“Emmanuel’s Vulnerability” – Matthew 2:19-23

September 14th, 2014

Matthew 2:19-23

“Emmanuel’s Vulnerability”


Meditation/Preparation:  Jesus was rejected and despised and yet he was willing to die for the very ones who hated Him.  That is why Jesus will always be known as the greatest lover of all time.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.  The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;  the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118:21-23


Background Information:

  • In his Antiquities Josephus reports that Herod “died of this, ulcerated entrails, putrefied and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to recovery.” A rather fitting end, it seems, for such a man.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 46)
  • In one of his numerous acts of brutality shortly before he died, Herod had executed two popular Jewish rabbis, Judas and Matthias, who had stirred up their disciples and other faithful Jews in Jerusalem to tear down the offensive Roman eagle that the king had arrogantly erected over the Temple gate. The following Passover an insurrection broke out, and Archelaus, reflecting his father’s senseless cruelty, executed three thousand Jews, many of whom were Passover pilgrims who had no part in the revolt.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 46)
  • Rome had trusted Herod the Great but didn’t trust his sons. Herod knew that Rome wouldn’t give his successor as much power, so he divided his kingdom into three parts, one for each son.  Archelaus received Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod.  Herod Antipas received Galilee and Perea; Herod Philip II received Traconitis.  Archelaus, a violent man, began his reign by slaughtering three thousand influential people.  He was known for his instability; in fact, he proved to be such a poor ruler that he was deposed in A.D. 6.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 35)
  • Nazareth lay in a hollow in the hills in the south of Galilee. But a lad had only to climb the hills for half the world to be at his door.  He could look west and the waters of the Mediterranean, blue in the distance, would meet his eyes; and he would see the ships going out to the ends of the earth.  He had only to look at the plain which skirted the coast, and he would see, slipping round the foot of the very hill on which he stood, the road from Damascus to Egypt, the land bridge to Africa.  It was one of the greatest caravan routes in the world.

It was the road by which centuries before Joseph had been sold down into Egypt as a slave.  It was the road that, three hundred years before, Alexander the Great and his legions had followed.  It was the road by which centuries later Napoleon was to march.  It was the road which in the twentieth century Allenby was to take.  Sometimes it was called The Way of the South, and sometimes the road of the Sea.  On it Jesus would see all kinds of travelers from all kinds of nations on all kinds of errands, coming and going from the ends of the earth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 39)

  • Nazareth sat in the hilly area of southern Galilee near the crossroads of great caravan trade routes. The town itself was rather small.  The Roman garrison in charge of Galilee was housed there.  The people of Nazareth had constant contact with people from all over the world, so world news reached them quickly.  The people of Nazareth had an attitude of independence that many of the Jews despised.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 35)
  • Archeological evidence suggests that its population was “a maximum of about 480 at the beginning of the 1st century A.D.” (J. F. Strange, ABD 4:1050). It was an obscure Jewish village in the Galilean hills, rapidly being overshadowed by the growing Hellenistic city of Sepphoris only four miles away which Antipas rebuilt as the capital of Galilee.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 91)
  • Jesus grew up in a multicultural environment in which a number of languages were spoken by the common people. The Gospels all record Jesus’ life and teachings in Greek (common language for trade and commerce of the Roman Empire), but the common language of the Jews in Galilee was Aramaic.  A few of Jesus’ statements in Aramaic have been brought over into the Gospels.  Devout Jews also knew at least some form of vernacular and literary Hebrew, as is evidenced by Jesus’ reading the Hebrew Scriptures in the synagogue at Nazareth (Lk 4:16-20).  The common people also knew some Latin, which was spoken especially by Roman military personnel.  For example, the sign Pilate had nailed on Jesus’ cross included a Latin title (Jn 19:20).  Like other public people in the region of Galilee, Jesus was most likely multilingual.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 120)
  • From his boyhood days he was confronted with scenes which must have spoken to him of a world for God. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 40)


The question to be answered is . . . What message does Matthew want to glean from the last five verses of chapter 2 of his book?


Answer:  That Jesus was a Nazarene, a rejected one.  This fulfilled what was written through the prophets.


The follow-up question that must be answered is . . . Why would Jesus still go through with His death on the cross when He was rejected by the ones for whom He was suffering?


The Follow-up Answer:  Love.


