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.”

The Greatest Story – Part 4: The Messiah

As the upstairs room was now available Rufus and Merry helped to move Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Mary was grateful that she had a proper bed to sleep in and the room was bright and sunny which lifted her spirits immediately. The exhaustion was still very present and Mary spent most of her time resting and found that the quietness meant that she was able to regularly nap. Mary did miss her woolly companions though and they had made a slight fuss as she had packed up her things, she had stroked their gentle faces and thanked them for their warmth and companionship. Between her naps and attending to Jesus Mary had lots of time to think and she found herself reflecting on this wonderful child that had been gifted to her.

The Magi’s reminder of the prophetic declarations had sunk deep into Mary’s heart and she had gradually been unpacking the other prophecy’s as they returned to her mind.

It was just as the prophet from old had foretold, Mary as a virgin had indeed conceived and given birth to her son Jesus. As she gazed upon His face she wondered if He really could be Immanuel, God dwelling with the lowly. (Isaiah 7:14)

As Jesus began to stir she wondered how the tiny bundle before her could possibly hold the promises that had been foretold. Could the government truly rest upon those currently feeble shoulders? Could Jesus possibly live up to the names of Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace? How was it possible for His government and peace to never end?

Mary smiled and picked Jesus up as she declared over Him that He would rule with fairness and justice from the throne of David for all of eternity. Mary kissed Jesus’ cheek as she held onto the promise that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies would make it happen. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Mary wondered if the angel who had visited her would one day visit her precious son.

As Mary attended to Jesus’ needs she wondered if He could possibly be the new shoot, the new branch that would bear the Spirit of the Lord. As she looked into His eyes she wondered if she could already see wisdom and great understanding buried within. She hugged Him closer as she prayed for the promised spirit of counsel and might and for the fear of the Lord to fill Him so that He could delight in obeying God. Mary reminded herself that she needed to teach Jesus to judge based on a person’s heart not their appearance and she prayed that Jesus would indeed seek justice for the poor and exploited.

As Jesus let out a small cry Mary laughed and wondered how such a small voice was to one day develop into a powerful voice that would make the earth shake. As Jesus continued to fuss Mary hugged him close and prayed that He would grow up to be strong enough to destroy the wicked.

Mary changed Jesus’ soiled cloths and wondered what a belt of righteousness would look like on Him and as she placed a clean cloth over his bottom she wondered what truth undergarments would be made out of. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

With Jesus fed and clean Mary carried Him over to the window to gaze at the world below, as people rushed here and there Mary wondered how Jesus could be a banner of salvation to the world. Apart from the few unusual visitors people seemed oblivious to His existence. How were the nations to rally around Him? How was this oppressed land to become a glorious place to live? (Isaiah 11:10)

As Jesus squirmed in Mary’s arms she wondered how He could be strengthened enough to carry the Spirit of God. As she gazed upon His small face she couldn’t understand how He could possibly bring justice to those who were wronged and to all the nations. As she felt Jesus’ heart beating next to her own she prayed that He would be strengthened to never falter or lose heart and indeed bring the promised justice to the entire world.

Mary’s eyes filled with tears as she thought of her baby boy leaving her for distant places but He was foretold to take His instructions and teachings to the furthest lands. (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Mary gently rocked Jesus to sleep and surrendered her precious child to God. She knew that she needed to completely trust God and clung to the assurance that her son would bring the message of salvation that the people so longed to hear. Her heart broke as she recalled the promise that He would be despised, rejected and scorned by men. Mary prayed that hearts would be open to hear His message.

Tears rolled down her face as she prayed against the promise of great sorrow, pain and grief. She kissed Jesus’ cheek as she wondered how He could possibly bear the world’s sorrow and pain. Mary held Jesus tighter as she prayed against the promise of being struck down, degraded, humiliated, wounded and crushed. Her heart felt heavy at the thought of Jesus being harmed in any way, as she looked at His perfect face she couldn’t contemplate it scrunched with pain.

Mary cried out to God to spare her from the pain of seeing Him snatched from her and prayed for Jesus to have a long fruitful life. She couldn’t comprehend how her small child could possibly bear the sins of many and intercede with God over the transgressions of men. (Isaiah 53:1-12)

As Mary watched Jesus sleep she stood at the window and allowed the warmth of the sun to take away the heaviness that was threatening to lodge in her heart. More tears flowed freely down her face as she spent more time unpacking the prophetic declarations. Mary wondered how it could be possible for Jesus to be the One to intervene for the oppressed? How could this small feeble child possibly step in and save many? Could He really force the enemies of Israel to pay for their evil deeds? Would those in the West truly respect the name of Jesus? How could those in the East glorify Him? As Mary stood gazing at her small child she wondered how He could be the great Redeemer.

There were so many mysteries foretold.

How would God’s spirit come to dwell with them and never leave them? Would it be a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night like when the Israelites were in the desert?

Mary grew up knowing that she would be required to pass God’s promises from her generation to the next, just as her parents had done with her, but the current dangerous times raged around them threatening their freedom. Would Joseph be able to pass on his wisdom to their son? Would she be able to freely share all the wonderful promises of God?

Mary wrestled with all her questions and turned to look at the clouds gathering in the sky above. As the rain clouds gathered Mary prayed for a refreshing to come to the land that she loved but more importantly for a refreshing to people’s hearts.

As the first rain drops fell she was reminded of the great prophet Isaiah, he had promised that the Lord would bring about a freedom where the lips of the faithful could tell the tales with no end. (Isaiah 59:16-21)

Mary smiled, a great courage entered her heart and she softly sung a song that her father had taught her about the coming Messiah:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favour has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel, take heart for you will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

In righteousness you will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.

Strength will be given to you to rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago.

The Lord will revive you even though you’ve been deserted for many generations.

Foreigners will be your servants, they will feed your flocks, plow your fields and tend your vineyards.

You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God.

You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches.

Instead of shame and dishonour, you will enjoy a double share of honour.

You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

For the Lord God loves justice and hates robbery and wrongdoing.

He will faithfully reward His people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be recognized and honoured among the nations.

Everyone will realize that they are indeed God’ beloved people when they see how much the Lord has blessed them.

Oh how my lips shout with praise, I’m overwhelmed with joy!

For the Lord my God has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am dressed and ready for the great wedding.

The Sovereign Lord will show His justice to the nations of the world.

Everyone will praise him!

His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, plants will be springing up everywhere.

(Isaiah 61:1-11)

With the smell of fresh rain filling the room, her song finished and Jesus sleeping soundly, Mary laid down to nap.

Jesus – God’s lamb, the One sent to take away the sins of the world! (See John 1:29)

Jesus Messiah – Chris Tomlin – YouTube video

Messiah -Francesca Battistelli – YouTube video

Messiah dance by Bezalel School – YouTube video