Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 14
Thesis: Being an instrument of Yahweh's plan to save people is no picnic.
Introduction: In the last two weeks we have considered Jesus as God's presentation of the truth about Himself in respect to His attitude toward mankind and His method of meeting mankind's need. Yahweh's interest in mankind is driven by His mercy and implemented by His grace (something the Gentiles needed to know), but His implementation is not about turning men into prima donnas who think that salvation is about being put into the limelight so others can fawn over them (something the Jews needed to know). The Gentiles were marked by their "belief" that Yahweh hated them -- and the incarnation stands against that "belief" at the most fundamental level. There is no rationale for "hatred" in the fact of God humbling Himself to become human. The Jews, on the other hand, were marked by their "belief" that Yahweh, Whose love was significantly for them in contrast to His antagonism toward the Gentiles, intended to put them in dominion over everyone else in His creation -- and the incarnation stands against that "belief" at a most fundamental level. There is no rationale for the production of prima donnas in the humility of God. Thus, the presence of Jesus in the temple for the purpose of being "presented to Yahweh's task" is God's statement of both His desire to save and what salvation means. Salvation means being "glorified" by God unto instrumentality in the execution of His plans for a Servant-Kingdom. This is precisely why men do not seek to be "saved" and think of God as "hateful": their commitment to a life of proud self-centeredness is so profound that they claim that the good of other-serving humility is evil and the evil of self-exalting pride is good. And they point to what happened to Jesus as proof of the legitimacy of their commitment. "If", say they, "Jesus was the Son of God and God sent Him to the cross, who wants to be a son of God?"
That brings us, this morning, to Luke's rather remarkable comment about Joseph and Mary in the midst of his record of Simeon's words about Jesus.
August 7, 2005
- I. Luke's Structure and Words.
- A. Luke is clearly not "finished" with his record of Simeon's words.
- 1. The insertion of Joseph's and Mary's reaction indicates a desire to create a "focus of attention" upon that reaction.
- 2. The insertion of the reaction at the very point of Simeon's statement about the meaning of "Jesus" for both Gentiles and Jews indicates that the "focus" he wants to create is upon the significance of the "reaction" in respect to the issue of the meaning of Jesus for humanity.
- B. Luke also clearly intended to "surprise" his readers with the record of the surprise of Joseph and Mary.
- 1. The word translated "amazed" means "to be surprised because something has happened that was outside of the realm of one's expectations".
- a. In Luke 11:38 the word is used in a relatively mild setting (as in 1:21) -- something just barely outside of the realm of expectation.
- b. In Luke 24:41 the word is used in a radical setting where the experience is so far out of the realm of expectation that it stuns the person into a kind of mental numbness.
- 2. The record of the "surprise" of Joseph and Mary is set in contrast with Simeon's own understanding.
- a. Joseph and Mary had been, for almost a year, heavily involved with Yahweh's use of power in remarkable ways and had very recently heard of even more use of that power from the shepherds.
- b. Simeon was not privy to any of that experience.
- c. Yet it was Joseph and Mary who were "surprised", not Simeon.
- C. So we conclude that, by structure and words, Luke wanted to focus his readers' attention on the issue of "surprise".
- II. Luke's Meaning in His "Surprise".
- A. As revealed by his designation of Joseph and Mary as "His father and mother".
- 1. There is a textual problem regarding whether Luke wrote "Joseph and His mother", or "His father and mother".
- a. Some think that Luke would not have written "His father and mother" because it would make Joseph His "father" and, thus, undercut the virgin birth.
- b. Others think that, because Mary herself used this very terminology in this very chapter, it would have been no problem especially in light of the obvious record of the virgin birth in chapter one.
- c. The external evidence regarding what Luke actually wrote is more pronounced in favor of "His father and mother".
- 2. There is a good reason for Luke to refer to Joseph and Mary as "His father and mother" in this setting.
- a. Luke's point in this setting concerns how those who are the closest to the facts had missed the point of those facts.
- b. The use of "father and mother" makes this point by referring to the people who were the closest to the facts.
- 1) In 2:48 it was clearly Mary's "point" that Jesus had caused great sorrow to those who loved Him the most ("thy father and I").
- 2) The terminology is, by design, a reference to "the most involved".
- B. As revealed by his description of their reaction as "surprise".
- 1. One almost has to be "surprised" that Joseph and Mary were "surprised".
- a. How can it be that the two most involved people on the planet in what God is doing do not know what God is doing?
- b. How can it be that an old man who has just come into the temple and has had none of the exposure to the various experiences of Mary and Joseph is not surprised?
- 2. In questing for an explanation of the "surprise", we can only conclude one thing: the truth about Yahweh that Simeon presented had not been embraced by Joseph or Mary in spite of 2:19.
- a. This means one thing: the truth is so radical that not even God's servants had bought into it...even when their faces were being rubbed in it day and night.
- b. This means, as a consequence, that only by the Spirit that was upon Simeon is the truth made clear.
- c. This means, as a consequence, that there is something about human beings that makes it impossible for them to embrace the obvious.
- 3. In dealing with this "surprise" we must ask ourselves if we understand any better than Joseph and Mary.
- a. What is it that they did not understand?
- 1) It boils down to one thing: being loved by God does not mean being made a prima donna, or, to say the same thing a different way, being loved by God means being pressed into His service for someone else's sake regardless of personal cost.
- a) God is not oblivious to the cost, nor unfeeling about it, as texts such as Mark 10:30 indicate.
- b) But, neither is He dissuaded by the cost, nor does He permit His servants-in-the-making to be dissuaded by it, as texts such as Mark 8:34-38 indicate.
- 2) It is a fundamental truism: one cannot be self-centered and not think about the cost, nor can anyone be other-centered and think about the cost.
- b. Why did they not understand?
- 1) The probable cause was one: because they had not embraced the "light of revelation" regarding what constitutes "glory", they were yet ensnared by their frustrations at the way people had been treating them. That translates into "I still want to be a prima donna".
- 2) Consider carefully Luke 6:23 in context and compare it to what we see all about us in the paganized Christianity of which we are a part.
- III. Luke's Point for Theophilus.
- A. Theophilus was not going to be "theophilus" unless he embraced (not merely acknowledged) the evil treatment that others heaped upon him for his commitment to Christ.
- B. Theophilus was not going to be "theophilus" without understanding that "glory" means being used by God, not being applauded by men.