Mary and the God Who Wore Diapers

“The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.” CS Lewis


Which Savior?

I had a conversation with some middle schoolers about the birth of Jesus. I knew that as they studied the life of Jesus, they might wonder why there was much opposition to the ministry of Jesus which resulted in HIs death on the Cross. What might be the basis of some of that opposition?  I had them look at Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

I asked them to think of what we know about God and use descriptives words about His nature. They came up with creator, mighty, and stronger than anybody and anything. Then I asked them what these verses tell us about Him. They agreed that it said He would be a mighty ruler. He would bring justice and peace to the world.

Then I read to them from Isaiah 53:2-10 NIV

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b] 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offe

I explained to them that this, too, was talking about Jesus. It described what happened to Him when He lived on the earth. We discussed how different these two sets of verses are. How could they both be true? I told them to imagine the Jewish people two thousand years ago. They did not have the advantage we have. For us, it is a given that Jesus would come as a baby, born to poor parents in an insignificant village. We now know that Jesus came to forgive our sins and that would involve His death on a Cross. We also understand that Jesus will one day come again and this time He will establish a just, peaceful, and everlasting government.

I suggested that the Jewish people were being ruled by an often cruel Roman government that continued to threaten them. In fact, they eventually invaded, destroying the Temple in 70 AD which would result in the Jewish diaspora. They were thrown out of the Promised Land. So was it any wonder the Jewish people were looking for a conquering Savior to demolish their Roman overlords?

The coming of Jesus was not a slick marketing campaign.

If I were in charge, I would have had Jesus make an appearance in the Roman Senate and confront them. Aren’t the political powerbrokers the ones who *get things done?*  God had a different plan in mind and it seems pretty ridiculous in this day and age of slick marketing of religion.

From Luke 2:1-20 NIV

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

God chose Mary but He didn’t coerce her. Special thanks to Scot McKnight’s book: The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus 

There was a debate on Twitter on this matter. This is my response: Mary agreed to God’s proposal.

God chose a 13-14-year-old girl who was nobody except for the fact she was a descendant of David. In that day and time, she was unimportant. But read this encounter with the angel named Gabriel in Luke 1:26-38 NIV. Pay close attention to verse 38.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was not yet pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He used the future tense in his conversation.”

The Holy Spirit will come on you.”

Of course, Mary was initially troubled. Gabriel isn’t one of those cute little baby angels or a very pretty lady angel with long hair. An appearance of an angel could be quite frightening and Mary was troubled at his appearance and greeting. I would be scared to death!

Mary asked how such a thing could happen and the angel explained the Holy Spirit and the Most High would accomplish this. He also offered her some comfort by referring to her cousin, Elizabeth, who had been unable to have children but was now pregnant due to God’s intervention. As we know, that child would be John the Baptist who would baptize Jesus. Mary had a relative who had a miracle of her own. Elizabeth would be a support to Mary during the hard times of the pregnancy. God did not leave Mary without support. Joseph was told to stay with her by an angel. Jesus would later ask John to care for her as He was being crucified. It is thought she was a widow at that time. And John did just that. 

We should not be naive. Mary knew how the community treated an unwed mother. Even though Joseph would support her(he had his own angel encounter), she knew that people would whisper and talk about her. But she did agree to the plan. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” She agreed to the plan after the angel explained a few things. No coercion here. She will say much more that will prove that God picked the right woman for the job but that’s for another post.

Let’s go through the ways that Jesus didn’t appear in the way the Jewish people expected.

  • A young teen from a backwater town-a nobody- was chosen to bear Jesus. Wasn’t he supposed to be born into an influential and wealthy family to a well-connected mother and father?
  • Can you imagine the young teen, Mary, and Joseph dealing with birth without the benefit of family support? Kings have lots of help.
  • He was born…wait a minute… God was a helpless baby who wore diapers? This is not a vision of a conquering Savior, is it?
  • He was born in a stable (many believe it was a cave). No palace for this King.
  • Joseph had to deal with the awkwardness about Mary’s pregnancy…Can you imagine him trying to explain this one to his friends and rabbi?
  • What was the deal with shepherds? Why in the world would a group of angels waste an entire amazing heavenly chorus on a bunch of insignificant low-level workers? Why were they told to go and see the Savior? Why not the influential rulers of that day? Why didn’t the angels appear to prominent members of the Jewish elite? This does not sound promising…or it wouldn’t if one didn’t know the rest of the story.

