personalities were contentious or fiery. Some families are like that. “They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.” These men also had a life decision to make. The calling carried with it a cost, for it involved leaving not only one’s profession but also one’s family responsibilities. I find it interesting that Jesus decided to ask hard working blue-collar types to be his disciples. Jesus did not call any Pharisees, Sadducees, or Teachers of the Law instead he called hardworking men who understood not only the common man but were willing to devote themselves to their calling. Matthew writes that “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Here we discover Jesus and the men he chose!

  EXAMPLE: I have often wondered about how Jesus chose those who would follow him and become his disciples. Sure God knew but I believe that Jesus having set aside his divine nature to walk among us had willingly laid aside his divine capacity to fully know certain things. These men would become those who would spread his message, his teachings, and who he is. They would also in the process become his friends, confidants, and one who would betray him. They would display selfishness, spiritual ignorance, compassion, fear, courage, trustworthiness and devotion. Yet in each of these men Jesus called he evidently saw something I believe we would not have seen – a willingness to put their lives on hold and to seriously consider the message of and the man who was the Messiah. Matthew introduces us to Jesus and the men he chose!

It can be difficult to share the good news of Jesus because not everyone will want to hear it. But that should never deter us because it has hope, healing, and the answer for our lives. Here we discover…

III. Jesus going to the masses! (Vv. 23-25)

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

  1. Often as the writers of the gospel narratives do Matthew condenses for his readers, weeks if not months. We learn that after calling his disciples to follow him “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Early on Jesus is welcome among the people because he is meeting their basic needs. He is helping them to understand more about God by teaching them in their local places of worship, sharing with them the gospel, and meeting their physical needs. Jesus’ message was that God was moving to fulfill his covenant promise with Israel and to establish his kingdom on the earth. And that his words were backed up by the display of his ability to dramatically heal the people of their diseases. Jesus was who he proclaimed himself to be and because of this “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” The populace realized that something special was occurring. It could only be the hand of God. There have always been those who claimed to be able to heal the sick or to drive out demonic influences, but Jesus did not just claim to be able to do so; he actually did it! We discover in the gospel narrative that Jesus made himself available to the masses not for any form of selfish gain. He did not need the accolades of man nor the riches that he could have gained. In fact we find him often seeking to be secondary to giving God the glory for what was occurring. The people were in darkness physically and spiritually and they needed God more than anything. Jesus came to show them the way. He would tell them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1 NIV)” and “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)” Matthew tells us that because of these miracles “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Many did not yet believe in him as the Messiah but at least they were willing to come to him for answers and it is here we discover Jesus going to the masses!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus going to the masses!

Conclusion:

Jesus and the message he shared! Jesus and the men he chose! Jesus going to the masses!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Jesus and the Temptations – Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus and the Temptations – Matthew 4:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 3, 2019

Sin is nothing to sing about and yet the world today takes a pretty casual view of it. I believe this is because many folks have swallowed the lies and deception of Satan. They either think that they were wrongly held accountable for the ungodly choices they made and they want the freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want or there are those who think that evil, sin, and the Devil do not exist. And they incorrectly think that if they simply ignore it or relegate it to “myth” status then it isn’t true. They’ve become too sophisticated and scientific to believe in “fairy tales”. Sadly, evil, sin, and the Devil do indeed exist and are very real and is nothing to sing about.

