BEING CHANGED BY THE SAVIOR

 

Week of December 16, 2007

 

Bible Verses:Luke 1:26-31,34-35,38,46-50.

 

Biblical Truth: Through Jesus, God transforms the lives of all who look to Him for mercy.

 

Can you Rejoice in Godís Favor?:Luke 1:26-31.

 

[26]Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, [27]to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. [28]And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." [29]But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. [30]The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. [31]And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.Ē††[NASU]

 

The announcement to Mary has two key parallels. First, there is the parallel to Old Testament birth announcements. The account recalls Godís past great acts. Second is the parallel with the announcement to Zechariah [1:5-25]. The entire passage stands in parallelism to the earlier birth announcement, but the unusual nature of the birth and the future call of the child show that Jesus is superior to John. The mood of the passage is very different from the earlier announcement. In contrast to the public setting of the temple in the middle of Jerusalem, Mary receives her announcement privately in a village setting. Numerous themes dominate the passage: the simple form of Godís coming, the coming of the Davidic kingís reign, the fulfillment of Israelís hope, the creative power of God and His Spirit, the uniqueness and superiority of Godís son, the uniqueness of the Sonís birth, and the certainty of Godís word and power. Most of these themes focus on God and the figure of fulfillment, Jesus. There also are themes tied to Mary. Her example represents the humble acceptance of Godís word [1:38]. In addition, she pictures one touched by Godís grace.

 

[26]God commissions the angel Gabriel, who made the birth announcement to Zechariah, to deliver a similar message to Mary. Gabriel is sent from Godís heavenly realm to Mary. The visit occurs in the Galilean region. Contrast with the preceding account sets the announcementís tone. The previous announcement about John came to a priest in the midst of a public worship service at the high holy place of Israelís capital. The announcement about Jesus comes privately to a humble woman in a little rural village. Luke contrasts the greatness of the setting of the announcement about John with the simplicity of the announcement about Jesus. The tone of the setting of Jesusí birth matches the tone of His ministry. The great God of heaven sends the gift of salvation to humans in a serene unadorned package of simplicity.

 

[27]The angel appears to a young woman, Mary. Luke uses two simple descriptions of her. First, she is a virgin. Her condition receives confirmation in 1:34, where she confesses her lack of sexual experience. Second, Mary is engaged to Joseph. The phrase about betrothal is worded like Deut. 22:23 and refers to the first stage of a two-stage Jewish marriage process. The initial stage of engagement (or betrothal) involved a formal, witnessed agreement to marry and a financial exchange of a bride price. At this point, the woman legally belongs to the groom and is referred to as his wife. About a year later, the marriage ceremony takes place when the husband takes the wife home. A woman could become betrothed as early as age twelve but Luke does not give Maryís age. Mary is engaged to Joseph of the house of David. In 2:4, Luke also attributes Davidic background to Joseph. Thus it is clear that Luke derives the Davidic heritage of Jesus from Joseph, even though Jesus is not truly Josephís son. But this is not a great problem. Legally, since Mary at the time of her engagement is Josephís wife, any child born to Mary would be regarded as Josephís, if he accepted care for the child.

 

[28]Gabriel greets Mary and declares her a recipient of Godís favor. He appears to her in an unspecified indoor setting. He greets her with two terms that emphasize grace. Mary is addressed as the favored one! (literally, ďfull of graceĒ). In this context, Mary is the special object of Godís favor. Second, Gabriel assures Mary by promising the presence of the Lord God which emphasizes the certainty of Godís involvement with Mary in bringing forth a great child. Gabriel wishes to encourage Mary that God will be with her through all the events the angel reveals.

 

[29-30]Mary is perplexed by the angelís initial remarks. She begins to consider what is happening to her and ponders the angelís greeting. What was God going to do to her? The angel deals with Maryís concerned curiosity by telling her do not be afraid. This word of comfort shows that her curiosity about the greeting also caused her anxiety. Before turning to the discussion of the coming child, Gabriel adds one note of explanation to his call to be calm. Mary has found favor with God. As an expression of divine working, favor signifies Godís gracious choice of someone through whom God does something special. In the Old Testament, the phrase often involves a request granted on the condition that someone had favor with God. However, here this favor is announced without any hint of a request. It is freely bestowed. Mary is about to receive freely the special favor of God. She is a picture of those who receive Godís grace on the basis of His kind initiative.

