For You

For You

Luke 2:11 

For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…

This is one of the most wonderous verses in the Bible. Let’s take it slow and soak in it. Fix your eyes for a few moments on each word in this brief announcement above. Every word is the Word of God and every word is important. 

Recall, the angel is speaking to a small band of lowly shepherds watching over their flocks. 

For today…born for you 

There’s a timeless truth of this announcement that took place in time and space; on a particular day, at a particular time, to a group of actual people upon this earth. It happened on the actual day that the shepherds heard the announcement. Today! For you! The ESV version says, for unto you is born…. 


I did it all for you! 

Let me get this straight; God humbled Himself by being born in a human body, living in the confines of a fleshly shell, suffered and died an unspeakable and horrific death — for a few unbathed, unshaven, calloused hand, bad-breathed, crusty shepherds living in the fields? 

For you means Jesus was born for their purpose, for their benefit, to transform their lives? To give them peace, joy, mercy and grace? To live and abide within their hearts?  

Do you mean to tell me that today, God came to earth in absolute humility after being silent for over 400 years to become intimate friends (John 15:15) with these shepherds; simple men of simple mean? God sent His angel from heaven to make this announcement to them? Really? Really? Really? 


Does He realize? 

  • Do you think the angel making the announcement to these shepherds realizes that one of the shepherds spent his full paycheck on cheap wine and goat meat last Friday night, got drunk, got in a fight, and his wife kicked him out of the bed? Jesus came for him???? 
  • Does the angel realize that the other shepherd cursed at God last night? He has a new-born baby who is sick to the point of near-death, but he had to go back to the fields so he could make the money to pay for the doctor?  
  • Does the angel realize that the other shepherd has stooped to stealing because he has a son who is being bullied and beat up at the synagogue by the older boys because he’s poor and has ragged clothes? 
  • Does the angel realize they have issues! Does the angel realize they don’t have anything of any means to give back to their Savior? Does the angel realize they don’t have any influence to spread the word about the birth of the Messiah? Jesus was born for these guys? 

Okay, Okay, so I’m speculating some. I’m adding color way beyond the text. Forgive me. But the point remains the same. The angel spoke to the shepherds and he said, JESUS WAS BORN FOR YOU! I may be speculating, but I guarantee that since the shepherds are real people, they were dealing with stuff. They had issues; they had troubles; they struggled with sin!  

Jesus came in spite of…no… Jesus came because of their issues; their issues caused by their sin and caused by the sin in the world that surrounds them. 


That was then; this is now! 

Now that we have some context and color around the text, what does the text mean to you? What does the announcement of the angel mean to you? I believe it’s timeless and actually, pretty simple. But let me put it in bold print to make sure there’s no ambiguity.  

But first, consider the announcement as directed toward you? You can’t say it isn’t directed toward you because you have issues? You can’t say it doesn’t apply to you because you feel deserted? Because you feel undeserved? Because you have totally blown it? Because you are stuck in sin? You can’t say — ‘this doesn’t apply to me, I have too many issues. 

No, you can’t claim this message is not for you because you don’t deserve it. But that’s the whole point. YOU DON’T DESERVE IT! Just like the shepherds didn’t deserve it. Jesus came because you don’t deserve it. Let go and accept it. Here it is: 



Father, today you have given us a gift of eternal value that we don’t deserve. You have given us Your Son to be our Savior, our Messiah and our Lord. We once were lost and now, today, You found us and called us and we receive Your Son as our Savior! With unending gratitude, we embrace by faith the Friend of sinners, the Keeper of our souls, the Savior of our lives! Amen!

The Fields Are Alive…

The Fields Are Alive

Luke 2:8-20

In the same region (near Bethlehem) there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

The angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, (1:19) is back to earth on another mission. He seems to have no desire to appear before crowds to wow them and scare them with the message of God’s return; he doesn’t care about appearing before the religious elite and highly influential scribes and Pharisees. His recent visits instead have been with an obscure priest and a teenage girl in Nazareth. 

There’s a Pattern Here

Now, he is going out to the fields, away from the population of the towns and villages, to the sheep and shepherds. We see a pattern from Gabriel: when he leaves the presence of God in heaven to visit the earth, he hangs out with lowly people of humble means. This is a pattern that the new-born child will follow in the future: He left the presence of the Father in heaven to visit the earth where he hangs out with lowly people of humble means.