The beautiful story that people didn’t get in the beginning

Jesus would turn us inside out and upside down. He did something that today’s church growth experts need to understand. He came to the lonely, the poor, and the disenfranchised, He touched and healed lepers. He had conversations with the promiscuous, hung around with fishermen and the hated tax collectors, and was vilified for doing so. But these *lowlifes* would go on to change the world, making Christianity the dominant religion in just a few centuries.

I attended an SBC church for a short time that reveled in having prominent lawyers, doctors, professional sports figures, etc. giving the morning prayer. No dregs of society for this church. But something seemed terribly wrong to me. This was not the Way of Jesus.

Jesus was hated by many religious leaders and prominent men of His day. He didn’t come as a conqueror of nations. He came to conquer our hearts and He did. It just took us a while to understand Him. Now, as we spread the story of His unique birth, we wait for Him to come again in power and glory. In the meantime, I think we need to stay away from slick churches with celebrity leaders. Jesus did not choose to go down that path for good reason. More and more, we are beginning to see why.

I love this song. Mullins asked some questions that I have about Jesus as a boy.

Comments

Mary and the God Who Wore Diapers — 42 Comments

  1. “35 The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. … 37 For no word from God will ever fail.’

    “38 ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’”

    Are we ready to be the Lord’s service so His unfailing word to us may be fulfilled? Mary was and our Savior was born.

  2. FYI, I just copied it from the twitter post.

    Mike Winger
    Mike Winger
    38 minutes ago
    A really sad day.

    I’ve been following this for some time and hoping and waiting for some transparency on it. I suggest clicking the link to read this statement from RZIM as well as reading the investigative report update that is linked at the bottom of RZIM’s statement. Bringing light to all this stuff is the only way forward.

    “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
    1 Timothy 5:20-21

    https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/update-from-rzim-board-allegations-against-ravi-zacharias

  3. Julie Roy’s just released a statement from the law firm investigating RZIM and the initial report appears to confirm what he was accused of. I left my comments about the whole situation on her website, really disappointing and a life lesson for many of us especially myself. I hope that somehow some good can come out of this.

  4. Brian,

    I’ve been following this quite closely.I plan to write about it as well. I remember a couple of years ago when Julie ASnne Smith and I were first contacted by Lori Anne.We wrote about her. The abuse she took from despicable RZ fans was unbelievable. Finally, the tide is turning.

  5. “I attended an SBC church for a short time that reveled in having prominent lawyers, doctors, professional sports figures, etc. giving the morning prayer. No dregs of society for this church.”

    Better to walk in the Kingdom of God with dregs than be among the cream of the crop standing on the outside looking in.

  6. The story of Mary and the supernatural has no equal in any other religion or belief system.
    It’s unique and grabs the heart (if it’s gonna’ grab at all), because it says that Almighty God became one of us.
    Millions still think it’s just maudlin sentimentalism.
    But for those who believe, it generates a genuine hope that the grave does not end us.

  7. “Why in the world would a group of angels waste an entire amazing heavenly chorus on a bunch of insignificant low-level workers?”

    You mean like a bunch of $8/hr “twerps?”

    Thank you, Dee, for the heartfelt message, and Merry Christmas!

  8. The C&MA bear a huge responsibility for morally blackmailing a boy on his suicide bed (an unhelpful variation on dharma: Empire bites back – as it incidentally has done in Ireland too). I fear an element among those into whose arms Galli has run may bear one soon too.

    I never pinned much on the Seleucid forecast thing; mention of them has meaning in hindsight also, if it was hindsight; I look to Holy Spirit works; perhaps the C&MA don’t; I didn’t happen to have any use for RZ (and found his personality strange in the small degree I took notice whatever), myself.

  9. The CV affair was “limited damage causing” a.k.a insurance policy. Very interestingly Baugham is most scathing about christians’ failure to see that prophecy is centrally about understanding the past (and for this we need all of the real meanings taught as well as the text) which, in our corner of the universe, as erstwhile contingency turned necessity, has its own ontological level (I got the latter before I read Deleuze and Price but they are helping me articulate it). Banjo players understand the meaning of the difference between not twanged yet and once twanged. Did captains of christian-industry turn into one of the machines in their machine shop? And would they like us to too?

