The Greatest Story – Chapter 16: Who Is Jesus?

A few days later, as Jesus prepared to leave, Mary lingered in the doorway “when will I see You again?” she softly asked. Jesus paused packing His things and turned to her “Mother, it is my time now. I must go forth as I’ve been sent to do.” Mary’s eyes filled with tears but she nodded and smiled, “I know Son, it’s just hard for a mother to let go.” Jesus embraced her and they spent some time chatting and praying.

Jesus eventually gathered His disciples and they made their way through the Judean countryside, soon the sun’s warmth forced them to rest and they made their way to the edge of the Jordan River. They found a sheltered spot to rest and it was here that Jesus started teaching people who sought Him out:

“Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Come! Draw near to God and He will draw near to you! Surrender your lives to God, take a stand against the devil. Run away from evil and into the loving arms of God. Turn from your own ways, acknowledge your sins and ask for forgiveness. Feel the weight and the pain of your sin, be sorrowful and weep! Let your minds acknowledge the feebleness of your own way, be humbled. Mourn for the wrongs you’ve committed, bow low before Yahweh and be exalted by His glory. Come back to God, for heaven’s kingdom realm is now made available and accessible to those who cry out for forgiveness. Come and be cleansed, receive a new heart and a new life!”

As the people listened and responded Jesus directed His disciples to baptise them. As the days progressed people travelled from near and far to hear Jesus’ message, receive healing and be baptised.

As the crowds grew John the Baptist’s disciples noticed the change and two of them left to investigate, they saw Jesus nearby and realized that many of John’s followers were now listening to Jesus. Returning they pulled John aside and told him of their findings, “Rabbi, your cousin Jesus is teaching and baptising people nearby, His followers grow while yours diminish. Aren’t you concerned?”

John laughed and declared: “remember when the Temple assistants sought me out and asked me: ‘who are you?’ I replied and declared that I wasn’t the Messiah.” John’s disciples nodded their heads and John continued: “they asked if I was Elijah or the Prophet that was expected and I explained to them that I am simply a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’ and when questioned over my authority to baptise I explained that I  baptise with water, but that the Promised One would baptise us with fire and great power.” John’s disciples nodded and one of the replied “yes we remember all of that and that you claimed not to be even worthy of untying His sandals.” (John 1:19-28). John nodded “that is right.” John’s disciples started to mumble and argue as their frustrations grew and one of them blurted out: “well the One you identified as the Messiah, is also baptising people. And everybody is going to Him instead of coming to us. What will happen to your ministry?” John laughed, “it is as it should be. All that we receive comes from the hand of God, I am merely fulfilling my role. I told you, and many others, that I’m not the Messiah so it should be of no surprise to you that another has come.”

John’s words did not alleviate the confusion, so he took a deep breath and continued: “I was here simply to prepare the way. I’m like a bridegroom’s friend who is simply happy to support his friend. As he stands by the bridegroom and listens to the vows exchanged a great joy floods his heart, he is happy that that his friend has found love and has a beautiful bride to now care for him. I take great delight and joy in my cousin’s success for I know that He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. I truly believe that Jesus has come from above and is far greater than anyone else. We are of the earth and therefore we speak of earthly things, but He has come from heaven and speaks of heavenly things. He testifies about what He has seen and heard, He speaks the truth. But how my heart breaks to see so few believe what He declares. His teachings are beyond what we’ve ever heard before but yet hard hearts still prevail. It is my prayer that His ministry grows and grows, that many will realise that what He says is true. For I know that He is sent to us by God. He speaks God’s words, for God has granted Him the Spirit without limit.”

John paused and then reflected “I was blessed to witness how much the Father loves His Son and to receive the insight that God has put everything into Jesus’ hands. I truly know that anyone who believes in God’s Son will receive eternal life and that those who don’t listen will remain under God’s angry judgment and never experience eternal life.” as that thought took root in John’s heart his eyes flooded with tears.

The sorrow gradually dissipated, and John looked deep into the eyes of those surrounding him “please” he implored them “do not fret or worry over my ministry but instead take heart and be of good cheer, for I’ve been obedient and now Jesus will take over.” (John 3:22-36)

John could still see the confusion, he took a deep breath and continued, “we’ve spent our days shrouded in darkness but now we can say that we see a brilliant Light! Though we may still be surrounded by dark shadows,  we can know that God’s Light is shining bright. Though we still live in the land of death we can declare: “The Dawning Light arises, we praise You God for we can see the brilliant Light!” (Inspired by Matthew‬ ‭4:16)

As the crowds that sought out Jesus swelled the Pharisees began to murmur and complain “who is this Jesus?” they questioned, “who does He think He is?”. Jesus’ disciples heard of their questioning and warned Jesus, upon hearing the news He knew that it was time to move on. Jesus and His disciples packed up and began to make their way to Galilee. (John 4:1-3)

 

Notes:

Jesus’ cry to the people has been inspired by Matthew‬ ‭4:17‬ and James (Jacob)‬ ‭4:7-10‬.

