Sunday, December 9, 2012

Countdown to Christmas Part 3 – All Things Are Possible

We are continuing our Countdown to Christmas throughout the month of December leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus during a special Family Sunday Service on December 23rd here in our Church. This morning I would like to pick up where we left off last week by giving some additional background and commentary along the way as we discover new characters in this story: specifically Joseph, Mary, and the Huios of Theos. (I know it sounds like Greek to you, but you’ll get it in a moment.)

Luke 1
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30 Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.
32 "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33 "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 "Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
37 "For with God nothing will be impossible."
38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Additional Personal Notes:

Background: The year is perhaps 7 or 6BC – Most likely about this time of the year - Herod the Great, paranoid and delusional as he was, is in his late 60’s and on the throne as King of Judea. Jerusalem is the center of the Kingdom and had changed greatly since being conquered by Herod 30 years earlier, (37BC).

65 miles straight North of Jerusalem, as the crow flies, is the city of Nazareth. It is about a 4 to 5 day walk up the trail of the Patriarchs which leads northward from Jerusalem past Bethel, Shiloh, Samaria, Shechem, going on with a little left, eastwards, bent around the base of Mount Ebal and continuing north and breaking out into the Jezreel Valley near Mount Gilboa, crossing the valley with Tel Megiddo on the left and Mount Tabor on the right, past Shunem to reach the base of the hills of Nazareth and ascend the steep terrain entering the city and continuing to the top where the Synagogue and busy marketplace of the day was located. Nazareth sat in the fertile region of the Galilee originally belonging to the tribe of Zebulon.

v26 – Meaning the sixth month after Elizabeth had conceived

The city of Nazareth was not a favored place for the Jews, especially for the descendant of the King of Judah. A proverb of the day said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Galilee, according to Matthew 4:15, Galilee was referred to as “Galilee of the Gentiles”. This also indicated Christ’s favor and intent to intermingle and ultimately save the Gentiles – thus He stood in their shoes/place.

This same angel, Gabriel, had appeared to Daniel near 500 years earlier and had given him the exact account of the timing in which Messiah would come. Now, six months after appearing to Zacharias concerning the forerunner of Messiah, the strength of God’s might is appearing to introduce yet another chapter in this unfolding plan of God.

v.27 – The House of David: The City of Bethlehem in Judea was the home of the house of David. Why was Joseph, from the house of David, living so far north and out of the land which inherited by his father Judah? In order to get from Bethlehem to Nazareth one would have to pass out of Judea through Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, and the edge of Issachar before entering Zebulon and then the city of Nazareth. It was a relatively long journey and far away from home.

Joseph was a carpenter, no doubt from a family of carpenters, tradesmen and those credited with the ability to construct. For the last generation or more, between 30 & 40 years now, Herod the Great, known for his building projects all over Israel, employed many Jewish tradesmen in the various regional building projects, some far to the south of Jerusalem and others to the north in the Galilee region. It is reasonable to consider that Joseph’s father and family moved to take advantage of the available work in that region and settled with other craftsmen of their day also living in the city of Nazareth, which was known for its more “common” population.

It has been estimated that somewhere between 400 people and 400 families was the extent of the population during this time in History. Mary’s family was also originally from the Tribe of Judah and there is no reason we should not consider that she and Joseph were closely related and their families lived, moved and worked together. Certainly she would have been encouraged to marry into both family and a familiar class of people to which she had been accustomed … as long as they were Jewish and hopefully from her same tribe. After all, Judah was a royal family line from the house of David.

As long as Messiah had not yet come, keeping to the promise of Messiah to come from the tribe of Judah, it seemed wholly reasonable and fully responsible to keep the lineage as strong and connected as possible so to continue as a candidate for such a connection.

Mary – Miriam: Exalted (certainly in God’s eyes yet perhaps not so with most people) – Those Jews from Nazareth coupled with those in blue collar work, closely connected with the bid of the Romans, encouraging and facilitating the occupation’s desire to continue their dominance, and especially poor little Mary, seemed the most likely candidate to be chosen … yet chosen she was!

Joseph was a just man according to Matthew 1:19

Betrothed – engaged – married – contracted to be married

Why a Virgin – So many reasons from purity to innocence to prophecy, Isaiah 7:14, to necessity so as to be the Son of God and the Son of man.

v.29 – “Come in” indicates that Gabriel presented himself in a sudden and close proximity to Mary in a more private setting. In other words, she was in, not out – and he had no regard to whatever the confines but rather, “came in” … and apparently uninvited by the one who was already in.

One consideration why Mary was immediately troubled by Gabriel said is that it was unusual and not according to the customary tradition of the day that any man might so directly approach or expressly address a woman, especially one who was betrothed to another. She had good reason why she was troubled by this abrupt interruption and direct contact without the consideration of Gabriel’s appearance or as to the specifics of his address. She was perhaps upset and a bit puzzled … and cast in her mind – considered.

v. 30 “Fear not …” – Recently I set my mind to understand why it seems angels often approach people with the common admonition to stop being afraid. I have come to some considerations and believe that one of the reasons could clearly be to facilitate people refocusing on and actually hearing the message with which the angel was sent. It can be difficult to get someone’s attention when their minds are filled with fear. I suppose even heavenly messengers have to get people’s attention before they can be assured that their intended target actually hears what was said.

v.31 – Jesus – Joshua/Jeshua – Jehovah Saves – God a Savior – the same idiom as Immanuel from Isaiah 7:14 – God with us – God in person

Isaiah 9:6 – Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace

v.32 – Isaiah 9:7 speaks of continuing increase and greatness of His Kingdom and government and peace …

(He will be called the huios of the hupsistos; and the kurios theos will give Him …)

v.33 – eternal

v.34 – Simple question as to what she should expect unlike the unbelief revealed by Zacharias’ question 6 months earlier – Knowing that she was under contract of marriage but not in any way consummated she considered that nothing had yet happened but was desirous to know what course she should take in respect to this message – should she continue towards marriage or ??? – a speech of excited wonder and marvel instead of unbelief or dissent.

Seeing I know not a man” – thus implies that as of the past and the present Mary was pure and a virgin in every sense of the word. This statement does in no way imply that Mary was taking a vow of virginity or by this account conclude that she showed or was led to consider the future beyond the birth of her firstborn son – although Matthew 1:18 verifies that Mary did not know a man either before or all the while she was pregnant with Jesus.

Shall be called “The Huios of Theos”

v.36 – Gabriel engenders confidence in Mary and gives testimony to a perhaps already known miracle which had taken place amongst her own family, in that a cousin well known by Mary had conceived in her old age – this was no doubt a great sign to this young virgin.

Elizabeth was from the tribe of Levi and Mary from Judah … they could only be cousins by way of their mother’s side. The daughters of Levi were free to marry outside of their tribe since there was no inheritance to carry away to another tribe. These two tribes complement each other in many ways as Kings and Priests often do in representation of God governing in the affairs of men through men.

v.37 – Nothing is impossible with God …

Same words were spoken in Genesis 18:14 to Abraham concerning Sarah his wife in the matter of Isaac. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” No doubt Mary was very familiar with the history of Abraham and this word and understood the implication of Gabriel’s reference to simply know that nothing was impossible with God.

v.38 – I am but a female servant/slave/handmaid/maid servant of the Lord. Be it unto me according to your rhema.