Tag Archives: Matthew

Cursing Trees and Hurling Mountains – Not Quite What I Had in Mind

Cursing fig trees and hurling mountains into oceans – Jesus said that we will speak such acts if we have faith and no double minds.

I’m unsure…

But fruitless trees feed themselves, and obstacles impede and divide.

Your will be done.

Matthew 21:17-23 (ESV)

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”  And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

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Advent Post #5 – “Do not be afraid”

“Do not be afraid”

Joseph was faithful to the Law.
Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace.
Joseph was a righteous man.

Matthew 1:18, 19

By law, if Joseph found Mary displeasing, which was not likely – or if he found something indecent about her, which a very unplanned pregnancy would seem to be, he had the right to write her off and send her away.

Joseph had it in mind to divorce her quietly.
Joseph had considered this.
Joseph had also considered not doing this.

How confusing! Did he believe her? Did he consider not divorcing her? – or disgracing her publicly? – having her stoned?
In his hurt, was he sad, angry, vindictive, confused, disappointed?

Was Joseph afraid that whatever his choice, it would end up being a bad choice? He had done nothing wrong – nothing to deserve this.

Imagine Joseph’s dilemma: his fiancee was pregnant, and he certainly was not the father.

Joseph did not know what to do, and the angel, in the first sentence spoken in the New Testament, tells him: “do not be afraid”.

I wonder if, when the angel said “Do not be afraid”, Joseph, or the angel, or Mary thought of Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  I did.

Matthew 1:18 – 24

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

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.

All direct quotations of the Bible are taken from:
New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I used http://www.biblegateway.com to locate bible verses

Advent Post #4 – Fear? Not!

Fear? Not!                   Luke 1:26-38

The second thing that he said to Mary was ‘fear not’, or in more modern speech ‘do not be afraid’; the first was a puzzling greeting that told her of God’s favour and presence with her.

Fear not, you will conceive and bear a son… oh, and we’ve picked out a name for him: Jesus, and Mary, there are a few thing that you should know about your boy:
-He’s going to be great
-He will have title: The Son of the Most High
-God will give him the throne of his ancestor David
-He will be King forever [Messiah]; his kingdom will not ever end.

Curiously to me, Mary didn’t ask clarification about all the king and kingdom information, or disbelieve the message about what was going to happen.  Her question was practical – unlike Zechariah, who when told that his prayers had been heard and a baby was going to be born to his wife Elizabeth, asked the angel how he could be sure of this – doubting the message or the  messenger – A priest, he should have known better….

Mary’s question “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” doesn’t seem to question the events foretold to her.  It is more of a procedural / practical nature: I know how babies start; that hasn’t happened.

Gabriel does not get into a technical explanation – he basically explains that God will make it happen. Mary is satisfied and gives her informed assent.  And then the angel left — left!

This would be where I would freak out – ummm, become rather anxious.  Being visited by an angel can’t have been very comforting, and his message, somewhat less comforting.  But then to be all alone again with this, this – secret, that no one else on earth could possibly believe? Excruciating!

Perhaps, after a while, when she finally remembered to breathe, and when her heart beat slowed to within the normal range for a girl of her age and build, and perhaps as she looked around and saw that she was alone in the darkness (for some reason I always imagine that the angel visit occurred at night), perhaps the angel message came back to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God,” and this was a comfort to her. I hope so. Mary had the faith to believe that God would do what he had said he would do, and that he was with her.

Her faith had allowed her to respond to God’s message with “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” That was probably the easy part.  She had nine months of pregnancy ahead, and how would she be able to explain to her beloved Joseph? -and what would the neighbours think – well, we know what they would think.  And this was a time when what the neighbours think might cost a girl her life, and not just her reputation.

I imagine that there were times in those nine months, and in the years beyond, right up until the end of her life, when the message from God: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God,” was the only comfort she had.

I am not Mary.  I have not been visited by an angel, but I do have faith and, like Mary, I believe that God will do what he said he will do, and that he is with me.  And when the people who live around me can’t understand how I can believe this stuff. I take comfort in the words of Mary’s son, Jesus “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
links:

Mary & Angel             Luke 1:26-38
Zechariah                    Luke 1:5-18
Jesus’ Promise             Matthew 28:20
Jesus & eternal life      John 3:16-21

All direct quotations of the Bible are taken from:
New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I used http://www.biblegateway.com to locate bible verses

Advent Post #2 – Light in the Darkness. An Unexpected Saviour

Isaiah 9:2 – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

When I think of Advent, one of the strongest images I have is that of light shining into a dark place. A friend remarked on Facebook that the next weeks are the darkest time of the year, and that she doesn’t like that. At this time of year when daylight and sunshine seem scarce, the seasonal changes seem like an extended metaphor for Advent. We long for the light; for the susnhine, and when it shines, as it did today a few times, it is so welcome. That has got to be one of the reasons why Advent is celebrated / observed at this time of year.

I read in Isaiah 9:2-7 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  This is more than a lack of solar radiation.  Advent is not just suffering for those of us who cannot make it to Hawaii. Many people are living in ‘deep darkness’. Situations and circumstances seem utterly hopeless. In Advent we celebrate the birth of Jesus as the light shining into the darkness of this world. The writer of Matthew, in the New Testament quotes 9:1-2 in Matthew 4:12-17 when Jesus begins his preaching ministry.  In John 1:5 we read that the “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus’ light is not absorbed by the darkness – it extinguishes the darkness.

This is a poem that I wrote for Advent in 2009. I posted it last Lent, on April 2, 2012. Sorry for the rerun, but it fits right now.

Advent

When we sat in darkness,
You came to us in light.
When we lived in helplessness,
You came to us at night.

Yet you were not what we expected.
We had hoped for something else.
God, you came to us the unexpected saviour.

We waited for a warrior;
You came the Prince Of Peace
We sought a mighty power
Which would set our captives free.

You are not what we’d expected;
Helpless babe in young girl’s arms
Lord, you came to us an unexpected saviour.

We sought an end to poverty
You preached to us good news
We wanted vindication
Forgive me if I seem confused.

You are not what I expected
I had prayed for something else
You came to me an unexpected saviour.

Jesus, yes an unexpected saviour.

I long for ease and comfort
You expose my naked soul
And the life I’ve built so carefully
Tear down to make me whole.

You upset my money tables,
Drive my demons into pigs
You are not what I’d expected in a saviour.

Jesus, Heavenly Father,
Holy Spirit, Lord of Lords,
My dreams and hopes and wishes
Are idols I can ill afford.

Come to me so unexpected
Take my rags, but make me yours.
I welcome you Lord Jesus, unexpected Saviour!

JM November 2009