Remember that wonderful old story, “The Prince and the Pauper”? A prince and a pauper who are look-alikes exchange places, and the real prince learns what life is like for his subjects, and consequently becomes a just and wise king.
There’s a striking similarity in the story of King Jesus. I originally planned to call this article “Whispers of the Supernatural”. But as I looked back over the previous two articles in this series, I realized that didn’t fit at all. God did not whisper when it came to the birth of His Son as a human. He SHOUTED! He just didn’t tell Herod in person and right away. God didn’t “go through diplomatic channels”. We know now why – Herod saw Jesus as an opponent who would start a revolution among the Jews, cause economic disruption, displeasing Marc Antony who had appointed him, probably getting Herod appointed to East Overshoe, Mongolia … so Herod was prepared to commit murder, even mass murder, to protect his worthless person. So God said nothing to Herod. And Jesus remained an anonymous King. Sort of.
But, recapping here, look at what God DID do:
He gave a holy-living but barren woman a child, and an angel appeared to confirm that this would be one of the most important people ever to walk the earth, because this child would “go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” (maybe the most powerful of the prophets) and prepare the Chosen People of God to turn back to their God. He affirmed this by a sort of “reverse miracle” – making the child’s father mute until the child was born.
God sent an angel to the holy-living virgin He had chosen to be the mother of His Son to explain what would happen to her. And when the “surrogate father” didn’t believe her words, God sent an angel to him to confirm her words.
When Mary visited her formerly barren cousin Elizabeth to share their mutual good news, God gave Elizabeth the most unique experience of pre-cognition in the entire Bible: not only did she know without being told that Mary was carrying the Messiah, she knew that the child she was carrying knew! And if that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth “was filled with the Holy Spirit” and testified to these certainties in a loud voice!
That must have been kind of spooky. I think I’d rather leave that experience to a woman. Sorry, ladies, I’m outta here…
Think about that from a cultural point of view also: this was a culture which still undervalued women and did not accord them the rights that men had. Yet the two men in this drama, Zecharias and Joseph, both failed to believe what they were told until it was “emphasized”. Both women believed and were highly honored by God with knowledge and privilege far above what most men had.
As a side note, men, a little respect toward the women in your life is indicated. There will not be another virgin birth, but you never know what else God might be planning. You might find yourself staring wide-eyed at your wife and wondering, “What did I marry…?” as your hand shakes and you reach for … no, not the bourbon. The Bible.
This so far unknown, unnoticed child would be hunted, one way or another, until His death on the cross. So anonymity was undoubtedly called for. But He was born a king and a king before He was born, and there was no way His entrance in human form into the life of this planet could be allowed to go un-heralded. Heralded, as in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” …
The next shout-out from God was, of all things, to a bunch of anonymous shepherds guarding their flocks in the pastures. They didn’t have barbed wire or Great Pyrenees dogs in those days, but there were wolves. So when sheep were on the pastures they had to be guarded by their shepherds or hired hands. So here are these undoubtedly tired, dirty men, smelling like sheep, standing guard. And suddenly they had no problem staying awake because TA-DAA! “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
No kidding. I would have been too, and I grew up with stories of Area 51 and UFOs.
The angel told them that the Messiah, the Savior, had been born in Bethlehem, and he gave them a strong hint that they should go look for Him: told them how they’d know Him. Face it, how many babies would you find in a sheep pen?
And then – I can’t help LAUGHING OUT LOUD every time I read this! We sing about the “Herald angels” “singing” … HA! Nothing could be further from the truth! Notice that almost every English translation of this passage shies away from the truth. Only Amplified Classic Version gets it right: “Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the armies of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying,” , ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!’ ”
Folks, this was NOT a choir in neatly pressed robes, clean and freshly shaved, singing with trained voices, in perfect harmony, in polite tones. These were WARRIORS! If you’ve ever been around warriors, especially when they come home fresh from the battlefield, you know how rowdy they can be. These angels were YELLING at the top of their lungs! They were there to honor the Leader and King to Whom they had given whole-hearted allegiance, and they let it all out, full volume, that night! They were also, by their words, shouting a resounding defiance to the forces of evil.
Their King had established a beachhead in very hostile territory. He was about to have to “go dark” for the next twenty to thirty years, but He was there, on rebel soil, and The Real War had begun: the war for the souls of humans.
