Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3
Thesis: The "Problem" that required a "Savior" is man's extreme depravity.
Introduction: In our study last week, we did a "large overview" of the "setting" of Luke's message about Jesus. We saw that "the Law of Moses" presents us with a Creator Who has absolute ownership of His works and with a creation which has rebelled against that ownership. We also saw that the problem that this rebellion created for God was what I have humanly called a "tension" in the character of God in which Justice required judgment and Mercy called for redemption. And we saw that it is Luke's intention to present Jesus, Mary's Son, as God's provision for both Justice and Mercy.
In an earlier study, we saw that Luke deliberately placed the "Name" between the two issues of "circumcision" and "conception" as a way to "position" Jesus between the issues of Justice as revealed in the Law and the issues of Mercy as revealed by the fulfillment of the Promise. It ought to be apparent to any who read 2:22-24 that Luke's interest in these verses is "legal" because three times in the three verses he refers to the "Law"; once as the Law of Moses and twice afterwards as the Law of the Lord. From this fact, I am going to draw this conclusion: Luke has decided to zero in on the issues related to "circumcision" as a summary term for "law", which, itself, is a summary term for the issues involved in the Justice of God. He apparently believes that it is fundamentally crucial for a person who wishes to develop into a "friend of God" (a "theophile") to understand clearly what the issues are in the relationship. Part of that understanding is the truth contained in "Law" and how "Jesus" addresses that truth.
Thus, this morning, on Mother's Day, we are going to look into the actions of a "mother", who took her baby to the Temple to present Him to the Lord because the Law required it, so that we may see a bit more clearly Who her baby is.
May 8, 2005
- I. The Context of Mary's Activities.
- A. The text is very clear that Mary's actions were governed by the Law of Moses.
- B. The text is very clear that the particular part of the Law of Moses which was ruling Mary's actions was that part that dealt with the laws regarding how one could be made "pure" after having become defiled.
- 1. In a nutshell, this is the issue of the larger context.
- a. The "problem" of defilement is, at root, the problem of a creation in rebellion.
- b. The "solution" for defilement (called "purification") is, at root, the approach God is going to take to resolve the Justice/Mercy conundrum.
- 2. In a nutshell, this is the issue of the coming of Jesus in respect to Justice.
- II. The Larger Context of "Purification".
- A. Luke says that a certain period of time had to pass.
- 1. If we keep in mind that all things physical have enormous use for our understanding of the more crucial issues of things relational and spiritual, we will easily see a "connection" between what Luke says in 2:22 and what Paul says in Galatians 4:4.
- 2. The point of the time period, whatever else it might signify, clearly meant that Yahweh was not permitting man to go from "defilement" to "purity" apart from the passage of a specified period of time.
- 3. The apparent reason for this was that Yahweh was not just "into" providing an objective basis for man's redemption; He was equally interested in providing a subjective basis for it.
- a. An objective basis for man's redemption could have been accomplished in the third heaven. Jesus did not have to come to earth to enter into the Father's judgment upon man's sins.
- b. But the subjective basis for man's redemption, which is rooted in the issues of both man's comprehension of the issues involved and man's faith in the sufficiency of God's provision, had to take place where man could comprehend and believe.
- c. The reason for this is that "redemption" is not the "be-all, end-all": redemption was provided so that reconciliation could occur.
- 1) The problem with creation is not that it has a God Who could, and would, absorb all the consequences of rebellion without retaliation.
- 2) The problem with creation is that it actively seeks to supplant God so that there is no legitimate relationship between it and Him: the ultimate imposition of Death.
- 3) Things are not going to be "right" because God redeems; they are only going to be "right" when man wishes to be reconciled.
- 4) It is the issue of getting man to the point where he wants to be reconciled to God, he can grasp the truths necessary for that, and he can trust the Truth-Giver, that is behind the passage of time and the specification of time frames.
- B. Luke says that the time period was for "their" purification.
- 1. The Greek text at this point was corrupted for what the textual scholars believe was a "theological" problem.
- a. The AV is based upon a text that reads "for her purification".