 

[31]Mary now receives a specific word about the grace that God will extend to her. The first part of this announcement is in verses 31-33. Verse 31 predicts the birth of a child and verses 32-33 describes his ministry. The form of the angelic announcement that the virgin Mary shall bear a son follows the Old Testament pattern: Genesis 16:11; Isaiah 7:14; and Judges 13:5.

 

Are you Submitting to Godís Purpose?:Luke 1:34-35,38.

 

[34]Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" [35]The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.Ē [38]And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. †††††[NASU]

 

[34-35]Mary questions how this birth can occur, given that she is a virgin. She does not doubt the announcement, for she does not ask for a sign as Zechariah did. Rather she is puzzled as to how this birth can occur, a question that causes the angel to elaborate. Gabriel replies and proclaims direct divine involvement in the coming Davidic rulerís conception. The verse has a three-part structure: the divine work of conception comes in two parallel lines, while descriptions of the result and significance of that conception follow. This work parallels the reference in 1:15 to the Spiritís filling of Elizabethís womb. Godís Spirit is the active, life-giving agent. Such a reference corresponds with the Old Testament and Jewish picture of Godís Spirit. Jesusí birth will be the work of Godís creative power. The power of the Most High will overshadow Mary. Putting the parallel lines together indicates that Godís Spirit acts with creative power. The Creator God who brought life out of nothing and created humans from the dust is also able to create human life in a womb.

 

Godís act involves His overshadowing Mary. This verb (will overshadow) in the Old Testament refers either to the Shekinah cloud that rested on the tabernacle [Exodus 40:34-35; Numbers 9:18; 10:34] or to Godís presence in protecting His people [Psalm 91:4; 140:7]. In Luke 9:34, the term refers to the cloud of the transfiguration overshadowing the disciples. Thus, overshadowing refers to Godís glorious presence before His people. The child produced by divine conception will be holy, the Son of God. The divine conception results (for that reason) in two descriptive terms being applied to Jesus: holy and Son of God. The first term (holy) has the basic meaning of being set apart either for special service or as pure from sin. Both apply to Jesus but probably it is the purity of Jesus emphasized here.

 

Until this verse, Jesus is clearly portrayed as the Davidic son, the regal messianic figure in whom all Israel hoped. But does the addition of the title Son of God to the context make the passage explicitly contain more than a simple declaration of Jewish hope? The evidence for a deeper significance to the sonship reference is twofold. (1) The Holy Spiritís action on behalf of Jesus shows that His human origins are grounded in Godís creative activity: Jesusí superiority to John is grounded in a superiority of position and manner of birth, which is of a supernatural origin. (2) Verbally and linguistically there is a linkage between Son of God and Son of the Most High that makes them synonymous and points to a deeper role for Jesus than that of fulfilling the Jewish Davidic hope. Jesus is the Son of the Most High in contrast to John the Baptist, who is the prophet of the Most High [1:76]. Jesus functions as a son, while John functions as a prophet. So Jesus, as a result of Godís creative power, comes as the Son of God.

 

[38]Mary responds to Gabrielís message with submission and obedience. She identifies herself as bondslave. In everyday speech, this word describes one of humble station who addresses a superior in recognition of their position. As Godís handmaid, Mary accepts openly what God asks of her. Mary is exemplary in the way she responds to Godís message of grace. God can do with her what He wishes. This acceptance is significant, taken at possible personal loss. Such a step might involve her in potential problems with Joseph and with her reputation. There is risk in agreeing to go Godís way, but as the Lordís servant, she willingly goes.

 

Do you Marvel at Godís Greatness?:Luke 1:46-50.

 

[46]And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, [47]and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

[48]For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. [49]For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. [50]AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.Ē†††† [NASU]

[46]Mary offers praise to the Lord in a hymn called the Magnificat, a name reflecting the Latin translation of the word magnifies (exalts). The hymn has numerous phrases that recall wording in Old Testament hymns. The strongest literary parallel to the hymn is Hannahís word of praise in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The praise of God by women occurs often in the Old Testament. Mary begins her praise with parallelism common to biblical hymns. The parallelism extends into verse 47, linking it to verse 46. The phrase my soul, which is another way to refer to the personal praise that comes from deep inside a person, is in synonymous parallelism to my spirit. The verb exalts means ďto make great, to praise, to extolĒ and so parallels the idea of rejoicing in 1:47. Mary lifts up the Lord God as she praises His work on her behalf. The reference to the Lord addresses God as the sovereign Master and Ruler of the world. The address shows that Maryís approach to God reflects her awareness of her humble position.