Mankind does not have the capability to be good on its own. We are sinners by nature and choice. From the first disobedient behavior and decision by Adam and Eve to the present day predicament the world finds itself today we find the war between good and evil, Satan’s handiwork, and mankind’s sin condition. In today’s verses we find Jesus and the temptations he faced; let’s learn what it means for us today and why…

READ: Matthew 4:1-11

How you live is dictated by what you believe. If you have a low opinion of yourself your life will reflect that attitude. Therefore if you think that God or the Devil doesn’t exist, your life will reflect that as well. Here we discover that…

I. Jesus’ character is tested! (Vv. 1-4)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

  1. Matthew tells us that immediately after his baptism by John “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” In this verse we discover some important facts. Matthew was told that Jesus the Messiah was “led by the Spirit” of God “into the desert” or wilderness where he would not find food or water “to be tempted by the devil”. The entire Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were involved in the spiritual maturation of Jesus! And here it involved the physical as well! God needed the Messiah to focus on the days and years ahead and not on the moment. Jesus would face other trials and tests in his ministry and he needed to realize that God was involved in every aspect. As a man Jesus would be tempted and here he is “tempted by the devil”. It shows us that God knows there is in fact a devil, a “diabolos” (slanderer, accuser) who does indeed try to tempt mankind. We discover this all the way back in Genesis with Eve, later in Job where he had to ask the permission of God to tempt Job, and also in the life of Peter. Evidently God had given the devil permission to tempt the Son, the Messiah. If Jesus was going to understand those he came to save he had to experience what we do every day. Jesus went into the wilderness to focus spiritually on the task ahead of him and “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Satan always tempts us where we are weakest and for Jesus it was his hunger. We are told that “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’” These tests demonstrate for us the character of Jesus. Yes he was divine and would not sin but he could choose to and this fact heightened the tests themselves. Jesus had to endure to the end of the test to show and display for us his character and willingness to suffer just as we do. Notice his response: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” He does not rebuke the devil but rather uses God’s truth instead. Jesus’ character was tested!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus could very well have produced the sustenance he needed to feed himself but he had deliberately gone into the wilderness for a purpose. He was following God’s direction. In life we often lose our focus and concentrate on what we need right now instead of the bigger picture. Spiritual patience is not mankind’s strong suit. God knows what we need; he knows the number of the hairs on our heads and he knows when one of his creatures falls to the ground. We do not always need bread but we do need to endure and realize that life is more than simple sustenance. And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover that Jesus’ character is tempted!

Mankind focuses on the moment thinking that whatever is occurring to them in the here and now is all that matters forgetting that future generations could suffer from their ungodly choices. God not only meets our human needs of food…

II. Jesus’ reputation is tested! (Vv. 5-7)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

  1. Satan was unable to get Jesus to dishonor his character so he goes for what most humans will fall for, how others see them! Self-worth or self-esteem is a powerful thing. Way too many people think their value comes from how others see them. And so Satan being who he is attacks Jesus in another vulnerable spot. This mistake teaches us that the devil is not all powerful as some would have you believe and he does not know everything. Here he misjudges Jesus. “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple” which was the highest point of the most holy building in all of Israel. It is here he tries to tempt the Son of God by questioning who he really is: “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.” Satan knew that Jesus could not be hurt if he did so. What he was trying to do was to get Jesus, in his humanity, to question who he truly was — God. The Israelites thought that the Messiah would suddenly come down from heaven and appear. Basically he was challenging Jesus by saying “If you are the Messiah show the people by a great big display!” Satan continues, “For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” However, Jesus is quite comfortable in knowing exactly who he is and what he is supposed to do. Although tempted and tried several times during his ministry we never see him falter from knowing his self-worth. This is also important for our lives in Christ. He views us as his children and know that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV)” Paul reminds us that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” and that we are “clothed” in him (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)! Our confidence, our self-worth, is in Jesus and his self-worth is in who he is! This is why “Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”” If Jesus is comfortable in who he is we can be quite secure in who we are in him! We discover that Jesus’ reputation is tested!

  EXAMPLE: Andy Grammer sang “It’s Good to be Alive” a few years back. The song focuses totally on the moment of how he “feels good to be alive right about now”. Don’t get me wrong I like the beat, the song, but not a few of the words. It expresses the fact that people live in the here and now. Whatever is occurring to them in the moment means either God loves them or not or that their lives matter or not. Our lives are so much more than momentary pleasures or hurt. If we know Jesus we know the Creator of the Universe! It is he that loved us so much he died for us and rose again! Jesus’ temptation teaches us that God keeps us secure in him. We discover that Jesus’ reputation is tested!