My Pattern Has Changed

Many years ago, in my 20’s, I saw myself as aspiring to be the pastor of a mega-church. I had big plans for myself. My approach was opposite of Gabriel’s. I wanted big audiences. God had other plans; most importantly, to humble me through various twists and turns in my life. God is pretty good at whatever He sets out to do, and I can attest, He’s pretty good at humbling a snot-faced, spiritually proud, young pastor.

That was then. Now, many years later, one of the great joys of my life is to speak at the noon devotions at the men’s unit of the Star of Hope. The Star of Hope is a Christ-centered community supporting Houston’s homeless men, women, and children. I marvel at how I feel when I speak to these men of lowly means. It’s exhilarating and truly an honor. Why did it take so long in my life to realize how special a ministry to the homeless really is? Why didn’t I follow the pattern of Gabriel and Jesus earlier in my life?

Out in the Fields

Shepherding had once been a noble occupation in the early times of Israel, during the time of the Patriarchs. Jacob’s sons were shepherds. But when Jacob and his tribe relocated to Egypt, they were isolated because Egyptians had a low regard for shepherds, Genesis 46:34. From that time forward, the status of a shepherd devolved through the centuries. At the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds hung on the lower rung of social status. 

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased, Luke 2:13, 14.

In 1991, AC/DC, The Black Crowes and Metalica held a concert that supposedly reached nearly 1.6 million listeners. 

In complete contrast, Gabriel and his band of angels show up in an isolated field and set up on the stage for a concert of the ages. After a light-check and sound-check, the angelic band performs the greatest concert of all-time. Instead of a massive audience of hundreds of thousands and instead of a royal concert performed for the king and queen; the angels unleashed a performance of the ages to — herds of sheep and a few shepherds.

The Fields Were Alive with Music

The Great Shepherd of our souls sent His angel to announce His coming to some sheep and a few shepherds. Isn’t it ironic?

This reminds me that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. The apostle Paul continued by saying to the new Christians in Corinth, Brothers, consider the time of your calling; not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. (We resemble this statement). But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast in His presence. I Corinthians 1:25-29, Berean Study Bible.


Father, we thank You that Your ways are always perfect and all-wise. We are grateful you chose us even though we are not noble or rich. We have no room to boast because we had nothing and came from nothing; nevertheless, YOU GAVE US EVERYTHING! We praise You and honor You this day with grateful hearts and humble spirits. Amen!

Road Trip

Road Trip

Luke 2:1-14 

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.  

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7 

This is one of those passages whereby when I read and reflect on it but I’m not really sure what to write about it. What can I say about the birth of Jesus that hasn’t already been said?  

Let’s Take a Tangent

Sometimes when I approach a scripture passage on my daily journey with God, I say to myself, ‘this is a good passage; or this is interesting; or this is important – but I don’t necessarily have a flood of words that come to mind to write down.’ When this happens to me, like this morning, I just start writing, (like I’m doing now). My hope is that a fresh insight will come into my brain as I began to write. I pray and ask for God’s wisdom to shine on me.  

Lord, when I search Your Word, give me wisdom and insight. And may I do it with pure motives and out of love for You. 

With this in mind, let’s reflect for a moment on David’s words in Psalms 143:

I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will become like those who go down to the pit, (David is quite dramatic),  

(Here’s the important part for me this morning), Let me hear Your loving-kindness in the morning: For I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for I lift up my soul. Psalms 143.6-8 

Time to Refocus 

OK, I’ve been avoiding the text long enough. Back to Luke 2.

“Honey…sweetheart…sweet Mary, we have to get up and get going. I didn’t sleep at all last night. He has been very active these last couple of days. I feel like I’m going to burst.” Mary’s eyes grow moist as Joseph replies with pain in his eyes; “Perhaps you should stay. How can the Romans punish us under these circumstances? The journey is nearly 70 miles. We can’t be expected to put the baby’s life at risk – and yours as well.” 

“Sweet Joseph, we have already decided. I must go to Bethlehem. We have discussed the words of the prophet Micah, remember? I am determined to go.” 

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you (Bethlehem) One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel…Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has born a child…And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. Micah 5:2-4.

Mary continues as resolve overcomes her pain; “The Romans believe this census is for their purposes; to deepen their grip on our people. But we know it is from God. The angel was very clear to me; my son is the Son of the Most High! The prophet declared that the chosen One will be the ruler in Israel and He will be born in Bethlehem. We must go.” 

Joseph could see Mary’s eyes turn from fearful pain to resolve. Then she says, “We must go…but by the way, were you able to borrow that donkey so I don’t have to walk?”

