Mary’s Proclamation

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Luke 1:38

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December 25th

On a dusty road a young couple makes their way towards their destination. A long road for anyone, an estimate four days for those who hold a quick and steady pace.

For this couple it was closer to eight to 10 days. This woman was pregnant; nine months pregnant. Her husband trudged alongside her with their donkey carrying the precious cargo of wife and soon-to-be born son.

This is the scene you would have seen if you were on the road to Bethlehem at the same time as Mary and Joseph around 4 BC.

Not the best of situations by any means. Can you imagine yourself in their place?

You’re alone, walking beside your very pregnant wife as every bump in the very uneven road causes her pain. You’re trying to steady the donkey so she can have a smooth ride, making sure she stays hydrated while the hot sun beats down upon her.

You’re needing to search for water when your waterskin is emptied and trying to find cover from the sun when the heat becomes unbearable.

If you have ever been pregnant can you imagine being in Mary’s position?

You must keep going regardless of how much you just want to rest your weary body. All the regular pregnancy pains are times ten because you are forced to ride along this dusty road upon a donkey. There is no way to rest your feet and hardly a chance to lay down. The baby is kicking because you are not in the position he prefers. The bumps agitate your already small bladder and you have to stop every ten minutes to relieve yourself.

All these inconveniences and difficult variables are small in comparison to the rest of the circumstances and situations that surrounded the birth of Jesus Christ.

He was foretold by the prophets. He would be born to a virgin!

Did they envision how that would work out?

Mary was in very real danger of being stoned to death. She was unmarried and pregnant and her fiancé had no involvement with the conception of the baby.

If God had not intervened and let Joseph in on the secret she may very well have been put to death.

And after she was safe from death, Mary and Joseph would have been scorned by their community, by their families, by their friends. Mary would have been viewed as unfaithful, impure and labeled a sinner.

A woman blessed among all woman. The mother of the saviour of all mankind would have been called all kinds of foul names. She would have had her feet spit upon. Would have seen her father rip his clothes in dismay.

Mary and Joseph persevered. They had been visited by angles and knew they were protected by God almighty.

Mary broke into song when she received the news that she had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She did not fret about what people would think or what “this looks like.”

Why? Because she knew her present afflictions did not compare with the glory that was to come.

Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem knowing there would never be anyone else who could understand the situation they found themselves in. They clung to one another during the cold windy nights knowing they shared something special. They would raise the Son of God, “God among us,” “Emmanuel,” the Messiah, the Saviour of all mankind.

They had the greatest mission of all—to carry, to hold and to care for the greatest person who would ever live, Jesus Christ the Lord.

It was this knowledge and the hope it brought that gave them strength to continue on.

But this was not the end of their struggles. When they arrived there was no place for them to stay.

Both Mary and Joseph could trace back their ancestral home to Bethlehem as both were from the house of David.

Why wouldn’t their families, who would have also been compelled to return to Bethlehem take them in?

Had they been so rejected that their own family’s refused to help them?

The scriptures do not say.

What the Gospels do say is that they found no room at the inn and had to stay in a stable.

Typically babies are born in the most sanitary of conditions. In our day and age, in hospitals. In Jesus’ day they would have boiled large amounts of water to sanitize the area of the birth.

Mary and Joseph did not have this luxury and had to have their baby in a dark and dirty stable. The ground would have been full of the manure of animals. Dirt, dust and animal dandruff particles would have been floating in the air.

The danger of contamination and sickness to both baby and mother would have been great.

This is where the saviour of all mankind was born. The King of Kings was not born in a palace but in a barn.

The nation in which Jesus was born into was occupied by Romans. They were brutal rulers. They taxed the people of their conquered nations heavily. The reason Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem in the first place was so Cesar Augustine would know who exactly was in Israel to tax. While citizens of Rome had very little taxes to pay. The lands in which Rome conquered were heavily taxed (they had to give a large amount of their grain in taxes as well as taxes on produce, sales taxes, temple taxes, occupational taxes, custom taxes, transit taxes etc.).

To keep the people in line, the military would have been very much present in the community’s where Jesus grew up.

The land of Israel was under a weight of taxes they could not afford and if they did not pay they were subject to violence that they could not resist.

On top of this, Cesar Augustine had appointed local leaders in every territory he conquered. King Herod was the Jewish king over the land at the time of Jesus’ birth and he was brutal. He murdered anyone who was a threat to his kingship including his own family.

Upon Jesus’ birth the magi in the east had seen the star and visited Herod looking for “the one having been born king of the Jews.” This angered Herod and upon hearing about a new king his jealousy would not allow him to sit idly by and wait for this messiah to grow up and usurp him.

Upon conferring with the chief priests and scribes, he found out that the messiah was foretold to be born in Bethlehem.