Jesus is exactly who he said he is. He is the Son of God. He is God. And Satan knew this because Jesus had created all things and including him from the very beginning (John 1:1-3)! In the very last temptation we see that…

III. Jesus’ authority is tested! (Vv. 8-11)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

  1. Satan is a deceiver and accuser but he also delusional because his own character is flawed and disobedient. And unlike us he can never have a personal relationship with God; he wasn’t created to. Having been created powerful he thought he could be like God but he can never be. And so he thinks he can give to Jesus what already Jesus has! “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” The kingdoms of the world are not Satan’s to “give”. While he may influence potentates and people to sin he is not the owner of the earth nor is he its ruler. A delusional person lives in their delusion unless they are cured and the devil lives in his delusion. He actually thought he could influence Jesus with personal power. While humans are often dazzled by wealth, power, or personality, God is not. “All this I will give you,” the devil whispers, “if you will bow down and worship me.” That would never happen but Satan actually thinks that because Jesus has willingly become a human being he can tempt him just like he does other humans! Paul teaches us that Satan is “The god of this age (who) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) – meaning Jesus is God! And we learn that those who do not know Jesus are “under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19 NIV)” However, Jesus taught that “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31 NIV)” In fact Jesus taught that Satan and demons are subject to believers because “Satan (has fallen) like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18 NIV) because of who Jesus is and what he has done! Satan has no authority to give away that which he does not own and he has no authority in the life of those who follow Jesus! Jesus therefore rebukes him by bluntly telling him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” The inference here is not only should God be worshiped only but Satan should be worshiping the One he is trying to tempt! It is then that “the devil left him, and angels came and attended” Jesus! Jesus’ authority is tested!

  EXAMPLE: The sacred has been completely violated in our society today. From how we view sexuality, ungodly behavior, adultery, fornication, life itself has influenced how we view God! Recently both Virginia and New York have passed laws that allow babies to be murdered and disposed of even after birth! You have morally corrupt and spiritually ignorant people cheering these laws! Sadly, they are not the only states that permit this but they are the latest to allow this abhorrent evil. When you debase morality and humanity it is easy to think that God does not exist or that he does not care! It cheapens and debases the very nature of who God is and life itself. This is exactly what the devil was trying to do here in tempting Jesus. Jesus’ authority is tested!

Conclusion:

Jesus’ character is tested! Jesus’ reputation is tested! Jesus’ authority is tested!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.


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The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23

The flight, the slaughter, and the return – Matthew 2:13-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 13, 2019

There are some things in life we have to do even if we do not like doing them: paying taxes, going to school, working, or going to the doctor. When I was a child my family moved often, so much so that I began to hate going to the supermarket to get cardboard boxes. One year we moved four times when I was in 3rd grade in the same area! Most military kids understand what I mean.

Here in these verses we discover Jesus’ family being directed by God to move for their protection. Sadly innocent folks suffered because of the ungodly choices of a madman. And yet the Lord brings this family back safely when it’s time to where Jesus can grown and be nurtured emotionally, physically, and spiritually among his own people. Let’s learn more about how God worked in the flight of a family, the slaughter of innocents, and the return of Jesus…


READ: Matthew 2:13-23

There are those in our day who have become so dependent upon the Government that they think it is the Government’s job to ensure their happiness and protect their entire life! So many have fallen into the trap of waiting for others to take care of them that they no longer depend on God for direction! Here we find God caring for Jesus’ family in…

