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Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

Turning_Water_Into_Wine_by_phantasiegestoert

Trouble was brewing at the wedding. A very embarrassing and humiliating situation was about to shatter the joyful celebration of the bride and groom and their families. And since the wedding arrangements were the responsibility of the groom’s family, it could result in the bride’s family suing the groom and his family.

The cause? A sacred hospitality duty was about to be broken by the groom’s family—they had just run out of a crucial item in the nuptial celebration—wine! (John 2:1-12)

Before the wedding guests could become aware of the wine shortage, Jesus’ mother, Mary, told him about the problem. The Gospel of John tells us that she, Jesus, and five of his disciples were guests at the wedding—which raises the question as to how or why she knew about the problem.

New Testament commentator William Barclay points out that one of the Coptic gospels from Egypt states that Mary was a sister of the groom’s mother, and that other early sources identify the groom as the disciple John, whose mother was Salome, the sister of Mary. Such family ties and threat to the family’s reputation would undoubtedly give Mary reason to seek the help of Jesus in solving the problem.

Jesus’ response to his mother, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come,” though seemingly rude to our modern ear, is not necessarily so. It was more a way of distancing himself from Mary as her son (Mt. 12:48; Mark 3:33), for he was about to embark on his journey towards the “hour” of his death, resurrection, and ascension as the Messiah.

Not put off by his reply, Mary told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” She most likely did not have any idea what he would do or how he would solve the problem, but she was confident that he would.

And so he did—quietly and miraculously, turning nearly 180 gallons of water into such exquisite tasting wine that the master of ceremony, not knowing where it had come from, gushed to the bridegroom, “You have kept the best wine until now!”

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This miracle at the wedding in Cana speaks to us in several ways:

  • Jesus’ presence in the midst of the wedding festivity reminds us that he wants to share in our happy occasions; he was not a killjoy or sourpuss, and neither should we be. We should always celebrate life in a way that reflects his joyful presence.
  • Mary’s willingness to bring her problem to Jesus without knowing how he would solve it reminds us that we, too, should come boldly and confidently to him in prayer, yet without any preconceived notion as to how he will answer our prayers.
  • The enormous amount of wine is more than could be drunk at a wedding, and must be seen, not simply as a miracle of water being turned to wine, but as Jesus’ superabundant, extravagant, inexhaustible grace that meets our deepest needs and transforms our lives—“for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John. 1:16, ESV).
  • This grace must also be seen in the context of verse 11 that tells us that this miracle was the first sign of his coming glory, a term that John uses in reference to the life and ministry of Jesus (John. 1:14; 11:4; 17:22, 24), and to his death, resurrection, and ascension (John. 13:31, 32; 17:5) in order that he might save all who believe in him.

As with his transformation of water into wine, so can his superabundant, extravagant, inexhaustible grace transform each of us from perishing to saved, from sinner to saint, from ordinary to extraordinary, from pedestrian to remarkable, from uninspired to inspired and inspiring!

The question that we each must answer for ourselves, whether believer or unbeliever, is:

Will I allow Jesus to continue his transforming work of grace . . . in me?”

*****

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As we prepare to celebrate Christmas amid the rampant commercialism, hectic shopping, decorating, wrapping, cooking, and frayed nerves, may we pause to reflect on the significance of John. 1:14 to our celebration.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14, NRSV

Here in this text, the Apostle John distils the entire message of the Bible and declares that the Word—the eternal God who existed before time and history, who spoke into existence the universe and all living things—became flesh and appeared among us as a human baby! The invisible, infinite, supernatural Creator became the visible, finite, flesh-and-blood Jesus of Nazareth! In one sentence, John covers the 33-year life span of Jesus and reminds us that we actually saw the glory of God in Jesus.

Just as the Shechinah—the glory and presence of God—appeared among the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex. 16:10; 24:16; 40:34), so was God’s glory revealed in Jesus at his birth (Lk. 2:14, 30-32), transfiguration (Mt. 17:2; Mk. 9:3), death, resurrection, and ascension (Jn. 7:39; 12:16, 23, 28; 13:31,32).

The glory seen in Jesus came from the unique Father-Son relationship that he had with God before the universe was created (Jn. 17:5), and permeated his earthly life and ministry. We not only saw the glory of God in Jesus, but also the fullness of God’s grace—the limitless mercy, kindness, and love of God for sinners—and the embodiment of the truth of God’s nature and characteristics.

And as Jesus prepared to return to his Father, he promised that he would not leave us alone, but that his Holy Spirit of truth would be with us to teach, guide, comfort, and help us.

