Lessons From A Christmas Story

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, my thoughts went to someone in the Christmas story that gets very little attention. Scripture speaks about Jesus and Mary but we hear so little about Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.

In much of the study that has been done about Joseph, most researchers agree on several points. Here they are:

Most believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry. There are several portions of scripture that would point to this. First, Joseph isn’t mentioned being present at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. Yet Mary is mentioned.

Second, the story of the crucifixion provides some interesting details. Joseph is not present at the crucifixion while Mary is mentioned. At the crucifixion, Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary, which would be unusual if Joseph had still been alive. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus. This would ordinarily have been a task given to the father.

There is even another hint in scripture that would support the death of Joseph during the lifetime of Jesus. Luke 2:33-35 details a conversation Simeon had with Joseph and Mary. Even though both Joseph and Mary were present, Simeon simply addressed Mary. Simeon says this:

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.

Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce your very soul but makes no mention of Joseph. It seems Simeon knew that Joseph would not be alive to see all that would happen to Jesus.

We don’t know for certain that Joseph was dead before Jesus public ministry but the evidence points to that.

Here’s what we do know about Joseph. First, he was alive and a part of the life of Jesus until Jesus was twelve years of age. Luke 2:41-42 speaks about Joseph and Mary attending the Holy Days with Jesus when he was twelve. You may recall that this was the time Mary and Joseph mistakenly left Jesus at the temple. This is the last mention in scripture about Joseph being with Jesus.

So what can we learn from the few verses in scripture that mention Joseph? Here are four things to think about:

God picked Joseph to model for Jesus what earthly fatherhood looked like: We know Joseph had at least twelve years to teach Jesus about life. We know Joseph spent time with Jesus training him to be a carpenter and teaching him about the spiritual issues in life. It is reasonable to believe that Joseph taught a young Jesus how to be a godly man.

Joseph cared about others more than he cared about himself: When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the father, he certainly could have broken the engagement. In fact, in our world today there are many men who would do just that. Many of us would be upset by the news or just want to save face and end the relationship. We need to be realistic. If our fiancée came to us and said she was pregnant but the father was God that would be hard to believe.

Yet Joseph did believe Mary’s explanation and protected and cared for Mary and Jesus for the remainder of his life.

Joseph did remarkable work and received no recognition: Joseph spent years of his life serving as a faithful husband and father, scripture barely mentions him, and yet he faithfully served his family and the Son of God.

 Joseph believed what God told him and he obeyed: When the angel came to Joseph in the dream and told him it was fine to marry Mary he did it. Joseph obeyed when God told him to flee to Egypt to miss a confrontation with Herod. Joseph obeyed when God told him to return to Israel after the death of Herod.

We have many followers of Christ who either don’t listen when God speaks to them or they hear God but choose not to obey. Joseph listened and obeyed.

As you think about Christmas this year remember these four points. Also remember, that like Joseph, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Don’t lose sight of God’s purpose for you. You have valuable work that only you can do…just like Joseph. If we could talk with Joseph I bet he wouldn’t regret a day of doing what God asked him to do.

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What Did Pilate Really Know About Jesus? This May Surprise you.

As we leave Holy Week and look back upon the meaning of Easter, let’s not leave it in the past and forget it too quickly. To many in the world, Easter is simply another holiday. Many attend church on Easter but don’t fully comprehend the importance of Easter to the very foundation of our Christian faith.

The Barna Group, which conducts a variety of Christian-based research, discovered this in their surveys about Easter. Here is what they said:

While a majority of Americans indicated some type of spiritual connection with Easter, the research also showed that a minority of adults directly linked Easter to the Christian faith’s belief in the resurrection of Christ. In all, 42% of Americans said that the meaning of Easter was the resurrection of Jesus or that it signifies Christ’s death and return to life. One out of every 50 adults (2%) said that they would describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith.

What about you? Do you believe that Jesus was who He said He was? There is a very telling portion of scripture in the book of John, chapter 19. At this point in scripture, Jesus was to be crucified and Pilate had ordered a sign be placed on the cross that read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. If we begin reading in verse 21 we find this:

Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’

Now listen to Pilate’s reply. Pilate said, No, what I have written, I have written. Let’s think about this for a moment. Pilate is the Roman ruler who has appeased the Jews by allowing the killing of Jesus but yet he won’t change the sign on the cross? That is very telling. It seems that Pilate knew something the rest of us should clearly know…Jesus is the King of the Jews. Jesus is who He said He is.

In Peter, chapter 2, we read this, He (Jesus) personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.

If you don’t know Jesus, I invite you to meet Him today. By His wounds your sins are forgiven and by His wounds your broken life can be healed. The crucifixion was only the beginning of the story. The story ends with a miraculous resurrection…a God who lives. A God not impacted by the power of the grave. If the crucifixion were the end of the story there would be nothing to celebrate…there would be no point to Easter. But we do have a reason to celebrate Easter and this God can be the leader of your life if you simply allow Him to lead.

So now the choice is yours. Try to live on your own with no hope for eternity or live with the King who will bring you joy that you cannot imagine. I think Pilate knew who Jesus was and I suspect you do to. Change your life and live for the King today.

 

 

 

 

My Name Was Written In His Wounds

As we think this week about Easter and what Christ accomplished for us, I want to take you back for a moment to the day Jesus was crucified.  As you may recall from scripture, prior to the crucifixion, Jesus suffered a terrible beating by the Romans.

Historian David McClister wrote these words about how the beating of Jesus was administered.  Here are his words:

The instrument used to deliver this form of punishment was like the old British cat o’ nine tails, except that the whip was not designed merely to bruise or leave welts on the victim. The whips used had at least three strands, each perhaps as much as three feet long, and the strands were weighted with lead balls or pieces of bone. This instrument was designed to lacerate. The weighed strands struck the skin so violently that it broke open. The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea recounts with vivid, horrible detail a scene of scourging. He says, “For they say that the bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw them lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 4, chap. 15).

As we think about the pain that Jesus experienced for us, I am reminded of the words of a song that say, “your name is written in His wounds.”  You see, Christ went through all this pain for each of us.  With each hit of the scourge, our names were being written in His wounds.  He took the punishment for our sins because He loves us.

As you think about the beauty of Easter, don’t forget about the pain that was necessary for the beauty of the resurrection.  As you go through your life, don’t forget that sometimes there is pain before the beauty comes.  Jesus loves us deeply and each of our names was written in His wounds.  Never forget Christ’s love for us and the beauty of eternal life that came from His pain and ultimate love for each of us.