At this time Jospeh was warned in a dream to flee with Jesus and Mary to Egypt. Again, the young family had to make a difficult journey.

Herod went on to massacre every boy two years old and younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:16-18

I have been mediating upon the circumstances around Jesus birth. Here was this precious little baby. The Prince of Peace.

He came to this earth innocent and perfect. His world was particularly brutal. His mother had hardships with bearing him. Both his mother and father would have been ostracized by their community. They had to go on not one but two dangerous journeys while He was at His most vulnerable. He was born in a filthy stable and finally violent rulers oppressed Him and tried to snuff Him out.

But God’s glorious plan would not be put to death. He supernaturally took care of Mary and Joseph, He kept the Christ child safe.

He showed glory through it all as angles sang about the majesty of who Jesus is!

The Lord set a star to shine the way for magi to come bearing gifts who recognized and christened Him King.

Satan could not stop His birth through stoning, heat, disease or massacre.

Gods plan unfolded as it was designed.

Light came to this earth so all men and women can see the truth through Jesus Christ.

The world has not changed. It is still dark and evil. Persecutions will come. People will lie and cheat and steal. They will be against you!

Satan will try to snuff out your light.

We, like Mary and Joseph carry a truth that brings hope.

We like Mary carry Jesus.

We have the Holy Spirit in our hearts!

We too are on the greatest mission of all humanity.

Can we sing when we are spit on, accused and called names.

Our identity comes from God and we journey on a hard road. But we have hope.

Jesus came into this earth as a baby and He will come again in glory as King.

I think of the dark night, two large shadows and a bundle of joy. A child of peace who would bring peace to all mankind, along with his parents. They slowly make their way out of Bethlehem, knowing they are escaping death. They venture into the unknown, into a strange land which is not their own.

But they have the same hope they did along the dusty road to Bethlehem.

The hope that is found in Christ.

This Christmas I am hanging on to that hope. The difference is I know, along with many other, their hope realized. Mary and Jospeh knew this child was destined for great things. I know these great things.

I know the Christ that bled upon the cross and rose from the dead. I know the resurrected King who is coming again.

I have the Holy Spirit working within me, which empowers me to persevere through all trials and emboldens me to let all mankind know that Christ has come to free us from slavery and sin.

So, my desire is that you take hope in the Christmas story, in the child of peace who came to this earth.

And that you take hope in the Saviour who died for our sins and rose again.

Take hope that He is coming again and He knows your struggles and provides strength to continue upon this dusty road.

Into The Wilderness

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him,“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered,“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”
(Luke 4:1-13)

The Father had a call for Jesus’ life, the highest calling in the history of the world. Jesus Christ was sent with a mission. His temptation follows the event of His baptism, when Jesus was commissioned by God the Father to complete His call.

You will notice that Satan doesn’t enter the picture until Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit at His baptism. This is when Jesus was perceived as a threat. This is when Jesus’ earthly ministry was activated. The enemy knew that the Kingdom of heaven was being ushered in with the ministry of Jesus Christ. Satan saw God taking on flesh as an opportunity to move world history into his favour. If he could convince Jesus to act apart from the character of God; to act against His identity then the devil would get the upper hand.

The enemy’s strategy was the same strategy he has always used: lies and manipulation. The devil is the father of lies and he is as crafty as a snake. The enemy tried to subvert the call of Jesus by undermining who He was. Satan presented Jesus with offers that had the appearance of wisdom.

The devil used Scripture. The enemy loves to take the truth and twist it. He is unoriginal. He takes something true and pure and perverts it.

What is more pure then scripture itself? They are the very words of God. Satan took these words, turned them upside down, twisted them to his own meaning, and took them out of the context in which they were written. He took the words of God, perverted them, and presented them to the Son of God to tempt Him to act apart from His identity.

First Temptation

(Verse 3) The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

God is creator, sustainer, and provider. The devil tried to twist all of these aspects of Jesus character to sow seeds of selfishness and lustful pleasure.

Jesus came to serve, not to seek pleasure.

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Our society is saturated with self-seeking, with a “pleasure at all cost” lifestyle. This is the way of the world. This robs us of our identity.

(Verse 4) Jesus replied ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.”

Hunger is a true physical need. Jesus’ body needed to eat to keep functioning. God created our earthly bodies and He must be our sustenance. Jesus would talk again and again about bread in the Gospels, referring to Himself as “The Bread of Life.”

The wilderness in which Jesus walked those forty days was named “Jeshimmon” meaning “The devastation”. It was not covered with sand but rather with little bits of limestone which resembled loaves of bread: false bread!

Satan offers only a twisted, false version of reality. Jesus knew whatever the devil would suggest for nourishment would only bring a sour belly, and would suck the life out of Him, rather then bring any lasting nourishment.