When Charlie Brown screams out in frustration, ‘Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about,” Linus steps up and recites Luke 2. 

Father, we are humbled by the humble circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. His visit to earth was to serve, in humility and meekness. This most powerful One chose to suppress His power (except in a few chosen circumstances) and royalty in order to serve. May we serve as well, loosening ourselves of the grip of pride and aspirations of comfort above all else, may we serve. Amen!

Here Comes the Sun!

Here Comes the Sun!

At the birth of John the Baptist, the father Zacharias bursts into prophetic praise:

And you child, (speaking of John) will be called the prophet of The Most High; to give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise (Jesus) from on high will visit us; To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:76-79.

The Bible begins and ends with light.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep…Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good… Genesis 1:2-4a.

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, and the bright and morning star. The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Revelation 22:16, 17.

Genesis 1 introduces light. God provides a physical preview in stunning brilliance of THE LIGHT to come; the light that will bring illumination to the human soul. Revelation ends with a calling to come to The LIGHT. There is a calling upon our lives to come to the bright and morning star; the most brilliant light in the sky.

The morning is upon us and the light of day is here; the Sunshine has overcome the night. 

There are times when I am overwhelmed with the darkness of this world. Such as:

  • The curse of false religions that lead millions of millions into the darkness of eternity 
  • The wretched evil of child pornography and exploitation; human slaves and trafficking; the slaughter of the innocent from warlords and dictators. 
  • The nearly 1 million US abortions performed per year. 
  • The filth of Hollywood and the corruption in DC.

Darkness dominates where there is no light. But darkness is temporary. We should certainly care about the darkness in our world, but not be overwhelmed. Isaiah proclaims that darkness should not disarm you with despair. Darkness is not long here.

The Light is here for us now to shine in our hearts. And also, in the future. He is coming soon to illuminate the entire world.

First, let’s marvel that the Light in our hearts is here; He is among us; ask Him to shine in your own heart: 

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Malachi 4.2

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2

Regarding the coming illumination for the entire world, consider carefully the words of Isaiah: 

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60.1-13.


Back to Luke 1

In the context of these Old Testament prophecies, the birth of John the Baptist stirs the people’s interest. The new-born’s previously mute father, Zacharias, is now loudly and passionately speaking of what is to come. His son John, will prepare the way for the coming of the Most High; the Light of the world. Zacharias says:

the Sunrise (Jesus) from on high will visit us; To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:76-79. 

Dear Father, I have been thinking much lately about how You dwell within us. You dwell 24/7 within our being. You never leave, never sleep, never relax. You are always living within us and all of Your radiant attributes are within us as well. Today we pray that Your light will shine in us and through us. Our hearts were once dark. You hovered over our void and dark hearts and You said, Let there be light, and there was Light. We are humbled; we are thankful; we are forever grateful. Amen!

Silence Broken

Silence Broken

Luke 1:57-66 

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her.

And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answer and said, ‘No indeed; but he shall be called John.’ And they said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.

And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John.’ And they were astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

All who heard them kept them in mind saying, ‘what then will this child turn out to be?’ For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

Everyone is Talking About It!

The last prophecy of the Old Testament predicted the coming of Elijah as a forerunner of the Christ. As we consider the birth of John and the passage before us, God has been silent for over 400 years. Now, the stories being spread about the birth of John are stirring up a lot of excitement.

Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

Perhaps, some of the murmurs were something like; could this be what the prophet Malachi spoke? Could this be a sign of the coming of the Lord? Is the Great Day of the Lord near?

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord, Malachi 4:5.

The Buzz

What’s causing all the buzz in the Judean hill country? What are the rumors being spread?

  • A priest named Zacharias came out of the temple unable to speak. His face and hand motions made it clear that something amazing happened to him.
  • Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth became pregnant in her old age. Impossible!
  • When the baby was born, the parents named him John even though there were no relatives named John. They named him John because an angel told them to. That’s crazy!
  • Eight days after the baby was born, the father was able to talk again after being mute for over nine months. The things he said about seeing and hearing from an angel are extraordinary.
  • Zacharias said that the angel prophesied that the son born will be like Elijah. He will be the forerunner of the Messiah.
  • The people said, what then will this child turn out to be? For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him, 1:66b.
  • Nothing has happened like this in hundreds of years! Could this be…? Could this be…? Could this be…?