The Word for the Day is . . . Despised


What does this passage teach us about Jesus?:



I-  Throughout the ages, the prophets have said that the Messiah would be rejected.  He was.  (Ps 22; 69:8, 19-21; 89:50-51; 118:22; 132:10; Isa 11:1; 49:7; 50:6; 53:1-4; Dan 9:26; Mt 12:24; 21:42; 23:37-39; 27:21-31, 39-44, 63; Mk 8:31; 9:12; 10:34; 12:10; 15:20, 29-32; Lk 9:22; 17:25; 18:32; 19:41-44; 20:17; 22:63-65; 23:4, 11, 36-39;  Jn 1:11, 45-46; 5:18; 6:66; 7:42; 9:22-24, 28-29; Acts 4:11; ch 7; 13:46; 1 Pt 2:4-7, 23 )


How strangely blended in our Lord’s life, from the very dawning, are dignity and lowliness, glory and reproach!  How soon His brows are crowned with thorns!  The adoration of the Magi witnesses to Him as the King of Israel and the hope of the world.  The flight of which that adoration was the direct cause witnesses no less clearly to Him as despised and rejected, tasting sorrow in His earliest food, and not having where to lay His head.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 31)


The words which he gives are not found in any prophet.  But we know that to call a man “a Nazarene” was the same thing as to call him lowly and despised.  The scoff of the Pharisee to Nicodemus’ timid appeal on Christ’s behalf, and the guileless Nathaniel’s question, show that.  The fact that Christ by His residence in Nazareth became known as the “Nazarene,” and so shared in the contempt attaching to all Galileans, and especially to the inhabitants of that village, is a kind of concentration of all the obscurity and ignominy of His lot.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 36)


The inference is that “He shall be called a Nazarene” is not meant to be a quotation, but is the Evangelist’s justification of what precedes őt, meaning not “that,” but “because” or “for”: “for He shall be called a Nazarene.”  This harmonizes with Jerome’s suggestion that the reference is to passages in the Prophets which predict that the Messiah shall be despised.  (Alfred Plummer, Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 19)


The quotation-formula differs from all Matthew’s other formulae in two respects: instead of a single prophet (named or anonymous) he speaks hereof “the prophets,” and the participle legontos (“who said”) which leads into all the other quotations is here missing; in its place is hoti (“that”), which sometimes functions as the equivalent of our quotation marks, but can also indicate not so much a direct quotation as a paraphrase or summary of what was said.  These two distinctive features together suggest strongly that what Matthew is here providing is not a quotation of a specific passage but rather a theme of prophecy (as in 26:56, where again plural “prophets” are mentioned and no particular passage is cited).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 91)


The prophets could not speak specifically of Nazareth, which did not even exist when they wrote.  But the connotations of the derogatory term “Nazorean” as applied in the first century to the messianic pretender Jesus captured just what some of the prophets had predicted–a Messiah who came from the wrong place, who did not conform to the expectations of Jewish tradition, and who as a result would not be accepted by his people.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 95)


Because Matthew speaks of the prophets, plural, it seems that several prophets had made this prediction, though it is not specifically recorded in the OT.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 47)


The town was in an elevated basin, about one and a half miles across, and was inhabited largely by people noted for their crude and violent ways.  The term Nazarene had long been a term of derision, used to describe any person who was rough and rude.  That is why Nathanael, who was from Cana, a few miles to the south, asked Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 47)


The early Jewish persecutors of the church apparently considered Jesus’ being from Nazareth as evidence that He could not be the Messiah, rather than, as Matthew tells us, a sign that He was.  Tertullus, acting as attorney for the high priest Ananias and other Jewish leaders, spoke derisively of Paul before the Roman governor Felix as “a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).  The church Father Jerome wrote that in synagogue prayers Christians were often cursed as Nazarenes, with the petition that they would be blotted out of the Book of Life (see Ps 69:28).  Jesus’ living in Nazareth not only fulfilled the unnamed prophets’ prediction, but gave Him a name, Jesus the Nazarene, that would be used as a title of reproach, thus fulfilling many other prophecies that depict the Messiah as “despised and forsaken of men” (Isa 53:3; cf. 49:7; Ps 22:6-8; 69:20-21).  The gospel writers make clear the fact that He was scorned and hated (see Mt 12:24; 27:21-23, 63; Lk 23:4; Jn 5:18; 6:66; 9:22, 29).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 48)


