I had the opportunity last night to speak to my youth group. Our theme was Teen Mom, and my topic was “Mary’s obedience was rewarded”. To be honest, I had a hard time with this one because of the term reward. A friend of mine helped me out with seeing that my concept of reward was a bit to materially based. Well, read on and you’ll see.
Last week, Nate spoke on Luke 1 and taught how GOD wants to partner with you to change your world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be here to hear that message. Tonight we’re going to look at the last part of the Christmas story found in Luke 2 and discuss how Mary’s obedience to God at a young age was rewarded.
Mary’s life up to this point was a whirlwind of weird things, let’s be honest. Angels, the fact that she was going to be pregnant with God’s SON, having to go live with her cousin who was also pregnant even though she was a senior citizen, her life was turned upside down. Yet she accepted this, she was obedient to GOD’s wishes. It blows my mind to be honest. The premise that she would be rewarded for doing this, as a human, our concept of reward would be astronomical. But if we look at Mary’s life as a whole, well, it doesn’t seem like she was rewarded at all. It looks almost like….well, I get ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at the Chapter 2 real quick
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
We’re going to camp out here and unpack this for a minute. So, here it is, pretty much her third trimester, her 9th month, and the Emperor commands that everybody has to go to their ancestral homes for a census. That would be like your families having to go to the town where your great-great-great grandparents originated from and register. Ok, no big deal, however Mary is very pregnant, and she and Joseph’s only transportation is a donkey? Has anybody ever ridden a donkey? They’re not very cooperative animals, and quite different than riding a horse, let alone riding one when you’re very pregnant. They get to Bethlehem, and lo and behold the motels/inns/guest houses/bed & breakfast’s are all filled, and they’re stuck in a stable and then it happens, the birth of Jesus. I can imagine for most of you, it’s not exactly the place you would choose to give birth. There’s no family as being recorded being there, there’s no midwife, nothing sterile because it’s a stable. Not an image of what we would consider a reward. I can imagine, even the angels are confused right now. The SON OF GOD, being born on earth deserved more than a filthy stable and farm animals as witnesses. It seems a little lonely. But GOD isn’t quite done yet.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Now we really get to the miraculous. ANGELS, a host of them appear not to royalty, but to shepherds, men that are nobody, have no power, and are practically the lowest rung of society. The first visitors of Jesus were men that carried no gifts except the sheep that they protected. Now, in Matthew 2, it gives the account of the Magi, or wise men that came from the east to visit Jesus, at least they brought Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, which were material gifts we can actually consider as a reward. But that isn’t the reward that GOD wants us to focus on. Those rewards were probably used up when Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt for a couple of years.
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Looking at this account, it’s hard to say that there was a reward in it for Mary. The very definition of reward is: a thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement; or: make a gift of something to (someone) in recognition of their services, efforts, or achievements. With the exception of the gifts from the Magi, there doesn’t seem like there’s much reward in this deal for Mary. But we need to look deeper at what the word reward is. We have a tendency put the definition of reward in a small box and think of it in purely materialistic way, but GOD considers rewards differently and in a much greater and grander way.
By now, you’re probably wondering how is this possible and what does a non material reward look like.
Everyday we are rewarded in non material ways. There is of course the reward of appreciation, the old pat on the back, “good job and be on your merry way” but that doesn’t really mean it’s a tangible reward. So what were Mary’s rewards:
- Mary was entrusted with raising GOD’s SON. We don’t typically think of trust as a reward, but it’s one of the most genuine, sought after and ever invaluable rewards we can ever receive.
- Proverbs 12:22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
- Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
When someone/an organization/a parent places their trust in you, that is not only a huge responsibility, but a great honor. One we often take for granted, until you lose the trust of that person or organization and then it feels like your world has ended.
2. A life changed. It’s pretty much the same point Nate made last week. Because of Mary’s obedience, her life was changed from what her life would have been. Her plan probably was marriage, a couple kids, raise them with her husband, and then watch the grand-kids
and participate in the family carpentry business. It changed to being a single mother at some point, to watching her son grow up and do great things, and then be crucified, and rise again three days later. She is the definition of a changed life. When we live in obedience to Christ, our life, our world is changed and those around us are changed with us.
- Jeremiah 29: 11-13 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
3. Intimacy with GOD. There can be no more intimate relationship with GOD then being the mother of the Messiah. This doesn’t give Mary special powers or privileges, but it does make her an example to follow. Intimacy with GOD is a goal that every Christian strives for, but Mary had an intimacy that was unrivaled by anyone. While we can never hope to have that deep an intimacy with Christ, obedience to CHRIST brings us into an intimate relationship with HIM. Paul states in Philippians 3:7-10 :
- 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
- For Paul, his highest goal is intimacy with CHRIST. He talks in the beginning of chapter 3 that he had reached the pinnacle of Jewish society, but he considers it nothing more than used tampons (NOTE: I didn’t actually use this illustration when I gave the message. I wisely asked a couple of the female leaders and a mom, and they “red flagged” it due to the presence of Middle School students). To be honest, that’s what it means when it says “as filthy rags”, that’s a bit extreme but the concept is still true. When Paul says he wants to know Christ, it’s in the highest form of intimacy, not a physical knowing, but a spiritual and intellectual intimacy with GOD. That is the goal that Paul is striving for here.
Obedience is easy to preach on, but much harder to live out on a daily, even hourly basis. What does obedience look like even? Is it personal, or is it wrapped in uniformity and tradition? Obedience as whole is difficult to define sometimes. Being obedient to your parents may set you apart from the norm, and even being obedient to the government may look different for some people. Obedience is a decision and a lifestyle choice. For me obedience to CHRIST is very personal and it’s something that I’ve learned by studying the word of GOD, talks with trusted mentors, and through long discussions with CHRIST. In the end, YOU have to dig to find what obedience to CHRIST is. Mary’s reward wasn’t physical or material, it was personal. It was an intimacy with GOD that transcended any other relationship. Be obedient, live above the norm and be amazed at how your life will be transformed.