Recap of Chap 22

Heaven had been very quiet for 400 years. No burning bushes. No splitting seas. No visions. No dreams. No prophets.  No message from God…just silence.

Then, in a magnificent yet inauspicious way, a word – but not just a word, The Word came.  At the time, the event seemed inconsequential to all but a blue-collar carpenter and his teenage bride.  But in fact, the Word of God had taken on flesh and blood and was first heard in a baby’s cry.  His birth was unspectacular, yet His presence dispelled darkness and cast an inescapable ray of light across history, past, present and still unwritten. God’s promises to Abraham and David had found fulfillment at long last.  Jesus would bless all nations and would take His rightful place on David’s throne.  It is this event to which everything thus far in The Story has pointed.

Mary was the first to hear the news.  In the midst of wedding plans and setting up house, the angel Gabriel pronounced that she had been chosen to give birth to the Son of God.  Nothing could have been further from her mind…or her to-do list.  Mary was engaged and a virgin. The power of the Most High would take care of everything, he said. So Mary rejoiced.  She accepted her position as God’s servant and praised Him with purest trust in His plan.  Joseph was the next to know. He considered pursuing a legal dissolution of their relationship to save them both from the humiliation of an illegitimate pregnancy.  But he received his own angelic visitor, who confirmed Mary’s innocence and gave his blessing on their marriage.  Joseph married Mary and soon after made the journey to Bethlehem to pay his taxes as required by law. The town was bustling, and the inn was full – so the Son of God was born in a stable.

Angels delivered the birth announcement, and shepherds became the welcoming committee for the King of Kings.  They hurried to see for themselves, and found a surprisingly unassuming setting for a king:  a baby in a feeding trough, accompanied by his mother, earthly father, and the local livestock.  God also sent signs in the stars, and faraway wise men charted their course with gifts in hand.  King Herod felt threatened by the birth of another monarch, so he ordered the massacre of all the baby boys in the surrounding areas.  God sent angels again so His redemptive plan would stay its course.  They warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Israel only after Herod’s death, and they made their home in Nazareth. Jesus grew up there as the precocious son of pious Jews. He and His family traveled to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover.  When Jesus was 12, He stayed behind in the temple unbeknownst to his frantic parents.  They found Him sitting with the teachers who were amazed at His words.  Jesus grew up as all boys do, and Scripture tells us that He increased in wisdom and favor with God and with people.

God’s Upper Story intersects with His Lower Story at the birth of Jesus Christ, the God-man.   God’s redemptive story approaches its climax as the Son of God from eternity past becomes the Son of Man for eternity future.  The Messiah has finally come.

Travel of Mary and Joe

The Nativity of Jesus

Numbers indicate approximate order of events. Arrows indicate direction, but not specific routes, of travel.

Mary, A Woman of Faith

In the old TV game show To Tell the Truth, a panel of celebrity contestants questioned three people who all claimed to be the same man or woman.  One guest was who he said he was and he had usually done something notable or held an unusual occupation.  After some often humorous questioning, the celebrity panel had the difficult task of guessing which of the guests was the authentic and eliminate the imposters.  The host then asked the now-famous question, “Will the real __________ please stand up?”   The identity of the authentic person was then revealed.

Her face can be found in the alcoves of cathedrals, to the humblest of nativity sets, and even on a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich that sold for $28,000 on Ebay.

So today we ask a similar question, “Will the real Mary of Nazareth please stand up?”

I.       Mary the Maiden

Mary the young maiden must have had faithful parents as her model.  Very little is known about Mary before we meet her in Scripture.  Nevertheless, her actions and her words betray a young woman steeped in humble faith.

A. Mary was a descendent of King David on her father’s side through David’s son Nathan.  Although all Israelites were aware of the connection between the royal line and the coming Messiah, her anticipation may have been heightened because of her genealogical lineage back to David.

B. Mary’s mother would likely have been a Levite, or indirectly tied to the Levites.  Mary’s close relative Elizabeth was a Levite from the family of Aaron.  Her husband was a priest in the temple.