Did Jesus baptise? John 3:22 states that He did baptise but John 4:1-3 states that He did not personally baptise. These little details can leave me feeling confused but The Southern Cross article explains that “Whether Jesus took a hand in this preparatory baptismal routine or not, is immaterial.” The main thing is Jesus ministered to those in need and whatever form that took surely it doesn’t really matter?!

I know sin and repentance are tough words to grapple with. Sin is basically any wrong doing, this can be a lie or lustful thoughts or harboring anger or even committing a crime. No wrong doing is worse than the other, they are all seen as something we need to repent of. Which gets us to the second tricky word: repentance, this is simply acknowledging we made an error, asking for forgiveness (God’s and other people’s if necessary) and embracing God’s plan.

If you would like to study more, here are some links:

www.allaboutgod.com

www.allaboutgod.com

The Greatest Story – Chapter 15: Salt and Light

The wedding celebrations had lasted until the early morning, but Jesus and His disciples had left as soon as they could because they would be traveling to Capernaum with His family. It was here that Jesus tried to prepare His family for the time to come and in particular He felt a longing to explain to His mother all that would unfold. After much prayer He gathered His family and His disciples together and shared with them the words His Father had given Him:

“In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God, for the Word already existed. God created all things through the Messiah and for the Messiah, nothing was created without Him. The Word gave life to everything and everything was created to bring God glory. The light shines brightly in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:1-5)”.

Jesus paused and prayed for the right words as He allowed the truth to sink into their hearts. After moments of silence Jesus softly continued “Our ancestors walked away from God as they wandered through the wilderness, they constantly grumbled and complained. God heard their disgruntled protests and sent poisonous snakes among them. Many were bitten and died.” Jesus looked around at the solemn faces and continued: “When the people’s hearts were gripped with terror they cried out to Moses: ‘Forgive us! We have sinned against the Lord our God and against you, please speak to God for us and ask Him to remove the snakes.’ Moses did as the people asked and spoke to God, he was instructed to make a bronze replica of the snake and attach it to a pole. When people were bitten they could look upon the bronze snake, remember the Lord God and be healed! Just as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole for deliverance so must God lift up the Son of man and place Him on a cross.” (Number 21:4-9 & John 3:14-15) Mary gasped as fear gripped her heart, “what are you saying?”, Jesus grabbed her hand and said: “It must be done so that everyone who believes will receive eternal life.” Mary collapsed into Jesus’ arms sobbing as His family and disciples looked at Him with confusion and concern. Jesus’ heart felt heavy with the burden and He murmured: “You MUST always remember that the light shines brightly in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it”.

For the rest of the day Jesus’ family wandered around in a daze of confusion while Jesus took His disciples to the nearby hills to teach and encourage them. As they gathered on the highest hill, He sat with them and declared: “To this world, which is shrouded in darkness, you are the light. Just like a light on a hill cannot be hidden your light will shine for all to see. When it becomes dark inside our homes, we quickly light the lamp and place it on the table for all to gather around. We do not light the lamp and place it in a basket under the bed where it would be of no benefit, no we place it where all can see and gain benefit from its light. So will be the same for you, people will gather around your light and you must never hide it. Let your good deeds shine forth brightly for all to see, for your works will draw everyone to praise our heavenly Father.” Jesus looked around and made eye contact with each of His disciples before continuing: “you are the salt of the earth. Preserve well the words you hear from me and the works I reveal. Remember that salt is only useful if it still has its flavour, keep to my teachings. Do not become like salt without flavour, for it is quickly discarded. Food tastes best with the right amount of salt, too much and it is inedible but too less and the flavour is not changed at all.” Jesus spent time answering the many questions the disciples had and as the sun began to sink they made their way back to the others.

As darkness fell Nicodemus sought out Jesus, as a Pharisee he knew the laws and had awaited the Messiah with great anticipation. The reports that he heard about Jesus pointed to Him being the One they had waited for and Nicodemus was curious. As they sat and chatted Nicodemus asked: “Rabbi, I believe that God has sent You to teach us. I have seen the miracles You’ve performed and I know that God is with You. What is it that You want us to know?” Jesus looked intently into Nicodemus’ eyes and thought of the various things He longed to say and reveal, praying for wisdom He eventually replied: “I tell you the truth, unless you’re born again you cannot enter the Kingdom of God”. Nicodemus looked at Jesus confused “how is this possible? Even a small child cannot enter its mother’s womb to be born again.”. Jesus lovingly replied: “I assure you that no one can enter into My Father’s Kingdom without being born again through water and the Spirit. Humans reproduce human life but the Holy Spirit births spiritual life. That is why I say: ‘you MUST be born again’. Think of the wind that blows where it wishes, you can hear it but you can’t tell where it is coming from or going to, the same goes for the Spirit.”. The more Jesus talked the more confused Nicodemus became, “I really don’t understand, how is it possible?”. Jesus smiled kindly and replied: “Nicodemus you’re a respected and well-known teacher but yet you do not understand the deep meaning of the Scriptures. I assure you and most solemnly declare that I speak of eternal truths, I speak of things I’ve known, experienced and believe in. My testimony has no faults but yet you struggle to believe. If you do not believe Me when I speak of earthly things, then how can I possible reveal the heavenly realm to you?” Jesus paused and Nicodemus replied, “I want to understand, please be patient with me.” Jesus smiled and nodded, “No one has ever gone into the heavenly realm and returned but the Son of man has come down. God loves the world with an incomprehensible love, so much that He has gifted His one and only Son. All who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God has sent His Son not to judge and condemn the world but to save it. Those who believe in God’s beloved Son will no longer live under condemnation and the Light of the world will flood them with life and hope.” Jesus sat back and watched as Nicodemus tried to process all that he had heard. They chatted late into the night with Jesus patiently unpacking all that He had revealed. (John 3:1-21)

