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The Quiet Power of a Heart Submitted to the Lord

Please note that important typographical error was corrected in footnote # 5

Last time we studied the amazing account of Mary's prophesy and her faith in accepting the responsibility of becoming the mother of Jesus, Immanual, the with-us God.  We begin our study with another wonderful account that points to the fact the faith in Jehovah was not dead - rather it was quite alive.

The Annunciation of Jesus to Joseph, Mary's Espoused Husband.

Matthew 1:18-25  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. [19] And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. [20] But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. [21] "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." [22] Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, [23] "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." [24] And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, [25] and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.   (NIV)

Apparently, there was little contact between Mary and Joseph.   At least Mary didn't confide with Joseph about  the appearance of Gabriel and the annunciation of Jesus' conception.  At some point, he did find out.  It was at this point that Mary was most vulnerable for he could have had her brought before the Jewish court and accused of fornication, whereupon she would have been stoned to death.  But Joseph was moved with compassion and his love for Mary.  It must have been a heartbreaking time for Joseph but he decided to  give Mary a bill of divorce - a rabbinical law - which served to advance a merciful act in this instance.   Rather than make a public issue of Mary's apparent situation, he decided to do it privately with no public humiliation of Mary.

The annunciation to Joseph was a necessity.  There was no other way for Joseph to act other than his plans for a divorce.  The Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  This was an event of great favor from God - we must consider the lack of such revelations - angelical visitations, the Lord appearing in a dream - these all were considered in Jewish traditions as a mark of high favor and Joseph was the recipient of such an event.  It was ironic that none of the Jewish religiosity had been affected in such a way. Rabbinical tradition would have favored the Bath Qal upon one of their own but God speaks to the humble of spirit and not the proud.

Joseph was another Old Testament believer in Jehovah and it is not unusual that he was completely obedient to the dream from the Lord.  Mary and Jesus needed the protection of a godly father and Joseph was chosen by the Lord to be that man.   Again, the name of this Son was to be Jesus - a fairly common name in the Jewish realm - meaning Jehovah saves or whose help is Jehovah.  Joshua, Moses' successor was so-named his name in the Hebrew is jehoshua.  The name Joshua was also used in Zechariah's prophesy concerning the high priest whose garments were filthy from sins.  Satan was standing there to accuse Joshua, the high priest but the LORD rebuked him saying  "...The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?..."[1]  The LORD then goes on to prophesy that the sins of the land will be removed in a single day - a clear prophesy of the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah in the end days.[2]   It is this name that if given the Son of God - anyone in Judah with an acquaintance of the scriptures and who was looking for the consolation of Israel should make an easy association with Jesus as He makes His journey on earth as being the Savior of the people in their sins.  What a wonder association - what a tragic rejection of the meaning of the Son of God's name.

The Birth of Jesus.

I think we are all familiar with the account of Jesus' birth, but there are a couple of items of interest that I would like to point out.  Mary did not have to travel to Bethlehem to be registered for taxation - It would have sufficed for Joseph to make the journey alone but because of his love for Mary and his desire to protect her in the final days of her pregnancy he brought her along. 

The Birth of Christ announced by the Angelic Hosts.

The shepherds who were attending the sheep were no ordinary shepherds.  They tended the sheep who were destined for the Temple sacrifices.   Popular belief of the day was held that the Messiah would be revealed from the Watch Tower of Migdal Eder or "The Tower of the Flock."  It was this tower that overlooked the watch of these special shepherds[3] to whom the LORD would send His angel.   It certainly was a fearful experience for these men to suddenly see the angel of the LORD standing before them, but they are given assurance not to be afraid because the message was that of good news not doom.  It is particularly fitting that these men would be the forth visit from God.  Given their task of tending the sheep of the Temple sacrifice and the local tradition that the Messiah would be announced from Midgal Eder  it is not surprising how easily the shepherds found it to listen to the announcement of the LORD's angel.  After this there appeared a "great company (NIV) of angels praising God: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:14, NIV

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. [11] Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. [12] This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."    Luke 2:10-12, NIV

The Shepherds pay homage to Jesus.

They immediately left tending their sheep and went to see this Wonder.[4]  What an enthusiastic bunch - these shepherds.  They told Mary and Joseph what had occurred.  I suspect that the shepherds were quite enthusiastic along the way because Luke 2:18 mentions that all who heard their witness were amazed - marveled at the account.  

