Awaiting The Promised Messiah

Our faith heritage in the churches of Christ has often shied away from the season of Advent as being “unauthorized in Scripture.” However, the word “advent” simply means “coming.” The OT is full of hope in expectant waiting for the coming Messiah, the only one who could set the world aright.The NT is also full of the same hope as the church expectantly awaits Christ’s return. Advent is a season of expectant waiting for the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. We look forward to Christ’s return through the lens of those who waited for his first coming. 

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.”

Jeremiah 33:14 NIV

This week we turn our attention to Jeremiah 33 and Mark 8, and the promise of the Messiah. God had promised in the Garden that a descendant of Eve would eventually crush the head of the serpent, and in doing so the human would be struck (Gen. 3:15). God promised to Abraham “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). God promised through Moses that he would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (Deut. 18:15). 

This promise from God had been a long time in coming. Centuries of waiting for the one who would defeat evil, bless all nations, be the voice of God that we listen to, and many other prophecies, came at the perfect time, but for humans, the wait seemed endless.

And when the Messiah came, the majority of the people were not prepared.

As Israel and Judah awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise, we also wait for the fulfillment of the second coming of the Messiah Jesus. Many of us have forgotten that we are called to watch, to listen, and to open our hearts in expectant preparation for his coming (Matt. 25:1-13). 

We are called to listen to his Word. We look for signs of his presence in this world…a light in the darkness, a voice in the silence, and a stirring deep within us. We’re good at singing worship songs that reiterate these things, but do we truly expectantly wait and prepare for his return?

All of the Gospel writers want us to realize that the life of Jesus was the fulfillment of promises of old (Mt. 1:22-23; Mk. 1:1-4; Lk. 4:17-21; Jn. 1:45; etc.) and the renewal of promises yet to come (Isa. 65:17; Mt. 14:37; Lk. 12:40; Mk. 13:35; Jn. 14:2-3; Rev. 21:5). In Christ, God has and will continue to fulfill all promises.

And so we wait.

And the question that we all must answer is, “Am I ready for the coming of Christ?”

Jesus and the Female Disciples – Part 2

Today we continue our look at the female disciples that Luke mentions throughout his Gospel. Their introduction in the opening verses of chapter 8 leads to a thread throughout Luke’s story of the “others,” or the “rest” of those that followed Jesus. Luke makes it clear that his story isn’t one of Jesus and the 12. It is also a story of the “others.”

As Luke’s narrative unfolds, we find Jesus arrested and on trial after being betrayed by Judas. At this point the 12 disappear from the story, except for Peter. Peter follows Jesus through part of the trial, but ultimately denies his relationship with Jesus three times, then disappears from the narrative until after the resurrection. Luke does focus on a particular group throughout the crucifixion and resurrection: the women. 

“A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.”

Luke 23:27 NIV

After Jesus breathes his last, and the centurion confesses Jesus’ righteousness, we are told that many of the witnesses of the crucifixion leave, except for some who stayed.

“But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

Luke 23:49 NIV

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfume.”

Luke 23:55-56 NIV

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.”

Luke 24:1 NIV

“When they (women) came back from the tomb they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.”

Luke 24:9-10 NIV

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Luke 24:36 NIV

So who were the first preachers of the resurrection? The women. Who did they tell? The Eleven and “the others,” both male and female.  And who does Jesus appear to and commission after the resurrection? All of them! (And in case you are unsure of this, go to Acts 1:13-15 to see this continue.)

Luke makes it very clear. The commission to preach this news starting in Jerusalem (Lk. 24:47-48, Acts 1:8) is the responsibility of the Eleven, the women, and the others, as we’ve already seen them do! This commission by Jesus has not been retracted. Next week we’ll see how Luke carries this commission into the mission of the early church in Acts 1 & 2.

Jesus and the Female Disciples

Today we continue our look at Luke’s gospel and some of the women he includes in his story about Jesus. Luke has a major focus on the role of women in the ministry of Jesus and this week we look at some of the female disciples and supporters of Jesus’ ministry.

Luke 8:1-3 tells us about “many” single and married women who not only traveled with Jesus, but supported his ministry financially. These women are not the twelve, but they are disciples and benefactors nonetheless. Benefactors (financial supporters) in the ancient world would financially support an effort they supported, but that did not mean they would physically participate in that effort. These women are not simply benefactors, they are disciples traveling with Jesus, involved physically in his ministry, and learning to be just like the Messiah. A disciple would eventually go on to have their own students and teach in a way similar to their own teacher.

The fact that Luke tells us of Jesus and these women as disciples, a very unusual practice in the ancient world, tells us something about Jesus. Their presence in support and practice of Jesus’ ministry shows that Jesus wasn’t constrained by, nor concerned with cultural ideas about the roles of women. Culture considered them property to be kept in the home, but Jesus included them as disciples, ones who could travel along side, support, and assist in his ministry.

This detail sets up the often misunderstood story of Mary and Martha at the end of Luke 10. Many tell this story as a lesson on priorities; Jesus is more important than housework. While this is true, it misses the context of what Luke is telling us about Jesus. Luke always gives a female counterpart to the males in his gospel, showing that following Jesus and serving in the Kingdom is not a job relegated to men. Luke gives us Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, the widow of Zarephath and Naaman (ch. 4), the centurion and the widow (ch. 7), the widow with the coins and the shepherd (ch. 15). Here in chapter 8 and chapter 10 we see the female complement to the male disciples.

Luke tells us that Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (10:39). In doing so, Mary is taking up the role of a disciple, something a male would do in that culture. She is breaking a cultural rule (that many other women from ch. 8 did as well). Martha wants Jesus to rebuke Mary, but Jesus affirms that “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (10:42)

This story goes with the preceding story of the good Samaritan, and is an example of the Greatest Commands lived out. The Samaritan is the hero of the first story, and a female disciple is the hero of the second story. These are two upside down images of obeying the Greatest Commands in a culture that valued neither of these heroes. Luke is clearly portraying Jesus as being against the rules and boundaries of the culture in which they lived. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t follow societal norms, it follows Jesus. These stories also call us to radically break with tradition and culture, disregard all else, and follow the example of Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel, the teachings and actions of Jesus remind us that the Kingdom of Heaven is a place where Jews and Samaritans, as well as men and women can serve as equals. (See Gal. 3:28)