Used by his followers, the expression “Jesus the Nazarene” denoted faith in him as the messianic deliverer (Acts 2:22; 3:6; 10:38), but used by his enemies, it was a title of scorn to deny his messianic identity (Mt 26:71; Mk 14:67).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 119)


Matthew’s identification of Jesus with this epithet is a double entendre that focuses on him as the fulfillment of the contrasting Branch and Servant prophecies.  Jesus is both the powerful branch of righteous redemption for Israel, but he is also the despised suffering Servant, who will take away our infirmities and will be pierced for our transgressions.  The name “Nazarene” was for Jesus a title of honor as he became for Israel the long-awaited redemptive messianic Branch.  But it also was a title of scorn as he became for Israel the despised suffering Servant.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 124)


It should not be taken to mean that He was a Nazirite.  A Nazirite was not to drink wine, touch anything unclean, or cut his hair.  It was probably a misunderstanding that caused early Roman artists to depict Jesus with long hair.  The proof that He was not a Nazirite is found in the fact that he did not keep the other two provisions of the vow.  Many of the very people whom He came to minister to were considered “unclean” by the people of His day.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 29)


That the OT does indeed predict the Messiah’s low estate and his rejection by men is clear from some or all of the following passages: Ps 22:6-8, 13; 69.8, 20, 21; Isa 11:1; 49:7; 53:2, 3, 8; Dan 9:26.  That during his sojourn on earth Jesus was known as the man from despised Nazareth and not as a Bethlehemite is evident from such passages as Jn 1:45, 46; 7:42.  He was, indeed, “scorned and abhorred by men” (Mt 12:24; 27:21-23, 63; Lk 23:11; Jn 1:11; 5:18; 6:66; 9:22, 24), as were his followers, the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 188)


“One so often hears people say, “I just can’t handle it,” when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross.  I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect:  If we seek a God we can “handle,” that will be exactly what we get.  A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size.” (Kathleen Norris as quoted by Phillip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God, 112)


One of the marks of God’s image in man is his ability to exercise moral choice.  The teaching of Christianity is that man chose to be independent of God and confirmed his choice by deliberately disobeying a divine command.  This act violated the relationship that normally existed between God and His creature; it rejected God as the ground of existence and threw man back upon himself.  Thereafter he became not a planet revolving around the central Sun, but a sun in his own right, around which everything else must revolve. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 29)


What should we take from this message to be a more faithful and complete follower of Jesus?:




A-  If you follow Jesus the world will hate, reject and despise you.  (Mt 5:10-12; Lk 6:22; Jn 3:19-20; 15:18-20; 17:14; 2 Cor 4:9; 1 Thess 3:4; 2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pt 2:4; 1 Jn 3:13)


When we find ourselves rejecting difficulty, we may find that we are really rejecting the cross–and therefore Christ Himself.  It was not just John of the Cross who wrote about this.  Consider Thomas a Kempis’ words: “Christ’s whole life was a cross and martyrdom; and dost thou seek rest and joy for thyself?  Thou art deceived, thou art deceived, if thou seek any other thing than to suffer tribulations; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries, and signed on every side with crosses.  And the higher a person hath advanced in spirit, so much the heavier crosses he oftentimes findeth.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 164) (Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:19:1)


B-  The truly great and blessed in the Kingdom of God are the truly humble, meek, merciful, crushed, and gentle; those hungering and thirsting to be pure in heart like Jesus who was driven by love.  ( Ps 51:17; Isa 66:2; Mt 5:1-16; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 2 Cor 12:10)


“Nothing is stronger than gentleness.”  —Abraham Lincoln


Some asked President Abraham Lincoln, “What are you going to do with those reprobate Southerners after the war is over?”

He responded, “It will be as if they never left.” (Steve Brown message, “Vineyard Verities” from Mt 21:33-46 )


If you were in this happy [humbled] state, far from impatiently enduring those who are not, the immense stretch of your heart would make you indulgent and compassionate toward all the weaknesses which shrink selfish hearts.  The more perfect we are, the more we get along with imperfection.  The Pharisees could not bear the publicans and the women sinners, whom Jesus Christ treated with such gentleness and kindness.  (Fenelon, Christian Perfection, 61)


