The Book of Luke, The Entrance of John and Jesus, Part IV – Lesson 6
While much was going on in Zacharias and Elisabeth’s life much was about to happen in her cousin Mary’s life also.
We see here in this first chapter of the book of Luke an example of the emphasis of Luke of the intertwining of the lives of John and Jesus.
Luke connects the story of Mary the mother of Jesus with that of Elisabeth the mother of John because they belong together; hence his designation of the time for the annunciation: “in the sixth month,” i.e., after Elisabeth had conceived.
The scene, which has been with Zacharias and Elisabeth concerning the conception of John who was to preach a message of repentance and who was to announce the coming of the Messiah, shifts to the scene of the annunication of the Messiah to Mary.
John was the forerunner of Christ.
And in conception and in birth he was also.
He came before Christ and left the earthly scene before Christ left the earthly scene.
He said He must increase and I must decrease.
John’s mission was to increase Christ while he himself decreased.
I’m sure that this would also be the mission of Mary his mother and that she would shun and denounce the attention that she receives in the Roman Catholic Church.
As she increases Christ decreases.
For a Christian to decrease and for Christ to increase is the principle by which every Christian is to live.
Christ is not made in our image but we are to be made in Christ’s image.
We are not to exalt ourselves but we are to humble ourselves and let any exaltation that comes come from God.
Luke 1:26-38, And in the sixth month (of Elisabeth’s pregnancy) the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He 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: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, 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. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Luke is careful in giving us a good account of the two birth announcements that Gabriel was commissioned to give by God.
The two announcements to Zacharias and to Mary provide us with a study in contrasts.
Zacharias was a man; Mary was a woman.
Zacharias and his wife were elderly; Mary was a young woman.
Zacharias and Elisabeth were married and barren; Mary was a virgin, only engaged or betrothed to be married;
Zacharias doubted the angel’s message; Mary believed.
In Elisabeth’s sixth month, Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing to her that she would miraculously bear a child who would be Israel’s Messiah.
Her child would be great in the sight of God, and called the “son of the Most High” (v. 32).
He would reign forever on the throne of his father David (vv. 32-33).
Mary had a request of the angel Gabriel, too, but her request was not for a sign, but for clarification.
Mary did not challenge the truthfulness of the announcement; she merely enquired as to the method by which the impossible would become real.
There had never been a birth without physical association with a man and she had not had such associtation so in the natural sense who was this to be?
How then could these things come to pass?
Were there things that she should know?
Had the angel any instructions to give to her?
Was she to do anything?
35And the angel answered and said unto her, 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.
F. L. Godet in his commentary on Luke has expressed this in this manner:
“The Holy Spirit denotes here the divine power, the life giving breath which calls into developed existence the germ of human personality slumbering in Mary’s womb. This germ is the link which unites Jesus to human nature, and makes Him a member of the race He came to save. Thus in His birth the miracle of the first creation is repeated on a scale of greater power. Two elements concurred in the formation of man; a body taken from the ground, and the divine breath. With these two elements correspond here the germ derived from the womb of Mary, and the Holy Spirit who fertilizes it. The absolute purity of this birth results, on the one hand, from the perfect holiness of the divine principle which is its infinite cause; on the other from the absence of every impure motion in her who becomes the mother under such a principle.
Mary as a bond slave yielded herself to God’s will.
38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid (bond slave) of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
She was God’s handmaid; He could do with her as He chose.
Zacharias wanted some kind of proof that he and his wife would have a child in their old age doubting Gabiel’s word, and it was lack of faith for it brought dumbness to him by the angel.
(Zacharius said, Whereby shall I know this? doubting this to be true even though God’s agent said it)
Mary wanted clarification as to what she was to do, in order to cooperate with the purposes of God, as the angel announced them to her.
She wished to learn how her conception would be achieved, since she was a virgin; she knew not a man.
She was asking for clarification, not confirmation.
There is a world of difference between her request and that of Zacharias.
Hers stemmed from her faith; the question of Zacharias stemmed from his lack of faith.
