Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21)
In the first century, the community of Israel was occupied by Rome who exerted economic and political oppression upon them. Before Rome it was Greece and before Greece it was Persia. Additionally, much of the land was owned by foreigners who controlled large estates. Local farmers were asked to rent lands and were treated unfairly. Would there be no end to their enslavement?
If you had asked the Jews at that time what was the thing they desired most of all, unanimously the resounding reply would have been, ‘freedom from the oppression of Rome’. After all, what could be worse than the oppression of Rome? What more could they fear than what they were experiencing? God, however, saw things differently.
In reality, oppression from Rome was not the most lethal enemy they faced. There was another enemy that many had no inkling of; one that resided in each son and daughter of Israel. It was sin!
Without realising it, Israel, and all mankind, had an enemy that not only enslaved the body, but also the mind, the will and the emotions. Sin enslaves the whole person.
God knew this and, instead of just freeing his people from Rome, his desire was to free all mankind from sin. This was a much bigger and wider mission than the Jews imagined.
When Jesus graced the shores of earth, he proclaimed that man’s need was deliverance from sin.
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)
In his book ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, Kenneth E. Bailey observes:
“In a situation of oppression, it takes enormous courage to tell the oppressed community that all are sinners and all must repent.”
But that is exactly what Jesus did. That same message of a great salvation from sin has rung out all down the ages. It has sounded clearly to you and me, where we are in this 21st Century.
How we thank God, that the mission of Jesus was not salvation from an earthly oppressor but from the greatest enemy we will ever face… sin.
Reader, if you haven’t yet accepted the offer of this great salvation yet, do it now. You will never regret it.
Pauline Ann Anderson
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Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.