This is unnecessary, and is totally unsupported speculation, but I have to wonder if some of these warriors heard about the impending announcement and briefly went AWOL from their units to be part of it. 🙂 :E I have the honor to be slightly acquainted with a couple of warriors whom I feel sure would have done just that. “A multitude”, the Scripture says. That doesn’t sound like parade-ground organization to me. More like a flash mob of “Sky Soldiers”!
There have been few moments in all of history filled with such power and drama. We’ll come across another such moment soon, in Duckie’s posting of Matthew. But this moment was a benchmark in the history, not only of Earth, but of the Universe. And I am sure the shepherds realized this. After they got to their feet and could think coherently again. :E
Then there was the business of the Magi – the three “wise men”, who by studying astronomy – or astrology? We’ll never know in this lifetime – discovered that “the King of the Jews” had been born. We don’t know anything about them. Mystery men as well as “wise men”. They “came from the east to Jerusalem”. Anonymous, you see.
Were they Jews living in another country? How did they know Jewish Scriptures about the Messiah? Did they? This was still a time of miracles and magic, and there are several possibilities. But these wise men believed absolutely in their source. And tell me why they came to worship the King of the Jews, let alone give Him expensive gifts? If they weren’t Jewish, why should they care? They only had partial information, because they didn’t know what city He would be born in. The Jewish scribes and chief priests had to supply that information. Again, we’ll never know in this lifetime. But there are amazing stories we will hear when we get to Heaven!
Like I said, God didn’t whisper. And that’s not all. Again, a Godly, devout man and a prophetess are there, at the temple, when Jesus is presented for the purification rites. They both testify that He is the Messiah. Simeon’s prayer is particularly touching, because it appears that seeing and identifying the Messiah was all he was waiting for, and after that he was ready to die. He was performing his last task for the Holy One of Israel. Here is his last recorded testimony:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The power and the joy of those words is immense.
Simeon also warned Mary that her heart “would be pierced as with a sword” because of Jesus. That must have been terrifying for a new mother to hear, after the birth of her first child.
And the prophetess Anna, “coming up to them at that very moment, gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna was a well-known figure, a woman of unusual esteem and authority in Jerusalem, and when she spoke, people listened. In this case, “all [in Jerusalem] who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Decades later, when the apostle Paul was on trial before King Agrippa, he told Agrippa, “For [you] the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26)
And then there was that last startling episode before Jesus “went dark”: His visit to the Temple when He was twelve years old. Joseph and Mary went to the Temple every year for the Feast of the Passover. But this year, something remarkable happened.
In those days, extended families traveled together, one assumes for many reasons. When Joseph and Mary left after the feast was over, Jesus wasn’t with them. They assumed he was with some of his aunts, uncles, cousins, but soon they realized He wasn’t.
It occurs to me to wonder what went through Mary’s mind when that discovery was made. Was she apprehensive? Afraid? Terrified? Did she think, “Now I’ve gone and misplaced the Messiah!”
If so, all fears were unfounded, as they realized when they found Jesus – after three days! – sitting with the teachers of the Mosaic law, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke records, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
That’s astonishing. Here’s a twelve-year-old boy talking with the equivalent of PhD’s in theology, the men who are charged with the heritage of the religion of the one true God, and he amazes them with his understanding and answers. And this has apparently been continuing for three days.
We are going to watch some fantastic documentaries when we get to Heaven! All these things beg to be put on the big screen!
No, this thing wasn’t done in a corner. Although He did it in unusual ways and at different times, God notified the people of Israel, the Roman authorities, and the Jewish authorities. Everyone who should have been notified got the memo.
After Joseph and Mary retrieved Jesus from the teachers of the Law, they went home, “… and the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”
I would love to have conversations with those teachers. I’d love to hear what they thought. I wonder if for a while, they expected Jesus to turn up as a student in some rabbinical school. Were they disappointed when He didn’t? Did they wonder why not?
Were any of them still alive when Jesus began His public ministry? Did they recognize in the man that amazingly precocious twelve-year-old boy whose knowledge and wisdom had astonished them so long ago?
And then … silence. Except this: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” A repeat of what we’re told after He went home from the feast with Joseph and Mary. We hear no more about Jesus for at least a couple of decades, until He began the task He was assigned – the final battle for our souls.
Thank God He won!