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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, Mother of Jesus (Part 9)

After they were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son.
Matthew 2:13-15

Dear God, other than Simeon’s prophecy at the temple, I think this might be Mary’s first inkling that there could be scary parts of being Jesus’s mother. What was that conversation between her and Joseph like?

Joseph: Mary! Mary, wake up!

Mary: What? What is it?

Joseph: We have to go.

Mary: What do you mean, “We have to go”? Go where?

Joseph: Egypt.

Mary: Egypt?!? What are you talking about? Can’t we talking about this in the morning?

Joseph: No. The angel said we have to go immediately.

Mary: You saw an angel?

Joseph: Yes, the angel came to me like he did before and told me, “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”

Mary: What?!? Are you sure that’s what he said?

Joseph: As sure as I was when he visited me last time and told me to marry you.

Mary: Okay, let’s go!

What was that trip like? Was it frantic? Did they finance it with the gold from the wise men? I wonder what plans they had for their lives that they now had to scrap to follow the angel’s instructions. Had she made friends? Had he hit his stride with his work? Were they planning on raising Jesus in Bethlehem?

Your call to them to raise Jesus was a call to a difficult life. I like to joke that I think Noah got one of the worst deals in the Bible because of the work he had to go through and it would probably have been easier to just die in the flood, but Mary and Joseph had some real obstacles of their own. It feels like their lives were all about sacrificing to fulfill this call.

Then they probably heard about this after they arrived in Egypt:

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.
Matthew 2:16

Survivors remorse? Guilt over their son’s existence having incited Herod into murdering those children? The anguish on behalf of all of those parents? Relief that they were safe in Egypt? I’m sure Mary had all of these things. I wonder how this whole event changed how protective she was of Jesus for the rest of his life.

Father, parenting can be scary. You can call us to sacrifice everything for the good of our children. Even when they are adults, their good can outweigh our own. And as we age into the end of our years, we need to consider our our own ending lives will impact them and die to ourselves for their benefit. So show me at any given moment what you are calling me to do for my children. Give me great discernment between what you need them to have from me and what you don’t need them to have from me. And everything you do for them or for me, make it something that is really for you and your glory, whatever it might cost me (and help me to be willing and ready to live up to those last words I just prayed).

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Emails to God – The Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10)

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Dear God, there are different tellings of this story in the Gospels, and it is interesting to see the different details that each write shares. Matthew seems to be more nuts and bolts about the story. Perhaps it’s the accountant in him. He doesn’t tell us the story about Jesus appearing as a gardener. He doesn’t tell us about Peter and John running to the tomb to check it out for themselves. But I just looked at the other four stories and I think this is the only one that mentions the earthquake.

In times like this I always try to take the story’s details and try to figure out what the author’s message to me is. What is it that Matthew wants me to take away from this? In this case, I think he wants me to know that:

  1. It was the women who were out working to ensure Jesus was buried correctly. In fact, the disciples didn’t do anything to take care of Jesus’ body after the crucifixion (that was left to a couple of Jewish church leaders) and they were apparently not going to do anything to ensure his body was buried correctly (perhaps this was considered “women’s work” at that time, but it’s still interesting).
  2. The women felt God move supernaturally. They felt the earthquake. They saw the angel. They saw the stone had been moved. They saw the guards “like dead men.”
  3. The angel told them that Jesus was alive, “just as he said,” he was going to Galilee, and that they needed to tell the disciples to meet him there.
  4. The women actually saw Jesus himself, and He also told them to tell the disciples about meeting Him in Galilee.

Father, I guess my overall take away from this story is that this wasn’t a vague, mysterious resurrection. You demonstrated your power. You communicated with the women who were trying to care for Jesus. You reminded them that this had all been predicted before. Then Jesus actually appeared to them. There was no room left for interpretation. Thank you for this story. Thank you for the resurrection. There is a gentleness about this story that is sweet. It seems to be about reassurance (to the women) and forgiveness (of the disciples). There is no vengeance here for the terrible death of Jesus. There is only a continued execution of the plan. How great is that?

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Humoring Satan (Matthew 4:1-11)

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “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.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Dear God, I find it interesting that Jesus played along with Satan and humored him so much during this interchange. First, Satan came to him and tempted him with food. That makes sense. I can see how that would happen. But why did Jesus go with him to the holy city (presumably Jerusalem) and get on top of the temple? Why did Jesus go with him to a very high mountain? Why allow himself to be tempted in that way? Why didn’t he tell Satan to leave immediately?

There are a lot of question marks in that last paragraph. I guess I am just trying to figure out how much I am supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. My theory (and that is all that it is—a theory) is that Jesus knew that part of his earthly existence was to be tempted like we are tempted and to withstand those temptations. He knows that we are faced with temptations all of the time. He knows that we find ourselves in compromising situations, and I figure he wanted to ensure that we knew that he experienced big temptations and gave us an example of resisting them.

One of the struggles I have as a parent is knowing where to draw the line between not letting my children be exposed to temptation and then allowing them to be exposed to temptation. If I totally block off their exposure to temptation and put them in a box then they will not know 1.) how to deal with it as an adult, 2.) what it is to choose you and your glory over evil, and 3.) the wonder and beauty of repentance.

Father, guide me. Guide me in my own rejection of sin and help me to parent my children through their own decisions regarding sin. Life is hard. Life is complicated. Help me to glorify you in this life so that others might be drawn to you.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Jesus in Egypt (Matthew 2:19-23)

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 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.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 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, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Dear God, it is interesting that Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth totally skips Egypt, the death of the babies, and Herod. I wonder why. Luke’s account is supposed to be from Mary, so I wonder why Luke would have left this out. Did he not think it was important to the narrative he was trying to tell? He obviously goes into more detail about a lot of other things regarding the birth, including John the Baptist, Mary’s angel visit, etc.