C. It is likely, then, that Mary’s home would have been deeply influenced by the faithful remnant of her mother’s family.  They would have participated regularly in the annual feasts.  They would have observed Sabbath worship.  They knew the Law of God, probably read or sung Psalms, and discussed faithful obedience with Mary as she grew up and matured, for the Law instructed faithful parents  to do so (Deut. 6:7, 11:19)

D. The proper education of children was highly valued by the Hebrew community and it was considered to be a community responsibility.  Many Psalms and the Proverbs were composed as teaching tools.  Ps. 78:1-8 captures the vision of the faithful who looked toward teaching their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren “that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, and keep His commandments,” (Ps. 78:7).

E. Mary would have been taught the necessary skills to manage a household.  She had to learn to prepare meals, weave fabric, and other domestic work.

II.       Mary the Model of Faith

Mary responded to the angelic visitation by faith, making her a model for all believers, but especially for other women.

A. Most scholars estimate that Mary was likely in her mid-teens, perhaps 14-16 years old when she was engaged to Joseph.  Hebrew marriages had two stages:  the betrothal and the wedding.  The betrothal was legally binding and usually lasted about a year while the groom prepared a proper abode for his new bride.  It was during this period that Mary would have been preparing for her new role.

B. The first time we meet her in Scripture, she is visited by Gabriel who tells her that she is the recipient of God’s special grace (Lu. 1:28).

  1. The angel said Mary was “highly favored” and “blessed among women.”  Yet Mary did not perceive herself as special.  “She was very perplexed at this statement and kept wondering what kind of greeting this was.”  (Lu. 1:28-29).  Instead, she simply saw herself as a “servant.” (Lu. 1:38)
  2. God always sees us differently than we see ourselves.  For He alone has perfect sight.

C. He then tells her she will bear a child, and five things about Him (Lu. 1:32-33)

  1. He will be great
  2. He will be called the Son of the Most High.  This term indicated that her son would be equal with YHWH.  In Hebrew thought, a “son” was exactly likened to his father.  He possessed the qualities that his father possessed.  This son would be deity—God in human flesh.
  3. He will be given the throne of His father David.  Mary would have understood that the angel was referring to the Messiah who had been promised to Israel so long ago (2 Sam. 7:16, Isa. 9:6-7).
  4. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
  5. His kingdom will never end.  Again, Mary knew her Scriptures so she must have immediately thought of the special promises to King David (2 Sam. 7:13-16).

D. What is remarkable is Mary’s response!  Mary models true faith for us.

1. She trusted the Lord to make it happen.  She does not seem at all surprised that the Messiah was to come.  She does not need any clarification about the uniqueness and divinity of the child she would bear.  She never doubted the angel’s words but simply asked, “How?” since she was a virgin.

2. She was willing to serve the Lord.  She humbly responded, “Behold, the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

3. She was willing to suffer for her obedience and service to the Lord.  The angel came to her alone.  What she did not ask is also remarkable.  She did not ask how she would explain this to her family.  She did not ask questions about herself.  An unwed pregnant woman in Israel was a big deal!  She would surely lose her husband.  The angel did not tell her that he would speak to Joseph.  She had no guarantee that it would all work out.  She simply obeyed.  She was willing to suffer the loss of her husband by obeying God.  She never lived down her reputation for an illegitimate pregnancy.  When Jesus faced off with the Pharisees, they self-righteously pointed out the stigma of his birth.  “We are not illegitimate children!” (Jn. 8:41)

4. She faithfully obeyed knowing that perhaps no one but God Himself would ever know the whole truth.  Obedience always has a cost.

III.   Mary:  The Magnificat  (p. 256-257, Lu. 1:46-55)

After the angel left and the shock wore off, Mary needed the support of another woman of faith.  So she turned to Elizabeth, her mature, older mentor and cousin.

A. Elizabeth affirmed the blessedness of the child which must have given Mary great joy and comfort.

B. Mary broke out in a beautiful song, often called her Magnificat, which comes from the Latin which means “magnifies” or “glorifies.”

