Mary and the Angel's Announcement-Part 2
Preparation for his Birth
Day 12 Thursday, December 10
1. Recognize the Context:
Today we revisit Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel.
When reading biblical narratives and studying the characters of a biblical story, it’s helpful to keep two ideas in mind. First, the Triune God is always in the cast of main characters. Ask yourself, what is God doing in this story? Is he acting on center stage, or behind the scenes? Second, exercise caution when attempting to apply principles from a narrative. The biblical writers presented what happened in history as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They didn’t always present what should have happened, meaning sometimes biblical characters acted in ways contrary to a life that glorified God.
Abraham is a great example. In Genesis 12:1-5, he received instructions from God and the promised blessings of descendants and land. He responded in faith and obedience by following God's instruction. A few verses later (Gen. 12:10-16), we find Abraham in Egypt deceiving Pharaoh by encouraging his wife Sarah to lie about their relationship. We can’t assume because Abraham did it, this story teaches readers that sometimes lying is essential. Even a minimal knowledge of the Bible reveals this belief violates direct teaching found elsewhere in Scripture.
When studying human characters in biblical narratives, it’s helpful to ask, “what does this person reveal about the condition of humanity in general (either in their fallen or redeemed condition)?” With the answers to this question in mind, then consider if there are timeless principles, not bound to the specific situation, applicable to God's people today.
We return to Luke 1 and Gabriel's encounter and dialogue with Mary about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. As we noted yesterday, this passage follows the announcement of John’s birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth. When the two stories are read consecutively, they provide several points of comparison and contrast between Zechariah and Mary. We see one character represent a positive example to follow, while the other represents a negative example.
2. Read the Scripture: Luke 1:26-38, with emphasis on 1:31-33
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
Below is a list of similarities and differences between Gabriel’s two encounters.
Zechariah Mary Similarities:
1:12 both are troubled by the initial encounter 1:29
1:13 both are encouraged not to be afraid 1:30
1:13 both are given the reason for the encounter 1:30
1:13 both receive their child’s name 1:31
1:15 both of the children will be great 1:32
1:15 both know of the Holy Spirit's work 1:35
1:16-17 both are told the mission of their child 1:32-33
1:18 both question the message they receive 1:34
This chart adapted from Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, p. 181.
In 1:19-20, Zechariah’s question appeared to be searching for proof, as if the angel’s proclamation was not good enough. Mary, on the other hand, asked for an explanation to understand how Gabriel’s prediction could be possible for her (1:35-37). God knew each person’s heart. As a result, Zechariah was unable to speak because he demonstrated unbelief (1:20), while Mary responded in faith (1:38).
It is essential to see the surprising plot twist presented in the comparison of these two narratives. Zechariah was a priest in Jerusalem serving God in the temple. Mary, on the other hand, was a young teenage girl from a village with no reputation (John 1:46). With Zechariah’s credentials, one would have expected that he be the one with a faithful response. Instead, it was the young Mary who responded in faith.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today as you prayerfully review the comparison and contrast of these two important figures in the history of salvation, consider the question: What do these two reveal about humanity in general (either in its fallen or redeemed state)?
Prayerfully consider how God is at work in these stories.
Prayerfully consider what it means for you to daily respond to God in faith.
To do: (With the Holy Sprit's help)
In reading this narrative, what timeless principles are you encouraged to put into practice today? Be specific. Write them out. What can you incorporate into your life today?
Since we are coming to the end of 2020, take some time to reflect on your year. Identify moments over the past year characterized by trust in God. Then consider times where you lacked trust in God. What made the difference between these times. Talk to God about these situations.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study Luke 1:1-38 the stories of Zechariah and Mary again.