The Heart of Mary

I bring all of this to your attention for the purpose of a look at Mary's heart.  Luke gives this rather interesting account:  "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."    Luke 2:19, NIV.  Here we have this very young woman - a godly woman who has been thrust into one of the greatest moments of history.  She was obedient to the LORD.  She did not become some sort of attention getter - rather she was the obedient maidservant of the LORD, wife of Joseph and mother of Jesus, Savior of the world.  After being caught up in all these events - the angelic visit from Gabriel, Elizabeth's account of her Special baby, Joseph's account of his dream and now, these special shepherds from Megdal Eder with their amazing account - her response was to treasure all these things and ponder - to take all of these events and compare them and organize them in her heart.  This was the mother of Jesus - a very special mother who was a believer in Jehovah and now was going to raise this remarkable Child up in His instruction and admonition.  What Mary did was very ordinary - what every devout Jewish mother would have done but in the context of a heart that was wholly given over to the LORD these ordinary acts of a mother became extraordinary.

There's a lesson here for all of us.  Every daily chore that Mary did took on significance because she was doing the will of the LORD in the presence of Jesus Christ.  Nothing was unimportant to her for she would have a lasting impression on this Child.  Her dedication to her tasks as uneventful as they might have become after these amazing events were just as important as the events that announced the coming of Jesus the Savior of the world.  Nothing is unimportant when it is done as unto the LORD.  Mary was literally doing what all of us should be doing in the spiritual sense.  In all of this, she kept going over every detail in her heart leaving nothing to careless neglect.

The Childhood of Jesus.

We know very little of Jesus childhood with the exception of these accounts.

The maturing process of Jesus.

Simeon and Anna give praise to God for Jesus.

After eight days both Mary and Joseph went to the temple to fulfill the requirements of the covenant to have Jesus circumcised and to give Him  His name.   This was also a period of time where the parents were present themselves for purification as they were ceremonially unclean.  Upon entering the Temple we have the account of Simeon and Anna giving praise to God for Jesus "Salvation of the world and   a light to the Gentiles."  These events were, too, treasured in Mary's heart, I'm sure.  

Simeon's ominous prediction. 

"and a sword will pierce even your own soul-- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."   Luke 2:35, NAS

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Thracian Sword

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Thracian Javelin
Thrown with a leather sling to give greater thrust.

A curious but ominous prediction.  The sword mentioned here is not the short, precise Roman sword but a long, Thracian sickle-shaped sword.  Actually, Shepard points out that this might have been referenced to the Thracian javelin - one that would pierce rather than slice the victim.  At any event, this was Simeon's reference to the heartbreak of Mary as she was to witness Jesus' suffering and death on the cross.  There must have been more suffering as Mary witnessed the rejection of Jesus by the majority of the Jews.  The result of Jesus' death was that the very thoughts of men's hearts would be revealed - and truly that was to be so as we take into account the preaching of the Gospel which was to penetrate the very souls of men and convict them of their sinful condition.

The Visit of the Magi - Jesus around 2 years old.   Click here for map.

The visit of the Magi culminated in the murderous acts of Herod who attempted to eliminate this King of the Jews.  Joseph left Bethlehem and went to Egypt after the warning from the angel of the LORD.  After Herod died Joseph was told to return to Israel but was redirected to Galilee because Herod's worse son was given rule over Judah.  So it was that the family returned - not to Bethlehem but to Nazareth, in Galilee.  Once, again, the family was spared through divine intervention and the obedient hearts of Jesus' parents.  I wonder how much Jesus' parents obedient attitude formed Jesus own attitude as a child.  Certainly, He was the sinless Son of God but there is a little glimpse in the heart of Jesus Himself found in Hebrews where He learned obedience.[5]

Jesus as a 12 year boy.

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." [49] "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"    Luke 2:48-49

After this not much is given except for this interesting account of Joseph's family's visit to Jerusalem.  Jesus' parents seem to be a little behind in His role as the young Messiah.  Mary and Joseph were truly worried about Jesus' welfare and did not understand His actions in staying at the Temple.

But they did not understand what he was saying to them. [51] Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.   Luke 2:50-51, NIV

Jesus asserts that He was merely attending His Father's business.   He seems to be precocious as a child but was certainly without the sin of rebellion for this passage states that He returned to Nazareth and was obedient to His parents.     Notice the reference to Mary's treasuring all these things in her heart.  Most Bible students think that some of the Gospel accounts were gleaned from what Mary told the Gospel writers, especially Peter who was really the author of the Gospel of Mark.  We owe much of the life of Jesus Christ to those things that Mary treasured and pondered in her heart.

After this we are told that Jesus remained under the authority of His parents and that He grew up - matured - our Hebrews text infers that His humanity was made complete or "finished" during this process and the process of His suffering on earth.[5]

Breaking the bond - Jesus enters into His earthly ministry.