I. The flight of Jesus! (Vv. 13-15)

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

  1. After the Wisemen had left things began to return to normal again or as normal as a family rearing the future Messiah could be! We learn that “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” It makes one wonder if Joseph ever enjoyed a safe night’s sleep without a vision from God! God was watching over this special family for the sake of Jesus. “Get up,” the Lord tells Joseph, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Now there are those who see this as proof that the Trinity of God can’t exist because God was speaking to Joseph while God was in human flesh as Jesus. However, they forget that God is God and can do whatever he wants when he wants to. Case in point Jesus being the Son of God also prayed to God the Father. He did so to teach his band of disciples not only was prayer important but it also showed how he as God willingly laid his divine nature aside to be a human being. So don’t you think God can do two things at the same time or even more? How in the world do you think he listens to your prayers and those of the entire world; some of which are not worth listening to? And Joseph having experienced this before and being the righteous guy he is, “got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Interestingly, I believe that Matthew may have heard these personal stories and details from either Mary or Jesus himself as they traveled together before Jesus’ crucifixion. And as Matthew often does in his gospel, he uses this incident to use the prophecy of Hosea 11:1 which does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction. Hosea was writing of God’s calling Israel out of Egypt into the Exodus. Matthew, however, gave new understanding to these words. Matthew viewed this experience as Messiah being identified with the nation Israel as a whole. And saw it as an identifier pointing to Jesus being the Messiah. God was working in the flight of Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: We often do not see God working because we do not spend time with his in order to know when he is or isn’t. It is like a parent who does not read, play with, or listen to their preschool or elementary children as they grow thinking that when they are older then they can then have a relationship. You cannot have a relationship with someone you have not invested your time with. Joseph was a righteous man and listened to God because he had invested spending time with the Lord and knew who was speaking to him in his dreams. God was working in the flight of Jesus!

We often see in movies or TV shows how folks lose their faith when bad things happen to them. However as a pastor I have seen that those who truly walk with the Lord understand that we live in a sin-fallen world and bad things happen to good and even innocent people. We discover this here in…

II. The slaughter of innocents! (Vv. 16-18)

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

  1. The Bible does not sugarcoat people’s bad behavior or their ungodliness. We find that “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” Foxes do not like to be outfoxed and evil people do not like it when their ungodly plans are thwarted in any way. They often strike out at those around them that are least able to defend themselves. Abusive spouses use violence or verbal attacks against children, husbands or wives. That’s how a truly weak individual responds! Herod was no different but just like all tyrants he was corrupt to the core of his being. Again, there are those who claim that this is why they could never believe in God because “a good God would never allow this to happen to innocent children”! It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with an evil and corrupt person who made ungodly choices his entire life. Sin always affects those around it! Herod wanted power and he was willing to do whatever it took to keep it; kind of like some politicians today! Yet again Matthew points his readers to how God was at work in the details. Even the ungodly acts of a mad king pointed to the Messiah being Jesus! “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” Herod had no right to be furious, if God was bringing the Messiah into the world during his reign he should have rejoiced and been glad. But Herod was not Israel’s true king and merely a stand in propped up by the military regime of Rome. While Herod was one of the richest people in the world at the time, he knew how he remained in power and it wasn’t because the Israelites loved him. We find the hand of God even in the slaughter of innocents!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus teaches his followers that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Paul would later teach that “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NIV)” People want to blame God for the ungodly actions of others when the innocent or those they care about suffer; yet in doing so they miss the hand of God even in such circumstances. Even here we find the hand of God in the slaughter of innocents!

Our way of thinking is a bit different than the way the Hebrews of Jesus’ day thought. History did not have to be related in chronological order and God working in the history of his people was often related in word and in theological and philosophical games. This is how the Rabbis, Chief Priests, and Teachers of the Law spent hours of each day – arguing over nuances! And here we discover it in…

