Would we dare?

The Omega

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:1-2]

The Alpha

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Never, before today, have I thought of Christmas in terms of “shame”. Of Mary’s shame of conceiving out of wedlock, Joseph’s shame to wed a pregnant bride, their family shame to bear their son in a cast off stable, to bed Him in a feed trough…

And what of Jesus Himself? Who can even begin to conceive of the contrast between His glorious throne, and swaddling clothes, nappies, and nipples?

And yet… and yet… He EMBRACED that! ALL of them did! Who can imagine such a thing? Mary dared deadly shame to say “yes” to the Angel Gabriel. Joseph dared to trust Mary when she told him of Jesus’ conception.

And Jesus? Jesus willingly embraced His humanity, placing Himself in the care of this incredible couple. He embraced the shame. He accepted His own weakness, helplessness, dependency.

Doing so… as a puny little infant… His very presence terrified a king, prompting the slaughter of countless boys. His presence inspired other kings, who paid Him homage and presented Him gifts. His danger, and the warning of an angel, uprooted His family to an alien country to preserve His life. Did they travel in secret? Like people ashamed? Traveling by little known routes, not to be seen, moving by night, resting and hiding by day?

How strange does this all seem for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Did they despise the shame? Yet did they all embrace it, for the love of God and those He came to save? Did they love us? Somehow know that somewhere, sometime, you and I would be sitting here praising God for all this?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All this… all this shame… they took on and embraced, that WE might come to be freed of OUR shame! That our own shames, guilts, sins, be remembered no more. That we stand clean and clear, robed in the righteousness of Christ before the Holy Throne of the Father!

What about us? That’s the question that came to me this morning. That’s the question the Lord confronted me with this morning.

Does “shame”, a concern about what other people will think of me, ever prevent me from doing the right thing, a righteous thing, an action of grace?

It has, Gentle Reader. I must be honest. There are times I have refrained from doing “the right thing”, because it would embarrass me. You too?   * head nods here *   Well, our human frailty gets us all sometimes.

But just let me encourage you, Gentle Reader. Let me ask you to encourage me as well, from time to time. Acts of grace, of compassion, of gentleness… should never be constrained by “how it looks” to others, or whether we will “lose status” by embracing the shame. Do the right, the gentle, the loving… and let onlookers sort themselves out before the Throne.

Jesus’ earthly life began embracing shame. His earthly life ended the same way. But throughout… He is, was, and ever shall be… King of Kings, Lord of Lords…

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Philippians 2:8-11]

9 thoughts on “Would we dare?

  1. Great post, especially when reading it and listening to David Wesley’s music! A lovely combination, reverent and spiritual. Shame! How we all shrink from it, yet it can be healing too. Especially when it is covered by LOVE from the Divine. All the best on this special day in Advent, the first anniversary of my Dad’s funeral. Love and blessings, Julia

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    • Thank you for your kind words. I did find the music amazingly prompting these thoughts, feelings, reflections. It’s just the stark contrast of the picture that stuns. Thank you for sharing about this anniversary. I, and I know any who see this, will lift you in prayer and stand alongside you in comfort and fellowship this day. Love and blessings to you, too! Grace — LM

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  2. Good article, LM. Also – when the crowds began to follow Jesus around, when the family thought Jesus was “beside himself” and wanted to make him come home, don’t you wonder how Mary and her other children felt? Knowing some of the crowd were their friends who probably also thought Jesus was crazy? Or that he was a radical trouble-maker who would bring disaster to them all? Jesus went through everything any human, from birth to natural death, would go through. Shame included.

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    • I’m so glad you’ve made this comment, Bette. I’ve seen folks sometimes present a case that Jesus’ family “thought He was beside himself”, or “wanted to make him come home”, and so on… I’ve always been a bit hard pressed to find any scriptural evidence of that.