Vanstone says, In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness.  Your love is conditional:  You give it only as long as the person is affirming you and meeting your needs.  And it’s nonvulnerable:  You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary.  But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy.  Therefore your affection is unconditional: You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs.  And it’s radically vulnerable: You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away.  Then Vastone says, surprisingly, that our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love.  We want it desperately, but we can’t give it.  He doesn’t say we can’t give any kind of real love at all, but he’s saying that nobody is fully capable of true love.  All of our love is somewhat fake.  How so?  Because we need to be loved like we need air and water.  We can’t live without love.  That means there’s a certain mercenary quality to our relationships.  We look for people whose love would really affirm us.  We invest our love only where we know we’ll get a good return.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98)


This is the plan—a life-giving agreement between God and his subjects.  What was the weakness of such a covenant of life?  Its only “weakness” was that God gave to his subjects the choice to love him or to reject him.  Adam and Eve were free to trust and love God for who he was, or to selfishly reject him.  Those who charge God with allowing evil and suffering to slip from Pandora’s box are usually those who demand freedom to live as they please.  The Bible identifies that freedom as the key that unlocked and threw open that evil.  (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 161)


Why did God create us and later redeem us at great cost even though he doesn’t need us?  He did it because he loves us.  His love is perfect love, radically vulnerable love.  And when you begin to get it, when you begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of your own love starts to wash away, and you’ve got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to other people.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 99-100)


To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness.  But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers…of love is Hell.  (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 169)


If anyone had severe critics, it was Abraham Lincoln.  He was inaugurated as the most deeply hated American president in history.  Harper’s Weekly called him a “filthy storyteller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus Abe, old scoundrel, perjurer, swindler, tyrant, field-butcher, land-pirate.”  Even his hometown newspaper castigated the new president. The Illinois State Register in Springfield called Lincoln “the craftiest and most dishonest politician that ever disgraced an office in America.” (Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley; The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 86)


The only place you can be safe from the dangers of making yourself vulnerable to love is is hell.


“When you make the choice to care, the price you pay is pain.” – Steve Brown WBCL 3-1-00


Love is handing your heart to someone and taking the risk that they will hand it back because they don’t want it. That’s why it’s such a crushing ache on the inside.  We gave away a part of ourselves and it wasn’t wanted.

Love is a giving away of power.  When we love, we give the other person the power in the relationship.  They can do what they choose.  They can do what they like with our love.  They can reject it, they can accept it, they can step toward us in gratitude and appreciation.

Love is a giving away.  When we love, we put ourselves out there, we expose ourselves, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

Love is giving up control.  It’s surrendering the desire to control the other person.  The two–love and controlling power over the other person–are mutually exclusive.  If we are serious about loving someone, we have to surrender all of the desires within us to manipulate the relationship.  (Rob Bell; Sex God, 98)


The tendency to excuse ourselves and quickly judge others is proof that pride has gripped our hearts.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 136)


The fuller of pride anyone is himself, the more impatient will he be at the smallest instances of it in other people.  And the less humility anyone has in his own mind, the more will he demand and be delighted with it in other people…You must therefore act by a quite contrary measure and reckon yourself only so far humble as you impose every instance of humility upon yourself and never call for it in other people.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 234)


Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged.  A truly humble view of self, is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit:  it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind.  That ear of corn which is the most full of grain, hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit, bends the nearest to the ground.  It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self, and high thoughts of Jesus, mark the state of his soul.  “Who hath despised the day of small things?”—not Jesus.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 163)


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered — Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives — do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will have false friends and real enemies — be successful anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow — do good anyway.

Honesty & frankness will make you vulnerable — be honest and frank anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs — fight for the underdog anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you help them — help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth — give the world your best anyway.

Why?  Cause He said so.   —Dr. Karl Meininger


While studying under Albert, Thomas was ridiculed and teased by his classmates.  They called him “the dumb ox of Aquino,” provoking Albert to say that someday this dumb ox would astound the world.  On one occasion a classmate gaped out a window and said, “Look, Thomas, there is a cow flying.”  Thomas got up from his seat and went to the window to see.  His classmates broke into laughter at his naïveté.  Thomas turned around and said, “I would rather believe that cows can fly than that one of my brothers would lie to me.”  (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 66)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


Change agents have got to deal “up front” with rejection.  Some people are not going to get on board with the changes you are proposing.  Either because they have invested heavily emotionally, financially or in time commitments with the old way.   Furthermore, if the leader has trouble with rejection or is unable to repent of his pride and desire to be liked by everyone”, he needs to get in a different line of work because change almost always means that there will be some who never come along and reject the work and the person promoting change.  (Aubrey Malphurs; Pouring New Wine into Old Wineskins, 103-04)


