Lesson 4: The Angel Talked with Mary & Joseph/ Mary's Visit with Elisabeth
Matthew 1: 18-25, Luke 1: 28-56
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Lesson # 4. We had progressed in our last lesson to Gabriel's appearance to Mary in Nazareth of Galilee, in the sixth month of Elizabeth pregnancy. We read down thru v.38 here in Luke ch. 1; but, our discussion picks up in v.28. Have you got the place? We're ready to consider Gabriel's message to Mary. Obviously, as it was with Zechariah six month before, such an appearance would be a shocking experience to say the least. Luke uses the same words to describe Mary's reaction as he did Zechariah's reaction. "When she saw him she was troubled..." (v.29). Luke described with a little more detail how the angel, Gabriel approached Zechariah. Remember, he was at the table of incense and he must have discovered the angel out of the corner of his right eye when he thought he was all alone. But, how the angel approached Mary, we are NOT told. The fact that Mary was similarly "troubled" (v.29), would imply some similar sitting, on an occasion when Mary was alone, apparently. Now, Gabriel's first words were: "Hail, thou that are highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Now, as friendly and encouraging, and as complimentary and respectful as these words sound; Mary's blood pressure still must have done a vertical curve. Gabriel must have observed Mary's fear for in v.30, he said: "Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
O.K. the crux of that message is in v.31, "thou shalt conceive...and bring forth a son..." And just like Zechariah, that son's name was given. "Jesus" is a Greek name meaning "Saviour." The Hebrew equivalent is Joshua. Then just as Gabriel had done (up in v.15) in announcing John the Baptist; here, Gabriel (v.32) comments about Jesus. "He shall be great..." and whereas John would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah; Jesus would be the "Son of the Highest." i.e. the Son of God. And, God shall give him a throne. That's another way of saying He shall be a king. And, (in v.33) His kingdom shall never end. Now, latch on to the "kingdom concept" here, take a glance at your "KINGDOM" WORKSHEET. Then in v.34, Mary asked a very logical question: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Would this be the son of Joseph, her fiance? Or, how WOULD this be? Now, observe something here. Mary BELIEVED Gabriel! Mary did not ask for proof. Mary asked for information. "How shall this be...?" Gabriel answered her question in v.35. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Now, if 1 may paraphrase: don't worry about that Mary, this will NOT involve a man in any sexual sense. This is the workings of God, i.e. conception would be provided. The Holy Ghost, will see to the details. In other words, Conception would be miraculous. It would NOT involve Joseph. Now, let me call your attention to v.27 one more time. The angel Gabriel was sent to who? A VIRGIN named Mary. Now, it's very important that you understand the word "virgin" here means just that: a person who has not had sexual intercourse. This was a fulfillment of O.T. prophecy. A condition known only this one time in the history of mankind. What was the purpose of these four books? "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God..." (John 20:30). Now, whether you believe Luke's account or reject Luke's account imputes faith (or the lack of it) to you in the Bible sense of that word. Either it happened this way or it didn't.There's no middle ground. But, I believe in God, and it doesn't take any more faith for me to believe "nothing shall be impossible" with God, v.37. That's what the text teaches. Either this is right, or it's the biggest farce ever pawned off on mankind. You've got to make a choice!
Alright, in v.36 Gabriel gave Mary a gem of information, "thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age..." Now, it's interesting here that Gabriel didn't tell Mary whether Elizabeth's Son was also Zechariah’s son or not. He did say "this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren." Now, notice Mary's attitude in v.38. O.K. Gabriel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Translated, that simply means, O.K. Lord if that what you want, I'm your servant. Then the angel departed from Mary (end of v.38). Can you imagine what a hyper-mental-state this left Mary in? What would you do? Head for your cousin Elisabeth's house? That's just what Mary did. V.39-40, let's read it. "And Mary arose in those days, and went into .the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zechariah and saluted Elisabeth." O.K. as we have said, that seems the very natural thing for Mary to have done. And, a quick reading of this may leave the impression, it was just next door. But give it a little thought, where was Gabriel sent to Mary? Nazareth of Galilee, that's in v. 26. Where did Elizabeth live? The hill country of Judah, v.39. Now, that's a little vague; but it's usually thought to be somewhere in the vicinity of Hebron which was 18-20 miles south of Jerusalem, or approximately 100 miles from Nazareth. And that's several days journey. Did YOU ever walk that far? You know that any young lady in that hyper-mental-state wouldn't flinch at 1000 miles. Mary was no exception. So, she went "with haste" (v.39) and "entered into the house of Zechariah, and saluted Elisabeth." (v.40). Then what? Let's read! Got your eyes on v.41? Here we go, "And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghosts and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy Womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord."