Gabriel explained to Mary that she would not need to do anything, that the conception in her womb would be the result of God’s miraculous intervention.
It was to be a miraculous virgin conception, the first such thing and the last such thing.
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.
NO FATHER BUT GOD-the virgin birth-the Son of God!
Therefore, the child will be called the “Son of God” not the son of Joseph (v. 35).
As a further word of encouragement to Mary, Gabriel informed her that her elderly relative, Elisabeth, was in her sixth month of pregnancy, which bore testimony to the fact that nothing is impossible with God (vv. 36-37).
36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible.
By telling Mary this unknown information about Elisabeth, the angel provided Mary with that which helped her know that the angel was an emissary from God.
Mary’s response to the annunciation is a remarkable testimony to her faith in God and her submission to His will:
“Behold the handmaid (bond slave) of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (v. 38).
No one could have asked for any better response.
What a marvelous testimony to the magnificence of Mary, which we will take up more in detail in our next lesson.
Several lessons are worthy of discussion from our initial study in Luke’s gospel.
(1) We have seen some of the features of this gospel which are unique, which make it a book well worth our study.
(2) Luke’s gospel conveys a divine philosophy of history, as opposed to a merely secular approach to history.
There are several features of a divine philosophy of history which set it apart from a secular outlook on history.
A divine perspective of history sees all of history as a part of the divine plan.
A secular approach to history recognizes no divine plan but simply reports events.
A divine perspective of history therefore looks for a continuity of action, from the very beginning of history, to its culmination.
A Christian should do likewise.
We should read the paper from this perspective, we should watch the news from this viewpoint.
How does what we read and see fit into our Father’s plan?
Luke views the birth and the life of Christ as a part of God’s redemptive plan and purpose for history.
A divine philosophy of history views history in relationship to Christ.
Christ is the key to history, it’s central theme.
Thus, everything is viewed in terms of its relationship to Christ.
Herod, one of the great and powerful figures of that day, is barely mentioned, for Christ meant little to him, other than to be against his dominion.
Herod is only a chronological point of reference to Luke.
Elisabeth, Zacharias, and Mary, while they would have been given no attention by secular historians, are significant to Luke because they played an important role in the appearance and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secular historians always miss the point of history because they disregard anything spiritual.
They do not consider the Plan of God.
The first (upon whom the secular historian place all their emphasis) shall be last and the last (upon whom the secular historian place no emphasis) shall be first.
One of the significant statements in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel is “… in the sight of the Lord.”
Elizabeth and Zacharias were “righteous before God” (1:6).
John would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (1:15).
Divine history measures the greatness of men in terms of God’s evaluation, not man’s.
In the final analysis, it does not matter what men think of us, of our significance, of our contribution to mankind, of our greatness, of our goodness; it matters all what God thinks of us.
The fear of man bringeth a snare but the fear of God brings liberty.
Each man, woman, and child, the Bible tells us, will stand before God and be judged by Him.
The purpose of Christ’s coming to earth was to reveal God’s righteousness to us, and to offer that righteousness in place of our sin and rebellion.
It was to offer us salvation and eternal life, in place of condemnation and eternal death.
Where do I stand with God, is the question most important, not where do I stand with men?
Where do I stand with God, where do you stand with God?
At the judgment God will not be impressed by your credentials earned in deference to men.
God will not be impressed by your life’s work unless it was a life lived for him.
Does God view you as “righteous,” as He did Zacharias and Elizabeth?
Does He view you as “great,” as He did John?
He will only view you as righteous and great when he sees Christ in you and you in Christ.
When all is said and done, God’s approval or God’s rejection is the only thing in life, the only thing in history, that matters.
Jesus Christ came to the earth so that we could be approved by God, by accepting the righteousness of Christ in place of our unworthiness and sin.
I pray that you have found favor with God, through faith in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That is what the Gospel of Luke is all about.
This is why Luke is so careful to give us a comprehensive account of the life of Christ in order that we may bow our knees to Christ in this life.
The Bible tells us that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.
The right time for that submission is now, not when it is too late to receive the grace of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.