The Role of John

The buzz was actually legitimate. Something amazing is happening! John was born in the spirit of the bold and uncompromising prophet Elijah! The angel Gabriel said about John; It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17a. Gabriel paraphrased the final words of Malachi from the final prophecy of the Old Testament. The talk of these words is spreading like wildfire.

John’s calling is to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, Luke 1:17b.

In terms of biblical and historical significance, John played a vital and critical role within the redemptive plan of God. In terms of our devotional consideration of John, John is an example and encouragement for us to surrender our lives to God and follow His calling upon us.

Let us learn from John the following:

  • The Spirit of God was upon him. Pray that God’s work of grace and power of the Holy Spirit would be upon you; lavished upon; poured over you.
  • John followed the calling of God upon his life. He fulfilled his ministry calling. Are you serving God according to gifts He’s given you, and upon the path He has led you towards?
  • Let your words be simple and clear such as John; repent, and turn to God.
  • Walk in humble devotion and service to Jesus. As John says, we are not worthy to untie his sandals. He must increase, and we must decrease.

Father God, forgive us for complicating our lives with so many activities and pursuits. Our minds are racing throughout the day with stresses and complications and affections of this world. May our selfish pursuits decrease within our minds and hearts as we open our whole being for You to increase. John reminds of a simple life of Spirit-filled devotion to You and humble service. Cause us to prayerfully consider what we can learn from the example of John. Amen! 

Silence Please

Silence Please

Where’s God?

At the time of the events of Luke chapter 1, the people of Judea had been without a Word from God for over 400 years. Over 400 years separated the final events and final prophecy recorded in the Old Testament from the appearance of the angel Gabriel in Luke 1. The silence of those 400 years was deafening. Though the voice of God was silent, the hand of God was actively directing the course of events during those four centuries.

At the close of the Old Testament:

  • Israel was under Persian rule, (such as we see in the book of Esther).
  • Later, Alexander the Great defeated Persia, and the Jews were now subject to the rule of the Greeks. Alexander promoted Greek living (Hellenism) which produced a current of secularizing for the Jews. Most Jews began to adopt Greek as their everyday language.
  • For a short period, the Jews were under Seleucid rule and ultimately, under Roman domination at the time of Luke chapter 1.
  • The Jews were under foreign rule for over 400 years and consequently had been dispersed from Jerusalem and scattered all over the Mediterranean basin and Mesopotamia.

So What?

Don’t you love history and context? Well, regardless, stay with me — this may not be the greatest devotional message, but the context will shed light on what is really happening at the time of the birth of John and Jesus.
You know how we current-day Christians tend to gravitate to certain Bible passages and themes more than others? It’s true for all of us, to a certain degree. Popular preachers and authors tend to speak and write about subjects that are appealing to us. As an example, Joel Olsteen doesn’t preach the “whole counsel of God” from the Bible. He tends to stay within certain themes, and we keep consuming his content because, well, it feels good. The Bible does contain much about God’s anger, wrath, and judgement. But let’s face it, we all prefer love, joy, and peace. And go ahead and throw in some abundance and healings as well.

Where’s the Messiah I was expecting?

However, we are often hard on the Jews for missing Jesus. Jesus simply didn’t fit the bill of the Messiah they wanted and were waiting for. Throughout the years of the prophets and most likely during the 400 silent years, the Jews focused their attention on a Messiah of power, greatness, and might. A Messiah who would subdue the earthly enemies of Israel and set up a Kingdom on earth where the Messiah would rule and reign and Israel would enjoy their place as in the Kingdom as God’s chosen people.
The last prophecy given by Malachi before the 400 silent years began was focused on the Messiah as King and His Kingdom rule on earth.

‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.’ Malachi 4:1
Yikes, that’s harsh. But can’t you imagine that if you, like the Jews during the 400 silent years, had been under various foreign governments, you’d be hoping for this day that Malachi wrote about? Being one who is living under foreign rule, you might write this verse down on an index card, keep it under your pillow and read it every night.
You might also add the next couple of verses in Malachi to your index card:

But for you who fear My name, (the Jews are saying, ‘yea, that’s us. What’s it going to be like for us when the Messiah comes?’), the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall, (yes, freedom from foreign rule; we’re going to dance in the streets; preach it brother). You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,’ says the Lord of Hosts. Malachi 4:2,3.

Suffering Messiah?

Sure, the teachings of the suffering Messiah were there (Isaiah 53), but the Jews really didn’t see it. All they could see is the power and strength of the coming Messiah to conquer the Romans, set up His Kingdom on earth and elevate the nation of Israel. After centuries of foreign rule, Israel was ready for a Savior… a Savior that fit their liking.