Notes:

To find out more about Capernaum visit Bible Walks.

Thank you for your patience. I received some great insights as I spent time in the mountains. I will use the timeline obtained from the Bible History website as a guide but I also feel prompted to try and collate chapters into themes, therefore my chapters may not seem to unfold with great historical accuracy but I pray that the story will still greatly impact your heart. Thanks for sharing this journey with me!

Many blessings, Keona

 

The Greatest Story – Part 13: The First Disciples

When Jesus was rested He returned to Galilee and regularly taught at the synagogues where He was praised by everyone, reports about Him soon spread around the entire region. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore taught with great authority and wisdom. One Sabbath Jesus was asked to read at the synagogue in His home town Nazareth, the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. Jesus unrolled it and read:

‘The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News. I bring hope to the poor; comfort for the brokenhearted; new eyes for the blind; I proclaim liberty for the captives; and freedom for the oppressed. I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great favour had come!’ (Luke 4:18-19 paraphrased)

Jesus rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant, He could feel everyone’s eyes looking at Him intently. He took a deep breath and declared:

‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’

The crowds murmured: ‘but isn’t this Joseph’s son? How can it be?’. Jesus looked at them sadly ‘why do you disregard a prophet in His hometown? Why do you doubt and squabble so? Elijah battled with this same disgruntled unbelief, he was sent to a widow of Zarephath and healed a Syrian leper. Foreigners welcomed and embraced him and he in return brought food and healing to their lives.’

The crowds became furious, jumping to their feet they raced forward and grabbed Jesus roughly. At the edge of town they dragged Him towards the cliff, determined to push Him off, but confusion hit them and Jesus passed right by them and safely escaped.

With a heavy heart Jesus made His way to Capernaum where He began teaching in the synagogue every Sabbath. People were amazed and greatly impacted by His teaching and the word soon spread. One day as Jesus was teaching a man began yelling out: ‘Go away! Why are you here? I know You’re the Holy One sent by God, have You come to destroy us?’. The man fell to the floor and Jesus walked over to the man ‘Be quiet!’ He yelled, ‘Leave this man alone, come out of him right now!’. The man’s writhing stopped and immediately he stood up looking slightly dazed. Jesus smiled, blessed him and sent him on his way. The crowd watching were amazed and began speaking to each other ‘who is this man? He speaks with such power and authority, look even the demons obey Him!’.

Jesus pushed through the crowds and made His way to Simon’s home. He was greeted at the door by a servant who was weeping ‘please help, the lady of the house is very ill.’ Simon heard the voices and made his way to the front door ‘Jesus! Welcome, please come in.’ As Jesus made His way through the home He could feel the grief and tension hanging over everybody’s hearts, He turned to Simon ‘Is you mother sick?’, Simon hung his head and nodded, ‘can you show me where she is please?’ Simon looked up with surprise and led Jesus to her room. Jesus walked in and saw another servant trying to bring the high fever down, Simon’s mother writhed in pain and mumbled incoherent words. Jesus made His way to her bed and rebuked the fever. Immediately Simon’s mother opened her eyes and smiled, Jesus helped her to rise up as Simon and the servant stood with astonished looks upon their faces. Simon’s mother embraced Jesus ‘thank you! Now let me get changed and I’ll make you a meal.’ Jesus and Simon left the room and soon enjoyed a delicious meal which included lots of laughter as joy filled the hearts of all in the home.

That evening people throughout the entire village brought their sick to Jesus, no matter how severe the illness was Jesus was able to heal them all. He didn’t allow the demon possessed to speak instead He delivered them immediately. The people were amazed by the power and authority that Jesus wielded. There was much rejoicing as the people were ecstatic to see such dramatic transformations take place.

The news spread like a raging wildfire throughout the entire region and soon people began to search for Jesus. Early one morning, as Jesus was alone praying, the crowds found Him and begged Him to stay with them. Jesus replied: ‘but I must go and preach the Good News to many more towns, that is why I was sent.’ The people did not understand and begged Him to stay but Jesus left and travelled throughout Judea.

