In Luke 1:26–38 Gabriel paid a surprising visit to Mary announcing she, a virgin betroth to marry Joseph, will be with a child; an unordinary child who is the Son of God and the Son of David. Mary’s simple act of faith challenges us to live well with our questions, to consider the cost of obedience, and to humbly submit to God as we anticipate the second Advent (the coming of Christ).
How do you live a believing life in an unbelieving or a differently-believing world? This is the question we’ve been exploring the book of Daniel. Now we come to the close of our study as Daniel, once again, faces hostility for his faith. Here we’re reminded that opposition is ordinary, that prayer is powerful, and that God is in control.
What do you do when you’re surrounded by pressure to bow down and worship the “idols” of the city? Three faithful Jewish young men—and their faithful God who rescues them—show us the way.
Sometimes we feel powerless—before an unjust boss, a hard relationship, financial struggles. Sometimes Christians feel this way when their beliefs and behavior come into conflict with an unbelieving, or differently believing, society. Which is what it felt like for Daniel and his friends—four young men deported from Jerusalem as exiles to the pagan city of Babylon. So, when God revealed a vision of his coming kingdom—God is in control!—he revealed a fresh and powerful source of hope—to Daniel and to us.
How can a Christian live a faithful, joyful, flourishing life of loyalty to God and the gospel when your neighbors’ (or your boss’ or your mayor’s) answers to such questions may or may not line up all the time? In other words, how do you live a believing life in an unbelieving world, a life of faith in a multi-faith city? The book of Daniel give us some guidance. Like us, Daniel, a young man living in exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C., lived in a city and society that in many ways stood at odds with his faith. And yet, with humility and courage, he remained faithful—neither imitating the unbelieving world around him, nor separating from it, but serving and remaining fully engaged in it.
Two people from very different backgrounds, sharing one thing in common: 12 years. Twelve years earlier, a little girl was born into a man’s life—his only daughter, now ill, now dying. Twelve years earlier, woman began bleeding and it wouldn’t stop—and now she’s out of options. More than that, she was out of hope. Until today, when this ordinary man and ordinary woman, hear that the man Jesus—the rabbi, the prophet, the healer, some say the Messiah—was back in town. Jesus! “Maybe he can help.” “Maybe he can heal my daughter.” “Maybe he can heal me.” He can. He does. He loves.
He was a good guy, a man of influence, well-respected, religious, wealthy. You know, the perfect kid. And yet, something was missing in his life. So he asks Jesus what he should do. Jesus, gently challenges him, tells him—tells us—that he’s got two big barriers keeping him from God. Was it gross immorality? Broken family life? No. It was his moral goodness and his wealth.
Jesus had a lot going on—you know, healing the sick, raising the dead, saving the world. But he was never too busy for children. He had important people to talk to; but, to him, the children were among the most important. Jesus’ attitude towards little ones was surprising and counter-cultural. Ours should be, too.
One night, a man is mugged. He’s walking down one of the edgier streets in the neighborhood (pick one, picture it). Whoever you are, he’s someone just like you. He’s robbed and beaten up badly, left in a dark alley bloody and unconscious. He’s not going to make it till morning…. So goes a story Jesus told a religious scholar, someone who was quick to defend his inability to love. His message: Be a neighbor.
Sometimes Jesus surprises us. Like when he encounters a paralyzed man and the first thing he says is, “Your sins are forgiven.” Insensitive remark? Off-topic comment? Or is Jesus telling us something about our deepest human need—and what He promises to do about it?