I remember as a young, enthusiastic Christian at the age of 18, that I saw a placard that said, “‘I am meek and lowly of heart,’ Jesus.” I remember thinking, ‘I don’t like that image of Jesus.’ How short-sighted I was. Similar to the nation of Israel at the time of Jesus.

The Buzz

With this context, next time we’ll discover why the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist caused such a buzz. After all the years of silence and foreign rule, God is doing something. Is this baby born, called John, going to be the prophesied Elijah announcing the coming of the Messiah — the only Messiah that we really want… and need? THE KING!

Father, this topic reminds me that we often create You in our own image according to the God we want and we feel like we need. We have a hard time letting You be You. Lead us to love you fully as the God of all Your attributes. All Your attributes are beautiful, so help us to embrace them all by faith and full trust in You. Amen!

Mary and the Apostles, Part 2

Mary and the Apostles, Part 2

Luke 1 & Mark 9-10

James and John, two brothers, gave up everything to follow Jesus. But their motives are exposed when they out-maneuver the other disciples and make a pre-emptive pitch to Jesus for the right and left thrones in the kingdom.

Contrast their approach against Mary’s mindset when she hears from Gabriel of the great honor bestowed upon her:

He said, She said

Mary said (I am) the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.

James and John said we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.

Mary said For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave.

James and John said Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in glory.’

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

The six deadly words of ignorant pride: give us greatness…we are able.

How about the other ten disciples?

We now know what is in the hearts of James and John: aspirations of pride and greatness. So, maybe, the other disciples are humble, faithful followers??? Not a chance.

Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

They said something like, ‘Hey, no fair! James and John cut in line.’

Jesus called them together and with great patience, tells them that greatness is to serve. 

Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but serve, and to give His life a ransom for many, Mark 10:42-45.

  • Oh, how we long for comfort!
  • Oh, how we love recognition!
  • Oh, how we aspire to be honored!
  • Oh, how we want to be first!

After nearly three years with Jesus and they still didn’t get it. They so struggled with pride and position. They were men of humble means who for all their lives had been subjected to power-hungry leadership. First, subjected by men of great position among the religious elite of Israel and then the powers of Rome as well. 

Now, with Jesus as their leader, they wanted their turn to attain authority and domination. What a glorious payback, the apostle surmised, if they could assume leadership over those who forced them to grovel as lowly subjects in the village.

Jesus rocks their world and says, But it is not this way among you. Be a servant; be a slave; just like me! We do things differently because we are different. We do it backward. We aspire to be last. We put others before us. We give rather than take. 

It’s not what we attain that matters; it’s what we give.

Brother Lawrence in Practicing the Presence of God says, ‘We must not grow weary of doing little things for the love of God, who looks not on the size of the work, but on the love we give it.’

Father, this was a hard lesson for the disciples and it is a hard lesson for us as well. Like Mary, our souls exalt You, our Lord. Our spirit rejoices in You, God our Savior! For You have regarded the humble state of Your bondslave. You inhabitant the Praises of Your people; You give grace to the humble. You grant honor to the meek. Help us learn this lesson and more importantly, to live it out daily. Amen!

Mary and the Apostles, Part 1

Mary and the Apostles, Part 1

Luke 1 & Mark 9-10

The quality of HUMILITY seen in the teenage Mary radiates within the pages of Luke chapter 1. Quite a contrast from the apostle, as we’ll see. First, let’s review what we see in Mary’s Magnificat as she worshiped and prayed.

  • And Mary said, behold, (I am) the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word, 1:38. This is humble submission to God’s will and providence.
  • And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 1:47. God saves the humble.
  • For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave, 1:48. God chose a humble teenage girl to mother the Son of God.
  • And His mercy is…toward those who fear him, 1:49. Reverence is the response of the humble toward God.
  • He has scattered the proud…and has exalted those who were humble, 1:51, 52.
  • He has given help to Israel His servant, 1:54. God hasn’t always blessed Israel’s pride and waywardness. But he always blesses them when they repent in humility. 

Fast Forward

Now, fast forward about 33 years. After Jesus spent nearly three years mentoring the disciples, we read of a scene that gives a stark contrast to the quality of humility seen in Mary.