III. The return of the Nazarene! (Vv. 19-23)

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

  1. We learn from Matthew that “After Herod died” and by the way he died a truly awful painful death, “an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt”. You ask, “Again?” Yep, it seems as if this was the only way God could get Joseph’s attention. My wife can relate. Not that she uses dreams while I sleep to get my attention but rather it often takes me focusing totally on what she has to say to me in order for it to finally get through to me! Anyway God tells Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” Herod died in Jericho, after an excruciatingly painful and horrendous illness later known as “Herod’s Evil”. What a way to get a disease named after you! The historian Josephus states that the pain of his illness led Herod to attempt suicide by stabbing himself which was thwarted by his cousin. Makes one wonder why bad things happen to bad people, right? Nope. Anyway, Joseph “got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” He has learned to obediently follow the Lord’s instructions. Joseph was also a good protector and “when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Archelaus was named as ruler of the largest part of the Judean kingdom after Herod died. Rome confirmed him but did not recognize him as king, giving him instead the lesser title of ethnarch to emphasize his dependence on Rome. Archelaus was half Idumaean and half Samaritan and, like his father, was hated by the Israelites. Later he was deposed and exiled to Gaul because Rome could not put up with him either! Joseph was again “warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Not a Nazarene who didn’t cut his hair or beard but it is a play on word usage by Matthew. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isaiah 11:1). “Branch” used here is the Hebrew word neṣer, which has consonants, since there are no vowels in Hebrew, like those in the word “Nazarene” which carry the idea of an insignificant beginning. Jesus would be just as a plain child growing up in Nazareth. We find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!

  EXAMPLE: I like reading fiction that is known as alternative history. I read a series where aliens attack during WWII and everyone on earth involved in the War must come together in order to defeat them. I’ve read others where the question “what if” is asked and how would have history progressed afterwards. There is a whole series on Amazon Prime called The Man in the High Castle. It is based on a novel that is an alternate history by Philip K. Dick. It’s set in 1962, 15 years after an alternative ending to World War II. The novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—primarily, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. We could speculate and ask, “What if God had not protected Jesus’ family the way he did?” Better yet “what if” Jesus never died on the cross or was resurrected? I for one am glad it never happened. Here we find God’s protection in the return of the Nazarene!

Conclusion:

Today we have seen how God worked to keep the Messiah safe in his flight, in the death of innocents, and in the return of the Nazarene! How is God working in your life right now?

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12

The visitors of Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 2019

A lot of folks were on the road, in the air, or taking trains and buses to go and be with family or friends during the holidays. Wherever they went they became visitors. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard’s Almanac that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Franklin was usually only enamored with his self and found the company of others, unless they were female, dreary.

However, here we discover several wise visitors, a mad king, and a small child. It is interesting how all of these folks came together several thousand years ago and how we are talking about them in our day and age. These visitors of Jesus made an impact on his family; Mary probably pondered their visitation like she did over the other events that occurred around the birth of her baby boy Jesus. Let’s take a look at what the visitors of Jesus meant and how they affect our lives today…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

Some visitors are more welcome than others. We like it when folks bring gifts when they visit but we hate the late night visitation of raccoons going through our trash or mice running across our kitchen! Here we discover that…

I. These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! (Vv. 1-2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

  1. Not everyone agrees with the timing of the visit of the Wisemen from the east in visiting Jesus. However “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”. There are a lot of misconceptions and legends about these “Magi”. They were not kings, but simply wise men which suggest they were astronomers. There were not only three, but more than likely a great company and some suggest there were several dozen men! They seem to have not come on the birth night but many days (or even months) later. Some have named them but in fact it was only in the sixth century that their names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) started to be specified as some now accept them. Before that they had other and varied names. Why did the later names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar stick? Because in the sixth century the Emperor Justinian created the famous mosaics in various churches and in the church of Saint Apollinaire the mosaics of the wise men have their names beneath them in the form we now accept. These men came with a specific task in mind and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Perhaps the signs, writings, and legends of the time had led these men to this town in Israel. All of the things they studied pointed to a king being born: “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” They followed a star. Some suggest that since it moved that perhaps God used angelic beings or even his own Shekinah glory to direct these men to Jesus. When we look at God closely he always leads us to himself! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them!