O.K. let's stop and revamp. Do you have a mental picture of Mary arriving at Zechariah's house? Elisabeth was old (v.7), and six months pregnant (v.36). Mary was a young lady, very happy of course, harboring the angelic information that Gabriel had given to her. But, wouldn't it still seem a little awkward and embarrassing for Mary, still an unwed woman, to simply walk into Elisabeth's house and announce, "I'm pregnant?" Thus, it would seem to me the Holy Spirit honored Mary here by more or less making the announcement for her in an incident of miraculous magnitude. Now, get the picture! Mary saluted Elizabeth (v,40). We're not told what Mary said, but that salutation WAS verbal according to v.41. And then it happened! Suddenly the Holy Ghost brought on the appropriate miraculous action; and I would infer that is what the statement in v.41 means when it says: "Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost." First Elisabeth's baby leaped in her womb, Then Elisabeth spoke out with a loud voice (v.42), words that were apparently supplied by the Holy Ghost : "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." (v.42). Now, this gives you a little insight into how the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Godhead without a human body, accomplished his work. V.43, 44, 45 is an inspired and miraculous commentary on Mary's faith. Did you notice in v. 43, Elisabeth referred to Jesus as "my Lord." This is the first recorded reference of that kind to Jesus. In v.45 Elisabeth said "Blessed is she that believed" (v.45). Thus, Mary was reassured, "there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord." Now, Mary's faith here is apparently contrasted to Zechariah who even then couldn't greet Mary Because of the speechless condition imposed upon him by the Holy Ghost.
Alright, v.46 down thru v.55 records Mary's response to Elisabeth's inspired statements. This is the longest recorded statement of Mary any place in the scriptures. It's interesting that the New American Standard Bible shows Mary's words in the form of Hebrew verse. How and when this literary device came to be used, I don't know. But, let's read what Mary said! Beginning in v.46, "And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever." Some think these words were spoken by the Holy Spirit through Mary. I call your attention to the fact this is not stated. It is inspired scripture to us through Luke. But, whether these words originated by Mary as a person, or the Holy Spirit speaking though Mary, I do not know. I tend to see them as Mary's words. You may want to turn the tape player off and re-read Mary's words. But, I'm going to take the time to call your attention to v.54-55 only. Mary understood this was a fulfillment of prophecy. V.56 says: "And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house." Thus, Mary returned to Nazareth very near the time of the birth of John the Baptist. Connecting this with v.36 and v.39 up above it establishes that John was about six months older than Jesus.
In v.57, Luke moves on to the events surrounding John's birth. But, before we cover that, let's go to Matthew 1:18-25. Mary's fiance was Joseph and he also received a message from an angel. Whether Joseph knew of Mary's conception OR NOT before her trip into the hill country of Judah is not clear. It seems most logical that Joseph learned this upon Mary's return. Possibly through his or her relatives. Naturally, when Joseph found that Mary was with child he was very disturbed. You can understand his need for credible information. Let's read Matt. 1:18-21. Are you ready? "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." O.K. Joseph was pressed with a hard decision. Should he marry Mary? Or should he back down? From v.19, I conclude Joseph was not convinced about CONCEPTION BY THE HOLY GHOST as v. 18 said, even if he had heard this claim. It was during this period of indecision that the angel appeared to Joseph. Bro. Boles says under the law of Moses, that from the moment a young woman was "espoused" to be married. ("engaged" we would say): both the man and the woman were treated as married; although they had NOT YET come together. He further says that to dissolve such a relationship required divorce. Thus, "to make her a public example" as the term in v.19 implies, would have been to accuse Mary of adultery and have her stoned to death according to Deut. 22:23ff. Although, this action would have required two witnesses, I assume. OR, Joseph could have supposedly claimed the child (or accepted the. child) as his and then dissolved their relationship by divorce, i.e. "put her away privily" as it says he was minded to do (v.19). OR as a third alternative, since the offense was against Joseph, he could have forgiven her supposed offense and passed it by. V.20 tells us it was while Joseph thought on THESE THINGS, that the angel appeared. I would assume this was Gabriel; but the text does not say. The angel appeared to Joseph during his sleep; we learn this down in v.24. Now, take a look at the angel's message which starts in the middle of v.20. The angel addressed Joseph as a son of David. That simply means Joseph was a descendant of king David, who had then been dead for about a thousand years. Joseph was told: "fear not." Now, these are the same words Gabriel gave to Mary to calm her anxieties (Luke 1:30). But, HERE Joseph was to FEAR NOT to marry Mary. Then Joseph was told: "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (v.20). Then in v.21 Joseph was given three facts about the future. (#1) Mary would have a son. (#2) Joseph should name Mary's son JESUS, and (#3) Jesus would save his people from their sins.
Then in V.22-23 Matthew deviates to explain this is the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy: "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is God with us." O.K., now let me give you a little perspective here. Keep in mind the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And Matthew, just like Luke connects this to O.T. prophecy. But Matthew is most tenacious on this point. For lack of a better term, let's call it Matthew's fulfillment doctrine since it is going to occur over and over. The prophecy referred to here is Isa. 7:14. In Isaiah the passage quoted here is prefaced with these words, "the Lord himself shall give you a sign." Thus, Matthew's point is this, NOT ONLY was this FORETOLD by the prophet Isaiah, the Lord gave this information as a "sign" about 750 years before the fact. The name "Immanuel" is part of the prophecy in Isa.7:14 as well as Isa. 8:8. Immanuel is a Hebrew term (spelled with either an "E" or an "I") and Matthew here gives the interpretation: "God with us." Some think v.22-23 is a continuation of the angel's message. But, to me it is clearly Matthew's words.
O.K. what did Joseph do? Let's read v.24-25. Ready? "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her first born son: and he called his name JESUS." Thus, Joseph believed the angel. His uncertainty vanished and Joseph carried through with his marriage. When it say he knew Mary not until after Jesus was born it means simply that Joseph had no sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus was born. The word "knew" is used with this meaning many times in the O.T., e.g. Gen. 4:1. Now guess what? Our time's up! So, have a good day and hurry back to Lesson #5.