- b. At root is the "problem" that the "their" implies strongly that Mary was not the only one who was "unclean", and there are those who do not wish it to be said that Jesus was also unclean at this time. However, there is no escape from Leviticus 5:2 which declares that anyone who touches anything unclean becomes unclean also. So, who was nursing Jesus for the 40 days of Mary's uncleanness?
- 2. The fact is that Luke is absolutely intent on making absolutely sure that his reader(s) understand that Jesus entered into the "problem" from the very beginning. Though absolutely "clean" in every moral sense possible, Jesus took on the "uncleanness" of mankind so He could be the solution.
- C. There is no way Luke can refer to "purification" without dredging up everything implied in "uncleanness".
- 1. This raises the issue of "uncleanness" and puts it "out in front of us".
- 2. With the issue of "uncleanness" before us, the first question that we must address is the "point" of the divine revelation regarding the manifold details of human "uncleanness".
- a. In the Law of Moses, there was a host of ways in which a man could become unclean. Many of these were "contact" issues, but several had to do with a person's behavior -- both deliberate and inadvertent.
- b. In our text, both Mary and Jesus (and more than likely Joseph also) were unclean and needed to be purified simply because she gave birth to a child.
- 3. The question is this: what did God wish to "say" by making so many things "unclean" and by making it so hard for a person to remain "pure"?
- a. To answer, we must understand what "uncleanness" actually did.
- 1) The bottom line is that all "uncleanness" made it relationally impossible to interact with other persons on the physical level without communicating the uncleanness to them.
- a) This was true for the other people and things in a person's life.
- b) This was particularly true for one's ability to approach the sanctuary of God.
- 2) This means that "uncleanness" was God's "illustration" of the impact of the rebellion that exists in the Creation: it broke relationships, especially the one between men and God.
- b. To answer, we must also understand that God's legislation was not over-kill.
- 1) Man, who is the rebel, has an inherent self-interest in making light of his rebellion.
- a) Even in the face of the Old Testament "load" regarding "uncleanness", men have denigrated the importance.
- b) This denigration occurred for two reasons: men wanted to make the problem less than it is; and men used the "illustrations" against God's intent.
- i. Man has never wanted to accept responsibility for putting himself and others into eternal Gehenna.
- ii. Man has always taken the "illustrations" and turned them into arguments that "it's not so bad" [see how man takes the offering of an animal or a certain amount of grain and turns it into a reality instead of an illustration and then, as a reality, argues that "if it only requires a few ounces of grain to absolve the problem, the problem cannot be all that bad"].
- iii. Then, once denigrated, man unleashes his natural covetousness and denigrates the offerings also [see Malachi 1:8].
- 2) In order for man's rebellion to cease, he must understand the magnitude of the problem.
- D. There is no way Luke can even refer to "Purification" without setting the issue of Promise out in front of us.
- 1. It is not sufficient for man to see his rebellion in its magnitude.
- 2. He must also see God's provision in His (Jesus') magnitude.
- a. The very idea that Mary could go up to Jerusalem and be "purified" had to mean that God would accept some kind of compensatory "something".
- b. That she was taking with her the Son of Promise is of a significance that can not be over-emphasized. Jesus is the provision of God for the uncleanness for the simple reason that He was willing to take on the uncleanness Himself in the place of, and for the benefit of, man.
- III. The Dangers We Face in Light of Luke's Message.
- A. We are heavily invested in making light of our uncleanness, so we are in enormous danger at all times of making light of our sin(s). If we do this we will leave tracks behind us in the lives of those we live among of unmitigated disaster just as the Jews did when they caused the nations to blaspheme God rather than trust Him. We need to take Isaiah 64:6 seriously: there is no "life-production" in any of our righteousnesses.
- B. We are heavily invested in also making light of the Sacrifice, so we are in enormous danger at all times of not embracing the fulness of God's forgiveness. If we do this we will leave tracks on our own souls and spirits that force us to try to compensate for the alienation through physical appetites out of control, emotional disintegration in worries and fears, and spiritual compensations through boasting and self-exaltation.
- C. The dangers are real, but God is also real.