  EXAMPLE: When I first became a Christian I was told by my mentor to “read the Bible”. When I first became a seminary student I was told by my professors over and over to “read the Bible”. We often learn in Sunday school and Worship to “read the Bible”. There is a reason for this; while Christian books, commentaries, and study helps are good for some insight the best and most important thing a believer can do is to read the Bible! It is there when we follow the words and instructions of God we discover who he truly is! These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! Are you willing to follow the Lord wherever he leads you?

Some visitors can be disturbing. When we are sitting down to eat, watching a favorite TV show, or just enjoying a good nap, a knock on the door can be disruptive. Here in the following verses of Matthew we discover that…

II. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

  1. Like I said before, not all visitors are welcome by those they are visiting. We learn that “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was not a Jew at all, but an Edomite and Rome recognized him as a vassal king over Judea. The Jews tempered their great hatred of him with admiration for his building projects, such as the magnificent improvements made to the second temple. He also built Masada and the Roman port of Caesarea. Motivated by his great paranoia and cruelty, he murdered the members of the Sanhedrin, his wife, his mother in-law, and his three sons. Herod was “disturbed and all Jerusalem” besides! Herod was known for his rages and so when these esteem men show up looking for a king, they are concerned as to what Herod would do. Herod therefore gets his own wise guys (chief priests and teachers of the law) together and “he asked them where the (Messiah) Christ was to be born”. Having studied the Scriptures themselves and having debated this topic often they knew full well what the answer was: “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” The prophecy was the answer of God to King David long ago. Herod was as crafty as he was insane and we read: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’”  Not wanting any of his detractors to learn of the real reason the Magi had come and not wanting to give anyone a platform to usurp his power Herod had a secret meeting with them. I believe Herod had already determined to murder any child who would be seen as Israel’s true and rightful king. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks and groups today that do not like it when others begin to consider who Jesus is. Groups like Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam all fear the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do. Socialism and communistic regimes try to suppress the truth of Jesus as well. Atheists try to dispel Jesus as just a myth or fantasy. It shakes these groups to the core because if Jesus is truly who he said he was and what history testifies to then they are false and lost. Herod misunderstood who Jesus was and he was disturbed by the coming Wisemen. These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! Is your faith disturbing to others?

Sometimes we have visitors that are unexpected but their coming and going do not affect us that much at the time while the news they carry or the particular job they do could. The mailman, package delivery person, or the water meter readers are some of these kinds of visitors. Lastly we learn that…

III. These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

  1. These Wisemen were far smarter than king Herod could ever have imagined. The king they sought did not have an earthly kingdom or a throne built by human hands. After being wined and dined by Israel’s ruler and “After they had heard the king, they went on their way”. However their journey is not finished “and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This is good evidence that the star was far more than just an astronomical phenomenon. It moved and “stopped over the place where the child was”. Some think the star could have been a comet, a planetary convergence, or super nova but whatever the “star’ was it is certain it was a means by God to lead these visitors on their journey! Better than Google Earth or Maps! “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” because it lead them right to the final place they needed to go and to the person they sought! We also learn that the individual they journeyed to find was someone special because “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” You do not humble yourself to worship just any ordinary kid, believe me, even though some parents do! This child was truly special. This child was important. This child was the Messiah, God in human flesh! Add to this the fact that after worshipping him “they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Over field and fountain, moor and mountain, they had carried their offerings. Treasures to place at the feet of the one they worshiped, the one they had sought for so long! Some think God gave these men the gifts ideas to being Jesus: gold to signify his kingship, incense to recognize him as the high priest, and myrrh to show his death for mankind’s sin. We find that God watches over those he sends because “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever done something extremely nice for someone only to have them not say “thank you”? Perhaps you gave a gift to someone but got little in return? I have learned that it is our choice on whether or not we give a gift or do something nice for another and we should never expect anything in response. Little did these Wisemen know but their travel, their interaction with Herod, and their worship of a young boy would be remembered for thousands of years! Why? The reason is not just found in what they did but rather it is found in the focus of who they sought – the Messiah Jesus! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought! What treasure do you seek in life?