God is merciful as well as just.  He has always dealt in mercy with mankind and will always deal in justice when His mercy is despised. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 91)


C-  BEWARE:  God many times prefers to inspire and empower the weak, the despised, the rejected, and the cultural misfits so that He alone might receive the glory and the honor for what He does through them.  (Jgs chps 6-8; 10:6-12:7; Mt 3:1-15; Mk 1:1-8; Lk 3:1-18; 1 Cor 1:28; 4:8-13)


To choose to associate with humble things might also imply a rejection of the materialism in our world gone crazy over luxury and self-indulgence.  To accommodate ourselves to humble ways flies in the face of the upward mobility of our culture, and it certainly sets the Christian community apart as an alternative society following the downward pattern demonstrated by Christ.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 247-48)


God speaks to the Israelites and He says, . . .“I am about to unleash the most inexorable, irresistible, unstoppable force in the Universe:  The Destroyer.  It is going to go through the greatest military and political power that the world has ever seen, Egypt; it is going to go right through it like a knife through hot butter.  And there is only one thing that you can do, there is only one way you can face this ultimate force on the universe . . . a lamb.  A lamb!?  I’m going to be protected from the ultimate force of the universe by Fluffy and Muffy?  The weakest, meekest, mildest kind of creature possible, and God says, “Yes, the only way you are going to be able to face this ultimate force of the Universe is I want you to kill a lamb, eat it with your family and put the blood on the doorpost.”

And that is the Passover.  (Tim Keller message, The Story of the Lamb)


Any spiritually healthy congregation of believers in Jesus will more or less look like these “brands plucked from the burning.”  If the group is totally nice, that is a sure sign something has gone wrong.  For here are the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised of this world, whom God has chosen to cancel out the humanly great (1 Cor 1:26-31; 6).  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 125)


In most professional circles and “high” society, where one might hope for the highest moral sensitivity, contempt is a fine art.  Practicing it is even a part of being “in good standing.”  Not to know whom and how to despise is one of the surest signs that you are not quite with it and are yourself mildly contemptible.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 153)


Filthy language and name calling is always an expression of contempt.  The current swarm of filthy language floats upon the sea of contempt in which our society is now adrift.

Some attention has recently been paid to twelve- or fourteen-year-old children who kill people for no apparent reason.  Commentators have remarked on the lack of feeling in these young killers.  But when you observe them accurately, you will see that they are indeed actuated by a feeling.  Watch their faces.  It is contempt.  They are richly contemptuous of others–and at the same time terrified and enraged at being “dissed,” which is their language for contempt.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 152)


D-  Reject Jesus and His love for you demonstrated by His work on the cross and you reject eternal life.  (Jn 3:16, 36; 12:47-50; 15:13; Rom 2:8; 5:1-21)


If the Bible is true, then God has provided each of us with the opportunity to make an eternal choice to either accept him or reject him.  And in order to ensure that our choice is truly free, he puts us in an environment that is filled with evidence of his existence, but without his direct presence–a presence so powerful that it could overwhelm our freedom and thus negate our ability to reject him.  In other words, God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 31)


In his second inaugural address, on March 4, 1865, Lincoln’s words to the people are messianic. Lincoln said: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” (www.articles.orlandosentinal.com/2009-02-12/news/OPtroutman12_1_abraham-lincoln-lincoln-words-lincoln-served)


Here was a man who liberated people from bondage, a humble man who nevertheless implied that he was an agent of Providence, a man who carried the nation through an apocalyptic crisis and was murdered on Good Friday. His death, a Baptist minister in Connecticut declared, was “the aftertype of the tragedy which was accomplished on the first Good Friday, more than eighteen centuries ago.”  Lincoln became Walt Whitman’s Redeemer President,  (www.firstthings.com/article/2000/08/abraham-lincoln-redeemerpresident)


God’s gonna survive your rejection . . . will you?  (Sign on Grass Lake Church)


. . . Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865.  It was only with his death that Lincoln’s popularity soared.  Lincoln was slain on Good Friday, and pastors who had for four years criticized Lincoln from their pulpits rewrote their Easter Sunday sermons to remember him as an American Moses who brought his people out of slavery but was not allowed to cross over into the Promised Land. (http://www.civilwar.org/hallowed-ground-magazine/unpopular-mr-lincoln.html)


Worship Point:  Think of all that Jesus did to be our Savior.  The more you understand this the more intense your worship.


