Inconvenience (Matthew 1:18)

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In many evangelical churches, it is common to find people eager for more of the  Holy   Spirit. Why wouldn’t they? After all, who would not want more of the Spirit? He whom Jesus promised, whom He sent, He who imparts spiritual gifts to His children, who leads us and guides us into all righteousness – we all want that! 

Yet the Holy Spirit is also Sovereign God Most High. He does what He wishes, when He wishes, as He wishes. He brings glory to Christ, is part of the Godhead, and answers to no man. The consequence of which is that sometimes – perhaps a whole lot more often than any care to acknowledge – He does that which does not seem convenient to us in the moment. Of course, inconvenience is not what most are looking for. Certainly not what any are expecting from God Most High.

The Christmas story is perhaps the single best-known story on the face of the globe. But in Matthew’s Gospel it does not start with wonder and amazement. It starts with a profound and troublesome inconvenience. Matthew writes, ”This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” 

By leaving out the angelic encounter Luke informs us about, Matthew confronts his readers with the realization that Mary had to wrestle with. In fact, reading it without the benefit of Luke, one can well imagine a sinking feeling in Mary’s gut as she realized she was pregnant. She was keenly aware she had not yet slept with her husband. Humanly speaking, nothing but doubt and questions would’ve flooded her mind. Matthew’s unbelieving readers might wonder; Did someone rape her while she slept? Did she ingest some potion that removed her memory?  Of course, we have the Gospel of Luke, so we know very much otherwise. An angel – well, not just any angel, but the archangel Gabriel – appears to her (see Luke 2:28-35).  So we know Mary did not have a sinking feeling, but rather one of elation. Even if it was to be tempered with a healthy dose of fear for how her community – and her fiancé – would take the news. 

Matthew’s omission of these critical facts leaves the reader of his Gospel startled, and perhaps deeply skeptical of the words, “she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Yet isn’t it always that way with God’s revelation? We either take it at face value and believe, or we have a million reasons to question and disbelieve. 

Matthew is not afraid of confronting this natural tension. He knows it resides in each of us, so he addresses it head on. The reader, having already been reminded of God’s work through so many of the saints over the ages, knows that God has been working and speaking to this point. They are immediately confronted with the reality that God is continuing to work. He is doing something in the here and now. Something uncomfortable in the text, and perhaps something else uncomfortable in the reader.  

A most wise man once said, “Consider carefully how you listen!” Such advice is critical. Either you will read Matthew 1:18 and realize God is still speaking though His Word -even to you right now – or you will read it and listen to your own inner doubt instead. To those who choose to listen to the Spirit, the rest of Matthew is full of delight, wonder and blessing. It is God, speaking to them. But to those who choose to listen to their doubt, it is nothing but straw.

Which will it be for you? 

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves – that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.

NT Wright

APPLICATION: Thankfulness, Intentionality

Perhaps the next inconvenience you encounter will actually be a blessing of God for you. Choose now to make the very best of it. 

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