      The encounter is recorded in three Gospels, and gives us very little information besides that: there were crowds surrounding Jesus, making it impossible physically to get to Him; Mary and some of His brethren (the word used there (ἀδελφός (adelphos)] is more correctly translated “kinsmen”… [“a brother, near kinsman or relative; one of the same nation or nature; one of equal rank and dignity; an associate, a member of the Christian community”]; they seek to speak with Him and He is teaching; other people give Him the message that they want to see and speak with Him, implying that their blood tie should make them a higher priority for His attention than these people He is serving, ministering to, and teaching.

      Quite simply, He denies the validity of that. To feed His sheep, tend His sheep, feed His lambs (as He tasked Peter, later), is as high a Kingdom priority for Him, as attending to His blood.

      I’ve never seen this as a “rejection” of His family in any way, though I’ve often heard it preached thus. I CERTAINLY find no part of scripture that indicates that they doubted His sanity, His call or mission, anything at all, regarding the rightness of what He was doing. I don’t even know what scriptures ever gave anyone this idea. There is denominational/traditional difference on whether Mary bore other children or not. I don’t address that here, but to clarify the term adelphos as used in the passage. If Jesus had other brothers, it seems strange that He would bond John and Mary together as mother and son… so I tend to think she had no other children to rely on.

      But here are the simple scriptures, that (to me) just seem to tell a fairly routine story of “He was really popular, really busy, His family once wanted to speak with Him and couldn’t get to Him, they sent word, and He finished what He was doing first because His teaching was more important in that moment than meeting with them.” In other words… “I’m busy, we’ll talk afterwards.” I’ve experienced that with people I love, who love me, or even am related to. I don’t interpret it as rejection… just information.

      The passages are:

      31 Then His mother and His brothers *arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. 32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they *said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” 33 Answering them, He *said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” 34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” [Mark 3]

      46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” [Matthew 12]

      19 And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” [Luke 8]

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      Anyway, thanks again for the comment. It’s always seemed pretty reasonable to me for Jesus who starts off trying to teach us all to address Holy God as “Our Father”. And I really don’t know where all that other stuff comes from. Doesn’t seem to be in the Gospels, at least.

      Grace to you — LM

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      • Thanks, LM – I was referring to Mark 3:21 where the RSV reads, “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” ASV says, “And when his friends heard it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.” Whoever it was, they thought he was crazy. Some people think we believers are crazy, don’t they? Jesus certainly knows how that feels.

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        • Ah, okies. I see now. It can be a bit confusing when a verse, or passage begins with “And”. Notice verse 20 there? What had His “people” (the text says, pretty much, “His own”… without specifying relationship) heard? Did they hear that His house was so overrun that He couldn’t even eat? Did they hear that Scribes had come down from Jerusalem to attack Him, and accuse Him of demonism or witchcraft? Did they hear that crowds were muttering that He had lost His mind, and fear for his safety?

          The word used there for “lay hold on” (κρατέω (krateō)), is a word often used for forcible detainer, yes. But it is also used multiple times when Jesus Himself healed others, and lifted them up. He used that word describing the rescue of a sheep fallen in a pit [Mt 12:11]. He did this lifting up Jairus’ daughter, with “Talitha kaum” [Mk 5:41]. Ironically, this is the word used when, after the Resurrection, Matthew 28:9 “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Good morning!’ And they came to him, took (ekratēsan | ἐκράτησαν | aor act ind 3 pl) hold of his feet, and worshipped him.”

          Anywho… no big. But there’s just this part of me that suspects that if Jesus’ mother and beloved family heard that He was being threatened, or that demands on His time were so severe that He couldn’t even EAT… they’d head that way and see if they could rescue Him, support Him, or at least get Him home for a decent meal. I don’t know many mothers who would do otherwise.

          The fact that they went to Him upon hearing these accusations, to me, makes it just as likely they went to support Him, as to condemn Him. I would think, knowing Him, the former was the much more likely.

          Anyway, cool discussion. Thanks again for the comments!

          Grace — LM

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  3. I’ve been looking closely at the details of Christ’s birth this year too. It’s so much more satisfying than the condensed version we’re fed every year. It is the divine centerpiece of God’s plan, its construction is complex, and very worth the while to examine every detail. I surely, don’t want to lose it beneath the glitter, tinsel, and heaps of wrapping paper.

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