In this sermon, Pastor Streeter lists numerous reasons why he loves Christmas. The reasons he lists are all scriptural and and should be common to all of us who love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you have ever wondered why we should all love Christmas, listen to this sermon and see if you do not agree with Pastor Streeter. (881225)
37And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
38And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
39Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
It is doubtful that the incident of the woman anointing Jesus is the same as the incident recorded in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 and mentioned in John 11:2.Â This incident seems to be in a different town and at a different time, though many of the details are the same. There is no evidence that this woman is Mary Magdalene, nor is there any evidence anywhere in the Bible that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, the common unlearned popular opinion not withstanding.Â Nor is there any evidence that this woman is the same as Mary of Bethany the sister of Lazarus and Martha.Â Mary of Bethany was the woman in the Matthew 26 incident, but probably not this one. The names Mary and Simon were exceedingly common names, and from that fact arises some confusion, but note that this Simon is “Simon the Pharisee,” whereas, the Matthew 26 Simon is “Simon the Leper.”Â This anointing introduces the parable of the two debtors.
The parable of the two debtors illustrates the fact that love for Jesus is a much stronger motive for serving the Lord than is the law to which the Pharisees were slaves.Â Those who put themselves under law are slaves to the law, and as such they become drudges.Â That was the case under the old dispensation, but in this Dispensation of Grace we have been set free and we serve the Lord not to satisfy the demands of the law.Â Rather, we serve the Lord because we love Him.Â We serve the Lord, not because we have to, but because we want to.Â The woman loved much because she was forgiven much, and because she was forgiven much she served much.Â Simon loved some, but not much.Â He loved little.Â That is what legalism will produce every time.
When Jesus said, “Thy sins are forgiven,” it was not the first time that the woman had realized that she was forgiven.Â The declaration of her forgiveness is here made for the benefit of Simon and the others who were present.Â They needed to know what God’s forgiveness is and how it sets the sinner free.Â “Who is this that forgives sins?”Â It is God.Â Only God can forgive sins.Â Jesus, as God, is the only one qualified to forgive sins.Â No other man can do this.
Verses 15-20 “15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
It must have been an encouragement to Mary and Joseph when the shepherds came so quickly to see the Christ because they came rejoicing, rejoiced throughout the visit, and rejoiced after they returned to their flocks. These shepherds wasted no time, but obeyed the Lord’s command without delay. They said one to another, “Let us go NOW….” Not, Let us go tomorrow. Not, Let us go when it is convenient. Nor even, Let us go when we can find someone to watch our flock, lest the wild dogs come. We read that, “They came with haste.” And they were rewarded for their obedience as they were the first humans after Mary and Joseph to see the Christ. They found everything as the angels had said. And after their visit they made hast to evangelize others, for “They made known abroad” all that they had heard and seen concerning Jesus. We should be so obedient to our heavenly calling, our commission to “go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.”
Verse 5 “To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
Espousal was a stronger relationship than our marriage engagement today. It was a legal relationship but it was not a marriage. Like marriage the relationship could be broken by divorce. It was a year-long relationship in which a couple could get to know each other better and make adequate preparation for a home and life together. The marriage was not supposed to be consummated during the espousal period. There were to be no sexual relations. It was during this time when Mary was espoused to Joseph that she was found to be with child. This was a great trial to Joseph’s faith, but he believed what God revealed to him, and his mind was put at ease. The news that Mary was with child was as difficult for Joseph as it was for Mary. He was called upon to believe that Mary had been faithful to him and had not been with another man as well as to believe the fantastic truth that the Child was from the Holy Spirit.
Mary was great with Child when she journeyed to Bethlehem. We are not told how long Joseph and Mary took to make the trip, nor are we told how long they were at Bethlehem before the delivery. We are not told if Mary was in the seventh, eighth, or ninth month when the trip began. We are not told if they stayed for a time with relatives or friends somewhere between Nazareth and Bethlehem. We are only told that they made the journey with Mary “being great with child” and that while they were in Bethlehem the Baby was born. We should be careful about reading into the Bible what is not there.
Verses 3-4 “3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.)”
The whole world was to be taxed. By “whole world” (v.1) is meant all of the countries and districts of the Roman Empire. Joseph’s ancestral town was Bethlehem, a small agricultural village about six miles from Jerusalem. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about eighty-five miles distance. We do not know what means of conveyance was employed to transport Mary to Bethlehem. Often it is assumed that Mary rode on a donkey, but that is being read into the Bible account since the Bible does not tell us that detail. She may have ridden in a cart pulled by a donkey, or in a wagon pulled by a horse. Or, as many have suspected, she may have ridden on a donkey. The important thing is that they did arrive at Bethlehem, because it was prophesied that the Christ would be born there (Micah 5:2). We see the providence of God in bringing Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem; for it is He who arranged the time of the birth, the taxing, and even the mode of transportation.
47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.”This beautiful passage of Scripture is called The Magnificat because in it Mary magnified Her Lord. To magnify means to make big. We would do well to strive to make Jesus bigger in our lives and strive to make ourselves smaller. That is what Mary did. She magnified the Lord in her praying, in her praising, and in her profession. Her poem is filled with Scripture, especially from the Old Testament poetry. She recognized her “low estate” and her need of the Savior. She is very humble and is amazed that God would do such “great things” in her life, for God did not choose to send His Son through a rich and powerful lady, but through a poor and powerless Jewish girl. She extolls God’s name, His mercy, His strength, and His great provision for His people.
