home > Pastor’s Desk > 2023 > November 17th > WHAT WESTERN ELITES DON’TUNDERSTAND ABOUT MARY’S BOY-CHILD & THE COMMANDER OF THE ARMY OF THE LORD

In a few weeks we will once again celebrate the incarnation of Mary’s boy-child. Mark Lowry’s famous 1984 song, Mary Did You Know imaginatively asks Mary whether she knew who it really was who she had given birth to?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
When you kissed your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God

Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will calm a storm with His hand?
Mary, did you know?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Is Lord of creation
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy
Is Heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the great ‘I Am’
Mary did you know?

It’s a beautiful song that was set to the music composed by musical genius, Buddy Greene, in 1991. Mark Lowry contemplated what it would have been like to have asked Mary—after her son had returned to His Father—whether she had realised what He was going to do after He was born? The song invites listeners to join in the contemplation of these questions Lowry asks. But some fussy theologians think that the questions in the song are unnecessary because both Mary and Joseph were told by angelic messengers who it was who Mary would give birth to (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:31-35). However, I think Mark Lowry’s song is more profound than many realise because if the same questions were reposed to many people today – 

    • Do you know why Jesus really died?
    • Do you know that Jesus performed many public miracles in front of hundreds of eye-witnesses?
    • Do you know that Jesus took all that was wrong with the world and began to set it on a path to complete restoration?
    • Do you know that Jesus had all of the sins of his mother, and the world placed on Him, and bore the divine wrath of punishment in our stead that we could all be given the opportunity to accept God’s forgiveness?
    • Do you know that Jesus was the eternal Son of God who created all of Heaven’s angels?
    • Do you know that when Jesus was a newborn baby He was the One who was holding the fabric of the entire universe together by the power resident within Him?
    • Do you know that the baby born to then virgin Mary was the very God who had created her?

I fear that the answer to most of these reposed questions would be: No. And I particularly suspect that the largest segment of the population that would be unaware of who Mary’s baby-boy really was would be Western cultural elites. My suspicion is reinforced by how I have observed this group respond to the current events in Israel-Gaza.

 

WHO ARE THESE WESTERN SECULAR CULTURAL ELITES ANYWAY?

I was listening to a discussion between Shane Morris, from the Colson Centre, and Rev. David Pileggi, the rector of Christ Church Jerusalem, on the Upstream podcast where David Pileggi stated:

“Probably at its heart there is a religious underpinning that most secular people in the West don’t understand because many Westerners, especially Western elites, can’t take religion seriously. And so, they focus on land, or refugees, or human rights, etc., etc. And I don’t want to deny that any of these are important, especially to the Palestinians. But there’s something a lot deeper that’s going on.”

Fr. Pileggi has served as the pastor of this church in Jerusalem for over thirty years. He clearly loves the Palestinians and the Jewish people among who he ministers. But his critique of how Western secular cultural elites: politicians, academics, media personalities and journalists, and performing artists is worth considering and learning from. Political leaders have generally responded to the situation in Gaza as if it were a political problem about territory. But as Pileggi states, this political focus on land completely misses the point. Academics, inexperienced-journalists and celebrities who view and present the conflict in Gaza as an oppressor/oppressed human rights issue also fail to recognise what is actually happening. This is almost entirely because these various Western cultural leaders have a bias against religion. They assume that atheism is a neutral and unbiased position. They regard the religious as irrational unenlightened and superstitious. Thus they often dramatically fall short of understanding the importance of religion in society – especially when it comes to the situation in the Middle East. This leads them to fail to distinguish between Palestinians and the Islamist Jihadi group Hamas – and in so doing are blinded to the sinister agenda hiding in plain sight. This failure inevitably leads them to naively and incorrectly assume that Israel’s fight is actually against Palestinians per se.

The social pressure that these cultural elites exercise through their various platforms – including news casts, classroom, lecture halls, ARIA awards nights, and Tik Tok – is particularly targeted at the young who have slowly but surely been undergoing a subtle conditioning to be taught what to think but not how to think. And this brings us back to Mary’s Boy-Child.

 

WHO THEN WAS THIS MARY’S BOY-CHILD ANYWAY?

Mark Lowry is normally comedic. But his now classic Christmas song is no joke! It presents baby Jesus as the eternal God the Son, the creator of heaven and earth, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of all humankind who turn to Him, the all-conquering Lamb of God, and the Great Judge of all people, the I AM. The event of His miraculous conception is known as the incarnation (God becoming human). But the incarnation was not Jesus the Christ’s first entrance into our world. In fact, it is as though He felt a divine right to enter our world any time He chose. These various appearances of Jesus prior to His incarnation are referred to as theophanies (appearances of God) or more particularly as Christophanies (appearances of God the Son). I want to highlight one of these in particular.

Joshua, the successor to Moses, was about to lead the second generation of Israelites who had come out of the Egyptian exodus into the Promised Land. He is then confronted by a rather terrifying military commander before Whom he bows in worship (something that Israelites were only allowed to do toward YHWH, the GOD). Because of the presence of the pre-incarnate Christ, the very ground that He and Joshua were on had become holy (this is what actually makes a land holy) Joshua was compelled to acknowledge the he was the presence of God).