So as we gather with our families and friends this Christmas, may we find time to give thanks to God that he did not stay remote and aloof from us in his heavenly realm, but, through Jesus, identified with our humanity, loved us, suffered for us, and ultimately died for our sins in order to redeem us and give us fullness of life—now and for all eternity.

*****

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The Hands That First Held Mary’s Child

The hands that first held Mary’s child were hard from working wood,
from boards they sawed and planed and filed and splinters they withstood.
This day they gripped no tool of steel, they drove no iron nail,
but cradled from the head to heel our Lord, newborn and frail.

When Joseph marveled at the size of that small breathing frame,
and gazed upon those bright new eyes and spoke the infant’s name,
the angel’s words he once had dreamed poured down from heaven’s height,
and like the host of stars that beamed blessed earth with welcome light.

“This child shall be Emmanuel, not God upon the throne,
but God with us, Emmanuel, as close as blood and bone.”
The tiny form in Joseph’s palms confirmed what he had heard,
and from his heart rose hymns and psalms for heaven’s human word.

The tools which Joseph laid aside a mob would later lift
and use with anger, fear, and pride to crucify God’s gift.
Let us, O Lord, not only hold the child who’s born today,
but charged with faith may we be bold to follow in his way.

–Thomas H. Troeger, 1985

                                                            *****

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Among my favorite songs that capture the essence of the Christmas experience is “Mary, Did You Know?” words written by Mark Lowry and music composed by Buddy Greene:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
has come to make you new?
And the child that you delivered
will soon deliver you?

Oh, Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would give sight to the blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby,
you’ve kissed the face of God?

Oh, Mary, did you know—
The blind will see,
the deaf will hear,
the dead will live again!
The lame will leap,
the dumb will speak
the praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary, did you know that your baby boy
is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy
was heaven’s perfect Lamb?
And the sleeping child you’re holding
is the Great I Am!

But, no, Mary did not know–not at first, anyway, and not fully.

She knew that her baby was special and that he would become the Messiah who would save his people, but she would not comprehend the full meaning of his messiahship until she began her daily walk with him during their life together and until she experienced his death and resurrection thirty-three years later.

She had to see his birth from the perspective of his sacrificial death and resurrection before she could fully know and understand.

And so do we.

Until we accept his grace and forgiveness through his death and resurrection, and begin our daily walk with him, we will never be able to fully understand or celebrate his birth and the true meaning of Christmas.

Only then does the real Christmas come alive for us. Only then are we able to really celebrate his birth.

And as we do, we will discover a magnificence, a glory, and a mysterious divine presence that will touch us in the deepest recesses of our beings–bringing comfort, strength, healing, and peace, no matter how trying and difficult life might become.

Oh, may you know and celebrate–really celebrate–Christmas this year.

********

(To view Mark Lowry’s concert version of this song, please view my December 20, 2010 post of “Mary did you know?”)

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Paul was livid.

It had been more than two years since young John Mark had deserted him and Barnabas in Pamphylia on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor (Acts 13:13), and now Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark, his cousin, with them to revisit the new believers in those cities.

Paul refused. He still burned with anger over the desertion. Maybe the journey had been too difficult and hazardous for John Mark; maybe he had been homesick for his mother, Mary, who was back home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12); or maybe he hadn’t liked how the team had gone from “Barnabas and Saul” to “Saul and Barnabas” to “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 11-15).

Whatever John Mark’s reason had been, Paul didn’t want him on the next mission journey.

Paul and Barnabas argued over this, and when they could not come to an agreement, they decided to go on separate journeys—Paul would take Silas, and Barnabas would take John Mark to minister on the island of Cyprus.

Barnabas’ decision to give John Mark another chance wasn’t just because they were cousins (Colossians 4:10). It was Barnabas’ nature to encourage people. In fact, his real name was Joseph, and he had developed such a reputation of coming alongside people and encouraging them, that the Christians in Jerusalem called him Barnabas—meaning “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36).

And it had been Barnabas who had encouraged the apostles to accept the newly converted Saul (later called Paul) into Christian fellowship and ministry (Acts 9:26-30), even though Saul had persecuted Christians before Jesus dramatically changed his life on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

We are not told what changes John Mark went through during those two years after he returned to Jerusalem, but it is likely that Barnabas might have counseled and mentored him and might have seen a new level of maturity in him that convinced Barnabas to give him another chance.

