Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Amazing Open-Hearted Mary
As we left off last time, the angel Gabriel had announced to a priest named Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth, though old, would have a son. This boy would be a preparer of hearts—preparing the nation in repentance for a great work that God would do. Zechariah reacted poorly—demanding proof that he could reason out. Because of his lack of faith the angel struck him dumb and likely deaf. Unable to bless the people after leaving the Temple, Zechariah eventually returned home, had relations with Elizabeth who became pregnant. Her response was totally different than her husband’s. She knew her lack, acknowledged that it was God who was doing the work and that it was an act of grace personally for her.
Luke in writing this gospel is trying to answer a question for a man named Theophilus: who is Jesus and can He be trusted? Now we get into starting to form an answer to that question in verses 26 through 38 of Chapter 1.
Who is He? Jesus is a human born of an earthly mother (who was a virgin) who had no earthly father.
One month after Elizabeth comes out of seclusion, the story picks up again:
“In the sixth month” refers to Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. Gabriel once again gets instructions from God, this time to go to Nazareth and locate a young girl named Mary.
Nazareth was a fairly small village in the Galilee region of Israel. Contrast Gabriel’s first visit: to the capitol of Israel and to the most holy place in Jerusalem: the Temple. Now Gabriel goes to one of the most humble places in Israel. Nazareth was really not much more than a stopping off place for Roman soldiers on their way to and from Sidon. It’s located along the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee and halfway to the Mediterranean.
Nazareth was a tiny (population 500) agricultural town with no trade routes, of little economic significance and was never mentioned in the Old Testament. In fact, it wasn’t until 1962 that there was any pre-Christian record that this town ever existed. So we go from the top to the very bottom of society.
Paul would write later about Jesus—His hometown mirroring His coming to humanity—in the most humble way possible:
Phil. 2:7 “He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.”
So Gabriel comes to a humble place—and instead of being sent to one of the highest members of society—a priest—he comes to one of the lowest: a teenage girl named Mary.
Mary was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old. Just stop for a moment and consider this: of all the people in the world, God chose a young girl of marriageable age of no particular importance.
Can I just stop here and say that we should never discount someone who wants to serve the Lord, even if they don’t meet our expectations of being “old enough.” Her father was Heli or Eli (3:23), of whom we know nothing except that he traced his line back to King David.
Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, who was a carpenter, though the Greek word can mean something along the lines of general contractor. Engagement, or betrothal, is very different now. Back then a couple got engaged and were legally married—they’d have to divorce in order to separate. But at the same time they could not enjoy the physical intimacy of marriage for a year—presumably time to prove the innocence of the woman and for the husband to prepare a home for his bride.
Joseph was also related to King David. This is important because of what God promised David:
2 Samuel 7:11 “‘The LORD declares to you: The LORD Himself will make a house for you. 12 When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to Me.”
28 – 29
So Gabriel appears to Mary, probably in the same way as Zechariah, but different than Joseph (Matthew 1:20) who saw the angel in a dream. I think it’s very interesting that Gabriel does not say “Do not be afraid,” right off the bat, but tells Mary that she is “favored” and tells her to “rejoice.” Some translations render this “Hail!” and it can mean that in the idea of “be well” but it isn’t used by Luke in this way elsewhere so it seems that the angel really wants her to rejoice—yet she doesn’t do that, at least not right off.
I’m not sure of the significance, but it is clear what Mary focuses on: the idea of being “favored” and that “the Lord is with you” “deeply troubles” her. The word diatarasso can mean: “intensely going back-and-forth (to-and-fro) between inner thoughts and emotions”.
Perhaps this is because of Mary’s status in society. She’s practically at the bottom rung socially—so why would God favor her or even be with her. I wonder if she thought “did I do something wrong?” Being in the presence of a supernatural being, and him saying that Yahweh is with you—ought to strike fear into our hearts. When Isaiah saw the Lord “high and lifted up”, his first response was “Woe is me!”