  10. I’ve seen some social media posts saying that Mary was forced.
    I think the verse, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said,” at least implies consent. She agreed.

    Merry Christmas to all.

  11. Muff Potter: But for those who believe, it generates a genuine hope that the grave does not end us.

    Especially those who are dear to us whom we have lost. I can bear the thought of my own non-existence, but the thought that people dear to me are irretrievably gone is profoundly sorrowful.

    Hebrews 2 comes to mind,

    “14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

    Merry Christmas, all

  12. “God chose a 13-14-year-old girl who was nobody except for the fact she was a descendant of David.”

    The genealogies in the Gospels end with Joseph, not Mary, as the descendant of David. There are theories that put Mary in that line as well, including the fact that “marrying in” was (and is) a strong custom in the Middle East.

    However, the fact that Elizabeth, “of the daughters of Aaron,” was Mary’s relative raises the possibility that Mary was descended from Levi rather than Judah.

    In summary, if God thought it was important for us to have more complete information, He would have provided it. Same with the details of the birth of Jesus. I like Bishop Tom Wright’s theory that the manger was in the undercroft or annex of a home of Joseph’s relatives.

  13. Max: “I attended an SBC church for a short time that reveled in having prominent lawyers, doctors, professional sports figures, etc. giving the morning prayer. No dregs of society for this church.”

    AKA the Chads & Stacys, Muffies & Buffies holding Court.
    Just like the Cool Kids’ Table in High School.

  14. Thank you for this post. I heard that every Jewish girl wanted to be the one to get to be the Messiah’s mother so I see Mary is so humble in her response and the way she carried herself since it was an honor to be chosen and highly favored among women (not above women). I also love how Joseph wanted to protect her, in a way, even before the angel told him the baby was from God, he didn’t want to disgrace her publicly so he decided to break the engagement quietly. If he had been a Pharisee, he would have had her stoned or something like that. I love that Jesus chose to be born in a humble family. He could have chosen to be born to in a King’s palace yet was born in a manger.

  15. Cynthia W.: if God thought it was important for us to have more complete information, He would have provided it

    Which He did regarding the “real” story about the wise men. Scripture doesn’t say there were 3 wise men, but that there were wise men bearing three gifts. And they didn’t find baby Jesus at the manger, but when He was two years old living in a house. (However, I won’t let that discrepancy take away from the overall story about Jesus’ birth)

  16. Cynthia W.: In summary, if God thought it was important for us to have more complete information, He would have provided it.

    So, if the Almighty wanted us to fly, he would have grown us wings.
    Clear biblical teaching that we should not be riding in great metal false birds.

  17. Dee,
    A very good job on this post. The ways of God are the opposite of the ways of narcissists looking for something to leverage in order to get influence over others. Our beloved celebrities are far from the real Creator and His ways. The humility of the real Jesus we still tend to despise, which is quite a shame. And so we look for those who are in reality arrogant, telling us about how great their leadership is and how certain they are that their teachings are The Truth. In this way, our faith turns into a sure idolatry as we simply hunt for someone to tell us only what we want to hear. When we find that man we will follow them and many will defend them no matter what evil it is that they have done. None of this is Christianity.

    But who really wants to allow a Spirit that we cannot see to be our Teacher in this life? That requires a whole lot of work and a mountain full of true faith. So we choose the wide and easy road that leads us right over a cliff following the narcissists telling us whatever it is that we really want to hear. Jesus birth, life and death are the opposite of all of that. May we see past all of the brash celebrities this season to behold the real risen Savior. This is what Christmas is for. It is not about us pleasing ourselves and our families, but the One who made us in the first place.

  18. From the opening post: “He was born…wait a minute… God was a helpless baby who wore diapers? This is not a vision of a conquering Savior, is it?”

    I was in another person’s Episcopal church a number of years ago when I first heard mention of Jesus as a baby in diapers…. a baby crying like any other baby…..it was the first time I had thought about, heard, or even considered the implication that Jesus could have had wet diapers….

    And now? I also wonder….was He a quiet baby….did He ever have colic….did He get sick….as a toddler, did He throw temper tantrums?

    Some years later, I wondered what it would have been like to physically walk down the road with Jesus, discussing the many everyday things that were never included in the Bible.