A little while later, as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd gathered to listen to His message. As the crowds grew Jesus saw two empty boats and approached the owner, Simon, ‘can I please teach from your boat?’ Jesus asked and Simon readily agreed. They pushed Jesus out so that all the people could see and hear Him.

Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, calling out to them : ‘Repent, seek eagerly after God’s purpose for your life and believe in the Good News. Trust deeply the glorious message, believe that God loves you and longs to grant you salvation.’ (see Mark 1:15)

As the day drew to a close, and the crowd disbursed, Jesus turned to Simon ‘Please take me out to the deep and drop your nets to catch come fish.’ Simon looked at Jesus wearily ‘Master we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a single fish.’ He hung his head and continued ‘but because You’ve asked me, I will do it.’.

Jesus smiled and watched with delight as Simon wearily went about his tasks and issued orders to the others. When they were deep enough the nets were let down. To Simon’s great surprise and delight the nets began to fill immediately and they shouted for help from the nearby boat. Quickly both boats were filled to the brim with fish and were even on the verge of sinking because of the vast quantity. As Simon gazed upon the vast quantity of fish a reverence fell upon his heart, kneeling before Jesus he cried out: ‘Oh Lord, please leave me for I’m too great a sinner for You to be around!’. Jesus pulled Simon up and replied: ‘don’t be afraid, I’ll make you a fisher of men.’. When the boats made it to shore Jesus called out to the men: ‘come, follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.’ Immediately Simon, James and John (the sons of Zebedee) left everything behind and followed Jesus.

Jesus cries out still today: ‘Come follow Me. I will transform you into servants who capture people for the glory of God. I’ll teach you how to turn their hearts back to the One who loves them and longs to care for them. Just come and follow Me!’

Notes:

This story can be found in the Bible: Luke 4, Luke 5, Mark 1:16-19 and Matthew 4:18-22.

The Greatest Story – Part 9: Home

Mary sat down and let the tears fall. She watched as Jesus slept and wondered if she should join him. The tiredness felt heavy today, she tried to pray but failed to find the words. For over 3 years she’d tried to settle into the unfamiliar place, to learn a new language and accept the weird smells around her but today it was all too much. Mary wept for her homeland and her family. The nausea from the past few days lingered and Mary wondered why. Giving into her feelings of desperation Mary laid down next to Jesus and prayed for sleep to come, maybe the world wouldn’t feel so big and overwhelming with a clear head.

Joseph came home early sensing that today Mary would be struggling, it was her Mother’s birthday and Joseph knew that Mary’s mind would be drawn to the fact that she was missing out on another family celebration. There had been many tears that they had missed celebrating Jesus’ 3rd birthday with family and friends, they had held a tiny celebration, but it had held an undercurrent of much sorrow.
Joseph saw Jesus stir and smiled, he raced over and picked him up. Jesus’ excited squeals woke Mary and Joseph apologised ‘so sorry for waking you’

Mary struggled to rise ‘oh Joseph sorry I wasn’t feeling well’

‘that’s ok, why don’t you keep resting and I’ll take Jesus for a quick walk before dinner. There are some new camels to look at and you know how much He adores the strange beautiful creatures.’
Mary smiled ‘I’m sure He’d love to do anything with you but He’d be especially excited about camels.’
Joseph kisses Mary’s forehead as she laid back down ‘you look very pale, are you still nauseous?’
Mary closed her eyes and nodded as fresh tears started to flow.

Joseph bent down and hugged her as she cried, Jesus rushed in and nuzzled into Mary’s neck causing her heart to lift. She smiled and said ‘now you boys go have some fun.’

Joseph gave her a big squeeze and smiled ‘we won’t be long, you sure you’re ok?’

Mary nodded and tried not to sob ‘I’m ok, now go.’

Joseph took a moment to closely examine Mary’s face and then smiled and nodded ‘back soon’

‘Ok’ Mary kissed Jesus’ cheek and smiled as He ran after Joseph.

Mary laid back down as her stomach churned, she did feel a bit better but the nausea lingered, it just didn’t make sense or did it? Mary hadn’t experienced sickness with Jesus but she’d heard many other women did feel sick when first pregnant, could that be what was wrong? It would explain why she was feeling so emotional, Mary remembered that Elizabeth had been extremely tired for the first few weeks of her pregnancy and nauseated all day. Mary sat up. She wasn’t sure if she should be excited or terrified. She cried out ‘God thank You for this gift of new life. I’m terrified though. I long to be with family and friends who can support me through this. How can I possibly cope with 2 young children on my own?’ Fresh tears fell as Mary thought of her family, the nausea increased as her homesick heart cried out to God. Somewhere in her praying and crying Mary must have fallen into an exhausted sleep because she awoke to Joseph and Jesus making dinner. Mary rolled over and tried not to breathe in the smell of the fish they cooked over the simmering coals. Joseph saw her stir and rushed over, ‘you ok?’. Mary sat up and nodded ‘yes but I might be pregnant’ Joseph smiled, ‘well that’s exciting news!’ Mary sobbed ‘oh how I wish we could go home’ Joseph hugged her ‘I know’.  Mary clung to Joseph and cried. Jesus crawled into her lap and wiped her tears with his fingers ‘Eema’ Mary smiled, how she cherished the title of mother and how fortunate that another little mouth will soon utter those words. She hugged her boys and got up ‘let me help with dinner’.
After dinner Mary felt better and enjoyed listening to Joseph tell the story of David defeating Goliath, it was Jesus’ favourite and often requested after dinner story. Mary smiled as she watched her boys laugh and try to recreate the scenes. She wondered what the new child inside her would look like and stroked her stomach.