 

[47]Mary repeats her praise, as her spirit rejoices in the Lord. Mary offers praise to God her Savior. The picture of God the deliverer is common in the Old Testament. Godís special work produces this rejoicing. An unusual feature, however, is that rejoiced is aorist or past tense, while the parallel verb exalts in 1:46 is present tense. Taken together verses 46-47 mean that Mary praises the Lord now, even as she has begun to find redemptive joy in her Savior God. This places emphasis on the fact that Jesusí story is just beginning. Mary could rejoice (in the past) that God is her Savior but, because God is continuing His work of redemption, she now exalts the Lord. Thus Mary stands praising her God because of both what He has done in her life and for what He will do in her life through the gift of this son. And this is the way our praise should always be towards our God. We praise Him for all that He has done for us and for all that He is doing and will do in our lives.

 

[48]Mary sets forth the basis of her praise. God has been gracious to look upon His lowly servant. The verb, regard, refers to Godís loving care in selecting Mary to bear the child. The aorist or past tense refers back to the event of messianic conception. Mary describes herself as Godís bondslave which acknowledges her subordinate position before God. She did not expect or assume that she should be the object of such special attention from God, so she is grateful for the attention. Mary recognizes that God has given her a special place by having her bear the Messiah. The expression from this time on is an important phrase for Luke. It indicates that a significant change has taken place in Godís plan, so that from now on things will be different [Luke 5:10; 12:52; 22:18,69; Acts 18:6]. Once Mary is touched by the gracious act of God, things are different. They are never the same.

 

[49] Mary gives a second reason for her praise: the Mighty One acts on her behalf to do great things. Maryís focus in this verse is on Godís attributes of power, exalted holiness, and mercy. Thus Mary explains why she praises God, a connection that looks back to 1:47. The reference to God as the Mighty One recalls 1:35 and alludes to His power in creating the child and giving Mary this role. What God promised and what seemed impossible was possible for God, as He delivered on His commitment. For such power exercised on her behalf, Mary gives praise and others will bless her. The title Mighty One often alludes in the Old Testament and in Judaism to the warrior God who fights on behalf of His people and delivers them. In Luke, God creatively exercises His power to deliver His people. The exercise of Godís power demonstrates His authority as an exalted, holy ruler. Holiness means to be set apart. As the rest of the hymn stresses, God is holy in the sense that He displays His unique sovereign authority as ruler over people. As Mary sets forth the high sovereign authority of God, His acts on her behalf take on a more gracious light.

 

[50]Mary turns from describing the ground of her praise in terms of Godís holiness to a consideration of His mercy. One attribute leads into the other. Godís unique character is not separable from His mercy, for holiness expresses itself in mercy. Mercy refers to the loyal, gracious, faithful love that God has in covenant for His people. Such gracious faithfulness characterizes Godís dealings with those who acknowledge Him. Godís timeless and changeless faithfulness is behind the reference to generation after generation, a phrase that appears in various ways in the Old Testament. Thus, what Mary experienced parallels what believers throughout time experience. Mary is counting on such faithfulness for future generations [1:54-55]. Godís favor is specifically directed to those who fear God. ďFearing GodĒ and parallel statements are common Old Testament descriptions of anyone who acknowledges Godís position and authority. Mary is a God-fearer who acknowledges the holy and exalted position of her God. The hymn shows the spirit of a God-fearer in recognizing the sovereignty of God.

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† Compare the two birth announcements of John and Jesus. How does Luke show that the birth of Jesus is more significant than that of John?

 

2.†††††††† Compare Maryís response to Gabriel in verse 34 to the response of Zechariah in verse 18 and how Gabriel responded to each of their questions. What is different about Maryís response that she receives no rebuke like Zechariah did in verse 20? How can you cultivate Maryís attitude?

 

3.†††††††† How does Mary describe herself in verses 1:46-50? How does she describe God? What does this tell you about the attitude we should have towards our God?

 

References:

Luke, Darrell Bock, Baker Books.

Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Norval Geldenhuys, Eerdmans.

Gospel According to Luke, William Hendriksen, Baker Books.