The things of this world that bring pleasure and appear to fill, really don’t. Jesus Christ is the only thing that satisfies.

God created us as relational beings, to be drawn to Him, to be loved and to love. Selfishness and self-seeking is not loving to ourselves or to anyone else. We bloat ourselves on pleasure and dull our eyes to beauty and love. Look at the results of our addictions. Addiction to anything other than Christ isolates us from one another to the extent that we no longer can look at another person for who they are but for what we can get from them.

And what happens when our eyes are so full of greed and selfishness?

Luke 11:34 says, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness.” 

Selfishness and self-seeking literally destroy our vision. The world would say, “Take yours, take, take, take, to fill yourself up as much as possible.” However, when we give up on getting ours, and give our whole lives to Him, is when we truly live. When we give to Christ our desires, and serve Him as Master, is when we actually become who we are created to be and become completely filled.

Second Temptation

(Verses 5-7) “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

God is all powerful! He created the whole world and everything in it.

It says in Isaiah 66:1, “This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” 

God has complete dominion over the earth. Jesus was given all authority. Later on in His ministry He would control the raging storm and by a word cause a tree to wither.

Satan saw that Jesus had put on human flesh and so had free will to choose which path to take. The enemy saw the opportunity to use the power of choice, as he did in the Garden of Eden, to trip Jesus up.

Satan tried to take the gift of free will and choice to subvert Jesus’ power, to bring Him into submission to a false identity. He offered Christ all the kingdoms of the world. Earthly power, wealth, status and control are the ways that seem right to a man. Yet they are only illusions of true power and wealth.

(Verse 8) “Jesus answered,’It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Jesus knew the true worth of these things! The world thinks it knows power, however all kingdoms built apart from Christ, are empty and futile. All the endeavours and efforts of the world are useless.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 calls these, “all meaningless–like chasing the wind.”

The truth is that only what we do for Christ will last and in the end, all creation will come into complete submission to Him. For is it says in Romans 14:11, “’As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’”

We cannot afford to put anything above Jesus Christ in this life. We need to view all of life through the blood of Christ, allowing Him to tear down whatever kingdoms we have built apart from Him. This may be difficult and even painful, just as we pierce our flesh with needles to fight off deadly and crippling disease. We must let the Holy Spirit pierce our very souls, allowing Him to bring conviction that leads to repentance, which will lead to healing and new life in Him.

Third Temptation 

(Verses 9-11) “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

God is a God of purpose not a sideshow act. The devil is all about the smoke and mirrors, all he has are false illusions.

God does not do miracles to prove that He is God. He does them because He is the God of love who cares for His children! He does them because He has a purpose and calling for each person! When Christ impacts our lives with the miraculous, He is drawing out our God given identity. He is drawing His children back to Himself. He does not want people to test Him, rather He wants each person to come to faith and put their trust in Him.

(Verse 12) “Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

This interaction between Satan and Jesus is one of faith versus spectacle! Satan was attacking the very call Jesus had upon His life, which was to die for the sins of the world on the cross. The enemy wanted Jesus to make a spectacle of His power rather than submit Himself to ridicule and abuse. The enemy wanted Jesus to bring earthly glory to Himself, rather than submitting in faith to the will of the Father by dying on the cross for all mankind.

If Jesus were to jump, to merely showcase His power, He would act outside of His character. He would downplay the life He was to lead which was full of powerful miracles motivated by love. Christ would have undermined His death and resurrection, for His crucifixion was accomplished to take the sins of the world upon Himself, whereas flinging Himself off a building would be for the mere glorification of power; the showboating of the miraculous.

The Lord’s resurrection broke the power of sin and death and offered freedom for all. If Jesus would have commanded angels to save Him from death, then He would have acted outside of His purpose to die and rise again, acting as-if escaping death was something to simply marvel at when it was to be something much deeper.

The Life of a Christian Must be Rooted in Christ.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?”

The Spirit of Christ lives in us and with us. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in us. If the enemy attacked Jesus in this way he will attack us as well.

How do we use the power that Christ has given us?

As Jesus healed and did miracles, we are told through His Spirit do the same. For it says in Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!”

The miraculous is not given to us to puff us up, or point to how great we are. We cannot walk in the miraculous with our own interests in mind. We cannot disgrace the Gospel by turning the supernatural into a cheap sideshow act. We walk with the Spirit of Christ to impart the grace and love of Christ to all we meet!

We move in His healing and restoration, holistically to bring glory to Christ and lead all to deeper relationship with the Father.

