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  • Edwin Shank

He shall save His people from their sins

Last week I answered a factual question about whether we Mennonite Christians believe in Jesus as our Savior or not. This week, if you don't mind, I'd like to share a story on the same subject from my personal meditation that has greatly touched me. I'm sorry, it's a little long, but I wanted to share it with you just exactly as it impacted me.

"He shall save His people from their sins"

A few years ago, I was reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 1. For those of you who are familiar with the Bible, you know that the first long section of Matthew is the genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was soon to be the Mother of Jesus.

Now I must admit, I really don't enjoy genealogy. Not genealogy of today and not ancient genealogy either. It's just not my thing. But still, I was reading this because I do truly believe that God put everything in His Word for a purpose and every passage has a message... It's up to us to prayerfully search that message out and be open to it.

So I'm reading down over this long list of hard-to-pronounce names, most of them about people that even the Bible says very little about, and I was meditating on the fact that this was the family line of Jesus. (Yes, I know they were not His bloodline, because Jesus was miraculously conceived as the Son of God, but this was His earthy family line. All 42 generations listed here from Abraham to Joseph were the people of Jesus.)

As I read, I was powerfully stuck with how imperfect this family was. You don't really get all the info from this list, but being familiar with the Old Testament where the stories of these families are recorded, I knew the background story.

Seriously. There was a lot of brokenness in this family tree! A lot of dysfunctional relationships. A lot of wrong choices and selfishness and sin. This family had a past! And it was not pretty.

My mind quickly ran down over the list and the further I went the more amazed I was.

Abraham was a man of faith, yes... but his story was far from perfect. He tended to take things into his own hands and try to help God out. Whether it was lying and deceiving in tight spots or trying to father the son that God had promised with his wife's maid rather than with his wife, Sarah, as God had said. He made mistakes, committed sins and paid dearly for them.

Isaac, Abraham and Sarah's son, also was a man of faith and sometimes an outstanding example of peacekeeping and surrender to God. But there was a lot of brokenness and pain in his family too. Isaac and Rebecca, even though they had a beautiful start to their marriage, seemed to grow apart. Eventually they each selfishly took sides against each other, each with a favorite son caught in a web of craftiness, lies, deceit and disguise of truly biblical proportions. The conflict escalated between their twin sons until finally, Jacob fled for his life because his brother Esau was in a rage and plotting revenge by murder.

With Jacob, Isaac and Rebecca's son, the family brokenness, rivalry and fighting and cycle of hurt and sin seemed to worsen. Dirty trickery was the name of the game. Everything from Jacob being disgustingly tricked by his father in-law to unknowingly marry Leah, the older sister of Rachel the one he truly loved and thought he was marrying... to the two sister-wives constantly bickering for the love of their husband and offering their maid servants to help them in their pathetic struggle to outdo each other to conceive and bear more sons than the other... to the 11 jealous, conniving, lying sons of Jacob hardheartedly selling their despised brother Joseph, favorite-of-their-aged-father, into Egyptian slavery. And then to top it off, the brothers conspired to an elaborate plan of deception using the blood of a kid goat to deliberately and heartlessly mislead their grieving father to think that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.

And it does not stop with this.

Judah, one of Jacobs's most prominent sons in the direct line of Jesus, fathered a child with his aggrieved daughter-in-law, Tamar who secretly played the harlot to intentionally trap her father-in-law and to force him to comply with a family agreement. The son that resulted from the shameful trickery and unfaithfulness and sin was Phares... and yes, the linage of Jesus runs through him.

Rahab, the notable Canaanite ex-harlot of Jericho, was a link in this line.

Boaz the son of Rahab, married another non-Israelite woman, Ruth the Moabitess, and the line of Jesus runs through her.

Bathsheba, the stolen wife of Uriah, despite the adultery, lying, deceit and even the murder of Bathsheba's rightful husband, which King David had slickly orchestrated in a desperate attempt to cover his sin, later bore a son, Solomon, who was also a part of the line of people of Jesus.

I could go on, but you get the picture. The family line of Jesus, all of them named in Matthew 1, was tragically messy, sadly broken, and very human in so many sad ways. Not really the kind of people you'd expect to be the line leading up to the special family that God would choose to place his Only Begotten Son into.

As I was meditating, I had to wonder, "Why did God plan to have His Son born into all this messy, shameful brokenness?" I mean, God is God! He could have easily planned and orchestrated to have His special, beloved Son born into a perfectly unbroken pure line of wonderful people who always did what was noble and who were righteous and faithful always. What a great example that would have been! Why did he bring His Son Jesus into the line of all this messy imperfection? Why?


So I kept reading. After the first seventeen verses of genealogy, Matthew takes a more interesting turn and breaks into the story of Joseph and Mary and the soon-to-be-born-Baby-Jesus.

In verse 21, the angel Gabriel is talking to Joseph in a dream saying: "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

Their sins! His people's sins!

As I read those words, two truths struck me and I just let the inspiration and the tears flow and the truth penetrate.

First, no one said, "His people? What sins?" They all knew! They knew!

His people needed someone to rescue them. They desperately needed a Savior! Their sins, even though they were likely no worse than others of their day, and quite likely in some ways were better, their sins still had His people in bondage and they were not getting free without help. Here, in Jesus, was help and hope! Divine help sent by a divine Father!

Secondly, Gabriel announced clearly that Jesus' mission was to save His people from their sins.

Gabriel did not say Jesus came to save His people from hell.

Gabriel did not say Jesus came to take His people to heaven. Both of these were true too of course, but that was not the main point of Jesus' Mission of Rescue.

Jesus came to save His people from their sins!

The significance impacted me.

The saving mission of Jesus is so much more than just avoiding hell. It's so much more than just the reward of heaven. These all were future.

But Jesus came to save His people from their sins! Even during this life right now!

I think it is clear that God allowed His Son to be born into a family with a sinful broken past because that was God's whole point. He wanted the people to know they need help.

The sad neediness of the people of Jesus was the same sad neediness for everyone all over the earth. Sin and the effects of sin were everywhere. The powers of darkness were insurmountably strong. The news was not good. There was no peace on earth. There was no good will toward men. The need for someone to save them from their sins was unquestioned.

So with all this 'bad news' in the backdrop... can we better imagine and feel the shepherds' thrill when the angel excitedly announced the really 'Good News' a few months later?

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, (the shepherds) and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord! And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!" ~ Luke 2:10-14

Jesus, the Saviour had come! ... to save His people from their sins!

And today He still is saving. And that... is Good News! Because without Him, my family story and your family story is bad news too!

PTL! Glory to God in the Highest!

Your Mennonite Christian friend,

Edwin Shank

P.S. Feel free to share these in any way you want. Food for the Soul posts are free for all. We do not copyright any of our material nor are we possessive of its use. Freely we have received so freely we give.

When you write back, please, if it's not asking too much, tell us which city and state or country you're writing from. It's inspiring and connecting for our family and farm team to know at least the general area that you're from.


Stay tuned: Next week I plan to answer some more questions which you've respectfully sent to me:

We would like to know how your Bible is set up? Does it start with Genesis to Revelation like other Bibles? The Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant one... does yours have the extra books? In what language do you read the Bible? English? German? Greek? Hebrew? If in English, what version do you use? Do your children study the Bible at school?

Thank you for your questions! We love them. There is no such thing as a dumb question. Keep them coming! You will not offend us. I selected the above to answer next week because they are all in the same general category. It's all good! :)


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