As Joseph and Mary laid down that night to sleep a sense of peace fell upon them both and they fell into a deep sleep. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Get up! Take Mary and Jesus with you back to the land of Israel for those who were trying to kill the child have died.’ (Matthew 2:19-20).

Joseph awoke with a start and saw that the sun was just starting to rise. He quickly arose and prayed ‘Oh Lord how I praise You and thank You for this momentous day. How truly wonderful it will be to see the faces of our loved ones again, how wonderful it will be to see the rolling hills I love so much, how truly astounding it will be for Jesus to grow up among those who will love and protect Him.’. Joseph spent more time praising God as he waited for Mary and Jesus to awake, he could barely contain his excitement and knew that Mary would share his great joy. Mary must have sensed his need to talk to her for she awoke and looked into his eyes ‘is everything ok?’ she quickly sat up ‘oh Mary it is a wonderful day! An angel visited me last night and said we can return home, oh did you hear me Mary we’re going home!’ Mary quickly jumped up and hugged him tightly with tears of joy streaming down her face ‘Oh Joseph that is such wonderful news! When are we leaving?’

Joseph laughed, ‘Well as soon as we can get organised.’

Mary replied: ‘breakfast first and then we pack.’ Mary and Joseph quickly set to the tasks of the day and Jesus soon joined in the joyful mood and toddled around their feet with squeals of delight. Joseph went and made enquiries with the local merchants about the next caravan leaving for Israel. The merchants were helpful and quick to advise Joseph as he had always provided quality products and shown great integrity. Joseph smiled when he heard the news that a caravan was planning to leave in 2 days, how perfectly timed that would be. The next days flew by in a frantic excited rush and before they knew it Joseph, Mary and Jesus were on their way home. The excitement helped them persevere when the days were long and hard. Thankfully Mary’s sickness had abated as soon as they left the outskirts of town and she was able to enjoy the scenery as it passed by.

The days had taken their toll but finally they were on the outskirts of Judea, tomorrow they would be there but for tonight they simply had to rest. As Joseph fell into a deep sleep an angel of the Lord appeared to him again ‘Joseph do not go to Judea for Archelaus rules.’ (Matthew 2:22).

He awoke with his heart racing, Mary sensed his alert and quickly sat up ‘what is it?’

Joseph took a deep breath: ‘I had another dream, we cannot go into Judea for Archelaus rules.’ Mary’s heart froze at the mention of that name, she had heard that Herod’s son was even more vile and cruel than he had been. They discussed options as the sun rose. Joseph thanked the caravan leader and explained that they would visit family close by, waving them off and wishing them a safe journey. It wasn’t a complete lie as they could visit a cousin or two nearby and then Joseph felt they could make their way to Nazareth.

 

“So he settled his family in the village of Nazareth, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be known as the “Branch.” (or Nazarene).” Matthew 2:23 The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Greatest Story – Part 8: Escape

Mary awoke suddenly from her dream, she reached over to where Jesus was with her heart pounding. She held her breath as she leaned over and then gave a huge sigh of relief, He was ok. She looked around the room and outside the window, all was quiet.

As her breath steadied Mary wondered what the awful dream was about? Why was her heart racing? She grabbed her shawl and sat staring at Jesus. Mary allowed the horrible images to fill her mind and the terrifying sounds to fill her ears. She recalled watching mothers have their sons ripped from their arms and slaughtered. She had heard the screams of grief as if the horrific events were happening right there in the room. What did the awful dream mean? Was it a warning? She had heard rumours that the merciless King Herod was out to destroy her precious child. Was there truth to those words? Was the terrifying dream based on the history that had transpired in the time of Moses, or was it a premonition of events to unfold. Mary took a few deep breaths, surely Herod’s insanity wouldn’t extend to those levels? If so how could Joseph protect them? What could they do?
Mary decided the best action was to pray, she reached a hand out towards Joseph and the other towards Jesus. She prayed for protection and for the cloud of fear to lift. She reminded God that He alone had given her this precious child to love, guard and watch grow. She cried out and desperately pleaded for God to send His mighty angels to protect them. She cried out for wisdom and direction knowing that they needed to keep Jesus safe at all cost!

As she prayed it felt as if the whole room was shrouded in fear, Mary softly sang one of her favourite psalms that David had written when Saul had set an ambush for him:

Oh my mighty God, protect me! Keep me safe from all my enemies, for they’re coming to kill me. Put me in a high place out of their reach, lift me up to a place so high that these assassins will never find me. Save me from these murdering men, these bloodthirsty killers. See how they set an ambush for my life. They’re fierce men ready to launch their attack against me.