They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He (Jesus) began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ 

But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ Mark 9:33-35


Kingdom Life

The disciples had constant issues with pride. It shows up everywhere in the gospels. It could be rooted in the fact that they clearly understood Old Testaments references of the Messiah as establishing a kingdom on earth. Yes, these prophecies will come true when Jesus comes to earth in power and might and touches down on earth in magnificent glory and splendor. But Jesus came the first time as a servant, to suffer and die, (Mark 10:45).

The disciples were consumed with aspirations of kingdom life. They had given up everything to follow Jesus with the hopes that they had hitched their wagons to the powerful and majestic Messiah. Very soon, they thought, we will be rewarded for following Him in humility. Soon they will be placed into positions of power. When Jesus subdues the Romans and takes over the leadership of Israel from the Pharisees, then the faithful disciples will live like princes in the Messiah’s kingdom. That was their dream!

With that context, read this story in Mark 10:35-45:

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.  (If you’re a parent, your children probably used a similar strategy when they wanted something they knew you didn’t want to give them). And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?

They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ (He was speaking of the suffering and persecution He was to endure shortly). They said to Him, ‘we are able.’ We are able. Really?


The Means and the Ends

Mary began with the ‘means’ of humility; to be a slave of Jesus. And Mary said, behold, (I am) the bondslave of the Lord…and left the ‘end’ to God:  may it be done to me according to your word, 1:38.

James and John had a different approach. They began with the ‘means’ of self-exaltation: to be great alongside Jesus. ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You. Their ‘end’ (so they hoped) was pre-determined by themselves: ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in glory.’


What a contrast!

Next time, we’ll dig in further into this stark contrast of humility and pride.

Father, subdue our pride and fleshly pursuits greatness. Instead, fill us with Your grace to serve and give ourselves away. There are many around us in need. Grant that we would have joy as we serve others as if we are serving You. May You be glorified in our simple acts of service and love. We are Your servants, and we are honored to do Your work here on earth. Amen!

The Magnificat

Mary and Elizabeth

And Mary said, ‘My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on, all generations will count me blessed. For the mighty One has done great things for me. And holy is His name. 

AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and He has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.  

He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever. 

And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. 

Luke 1:46-56 

In the Latin translation of this verse, the first word is Magnificat, which means magnify. This is a prayer of praise whereby Mary magnifies, exalts, and glorifies the Lord. 

Silence No More 

This meeting of Elizabeth and Mary is pretty special. God shows up in a big way. He manifests His presence in a way that infuses Mary with the Spirit of God to speak, to worship, and to magnify the Lord. This is significant because Israel has been in a “silent period” for approximately 400 years. Malachi had been the last prophet to speak on behalf of God. You could say that God had ‘laid low’ for a long time. 

He breaks this period of relative silence with the appearance of Gabriel and the Spirit-drenched worship time between Mary and Elizabeth. 

Her heart is full of joy, and she bursts forth with a song of praise that reveals her knowledge of God’s Word and the illumination of the Spirit. Most certainly, she was one of the young girls who sat every day in the Synagogue and actually listened as the scriptures were read in the extended readings. It’s one thing for a young person to hear the Word, but it’s another for one, such as Mary, to hear, to believe, to comprehend and recall. 

Pray that the Spirit will give you illuminating insight into His Word as you read, reflect, and write. 

I imagine that during Mary’s tender years of development, God was close to her humble heart, whispering words of clarity for Mary to comprehend. God kindly gave her understanding of the challenging depth and breadth of His Word as the Old Testament scriptures were read over and over; line by line, precept by precept. 

Mary draws upon the Word as she prays. The Magnificat is the Spirit-filled Mary praying scripture and drawing upon such verses as: 

  • O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. Psalms 34.3 
  • Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all our heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! Zephaniah 3.14 
  • He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer. Psalms 102:17 
  • The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow. But He thwarts the way of the wicked. Psalms 146:8,9. 

 Mary’s song of praise, which is filled with Old Testaments quotes and allusions reveals that her heart and mind were saturated with God’s Word. It also reveals her clear understanding of God’s kind consideration of the humble. As I’ve stated before, Mary exhibits the qualities of one whom the Lord inhabits. 

But to this one will I look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word, Isaiah 66:2b. 

Father, we are reminded by Mary’s song of praise to pray through scripture. Cause us to passionately pursue the Psalms with a heart to pray through them ourselves and to read them with a heart to confess, to give thanks, to praise you and bring all our requests before You. What a gift Your Word is to us. May we read and prayer in Your Word often. Amen. 

Folks, for a wonderful devotional book that teaches us how to pray scripture, I recommend Praying the Attributes of God by Rosemary Jensen.