C. Her song reveals much about Mary.

  1. She recognized her own need for a Savior. (Lu. 1:46)
  2. She recognized her part in God’s Upper Story (Lu. 1:48)
  3. She had an intimate relationship with God, as she praised him for His work on her behalf personally (1:48), for His holiness (1:49), for his mercy (1:50).
  4. Her song reveals her knowledge of the Scriptures.  It is very similar to Hannah’s song (1 Sam. 2:1-10) and it quotes a couple of Psalms.  She praises Him for His faithfulness to Israel.  Again, she realizes that she is part of God’s Upper Story of redemption based upon the promises He made to Abraham and others throughout Israel’s history (Lu. 1:55).

D. Mary’s example of praise serves as yet another model for us today.  We cannot praise like Mary if we do not know God like Mary did.  Her praise was God-focused.

E. The Magnificat tells us that Mary’s faith was not based on emotion but on the knowledge of God’s purpose and faithfulness in the past as recorded in the Scriptures.

IV.       Applications

A. Never underestimate the spiritual influence of your home.  Mary was the product of faith-filled parents (and probably teachers, role models, grandparents, etc.) who prepared her to trust in God in the face of difficult circumstances.

B. Likewise, never underestimate the faith of a young person.  Mary was just a teen but she exercised extraordinary faith, character and strength.

C. Mary, like Abraham and all other chosen ones, was not chosen because of her own righteousness, but by grace.  That God allows us the privilege of participating in His work and His plan is always by grace.

D. Like Mary, I can trust the Lord to work out the impossible details of life.

E. I can be willing to serve the Lord when He calls me.  I should pray like Mary, “Behold, the servant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”

F. Mary “pondered these things in her heart.”  She had a devotional life of meditating on the events and incidents that she did not fully understand.  But she wisely pondered them anyway.

G. I can learn from Mary to be obedient in the face of ridicule, suffering and personal loss.

H. I will not be like the Pharisees by looking down my nose at illegitimate children or others who experience less-than-ideal family situations.

I. Obedience always has a cost.  Am I willing to obey faithfully even at great personal expense?

J. Purity is still honorable, even if our culture fails to recognize its virtue.

K. Mary turned to Elizabeth for support.  I, too, need mature, Christian support from friends or relatives when faced with difficult circumstances in life.

Mary: Giving up a Son

This is the portion of our study that you will need to get those Bibles out and open them up. We will continue with our study as we take a look at Mary, the Mother of Jesus. There are polarizing views based on this woman and because of it we have not spent time looking at the faith of this young girl. Although we hear the birth story of Jesus retold each and every Christmas, few Christians embrace the lessons that we can learn from this brave woman.  The focus is always on Mary’s Son (for good reason) so the richness of Mary’s faith, courage, and humble obedience is easily overlooked.  Yet very few Bible characters exhibit the selflessness and trust that she models.  She is indeed worthy of more study, for all of us should strive for such a fullness of faith.

Imagine, the Savior would be born to an insignificant young Jewess, Mary.  However she was not insignificant to God.  Four hundred years after Malachi urged the people to honor God through faith and obedience, God introduced the world to one who did—Mary. The difference between the Old and New Testaments is the difference between light and dark.  A light was coming into the world that would lift the burden of the law  and of sin from God’s people. Luke specifically connected his story to Malachi’s last prophesy about the Messiah, in which he announced that one day the people would be “prepared for the Lord” (Malachi 4:5; Luke 1:13-17). Soon Israel would meet this son—Mary’s son—face  to face.  And Mary would be required to give up her son.

I.  Mary found favor with God because of her faith. Luke 1—2

Sometimes we hear about Mary’s “simple faith”, but there was nothing simple about Mary’s faith, even though she was a young teen.  We get confused and make faith about us. The strength of faith is found in the object of our faith. Look at the kind of faith Mary had from the information we find in the biblical accounts.