O Lord I’m innocent, please protect me! I’ve done nothing to deserve this, yet they are already plotting together to kill me. Arise, Lord, see what they’re scheming and come and meet with me. Awaken, O God of Israel! Commander of Angel Armies, arise to punish these treacherous people who oppose you! Don’t go soft on these hardcase killers!

Lord, I pause in Your Presence.

Please act for in the dark they came to spy, sneaking around the city; I hear them snarling, prowling like a pack of stray dogs in the night; see how they boil over with rage, shouting out their curses, convinced that they’ll never get caught.

But I know You Lord and I hear You break out laughing at their plans, amused by their arrogance, scoffing at their sinful ways.

Praise You Lord, for my strength is found when I wait upon you.

Watch over me, God, for You’re my mountain fortress; You set me on high!

The God of passionate love will meet with me; my God will empower me to rise in triumph over my foes. Lord I beg, don’t just kill them but stagger them all with a vivid display of power. I long to see them scattered by Your armies of angels, O mighty God, our protector! Use Your awesome power to make them wanderers and vagabonds and then bring them down. They are nothing but proud, cursing liars; they sin in every word they speak, boasting in their blasphemies!

Pour out Your wrath and destroy them; finish them off! Make an end of them and their deeds until they are no more! Let them all know and learn that God is the ruler over Jacob, the God-King over all the earth!

Lord, I pause in Your Presence.

Hear my cry, for here they come again. I can hear them prowling, growling like a pack of stray dogs in the city. I hear them drifting, devouring, and coming in for the kill, they refuse to sleep until they’ve eaten their fill.

But as for me, Lord Your strength shall be my song of joy. At each and every sunrise You’ll hear my lyrics raising to Your ear. I will sing forevermore of You great love until it completely fills the air!

Oh how wonderful You are, glory-fortress, such a sweet stronghold in my day of distress.

O my Lord of Strength, I sing with joy Your praises.

O my mighty Stronghold, I sing with joy Your song!

O my powerful Saviour, I sing with joy the lyrics of Your faithful love for me!

(Psalms 59:1-17 TPT paraphrased)

Mary must have fallen asleep somewhere in her desperate prayers for although it was still dark Joseph was gently shaking her.

‘Mary, wake up. We must leave right now.’

Mary’s heart leapt with terror, ‘Is it happening? Are children being slaughtered? Are we in danger?’

Joseph looked at her with confusion, ‘I’m not sure what you think is happening but I’ve been told that we need to go. Did you see the angel also?’

‘No, I just had a vivid horrible dream that children were being killed. Oh Joseph it was awful.’

‘We can talk more on the way. We need to leave RIGHT NOW. Even before the sun rises.’

Mary quickly got up and started packing and dressing. ‘If you can load the donkey and leave room for me, I can attend to Jesus on the way out of town. If He’s feeding He will stay quiet.’

Joseph nodded and quickly packed up their things. With all the wonderful new gifts they had received they would need 2 donkeys now, Joseph counted out money for a second donkey and quickly scrawled out a note of thanks. Mary was sad that she could not properly thank Rufus and Merry but understood Joseph’s haste. They packed quickly and quietly as Jesus slept soundly seemingly unaware of the frantic activity happening all around Him.

When Mary was ready to grab Jesus and go, Joseph gave her a quick hug and guided her out the door.

Joseph quickly loaded the donkeys and they found themselves on the very outskirts of town just as dawn broke. Seeing a sheltered place to stop and recheck everything, Joseph guided the donkeys towards the shelter. Mary was grateful for the break and placed Jesus down on her shawl to give her arms and shoulders a much needed rest. She hadn’t realized how tensely she had been sitting.
Joseph took a few moments to gather a small breakfast for them and they ate in silence. The only sound was the birds welcoming in the sun and Jesus’ contented cooing. Mary decided she had better find out what the plan was, ‘so where are we going? Do you know?’.

‘Not exactly. All the angel said was to head to Egypt because King Herod was going to search for Jesus and kill Him.’

Mary gasped. Maybe her dream had been a prophetic warning? ‘Oh Joseph, this really wasn’t the life we had dreamt about was it?’

Joseph smiled ‘no, but God has chosen us to do this and I’m sure He will help us. I think I can find work there. I’ve heard about one particular town that would be remote but large enough for me to find work. I think we will go there first.’

‘Sounds good. We should get moving.’

Joseph quickly watered the donkeys while Mary bundled Jesus back up. They set off towards Egypt trying to process the reality of parenting the Messiah.

“Out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1 

picture created using a Pixabay image

The Greatest Story – Part 7: The Temple

Mary awoke before the sun with a great excitement in her chest. While Joseph and Jesus slept she sat looking out over the landscape and prayed. Would there be great rejoicing that the Saviour has come? Would people even recognize Jesus as such? Would there be great fanfare? As Mary sat and contemplated all that could unfold, she prayed for people’s hearts to be open to receive. As the sun rose Jesus stirred and Mary attended to His needs and prepared Him for the momentous day.