I can’t imagine the strain of this period for Joseph and Mary. They had to have been thinking, Okay, when I signed up for this I never imagined I would have to move to Egypt in order to save the child’s life. Now they are left with moving here and there trying to keep the kid safe, eventually ending up in their hometown after a few years.

I wonder what the Egyptian years were like. I wish we had some kind of account of them here. I just read some Wikipedia explanations of the time in Egypt, and they sound interesting, if not a little fantastical. There is apparently a lot of apocrypha about Jesus’ family in Egypt, and the Coptic church in Egypt uses them extensively as they describe Jesus’ time in their land. Some of the miracles include palm trees bowing to him, idols falling before him, springs of water suddenly appearing out of the ground, etc.

I guess my point in all of this is that there is sooooo much that I do not know. There is sooooo much that I do not understand. Are these stories true? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But, in the end, there is certainly an indication that this man made an impression, even when he was a baby. There was certainly something heavenly and divine about him. His arrival changed the course of time wherever he went. It’s amazing.

Father, I read this story and I simply worship you for it. I can only try to appreciate what Joseph and Mary suffered through this time, but it is more than I can imagine. But through it all I see that I owe you my complete submission. I give myself to you. All that I am for all that you are—that is the exchange I make with you.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Helpless Parents (Matthew 2:13-18)

 13 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.”

 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 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.”

 16 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. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

 18 “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.”

Dear God, I cannot imagine feeling this helpless as a parent. I have spent some time in the past talking about Joseph and his faithfulness/obedience to you here. His responsiveness to your word was impressive. But I don’t want to focus on that today. I want to focus on the idea of the powerless parents who saw the government come through and kill their children. They had absolutely no power to stop it. All they could do was watch in horror. And why did it happen? Because an insecure man couldn’t stand the idea of his successor having been born. If only he had known how the plan could work out.

So there are a few things here:

  1. The obedience of Joseph:
  2. The horror the Bethlehem parents experienced
  3. Herod’s insecurity over invalid presumptions he made

I have heard stories about the Sudan and the atrocities there. Women and girls being raped and killed. Men being beaten and killed. And there is nothing the fathers can do to protect their families. They are helpless. They are impotent in the worst way.

I think that there are similar forces at work against my family, but they are harder to see because they infiltrate the mind. Media is the worst. Television. Internet. Music. They are all working against my family, and while I can make some draconian rules against allowing such things in the house (and we do have limits), there is simply no way I can completely shield my children, wife, or myself from them.

Father, protect families in a way that only you can. Protect the families of the Sudan and everywhere else where atrocities are occurring, including human trafficking. Bless those who have suffered and give them peace. Free the captives. Ease the souls of those who were charged with protecting them but were unable to. And protect my family. I feel the attacks. I feel the insidiousness. Please help me to navigate my way through parenting my children so that our family might be a place where we feel your presence and love despite my sin.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Who were the Wise Men? (Genesis 2:1-12)

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘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 shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

Dear God, there are so many mysteries about these men. Who were they? Where did they come from? What made them follow the star? Why did they choose the gifts they brought? When did they arrive? Why didn’t Herod send a representative with them to ensure he learned more about Jesus? How did they know about the Jewish prophecies?

 

Given all of that, I think the overall takeaway from this story is that something significant happened when Jesus was born. People like these men could see it. Time changed. I don’t know how they counted years before the B.C. and A.D. system came about, but somewhere along the way it was so significant that they decided to go back and renumber everything around his birth almost 600 years afterward. Jesus’ arrival rippled throughout creation, even into the heavens. No only did earth experience it, but the universe experienced it too.

 

Father, I look at this story and, while I have more questions than answers, it is simply a reminder that you are to be worshipped. Jesus is to be worshipped. I accept this blessing and offer you my love. I submit my life to you. All I am for all that you are. I submit my life to you regardless of what is in it for me, for you are worthy of living my life for.

 

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Joseph is Remarkable (Matthew 1:20-25)

20 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. 21 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.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Dear God, again, it is hard to journal on these passages about Joseph because I have studied them so closely before. I am now too close to them to see anything new. But the things I have learned about Joseph from the past are still valid lessons for me today.

  • Joseph decided to do the benevolent thing to Mary BEFORE his angel visit. Makes you wonder why the angel didn’t visit Joseph before he knew about the pregnancy. Was it a test?
  • He obeyed the angel and took Mary home. This obedience would cost him more than he could know—reputation, standing in the church, business (those are the things he could foresee). Then there were the things he couldn’t foresee—taking a pregnant woman to Bethlehem, delivering a baby in a stable, fleeing to Egypt, returning, eventually, to Nazareth, the stress of raising God’s son.
  • He denied himself his husbandly rights by not consummating the marriage with Mary. Frankly, he could have proven whether or not she was a virgin by having sex with her before the baby was born. But he decided that the best thing for your plan was to deny himself. Is it any wonder that you picked him to be Jesus’ earthly father?

Father, I will never be a man like Joseph. I will never live up to that standard. You were wise to not wait until 1990 for Jesus to be born and have me be his father. You were wise to pick a man who was seemingly so selfless that he could totally give himself to you, his wife, and his children. Thank you for this example. Please help me to get a little closer to it as I strive to completely submit myself to and worship you.

 

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in Matthew

 

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