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Saving the Weak in Superhero Fashion

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Early in “X-Men” there is a conversation between Professor Charles Xavier, the leader of the heroes and Magneto, a bad mutant.  They have been listening to a debate about non-mutant humans and mutants living together. Charles urges Magneto to give them a chance.  As he walks away Magneto says, “We are the future Charles not they. They no longer matter.” And thus sums up the difference between superheroes and super-villains.  We do matter to the heroes. The weak, those in need of saving, the downtrodden do matter to those who have the power to make a difference.

          That’s true in the comic books. Those heroes demonstrated it on 9/11 when they went into the World Trade Center. And in true Superhero fashion we find in Jesus, our Amazing Emmanuel, the ability and desire to protect and save those in danger-namely us.

          Christ is at the center of Christmas. That’s a given.  Christmas is the coming of Christ. It is the physical birth of the Son of God. The New Testament says that Jesus Colossians 1:15-17 tells us:

15Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. 16Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see--kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. 17He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together.

          We know that when he was 12-years old he was well aware that God was his Father. And we know that he is the complete deal, not part God. But we also discover in Philippians that he “set aside the privileges of deity” The Message, we see in the gospels how his humanity played out in the fact that he got tired and hungry just like we do. Hebrews tells us that he was “tempted in everyway”; and in John 5 Jesus says, “The Son…can only do what he sees the Father doing…” and later, “By myself I can do nothing.”  He even tells his followers that he has no idea of when he will return after he’s executed and raised. 

          Here’s my point. I think that God arranged for Jesus to have Mary as his Mother and Joseph for his father (small ‘f’ ) for a reason. The reason? Because God wanted Jesus to experience first hand what it means to “live righteously” as a human.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Joseph is perfect, sinless or isn’t in need of Jesus himself for eternal salvation. But I’m only saying what the Bible already declared about him before Jesus was born.  “Being righteous”.

          Righteousness in Jewish thought meant knowing, upholding and making sure the law got carried out.  It meant doing the right thing the right way.  I love how Bruce Ritter a pastor in North Carolina describes the setting. He says, “We are introduced to Joseph in the middle of an unwelcome nightmare. Having become engaged to a beautiful young girl in the Jewish tradition, he has worked hard to establish an income to support his new bride and begin a family. He is in love. He is committed to Mary. He believed she loved him, until the news that his precious bride is pregnant”[1]

          I believe God, Jesus’ Father, wanted Jesus to learn from his father, what it looked like to live out the righteousness that God demanded.  Joseph had every right to demand Mary be punished. Old Testament law said she should be stoned but Rome didn’t allow much of that sort of thing. Still, Joseph could have made Mary the scapegoat and escaped with his honor intact.

Matthew says, “Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”  What Joseph knew about the law was that at its heart wasn’t retribution but “hesed”. This isn’t an easy word to translate into English.  A simple translation would be “mercy” but that’s such a shallow word today it doesn’t express the power of the idea.  A better idea is that of “contractual love” the covenant that the people remember every time an offering is carried up to Jerusalem and into the temple of God. It’s an everlasting love, an everlasting covenant that declares God will save His people.  In all of those contracts it’s always seems to fall to God to restore, protect and save his people and he does it repeatedly.

Joseph isn’t interested in “getting even” with Mary. He loves her and simply wants to put this behind him and move on with life. He didn’t care if people talked about him on the streets. She’d have the kid, tongues would wag and maybe they’d out live it.

I love it how God comes into life’s situations.  You have your mind made up on what you’re going to do. You’ve put the plans into motion and then suddenly there’s God changing things up.  And because you’ve heard the story you know how it works out. God’s angel knocks Joseph upside the head and tells him to pay attention. He tells him to believe Mary and gives him the name for the Baby.  Here’s something to think about. Imagine the families all coming to Passover the year after Jesus and John are born and Joseph and Zechariah alone talking about their last year or so.  Wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall of that conversation?

Joseph, the obedient, takes what he now knows to be true and acts on it. He names his son and his savior Jesus and takes Mary as his wife.  Years later as the story is told to the family Joseph’s lessons of love and protection aren’t lost on the others who hear them. James, Jesus half brother writes to a group of Christians who are caught up in what it means to “live a Christian life” and says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) And I believe that came from the example that Joseph set in protecting the weak their mom.   Need more proof? Look at how Jesus deals with the weak as He ministers to them.  Especially look at how He deals with those who had no power or position—women and children.  The woman at the well, the children who come to be blessed, the Syro-phonician woman, the daughter of the Jewish leader who died, the lepers who he touches, the woman who anoints his feet, His mother while he’s hanging on the cross,  Each of these and, I’ll bet you can find more, point to the protective, saving power of Jesus in their lives. They are living examples of the “hesed” God’s mercy on behalf of the weak and those who can’t save themselves.

In the next couple of weeks consider how you might become heroic in the lives of others who are weaker than you.  It could take place this coming Thursday night with the Salvation Army. It could happen as you go through Fred Myers and pick up a toy for a toy drive. It might happen as you sit down with that kid at school others make fun of or in going to help out at the Portland Rescue Mission or coming down to Kenton School and mowing lawns or talking to Jack Pratt about the Good Samaritan Food Bank or driving for Loaves and Fishes.  You see there are many ways that we can copy the protective work of our Amazing Emmanuel if we are willing to do it.


[1] accessed 12/12/2003

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