¶ When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold,
a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand.
And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”
And he said, “No; but I am the Commander of the Army of the LORD. Now I have come.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him,
“What does my lord say to his servant?”
And the commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua,
“Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.”
And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15

The presence of the Commander of the Army of the Lord gave Joshua the confidence that the Lord would be with him as he led the Israelites into battle to take possession of their land. Mary’s boy-child was more, much more than just a newborn baby. He was the Commander of the Army of the Lord. The relevance of pointing this out that Jesus was not just the Saviour, He was also the divine royal military commander who revealed Himself to Joshua that He was not just for Israel, He was for all people. Indeed, the most famous verse in the New Testament, John 3:16, is a statement underscoring God’s love for all people. So is God for the Palestinians and against the Israelites? The revelation of Christ as the Commander of the Army of the Lord reveals that God is available to all people – no matter what their ethnicity or their religious upbringing. David Pileggi states –

Being pro-Palestinian also means you don’t romanticize the Palestinian people. You see them honestly for their good points and their bad points, for their weaknesses, for their strengths. And the same goes for Israel, right? Our relationship with the Jewish people, it’s not based on certain romanticism or biblical fundamentalism.
… And by the way, neither should the basis of our support for Israel be some kind of Islamophobia or dislike of Arabs, whatever that may be.
… We look at Israel, we can see the good parts of the society and we can also see, you know, where the society is weak and perhaps fails ethically or morally.

 

THE WAY WESTERN CULTURAL ELITES IGNORE THE TRUE IDENTITY OF JESUS IS WHY THEY ALSO CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GAZA

In Christopher Watkin’s award-winning 2023 Book of the Year, Biblical Critical Theory, he shows how secularists who reject God and dismiss all religions as basically the same, and as nonsense, actually owed their free-thinking to the very thing they opposed: Christianity. Tom Holland, in his epic book, Dominion – The Making of the Western World, makes a similar point – that it was Christianity which gave birth to secularism and its values – human rights, care for the vulnerable, respect for women and children, the rule of Law, the scientific method, democratic government, and religious plurality. 

When secularists turned their attention to Christianity, they challenged the authority of the Bible, the scientific claims of the Bible, the evidence for the existence of God, the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, and the cultural contribution of early Christians. The response of Christians gave rise to the modern apologetics movement within Christianity. What this reaction was not was a violent military reaction. Authentic Christianity has never used violence to defend Christian beliefs (despite what some have claimed about the medieval crusades). But the same cannot be said of all religions. And this goes to the heart of why there is the Gaza conflict.  

 

WHY WOULD MEEK AND MILD JESUS ALSO BE A MILITARY COMMANDER? 

In a remarkable twist, the closing book of the Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, for the first nineteen and half chapters of its twenty-two chapters, Jesus is almost entirely depicted as the Lamb. The particular Greek word used in this final biblical book for “lamb” is the word arnion which means little lamb. In other words, the lamb described in the Book of Revelation is depicted as the weakest and the most defenceless of almost any creature. Yet, from Revelation 19 verse 11, our view of the Lamb of God suddenly and dramatically comes into view as we are shown what was always there in plain sight – that what we were looking at all along was never just an arnion, but was in fact the Almighty Commander of the Armies of Heaven! We are now given a glimpse – a revelation – of who Jesus really was, and still is:     

¶ Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True,
and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire,
and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself.
He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God.
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses.
From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations,
and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Revelation 19:11-16

But what kind of military campaign is the Commander of Heaven’s Armies waging? A physical and bloody violent war against infidels with cutlasses, bullets, and bombs? Absolutely not. The war that Christ leads His followers into is a spiritual battle whereby hearts are conquered by the love and grace of God through the gospel! The apostle Paul describes these soldiers of Christ being armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Word of God in their hands, the breastplate of righteousness that comes as a gift from Christ, with the belt of truth around their waist, and their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel message! This is starkly different how some other religions attempt to advance or defend their causes through the use of subjugation, suicide-bombers, and terrorism. Make no mistake about it, Mary’s boy-child is out to win this war for the hearts, minds, and souls of all Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, and Israelites through the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit!  And until Western cultural elites can see past their anti-religious biases and come to realise that this is the only way this devastating war of bombs and missiles being waged in Gaza can come to a peaceful end, the better off we and the whole world will be.

You know, people tell me, “Well, what’s the answer to this Middle East problem?”
The answer is Jesus. Right? Jesus is the answer.
And I think one of the things that we’ve learned over the years
[is] that saying you believe in Jesus,
saying you admire Jesus, doesn’t get you very far.
… If there’s going to be transformation in the lives of a community,
or transformation in a family or a society,
[we] have to put the teachings of Jesus into practice.
Fr. David Pileggi

And the teaching of Jesus doesn’t end with the Great Commission, but for many, it is where it begins.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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