With all of their bellies full Joseph, Mary and Jesus made their way to the temple. As they made their way to the temple Joseph prayed, he knew the laws so well and wanted to show his deep gratitude to God for blessing him with such an incredible gift. God had commanded Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised (Genesis 17: 9-14) and that small ceremony had been carried out when Jesus was just 8 days old. However, today marked the 40th day since Jesus’ arrival and they were fulfilling another command, the purification offering. Joseph prayed that he could find a pair of turtledove or pigeons that would be fitting to offer.

As they approached the temple Joseph felt intimidated by the size and craftsmanship on display. His trained eye could detect how painstakingly intricate the features were and he could see how much love and care had been poured into the building before him. As they made their way through the hustle and bustle Joseph did his best to protect Mary and Jesus from the crowd.

Simeon’s eyes were immediately drawn to the trio, he gasped as the gentle whisper confirmed that this was the One he had been waiting for. Simeon tried to run but his weary legs caused him to stumble, he prayed for strength and pushed through the crowd towards Joseph, Mary and Jesus. As he got closer his spirit lifted within him and tears flowed freely down his face. Finally, he stumbled up to Joseph, bowed slightly and took a few deep breaths: “Oh what a glorious day! I was promised by Yahweh that I would witness the long-awaited arrival of the Messiah!” Joseph and Mary exchanged a smile and listened with tears now flowing down their cheeks. Simeon reached out for Jesus and Mary handed him over with a smile, Simeon’s cheeks shone with his tears but there was a spark in his eyes as he praised God: “Oh Sovereign Lord how good You’ve been to me, I can now leave this world in peace for I’ve seen the promise come to pass! I hold Your great salvation in my arms, I gaze into His beautiful face and my heart rejoices. He is the great Light that will reveal God to the nations, He will reveal that which was once hidden and unknown. Oh He is the One to bring praise, honour and glory to God’s people.” (Luke 2:29-32). A small crowd gathered around and listened as Joseph and Mary stood with amazement and awe filling their hearts. As Simeon handed Jesus back to Mary he blessed them all but then paused and looked deeply into Mary’s eyes “please listen carefully” and he lowered his voice so that only Mary and Joseph could hear “this child is destined and appointed to cause many in Israel to fall but also many to arise. He will reveal the deepest thoughts of many hearts, bringing light to the good and bad that dwells within.” Simeon’s eyes filled with grief as he continued “a sword of deep and great sorrow will pierce through your very soul” (Luke 2:34-35). Mary gasped and turned to Joseph with concern in her eyes, a deep fear gripped her heart. Joseph tried to smile and reassure Mary but a troubled spirit rose within him as well. Mary looked down at Jesus with tears in her eyes,  the words “a great sorrow” rung in her ears, what had he meant. Mary prayed for strength “Lord please prepare us for what will come.”.

Mary felt a hand upon her arm and looked into the eyes of Anna, Mary smiled and noticed that Ann’s gaze was firmly fixed upon Jesus as she began singing:

“Long awaited precious promise
Son of God and son of man
Heaven’s glory in a manger
Has come to us in Bethlehem

Messiah
Messiah
A baby born to save us all
Messiah
Messiah
On our knees we fall

All we longed for, all we needed
Shining in this child’s eyes
Hope forever, death defeated
Because of this one holy night

Messiah
Messiah
A baby born to save us all
Messiah
Messiah
On our knees we fall

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the Lord

Long awaited precious promise
Coming back again

Messiah
Messiah
A baby born to save us all
Messiah
Messiah
On our knees we fall
On our knees we fall”

(Lyrics of “Messiah” written by Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly Reed)

When her song had finished Mary handed Jesus to Anna and watched as she showed him around the crowd with great pride, as if He was her own precious child. Mary sat and chatted with Anna while Joseph took Jesus and the birds further into the temple for the ceremony. Mary’s heart broke as Anna shared her story, Anna had been married for only 7 years before her husband suddenly passed away, since that day she had stayed in the Temple worshipping God night and day. Mary marvelled at this woman’s devotion to God, she could see by the lines on her beautiful face that it had been decades, Mary prayed that she would also become an example to other women. When Joseph and Jesus returned Mary thanked Anna for her beautiful song and they made their way back through the crowds.

Notes:

The painful process: The last 2 parts (6 & 7) have been excruciatingly difficult, but this week in particular. There has been ALOT going on physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I’m needing divine assistance like never before!

I sense that there is so much I could research and write about but I have such limited time and ability. I also don’t want to get so bogged down in research that I have no energy to write.
Arghhh! As frustrations and tiredness mounted tonight (Thursday) I considered not publishing because it was simply too hard. But I really wanted to try so I put on my worship music and set time aside to write with the aim to proof read in the morning and publish 1 day late.

Praise God, here it is!