Conclusion:

These visitors of Jesus were willing to follow God wherever he led them! These visitors of Jesus were disturbing to others! These visitors of Jesus sought someone more valuable than the treasures they brought!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2018

Matthew is the first of what is commonly called the “Synoptic Gospels”. “Synoptic” comes from the Greek adjective synoptikos, which is from two words syn and opsesthai, “to see with or together.” While Matthew, Mark, and Luke have distinctive purposes, they nevertheless view the life of Jesus Christ in a common way. There have been multiple arguments concerning why they are similar and yet also different. Everything from there supposedly being some mysterious other source document known as “Q” no one has ever found a single scrap of to the notion that it was all made up. None of these are correct. The Gospels are similar and yet different simply because they were written by different individuals who either used firsthand accounts they remembered or the testimony of others.

When my brother, my sister and I get together we often share common stories of our youth. While we may share the same events we experienced each one differently and therefore remember them differently from one another. What seemed important to me was not so much so with my other siblings, and vice versa. This is why we have slightly differing accounts of the birth of Jesus and in some instances which are not even mentioned by the authors. However the birth of Jesus is important, so let’s see what Matthew recorded and why he did so…


READ: Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew is one of the earliest narratives written concerning Jesus. In fact there exists a portion of Matthew’s gospel in a small university library in England which strong evidence suggests that it may either be a part of the original gospel or one that was a first copy. Here we discover that…

I. Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! (Vv. 18-20)

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

  1. Never has there been a birth that has been written about, commented on, and philosophized on more than the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. We must never forget the significance of this birth because it is the birth of the “Christ” the Messiah of the entire world. Now whether one believes in him or not does not change the fact that he is the Messiah; and so we are first introduced to his linage and then to the fact that “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about”. We discover that “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” The virgin birth is central to the nature of who the Messiah truly is; he is God in human flesh. Contrary to political correctness or socialistic nonsense God did not rape Mary. She was a willing vessel for the God she worshipped, honored and loved. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. Most men upon hearing their future spouse was pregnant and not by them would have immediately divorced them. Not Joseph “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” He chose not to create a public scandal by exposing her condition to the judges at the city gate. Such an act could have resulted in Mary’s death by stoning. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

  EXAMPLE: These words from the messenger of God must have brought to Joseph’s mind the promises of God through Jeremiah to provide salvation through the New Covenant: “The time is coming… when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV).” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

Names have meaning for the child who receives them and for the future of their lives. Sadly, many have forgotten this fact in our day and age and often name their children without any thought for the child or their future. We learn that…

II. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! (Vv. 21-23)

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

  1. The angel of God tells Joseph about the importance of Mary’s pregnancy in both matter of fact terms and in the terms of prophecy fulfilled: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The baby in Mary’s womb would be unique and special. He would be a child of God born through the presence and power of God. His name would be literally Yeshua or Jesus in the Greek meaning “God saves” and in this case the salvation he would bring would be salvation from our sins. The unnamed angel also told Joseph that this was in keeping with God’s eternal plan, for the Prophet Isaiah had declared 700 years before that “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” No greater truth or greater prophecy was ever told and fulfilled. This baby inside of his mother would become a man who would die on a cross and rise from the dead to show the world that he was indeed the salvation of all mankind. Mary’s miraculous conception fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, and her Son would truly be God with us. In light of this declaration Joseph was not to be afraid to take Mary into his home. Jesus would later teach his followers, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV)” and that “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” The very notion that God would do such a thing is contrary to all that people think about gods. There are those who desperately try to suggest that this is nothing new by relating the fables and myths of false deities but they read like science fiction or fantasy. Only here within the gospel of Matthew do we find the Creator becoming man and the narrative rings true because of who Jesus is and what he would finally accomplish. Any other story is but myth and fable. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