Mary calls Jesus her Savior because she knows that she needed to be saved, just as all other sinners do. She says nothing about being sinless or immaculate. Nor is it said anywhere else in Scripture. No one is sinless except Jesus. We should not pray to Mary nor look to her as a mediator, but we should hold her as one who was used by God and one who had the Grace of God upon her.
40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Gabriel had told Zacharias that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit “even from his mother’s womb” (v 15). There is no evidence that any other child in the history of the world, with the exception of the Lord Jesus, was ever filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, or even from the moment of birth. John is a unique and singular case in this regard. We are told that when Elisabeth heard Mary’s greeting John leaped for joy in Elisabeth’s womb and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elisabeth then seems to be prophesying, the Holy Spirit giving her the words, when she makes a marvelous pronouncement that Mary was blessed among women, and the fruit of Mary’s womb was to be blessed also. Elisabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord,” indicating that God had revealed to her that Mary’s Baby Boy would be the Messiah and Savior. Elisabeth says the Lord will surely bring to pass the promises that He has made to Mary and to her. The entire narrative is an amazingly wonderful part of our Lord’s history.
The way that God refers to John the Baptist and Jesus while they are yet in the womb proves that an unborn child is a human person and that intentionally aborting a child from the womb and killing it is nothing less than the taking of a person’s life. It is the kind of murder that is prohibited in the Ten Commandments i.e., “Thou shalt not kill.”
There is no scriptural justification for extrapolating from the story of John that babies can be converted or that they are able to repent while still in the womb. Some have made that argument as they have tried to justify baptizing babies. But it is a fallacious argument and it defies common sense. Children are able to be regenerated only when they are mature enough to learn and understand that they are sinners, that Jesus is God’s Savior for sinners, and that God forgives those who put their trust in Jesus. There is somewhat of a mystery regarding what happened with John in Elisabeth’s womb. He had joy and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, but beyond that we should not speculate. Whatever happened to John, it happened only to him and not to others.
27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
Mary is called a virgin twice in verse 27. The Greek word in the text inspired by the Holy Spirit can not mean anything else. Mary was not simply a “young woman,” as some have claimed. She was a virgin. She had never known a man sexually (v 34). Mary was an innocent and godly person, highly favored by the Lord, blessed among women, but she was not born without sin and did not live her life without any sin at all. She was not impeccable as was Jesus.
What a message Gabriel had for Mary! The virgin girl would be with child by the Holy Spirit, a fearful and strange message. This Son would be the “Son of the Highest” (v 32), and “the Son of God” (v 35). This Son would be king in Israel and would sit on David’s throne forever, an everlasting kingdom. Jesus has never yet occupied David’s throne, which will be an earthly kingdom. He will sit on David’s throne after He returns to this earth in power and great glory.
There could not be a better explanation of the virgin birth than that given to Mary by Gabriel. The power of God “overshadowed” Mary and the Holy One conceived in her was the Son of God; yes, God in human flesh. Jesus is the God-man with a human nature from Mary and with a divine nature from the Holy Spirit. This is how Jesus became fully human and yet fully God. It was all accomplished as a miracle of God, and the example of Elisabeth gave courage and faith to Mary because it proved that with God all things are possible.
Verses 6-13 “6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
7There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
8But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
10When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
11For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
12For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
13Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”
The Scriptures teach that it is not better to give to the poor than it is to give to the Lord. Jesus said, “The poor you have always with you.” You will never run out of opportunities to help the poor, but you may run out of opportunities to give to the Lord. We are not called upon by the Lord to give all of our money to the poor, but it is good to spend some of our money to help the poor, especially orphans, poor widows, and the physically and mentally afflicted. It is not commendable to give money to people who refuse to work, because to do so makes the donor an enabler of laziness and irresponsibility. The government has not done us a favor by confiscating such a large percentage of our income to redistribute to the less fortunate. High taxes for “social purposes” takes the joy out of giving to help the poor, makes a duplication of our personal giving to the poor, and encourages indolence and sloth. And we must remember that those who are spiritually poor (unsaved) are in the worst condition of all, so we should give to the spreading of the gospel.
The woman who broke the alabaster box is identified as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:3). She breaks the box, a type of bottle or flask, made from the layered lime stone deposits in stalactites and stalagmites, and found only in Egypt. The bottle itself was very beautiful and very expensive. Mary poured out a full pound of the spikenard, an exceedingly expensive perfume. the perfume was an oil extracted from the nardos plant, found only in India. Spikenard was the highest form of nardos, very rare. This ointment was probably Mary’s life savings. She poured out the perfume to anoint Jesus, and she does so with utter abandonment and with unstinting devotion. Jesus was pleased with what she did. He said that she would be memorialized forever in His Word.
How do we show our devotion? David said, “Neither will I sacrifice unto the Lord that which costs me nothing” (II Sam.24:24). Our treasure, our time, our emotional energy, and our spiritual gifts must all be dedicated to Him.
2And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”
Jesus set an example that even if a person has a rather common occupation, such as carpenter, farmer, factory worker, or truck driver, that person may still have great spiritual power. Spiritual power comes from God, not from education, occupation, or station in life. Some people from Jesus’ own country were amazed that this man whom they had always known, one who had grown up among them, could have such wisdom and power. Familiarity breeds contempt!
In discussing this situation, the people of that district reveal the fact that Mary the mother of Jesus was also the mother of at least six other children, born after Jesus. Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters. This, of course, disproves the “perpetual virginity” doctrine being taught by some. Mary would not have been more holy, nor would she have been a better person, if she had been a “perpetual virgin.” In fact, a case can be made that she was a more dedicated believer because she was a good wife to Joseph, fulfilling her wifely role.