Mary’s kind of attitude is so healthy—Mary knows she doesn’t deserve God’s presence, much less His favor. As we approach a holy God there ought to be somewhat of a surprise that God would love us enough to send a Savior to rescue us and make us His own.
By the way, since this is so personal—even getting to Mary’s thoughts—it seems pretty likely that Luke actually talked to Mary to get this account from her.
30 – 33
30 - So first off the angel says, basically, “you’re not in trouble Mary, quite the opposite, so don’t be afraid.”
31 – Gabriel says that Mary that she will become pregnant and have a baby boy. She’s to call Him Jesus—or Joshua in Hebrew (Yeshua), which means “God saves” or “Yahweh is salvation or deliverance”. Talk about stripping your gears. This is far more than the miracle that Elizabeth experienced because Mary’s a virgin. The name Jesus is more than just a common boy’s name in Israel—because in this instance it speaks of the purpose of this child—and the first real hint at answering the question: Who is this man? He is a savior, a deliverer.
32 – Saying that Jesus will be “great” is an understatement. Gabriel then qualifies it by saying He will be God’s Son—this is a hint of how this pregnancy will occur—without the agency of a human father. But a human father will adopt him—Joseph. This gives Him a lineage that goes back to King David, and the promise of 2 Samuel 7 that we saw earlier. But He will not be just another human king.
33 – Jesus will, in fact, reign forever on David’s throne. So answer #1, Jesus will be a savior. Answer #2, He will be a forever king.
But notice something—Mary doesn’t, at this juncture, think about the big picture. As a 12-14 year old girl, she’s focused on what’s about to happen to her body and how in the world this could take place!
Mary knew enough about anatomy and physiology to know that unless two humans are intimate there won’t be a baby. She’s not asking out of unbelief and doubt like Zechariah (Luke 1:18) but out of curiosity and puzzlement.
And you know, when we honestly ask God tough questions, He is more than happy to answer, as the angel does.
Gabriel explains the process in this way: the Holy Spirit will “come upon” you. The idea of the Greek here is the fitting result from the action of coming upon something. “Overtake” is another way to translate it. Then the Spirit will “overshadow” which means: “to cast a shadow upon”. This would be act of God placing the seed to fertilize one of Mary’s eggs.
It should remind us of Genesis 1, where God’s Spirit was “hovering over the surface of the waters.” God overshadowed creation and created something out of nothing. Much the same thing happens here.
It also is a direct fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Immanuel, by the way, means: “God with us” like Gabriel said: “God is with you.”).
Because of this, Jesus will be God’s son, not Joseph’s son. It means Jesus will be the only human ever born without sin (1 John 3:5). The rest of us can’t say that:
Psalm 51:5 “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.”
So Gabriel says Jesus will be “holy”, without sin, and God’s Son.
The idea of God’s Son goes back to Daniel 3 where Nebuchadnezzar threw the three Hebrew boys into the fire and then saw four men in there—with one like the Son of God.
And one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture about Jesus as God’s Son:
Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.
Finally, Gabriel connects Mary back with Elizabeth (her aunt or cousin).
36 – 37
News probably hadn’t reached Mary’s family yet that she was pregnant in her old age—another miracle (although not quite as miraculous as a virgin getting pregnant!). Gabriel’s point—if God can do that in Elizabeth, He can do this in you!
So now look at Mary’s response—much like Elizabeth’s:
Mary may or may not have thought ahead to what this news would mean to her—a young girl pregnant while betrothed. Her story: God got me pregnant. Would you believe it? The stakes were high—including death. Yet she accepted it as a humble servant.
So really, how much do we to accept what God brings us with this kind of humility and willingness?
Mary knew what was coming—but sometimes we don’t know—we get blindsided by grief or tribulation in some form or another. But really as a Christian we should never be totally blindsided. Jesus Himself said: “In the world you will have tribulation” but He also said: “be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
- 1.Jesus provides purpose to our troubles. God uses them.
- 1:24 “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church”. The purpose is to further God’s kingdom.
- 2.God overcomes them.
- 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
- God then gives us peace in them (“These things I speak to you that you may have peace”).
John 14: 27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
- 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”