  EXAMPLE: I was watching a movie the other day and I can’t remember the name of it but the characters were trying to escape the bad guys and one of them fell off a ledge but was able to grab on by one hand. His rescuer reached down to pull him up and yelled, “Just take a hold of my hand!” I was reminded of a big old rock my brother and I used to play on near our house in Leavenworth, WA. We’d climb on top of it and play like we were going to fall off while the other one would hold out their hand to “rescue” the other from certain death. For that one moment we became to hero who saved someone. While our rescue was make-believe Jesus’ was not. His was physical, spiritual, and eternal. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

III. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her! (Vv. 24-25)

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

  1. First time fathers always have tough decisions to make. It is all new for them from the birth of their first child to the daily care and fostering of them fatherhood is both new and challenging. For Joseph it became even more so. Not only was he newly engaged he discovers that his young bride to be is pregnant. He was probably incredulous, hurt, and then perhaps even angered; but Joseph was also a godly and kind man. We know this because of his actions and that God had chosen him to be the adopted father of the Messiah. Joseph had gone to sleep troubled but being a righteous man and did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly. However as God usually does he sends a loving message to those who are willing to do his will. As Joseph sleeps he is told the child Mary carries is conceived by him for his purposes. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Faith is often found in obedience even when one does not understand why at the time. Joseph had a decision to make and he makes the right one. Joseph follows through on what God desires of him but he goes a step further to make sure that no one would question his devotion and Mary’s condition; “he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” Joseph violated all custom by immediately taking Mary into his home rather than waiting till the one-year time period of betrothal had passed. Joseph was probably thinking of what would be best for Mary in her condition. He brought her home and began to care and provide for her. But there was no sexual relationship between them until after the birth of Jesus and “he gave him the name Jesus.” Here in Matthew’s gospel we find no manger, no shepherds, no Wisemen but only a righteous man who follows through on his faith. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

  EXAMPLE: “Here I come to save the day!” was part of an old time cartoon called Mighty Mouse. It was during a time when Superman was a big time hero. My brother loved the TV show and used to run around the house with a bath towel tied around his neck like a cape singing the song at the top of his lungs. Of course I was the victim of his physical prowess since I was skinny enough and light enough to throw around like a pillow. Unlike these super heroes Jesus isn’t made up or fictional as some would like you to believe. Joseph may not have has super powers but he was a righteous man who followed God and loved his wife to be. In his selfless act he saved both Mary and the future Messiah. That’s what real sure heroes do. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

Conclusion:

Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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4th Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20

4th Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 23, 2018

There are certain dates in life that stand out. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I remember watching the first American go into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. On a happier note, I also remember the day I was married, when we brought our daughter home, and when my grandchildren were born. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should remember the birth of Jesus?

On the fourth Sunday of Advent we pause as Christians remembering the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out presents, drink the hot cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christmas. It’s the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s see how…

READ: Luke 2:1-20
 

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

  1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this also, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” should be more correctly translated “before”. Therefore Quirinius was governor before the census which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was Joseph’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. And so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for his perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

  EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) History reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Alexander the Great had conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. The Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries and a unifying language. God had put all the pieces in place at the perfect time to send his Son. The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

  1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare his ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of his son to. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger out of the blue comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chooses to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words his Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” An animal’s feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

  EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you’ve just got to hear! It makes no sense we’re sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

  1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people’s chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great King Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” And in the midst of this wonderful story of simple shepherds is a precious truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah and here he was in her arms! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever watched YouTube flash mob videos? There is one of people in a mall food court where suddenly someone stands up and boldly begins singing the Hallelujah Chorus. To the surprise of everyone, another person gets up and joins in, then another, and another; soon the food court is resounding with the harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers. “Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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