The message to Mary and the message of the incarnation was that God is greater than we thought.  Many think God is too great to become a single, weak, unique, human being. God cannot become a weak, unique human being, humanists say, because . . . it makes Christ too central—They resist the centrality of Christ, that God became one human being.  Judaism and Islam say it for a different reason.  They say that God is too great to have become limited like that.  But no.

This passage tells us that what makes Him The Most High is that He was able to become most low.  In fact, to disbelieve in the incarnation, in the name of the greatness of God, is actually to diminish His greatness.

One writer put it this way and I think it is fascinating:  “The power of the higher just in so far as it is truly higher can come down to include the lesser.  And everywhere the great enters the little its power to do so is virtually the test of its greatness.

Now listen . ..  Think!  Think! . . .  You can become kittenish with your kitten but your kitten will never talk to you about philosophy with you. . . . Everywhere the great enters the little its power to do so is the test of its greatness.  The inability of the lesser to enter the greater is a proof of its lesserness.

Hitler could never understand Lincoln but Lincoln can understand Hitler. . . . wisdom always understands foolishness (because wisdom sees the foolishness in yourself) but to foolishness wisdom is utterly incomprehensible.

Unselfishness knows selfishness’ number but to the Selfish the deeds of the unselfish are completely incomprehensible.

Therefore, if God is truly Great, this makes perfect sense.  In fact, now we know how great He is.  The greatness of God is greater than we ever thought.  The Most High has become the most low.  (Tim Keller message, The Deity of Jesus)


Gospel Application:  We do not possess what is necessary to obtain our salvation before a holy, righteous, perfect and just God.  Therefore, Jesus willingly gave to us what we needed to save us so we could be declared or accounted righteous before God and therefore inherit eternal life.  (Rom chps 5-8; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal chps 3-4)


Spiritual Challenge:  Do not fear rejection.  Love can support you.  And you learn to love by realizing how much you have been forgiven and loved.  (Lk 7:47; Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:7-21)


Said Lincoln, “The issue before us is distinct, simple, and inflexible.  It is an issue which can only be tried by war and settled by victory.  The war will cease on the part of this government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it…We accepted war rather than let the nation perish.  With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, and to do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among all nations.”  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 47-8)


Quotes to Note:

So he who wills to reject nothing, wills the destruction of will; for will is not only the choice of something, but the rejection of almost everything. ( G. K. Chesterton; Orthodoxy, The Romance of Faith, 43)


Dr. Elton Trueblood has said that it is “simplistic to reject a position without a careful examination of its alternatives.” (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 105)


(Speaking the hard prophetic word.  Life of a prophet of God):

Do you want people to like you now and despise you for eternity or do you want them to despise you now and be grateful for your words in eternity?


I remembered Pascal arguing that God has given us just enough light so that we can understand and just enough darkness or obscurity to deny the truth, if we wish.  That was it.  Of course, God cannot reveal Himself in a rationally irrefutable manner.  If God were plain to us as the tree outside our window, as one great theologian once wrote, we would have no need for faith.  If we saw God in His true character, in His glory, in anything like the way we see the world around us, our free will would be meaningless.  We could not help but believe in God.  It would be impossible to deny Him.  This would destroy the possibility of choosing to believe–of faith–and with it the possibility of love, because love cannot be compelled.  We cannot love God if we are not given the option of rejecting Him.  Remember, God has given us just enough light to see by, but not enough to eliminate the need to see with eyes of faith.  Our pride has to get out of the way, and we have to recognize that faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by doubt–or at least, as Catholic piety would say, difficulties.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 380)


The Christian must maintain that created being has no meaning in itself and all attempts to understand it in terms of itself constitutes a rejection of true meaning.  Neither can man have meaning in himself, because he too is a creature.  Nothing can have meaning in itself or of itself because nothing exists in or of itself.  “All things were made by Him,” and nothing has a valid interpretation apart from God and His creative and redemptive purpose.  Thus every attempt of man to interpret his world of itself, or to attempt to interpret it in terms of his autonomous mind and its perceptions, is virtually a deliberate rejection of God and His interpretation.  When men reject God they at the same time virtually reject the Creator’s and redeemer’s interpretation and purpose for their lives and for all creation.  Thus, they cannot understand either themselves or the world they live in, although they use both, often with profligate proficiency.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 10-11)




the Nazarene



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