Gabriel Appears To Mary

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Painting by El Greco, 1575 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 26 of Luke chapter one begins ” in the sixth month,” which refers to the time following Elizabeth’s conception of John the Baptist. Note that the description of Nazareth’s location by Luke is further evidence of his intended Gentile audience. Any Jew would know very well where Nazareth was. The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, of the house of David. Betrothal in those days was nothing like the sense in which we imagine such a term. Rather, it was a negotiated agreement that was binding upon both the bride and the groom to the extent that they were legally and religiously married in all respects – except that of living together.

Gabriel told Mary, who did not “know a man,”  that she would bear a son by the power of the Holy Spirit and the “Most High” (verse 35), and name Him Jesus. This  reference to God as “Most High” (Elyon, used seven times in Luke) is seen first in Genesis 14:18-20 when Abram met Melchizedek, and was used quite often thereafter – seen often in the Psalms, Numbers 24:16, and Daniel 3:26, and 4:24,34. He also told her some very important things about Jesus: 1) that He will be called holy – the Son of God, 2) that God will give Him the throne of David, his father, from which He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and 3) that of His kingdom there shall be no end. Before he left, Gabriel told Mary of the pregnancy of her elderly relative, Elizabeth, which was his offering of a sign for Mary’s encouragement in what he had told her.

John the baptist Church in Ein Karem Jerusalem...

John the baptist Church in Ein Karem Jerusalem, Israel, 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary went to see her relative, and when she arrived, we are told that Elizabeth’s baby (who was filled with the holy Spirit) leaped for joy in her womb at the presence of the Lord – providing yet another affirmation for the Christian of the sanctity of life in the womb. Mary stayed with her for about three months before returning home. Verses 47-55 contain Mary’s song – a psalm of praise to God that has come to be known at the “Magnificat” – a title which comes from the Latin translation.

Side note: In verse 39, when Mary went to see Elizabeth, the text says that she went “into the hill country to a town in Judah.” We do not really know where in that area it actually was, but traditional belief widely held is that the home of John the Baptist was in Ein Karem, about 5 miles west of Jerusalem. There is an interesting article with some pictures of the area in this feature at Ferrell’s Travel Blog.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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The Conception of John the Baptist

Nowhere in the Bible but the Gospel of Luke are we told about the events leading to the birth of John the Baptist. Though certainly not predicted for as long of a time as the birth of the Lord Jesus Himself, it had been anticipated for hundreds of years – at the very least, since the time of Malachi (Malachi 4:5), which most scholars place at about the middle of the 5th century B.C.

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 5 opens with “in the days of Herod, king of Judea…” There tends to be some confusion as to which Herod the Bible refers to between the gospels and the Book of Acts. This one is the one known as “Herod the Great.” He was the vassal king of Judea by virtue of his relationship with the Roman government and the favor he found with Octavius. He was born in Edom (Greek “Idumaea”) and thus a descendant of Esau. His family converted to Judaism, and he referred to himself as a Jew. The main portion of his reign was from 37 B.C. to his death in 4 B.C.

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, is said in the same verse to be “of the division of Abijah.” The number of priests was extremely large, and they were organized into 24 divisions. Each division would have one of their priests serve in the temple twice per year – the question of who served being decided by casting lots. But none was allowed to burn incense more than once in their lifetime – some never at all. This was Zechariah’s once in a lifetime event – in more ways than one.

Imagine Zechariah’s excitement as he contained himself with the expected dignity and reverence when he entered the temple and approached the altar of incense to perform the task that he had likely been anticipating for a great length of time. But as he did so, there appeared an angel of the Lord, and his excited happiness was immediately changed to overwhelming fright! But the angel uttered words to put him at ease that would change not only his mood (once more), but his life – forever! Though he knew his wife, Elizabeth, to be barren, he was told that they would have a child, and that his name would be John.

Zechariah & the angel

Zechariah & the angel (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

John, the angel told Zechariah, would not drink wine or strong drink, and would be great before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” turning many people back to God and make them ready for “the Lord.”  Significant also in verse 15, the angel said that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” For us as Christians, this is just one of a few passages that should forever put to rest any question of whether an unborn baby is a person!

Zechariah’s doubt, when he asked how he could know this would really happen, knowing that Elizabeth was beyond child-bearing years, was met with a rebuke that would cause him to be mute until the child was born. The angel, who we learn here was named Gabriel, informed him that he stands in the presence of the Lord, and was sent by God to give Zechariah this good news. This is only the second of the angels we read about in scripture that is mentioned by name (the other being Michael, in Daniel 10:21 and Jude 1:1-9. Revelation 8:2 tells of seven such archangels that stand before God.

Zechariah finishes his service in silence, making signs to those who were inquisitive at his delay inside the temple for so long, and then went home. Elizabeth, we are told in verse 24, did conceive in the following days, and kept herself hidden from public view for 5 months.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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