Christ did not give the enemies advances any traction in His life, but rather rebuked the lies of the devil with truth. If we are to be in a wilderness, it better resemble Christ’s experience. Jesus didn’t allow the devil to have any power in His life. Rather, He represented the power that was given to Him by His Father. For at Jesus’ baptism the heavens were opened and Jesus was anointed and commissioned to fulfill His purpose on earth, to walk in power and authority, and to become a suffering servant for all mankind. At Jesus’ baptism the heavens were opened for Him; at His death and resurrection the heavens became open for us! 

So we have been given power and authority and told to walk as Jesus did as suffering servants for the glory of God and for His kingdom. Jesus overcame the enemy and retained all the power, glory and authority that was bestowed upon Him at His baptism. When we walk through the deserts, valleys and wilderness’ of our lives; when we feel temptation or oppression, we must take a hold of the truth and authority given to us by grace, through Jesus Christ and walk out of that wilderness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus went out into the wilderness and came back filled with Holy Ghost and power. That is the only wilderness we are allowed to be in. The one you leave with a sharper, crisper awareness of who God is, with the Holy Ghost and power.

Importance of Identity 

Satan could not distract, or derail Jesus in any way. Jesus knew who He was and His purpose. He was solid and unmovable and would not act apart from His identity.

We must be secure in who God created us to be as well. The devil wants to dismantle every good thing God created: he would love to dismantle us!

When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, when we are filled by the same power that propelled Jesus into ministry, the enemy will try his old tricks on us. He will come against us from every angle, just as he did with Jesus.

Oftentimes, when the Spirit comes upon us and we have these amazing spiritual experiences, when we feel filled to the brim with the indwelling Spirit, we then figure that we are at our strongest. However, those are often the times when the enemy will come against us at full force.

This is the danger of relying on feelings; the Bible never talks about relying on feelings but rather heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 1 reads that Jesus was, “Led by the Spirit into the Wilderness.” He did not seek another spiritual high, but rather followed the Spirit into the barren land.

To be filled with the Spirit and to have these intense times with God are necessary. In fact they are a requirement for service. Jesus said to John the Baptist before His baptism in Matthew 3:15, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”  So It was necessary for Jesus to be baptized, however it was just the beginning of His ministry, not the highlight of it.

Just as the Apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It was the beginning of their ministries as well. In both Jesus’ life and the lives of the Apostles, it was after this initial experience that the hardships and hard work came.

I know when I first came to Christ, I felt that after these spiritual highs that I should be on easy street, living this victorious life with no hardships. Living a victorious life is one lived through the hardships and trials while continuing to trust in Christ. At that time I felt I should be above temptation. No! according to Luke 4:1-13, Jesus was tempted after His baptism!

I hear many people, and for a long time I was among them, saying, “There must be something wrong with me. I still feel tempted!”

It is as if we think that we need to be delivered from all our past sins and issues again and again when a thought of our old life rears its ugly head or an old temptation pops up.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

Just because the old life comes up in our minds does not mean we give into it. The truth of our identity in Christ is that our old life is dead and covered by the blood of Christ. It holds nothing over us and is not part of who we really are. We are secure in the Father and we must place those things where they belong, in the past. Every thought of the old life is an opportunity to praise God for where He has brought us and where we are going.

Wouldn’t it be something, if instead of taking those old thoughts and dwelling upon them and living in guilt and condemnation of the past, we would instead shout, “Praise Jesus!” as soon as they enter our minds?

The enemy would love to have us live as we once were, rather than as who we are now in Christ!
As we grow more devoted to Christ, as we are molded into the men and women God created us to be, as we take on the identity that is ours through Christ Jesus, as we live as who Jesus says we are, not as the world says we should be. We become a deadly threat to the enemy and his plans to bring as many men and women with him into damnation.

He views us as he viewed Jesus in the wilderness, for we are made to be in and a part of Christ. So, when all of your past mistakes, sins, insecurities and short-comings rush back to you and you start to question who you are and your standing before God. Realize that they come because you are a threat to the enemy. Who you are, who you really are, is a child of God! Give to Christ your life and speak out against all the lies that come your way.

We see that Satan attacked the very character of God. He assaulted Christ with well-crafted lies to confuse Him about His identity and purpose. Jesus rebuked each one with truth. Today and everyday we need to literally speak out loud the truth when the enemy presents a lie about who we are.

If the enemy says, “You can’t serve God: you were once a drunk.”

You speak out, “I am filled with the Holy Spirit and am a child of righteousness.”

If the enemy says, “How can you tell people about Jesus: you’re a liar.”

You speak out, “Jesus Christ is the truth, and that Truth lives within me.”

If the enemy says, “You took from everyone and broke down every relationship you ever had, why would God use you?”

You speak out, “I am accepted and beloved by Christ; He formed me in my mother’s womb for a purpose.”

Do not let the enemy tell you who you are! He would love to take away what God has given you. You are Gods, who called you by name! Jesus loves you and has a purpose for your life!