Barnabas’ patient investment in the young life of John Mark proved fruitful to the Christian movement and the growth of the church throughout the ages:

  • John Mark went on to work with the apostle Peter and heard Peter’s first-hand account of his life with Jesus (Acts 12:12-13; I Peter 5:13).
  • John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark, based largely on Peter’s first-hand account of the life and death of Jesus, but also on his own personal experience with Jesus. Many scholars believe that John Mark was present with Jesus in Gethsemane and was the young man who ran away naked after the mob ripped off his nightshirt when they came to arrest Jesus (Mark 14:51-52).
  • John Mark later proved invaluable to Paul as his assistant and companion in ministry, especially during Paul’s prison confinements (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon1:24).

Had Barnabas not given John Mark a second chance, the Gospel of Mark might not have been written, neither might the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, for they based much of their material on Mark’s Gospel.

How different the New Testament and Christianity might be today without those three gospels—for countless millions of believers might not have come to faith in Jesus Christ throughout these two thousand years!

As we reflect on the Acts account of Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark, it’s important to ask ourselves:

  • Are there John Marks in our lives—boys and girls, and young men and women—who have failed and disappointed us?
  • Can you and I be a Barnabas to them? Are we willing to encourage and mentor them despite their previous failures?

Giving them additional chances—along with our mentoring and encouragement—could change their lives completely.

And, like John Mark, the lives and contributions of these young people could impact our society and world in significant ways in years to come.

You and I might be the difference between a young life failing or succeeding, so let’s not give up on them.

Remember, we have been the beneficiaries of second chances—the most important one being the grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.

So, be a Barnabas and ”encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV, ©1984).

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Among my favorite songs that capture the essence of the Christmas experience is “Mary, Did You Know?” words written by Mark Lowry and music composed by Buddy Greene:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
has come to make you new?
And the child that you delivered
will soon deliver you?

Oh, Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would give sight to the blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby,
you’ve kissed the face of God?

Oh, Mary, did you know—
The blind will see,
the deaf will hear,
the dead will live again!
The lame will leap,
the dumb will speak
the praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary, did you know that your baby boy
is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy
was heaven’s perfect Lamb?
And the sleeping child you’re holding
is the Great I Am!

But, no, Mary did not know–not at first, anyway, and not fully.

She knew that her baby was special and that he would become the Messiah who would save his people, but she would not comprehend the full meaning of his messiahship until she began her daily walk with him during their life together and until she experienced his death and resurrection thirty-three years later.

She had to see his birth from the perspective of his sacrificial death and resurrection before she could fully know and understand.

And so do we.

Until we accept his grace and forgiveness through his death and resurrection, and begin our daily walk with him, we will never be able to fully understand or celebrate his birth and the true meaning of Christmas.

Only then does the real Christmas come alive for us. Only then are we able to really celebrate his birth.

And as we do, we will discover a magnificence, a glory, and a mysterious divine presence that will touch us in the deepest recesses of our beings–bringing comfort, strength, healing, and peace, no matter how trying and difficult life might become.

Oh, may you know and celebrate–really celebrate–Christmas this year.

********

(To view Mark Lowry’s concert version of this song, please view my December 20, 2010 post of “Mary did you know?”)

Read Full Post »

Among my favorite songs that capture the essence of the Christmas experience is “Mary, Did You Know?” words written by Mark Lowry and music composed by Buddy Greene:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
has come to make you new?
And the child that you delivered
will soon deliver you?

Oh, Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would give sight to the blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby,
you’ve kissed the face of God?

Oh, Mary, did you know—
The blind will see,
the deaf will hear,
the dead will live again!
The lame will leap,
the dumb will speak
the praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary, did you know that your baby boy
is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy
was heaven’s perfect Lamb?
And the sleeping child you’re holding
is the Great I Am!

But, no, Mary did not know – not at first, anyway, and not fully.

She knew that her baby was special and that he would become the Messiah who would save his people, but she would not comprehend the full meaning of his messiahship until she began her daily walk with him during their life together and until she experienced his death and resurrection over thirty years later.

She had to see his birth from the perspective of his sacrificial death and resurrection before she could fully know and understand.

And so do we.

Until we accept his grace and forgiveness through his death and resurrection, and begin our daily walk with him, we will never be able to fully understand or celebrate his birth and the true meaning of Christmas.

Only then does the real Christmas come alive for us. Only then are we able to really celebrate his birth.

And as we do, we will discover a magnificence, a glory, and a mysterious divine presence that will touch us in the deepest recesses of our beings – bringing comfort, strength, healing, and peace, no matter how trying and difficult life might become.

Oh, may you know and celebrate – really celebrate – Christmas this year.

******

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