The Work of the Rebel Jesus

by | Dec 19, 2021 | Sermons

The Work of the Rebel Jesus

Mary provides a wonderfully prophetic testimony to the work that God would perform through Jesus. It is work that we as the Church are to take up and continue. The Work of the Rebel Jesus.

Scripture: Luke 1: 39-55

Advent spans four weeks. It begins at the end, with destruction and despair and it ends this morning with Mary and her song of praise to God. Referred to as the Magnificat, due to the words she speaks “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

The passage today comes in two parts. First is the encounter with Mary and Elizabeth, both who are pregnant. Both will have sons, Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist and of course Mary is mother to Jesus. The second part of our passage today focuses on the section I just mentioned, the Magnificat.

The passage this morning is important. It is one of the clearest passages that features Mary’s voice, as she is expectant with child. Her voice is strong, it is prophetic, and her words should challenge and move us. Considering the patriarchal culture that Mary lived in, that she is the main character of this passage and that she speaks prophetically is telling.

Wesley Allen writes that this passage features a reversal which is important to understanding the whole of Luke’s gospel narrative. “This reversal begins with Mary herself. God looks upon her lowliness as God’s servant (or better, her humiliation as God’s slave) and calls her blessed (verse 48). But then quickly Mary’s prophetic announcement of salvation extends beyond an individualistic to a cultural, systemic concern. Luke presents her as preaching that God brought judgment on the proud and the powerful, sending the rich away empty, and conversely that God lifted up the lowly and fed the hungry (verses 51–53).” (Wesley Allen)

Mary’s words include the following:

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

There is a strong emphasis on social justice in this passage. The passage relates back to what God has done, however it is prophetic in nature by describing what God through Christ would do. Make no mistake these words of Mary are radical. About these words author Roger Wolsey writes, “Knocked-up, teen-aged, not yet married Mary was the first punk singer and the first rock & roller. When she learned that she would bear the Christ-child, she sang a song. It was a song of praise. It was a song of protest. And it wasn’t timid, it was raucous.

She celebrates that God is about to do something new in the world. She celebrates that God is about to turn the world upside-down, knock the wealthy oppressors off their pedestals, lift up those who’ve been oppressed, and usher-in a new reign of social justice and reconciliation.” (Roger Wolsey – Jesus’ Mom was a Punk)

Except that Jesus doesn’t bring down the powerful from their thrones. Other than the rich young man he doesn’t send the rich away empty. In fact, both Jesus and his cousin John end up executed by the state. I know, I’m skipping ahead to Easter. What do we make of this passage and how should it speak to us today?

In Bible study we are looking at Mark’s gospel. We’ve covered three chapters in our five or six weeks, but what we are realizing is that Jesus entered into the world during a very difficult time and that the gospels were penned during a period of conflict between Palestine and Rome. Jesus does set out to do what Mary prophesied, but he opts for a path of peace versus conflict. Teaching and healing rather than outright confrontation, and yet we can’t deny that Jesus was a very real threat to the established leaders of the temple and Imperial Rome.

Philip Yancey writes, “Jesus spoke to an audience raised on stories of wealthy patriarchs, strong kings, and victorious heroes. Much to their surprise, he honoured instead people who have little value in the visible world: the poor and the meek, the persecutred and those who mourn, social rejects, the hungry and thirsty. His stories consistently featured ‘the wrong people’ as heroes: the prodigal, not the responsible son; the Good Samaritan, not the good Jew; Lazarus, not the rich man; the tax collector, not the Pharisee. As Charles Spurgeon … expressed it, ‘His glory was that he laid aside His glory, and the glory of the church is when she lays aside her respectability … and counts it to be her glory to gather together the outcasts.”

In bible study we listened to the song Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne. This is probably now my favourite Christmas song. I’m going to play it for you now and I hope that the volume carries through the sanctuary. For those watching the livestream, I will include a link to the song in the transcript of the sermon when it goes live on the website later today. But the song is Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne. If you are quick, you can look it up on YouTube and listen along with us.

In her Magnificat Mary speaks about what God has done and would do through Christ, yet we see what happens to Christ. Where does this leave us?

It leaves us as the eyes and ears, the hands and feet of Christ. We, as the Church, are a continuation of what Mary spoke of and what Jesus came to do. That not by force or violence, but through compassion, mercy and love we would change the world. There is much to do and often at this time of year we focus on those tangible actions that we can take. We must take up work of Rebel Jesus and carry on with the work of the kingdom. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, care for one another, care for creation, challenge the status quo, and fight for greater equality for all.

Like Mary, our souls must glorify God. Who brought low the powerful and remembered the merciful. For through us, in Christ’s name, God is capable of doing incredible things. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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