    In other words, I often wonder what Jesus was like as a normal human being….all we really hear or read about about is Jesus as the God-Man….

  19. researcher: I often wonder what Jesus was like as a normal human being

    This passage provides us a glimpse of Jesus in that regard: “It was essential that He had to be made like His brothers (mankind) in every respect, so that He might [by experience] become a merciful and faithful High Priest” (Hebrews 2:17)

  20. Max: “It was essential that He had to be made like His brothers (mankind) in every respect, so that He might [by experience] become a merciful and faithful High Priest” (Hebrews 2:17)

    I do not remember reading that particular translation of Hebrews 2:17 – thank you for quoting it. That particular translation gives me something additional to think about…

  21. Max,

    Max, that’s another good example of how we have taken a fact in the Gospel and built a legendarium around it. I think it’s okay as long as we don’t get overcommitted to it.

  22. Cynthia W.,

    Did you know that Noah didn’t take two of every animal species on the ark? Yep, Scripture records that 7 pairs of “clean” animals made the journey … but only 1 pair of “unclean” animals.

    “You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two of each animals that are unclean, a male and his female” (Genesis 7:2)

    That, and other contradictions of what I was taught as a child, is why I read Scripture myself and ask the Holy Spirit to teach me Truth … rather than relying on the interpretations and traditions of men.

  23. Cynthia W.: I’m sorry, Mr. Potter. I don’t understand your point.

    Simply this, just because God doesn’t tell me everything by way of Scripture, it doesn’t mean that I can’t come up with my own fanciful speculations.
    Which by the way, I do all the time.
    After all, he did endow us with fabulous minds and an insatiable curiosity.
    Yes?
    No?

  24. researcher: the picture might have been of any loving mother with her baby…

    There’s a reason why the Christmas Story has such universal appeal and staying power.
    No other tale of gods, goddesses,or just plain mighty men of old, even comes close.

  25. I finished a new song for my instrumental Christmas album last night. It is now uploaded and can be found on the link associated with this comment. Merry Christmas everyone!

  26. Max: I read Scripture myself and ask the Holy Spirit to teach me Truth … rather than relying on the interpretations and traditions of men.

    The Word is the Bread of Life, and who wants to eat regurgitated bread. Or, as has also been said, growing up to eat meat and no longer be dependent on mom’s milk, is good.

  27. Cynthia W.: “God chose a 13-14-year-old girl who was nobody except for the fact she was a descendant of David.”

    I’m no bible scholar (don’t even play one on tv) but I recall that Joseph was identified as the descendant of David. Keeping in mind the gospel writers did not have an understanding of genetics – and that the society was patriarchal, it make sense the lineage of Joseph would take precedence.

    As I got older, I struggled with the Christmas story if I thought about it too much. Like so much else in the bible, individual Christians make peace with it in their own way.

    In my opinion, trying to speculate too much can lead to some awkward questions. I recognize that in the first century a man was considered an adult at 14 and women could be married at around that time. I also recognize that the life expectancy was around 40 and many didn’t reach adulthood. Life was hard, short and brutal for the majority. Death was much closer and the modern concept of childhood didn’t exist (nor did constitutional democracy or romantic love – in the sense we think of it).

    The bible stories reflect this. To say Mary wasn’t coerced is a little disingenuous. What is she going to say to a messenger from the creator of the universe? A creator who doesn’t take rejection very well if the stories of the old testament are any indication.

    Why have a virgin give birth? The babe could have come down on a beam light a la “A Spaceman Came Travelling” by Chris de Burgh. But I digress- we’ll leave that for another conversation or not.

    Speculation like this backfires when we consider that many abused women supposedly acted of “their own free will” when men of power coerce them. Now this is dangerous ground because we don’t want to go there with the Christmas story but in a patriarchal society women did what they were told.

    I preferred to focus on the message that from humble beginnings great things happen, the basic messages of Christianity – kindness to others, love our neighbours as we would ourselves. Timeless messages that fit all eras.

    There’s no way to fit this story into the reality of “me too” or “church too”. The people of the first just didn’t think that way. How “real” the Christmas story is and the message depends on the individual believer. Whether it happened as written can never be proved or disproved – and ultimately doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the faith.

  28. Jack,

    *Sigh* the blog owners can feel free to delete this post. Not particularly helpful in this forum. I retract it. Merry Christmas!