By the time Jesus entered into His earthly ministry Joseph His step father had died.  Whereas normally the firstborn would have taken over the family business, which was, in this case, being a house framer - not merely a carpenter, Mary knew that Jesus had a mission as a prophet to Israel and Messiah and by this time knew that He would leave - never to return to the family life that He and His mother had enjoyed.  One last glimpse of Jesus and Mary being together was at the marriage at Cana.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, [2] and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. [3] When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." [4] "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." [5] His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."   John 2:1-5, NIV 

I think Mary was a very intelligent woman.  What we see here is a special relationship between a very smart woman - able to handle the subtleties of less than obvious conversation and her Son who was a genius in His humanity.  Jesus' response was not disrespectful as it might appear in the text .  Mary was able to carry on a conversation with her Son on this level - able to discern body language and other subtleties that would occur between two people who understood each other on this high plain.  Already, Jesus' ministry was in progress and yet the bond had not been completely broken and thus this curious conversation.  I like the NIV translation especially because it reflects the subtlety of Jesus and Mary's conversation - and note the upshot of it.  When Mary said to the servants "Do whatever he tells you." she knew the result.

When Jesus said that His hour had not come - Mary knew, by this time that wonderful things were going to happen during His earthly ministry and that her Son had extraordinary abilities.  This wonderful bond that was in the process of being severed between mom and Son, nevertheless was tempered by her understanding that her Son had not summarily dismissed her was implied by her confidence that He could resolve the current shortage of wine.  Thus the quiet command to the servants they should do whatever Jesus commanded no matter unusual it seemed.

Jesus family seek to be with Him.

Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. [20] Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." [21] He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." Luke 8:19-21, NIV

There is some disagreement about this narrative.  Mark includes the detail that some people were accusing Him of being possessed while others were accusing Him of being "beside Himself."  That Mary had gone along with this notion flies in the face of her spiritual grasp of her Son's mission.  No.  She probably went along because the rest of the family just hadn't "gotten it"  and was prepared to defend her son.  There is some evidence that she had, indeed grasped her Son's mission, see Luke 2:49 and John 2:4.  There is, however, a poignancy here that her Son had finally broken the maternal / son ties and He was no longer to be closely identified to her as her obedient Son - but rather the relationship was that of having faith in Jesus as the Son of God who was about deliver the people from their sins.   Mary certainly grasped this - for it squared with all the things she treasured and organized in her heart.  The time had come for her Son to leave the house - normally done when a son married and was to establish his own house.[6]

The Thrust of the Tracian Sword into the heart of Mary (Jesus final words to His mother).

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. [26] When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," [27] and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.    John 19:25-27, NIV.

The moment for the piercing of Mary's heart had come.  Yet with all the sorrow - in view of the pleasant memories she had with her Son.  Mary had to know that this was the fulfillment of Simeon's prophesy that a Thracian sword would pierce her heart.   Deep was the sorrow - but yet, she was by His side as much as she could be.   Again, I like the NIV's tender emphasis of this moment.  Never again would mom and Son enjoy that relationship but she had to know that He was her LORD.  It was in this tender moment that Jesus made His final personal act toward the two that meant the most to Him in His humanity - his mom and his friend, John.  Indeed, the same life-taking sword that would pierce the heart of Mary would be the same sword that would reveal the thoughts of men - not to expose the criminal act of His crucifixion - but rather to expose their need of a Savior.  Indeed, the touch of Jesus' life and death would forever change the meaning of the cross as a means of death and shame to the means of Eternal Life.  Truly, Jesus was lifted on the cross - truly Jesus would draw all men unto Himself, the life-giver of all men.

Implications drawn from the heart of Mary.

Mary had experienced the full gamut in her heart.  The amazement of being chosen to bear the Son of God as her own Son.  The sometimes dizzying unfolding of events in her relationship with her Son, Jesus as He grew up into manhood and became Israel's last Prophet who declared that the time of God's kingdom had come.  The realization that she would ultimately be torn from her Son because of the path that His heavenly Father had chosen for Him.  And ultimately the agonizing moments at the foot of the cross when she knew that it was all over and that her Son was going to die, indeed, for the sins of the world.

No one could have endured these events without a heart that had been changed by the touch of the Master.  Mary's faith in her Son was unflinching, I believe.  Even at the moment when all others around her, including her family thought Jesus had "lost it" she stood in support of Him.  This is the heart of a woman who had completely given herself to her LORD.  The ordinary became the extraordinary in the life of Mary because of her faith in the Son of God and her obedience to His plan.

1.  Zech. 3:2.

2. " 'Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. [9] See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day."   Zech. 3:8-9

3.  For more reading on this subject see The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, by Edersheim, pgs 130 - 132.  The Christ of the Gospels, by J. W. Shepard, pg 32.

4. Luke 2:8-18.

5. Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; [9] And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;   Hebrews 5:8-9, KJV, my emphasisAlthough this is a reference to His garden experience along with some of the sorrow that He experienced during His earthly ministry, His maturing process under the authority certainly must be viewed here.  The text does not infer that He was imperfect in the sinful sense but that as Man a very man He did "grow up" in the normal way that any Jewish boy would have done.  The difference was that He was sinless and that He was quite precocious - a fast learner and advanced beyond His years as a young boy.