1.  What was Mary’s state of mind when the angel appeared? (1:29-30)

2.  What kind of questions did Mary have? (1:34)

3.  What did the angel’s comment in verse 37 reveal about Mary’s thoughts?

4.  What women from Israelite history might have come to mind as the angel reassured her?

5.  To whom, or what, did the angel point as the answer to Mary’s fears and questions? (Is Mary’s faith in question?)

II. Mary’s faith was built on fact. Luke 1:46-55.

Read Mary’s Song, Note the historical events that might have been referred to: (The passages given are only a suggestion).

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” (1 Samuel 2:1-2; Isaiah 61:10)

From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:13-14; Malachi 3:12)

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”  (Genesis 17:1-14; Exodus 1:5-8; Psalm 103:17)

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.”  (Exodus 15:3-21; Psalm 89:11-12)

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”  (1 Samuel 17; Daniel 4:28-36)

He has filled the hungry with good things but he has sent the rich away empty.” (Isaiah 11:1-5, 55:1-5; Psalm 107:9)

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”  (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 31:3)

III. Mary was faithful to God through joy, doubt and sorrow.  Matthew 27-28

1. Name the two who greeted Jesus, and note the messages that amazed Mary and Joseph when they presented Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem?  What might have been troubling to Mary?

Luke 2:25-35

Luke 2:36-38

2.  What would have pierced Mary’s heart, even though they had escaped to Egypt shortly after Jesus was born? (Matthew 2:7-18)

3.  What worried Mary when Jesus disappeared and was later found with the teachers in the temple?  (Luke 2:41-51)

4.  What “things” do you think Mary hid in her heart?

5.  What did Mary see Jesus do at the wedding in Cana?  Who believed in Jesus? (John 2:2-11)

6.  Why did Mary and her sons try to restrict Jesus? (Mark 3:20-35; Luke 8:19-21; Matthew 12:46-50)

7.  Did Jesus disrespect Mary in this incident?  Did Mary and her sons disrespect Jesus? Explain.

8.   Jesus specifically pointed out that obedience to the Word brings favor (Luke 11:27-28). Why could Mary be included as one who was blessed?

IV. Mary’s sorrow turns to belief.  Matthew 27—28; Acts 1

1.  From the following two passages, note where Mary was and what she saw?

Matthew 27:32-61.

Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-10.

God gave his only Son for you and me.  But Mary also gave up her son. Mary’s faith came from the teachings she had received about God.  Those teachings had to have originated from the scriptures that the Jewish people trusted as God’s Word.  The messianic prophesies were hidden in the heart of every Jewess.  However, the prophecies explained his suffering and death.

2.  Read Psalm 22 and note what Mary must have realized on some level.

3.  What do we know about Mary and Jesus’ brothers from Acts 1:12-14?

God called upon Mary because he knew her heart of faith and obedience.  He was able to ask great things of her, knowing the pain and suffering that she would have to endure.  The idea that faith and obedience protects us from sadness and suffering in this life is erroneous. When the angel announced God’s will to Mary, she had to give up her own personal plans and ideas about almost every area of her life.  As Jesus grew into a man, she had to give up her right to control and protect him.  In the end, she had to completely give her son away to suffering and sacrifice.

V.  Faith that gives up.

1.  Fill in the blanks:

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by _____________ from

first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by ___________________ ”  Romans 1:17.

Whoever ________________ and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not ______________ will be condemned Mark 16:16.

The Greek word for both faith and believe are two different forms of the same word.

Faith or belief is the noun form: pistis.   Believe is the verb form: pisteuo.

When faith is taught correctly, the natural progression is from belief to faith to belief to faith to belief.  In other words, once we hear the gospel message and believe it is true, we have faith in the truth.  Then as we mature and experience the Christian life a pattern develops where faith helps us to believe, which increases our faith, which increases our belief, which increases our faith…

2. Can faith exist without belief?  James 2:14

3.  Can we have questions and still have faith?  How?

4. Is it wrong to consider the cost of faith?  Why or why not?  (Matthew 13:44-46; Luke 25:33; Acts 1:3)

5.  How did your faith increase when your belief brought you to the point of godly choices or actions?

Key Question:  What is it in your life that the Lord is asking you to believe Him enough to give up?