I love the way that the process is described here:

“Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.”  Walter Benjamin, One Way Street And Other Writings

Quote discovered at goodreads

Messiah YouTube video

Pixabay image link

The Greatest Story – Part 5: The Promised One

As Mary slept she dreamt of a man with clothing stained red marching with great strength. As the man marched closer to Mary she heard Him declaring: “It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation! It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!”

Mary ran after Him and heard Him continue: “The time has come I will avenge My people, I alone will ransom them from their oppressors. I come to tell the world of God’s unfailing love. I will praise my Lord God for all He has done. I will rejoice in His great goodness to Israel, for He extends mercy and love. God has sent me to His people for He longs to become their Saviour. He has seen their great suffering and He personally rescues them. His great love and mercy is here to rescue and redeem them. He has lifted them and carried them.”

In her dream the man had led Mary to the Red Sea “people need to remember the days when Moses led the people out of Egypt. When the people doubted and feared for their lives the sea was parted and they walked across on dry land. As soon as they were safe on the other side the seas swallowed up their enemy. Let the people disown their stubborn rebellious hearts!” (Isaiah 63). Mary’s heart filled with grief and her eyes wept as she listened.

Then Mary was in a great throne room and she could see a giant golden throne, as her eyes tried to process all that she was seeing the man declared: “The Lord God Almighty will raise up a righteous descendant from the line of King David. This man will be a great King who rules with great wisdom doing what is just and right throughout the land. His reign will never end. His name will be the Lord is Our Righteousness.’ The man turned to Mary and continued ‘Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6, Jeremiah 33:15-17)

Mary tried to grasp all that the dream was revealing to her and she struggled to wake so that she could share this wonderful revelation to Joseph. She awoke tangled in the bedding, sweaty and with her heart pounding. As if he had known her heart Joseph arrived in her room just moments after she had woken. Mary took a few steadying breaths and quickly relayed the wonderful messages from her dream. Joseph sat with a stunned look on his face. Eventually Joseph found his voice and said: “I don’t know why but I’ve been reflecting a lot on what Daniel wrote long ago” Mary nodded “I know I have been reflecting on many of the promises of old as well.”.

“The thing that puzzles me is that Daniel wrote that the Messiah would come with the clouds of heaven, with great authority, honour and sovereignty over all the nations. It even states that every race and nation would obey His eternal rule because His kingdom will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus’ arrival was far from spectacular.” Mary smiled “yes I know, hidden in a stable rather than arriving on clouds. Revealed to those considered of lowly stature, the shepherds, who worshipped Him with such adoration.” Mary smiled at the memory of seeing the shepherds eyes filled with wonder and their excited chatter that had filled her heart with joy.

They both sat in silence for a few moments before Joseph continued: “But Jesus was also revealed to those considered wise and knowledgeable, the Magi’s confirmed Micah’s prediction of Him being born in Bethlehem but there are still many Israelites scattered and they have not returned yet from exile so the undisturbed peace still seems far off! How can our small child possibly contain all of that which is promised?” (Micah 5:2-5)

Mary nodded still trying to process her own thoughts.

“I mean we both think that we have seen the coming of the great prophet who was predicted to rise up just before the Messiah. Elizabeth’s son, John, is believed to be that prophet but he is still a child himself, how can he possibly prepare the way? Can our son really be the Promised One who will be like a blazing fire that refines metal or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes? How is any of this possible?” (Malachi 3:1-2)

After many moments of silence, where both Mary and Joseph were lost in their thoughts, Jesus stirred. Mary spent time attending to His needs and then Merry announced that dinner was ready. Joseph and Mary, carrying Jesus, made their way downstairs.

Marry rushed to grab Jesus and allowed Mary to eat while she fussed over Him. Mary smiled and sighed, how wonderful it was now that it was just the 5 of them. With both Mary and Joseph wrestling with some big questions Rufus and Merry delighted in helping them to unpack all the thoughts racing through their minds. With Jesus being the only child in the home he was doted on by all of the adults and Mary appreciated greatly the help and extra hands.

After their lovely meal Mary spent time unpacking the revelation that Jesus could be the Promised One. As the hours ticked away scriptures were recited and passionately discussed before Mary’s weary body demanded sleep. Thanking everyone for their insight and encouragement Mary carried Jesus up the bedroom where she prayed for a deep sleep.

 

The Promised One – Jesus.

God’s extravagant love gift

to the world. 

(John 3:16)

 

“For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.” John 3:16 The Passion Translation

 

Sara Strong “It’s very significant that the shepherds were the first to be told by the angels that a baby had been born who was the Messiah who would save Israel and all the world, and the first to visit the baby Jesus lying in a manger. At that time, shepherds were the lowest in the social hierarchy; they were despised because they lived out in the fields with their sheep and didn’t fulfil the requirements of the Jewish law.  So God chose the least and the lowest to see the glory of the angels announcing the Messiah’s birth, the baby born in a stable, the most humble place, because there wasn’t room for him in an inn. So God’s Son, sent to share our humanity and to die for our sins, came to a mother and father not endowed with any wealth, in the humblest of circumstances.”