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Archive for the ‘Biblical Women’ Category

Review from Part 1:

A Note About Jesus and Women

I have seen the Lord!

So said Mary Magdalene to the disciples after she ran to tell them about the empty tomb. It was resurrection day and Jesus had appeared to Mary. She was the first of all of His followers to see Him. Later that evening Jesus would appear to a gathering of the disciples who would also rejoice that He was alive.

After Jesus suffered, died, and rose again “he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke abut the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Jesus would then tell His followers, men and women, to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. They would be empowered to go and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

 

In Part 1 of our story of Mary of Magdala, we left Mary as she was preparing spices and perfumes to take to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where she had seen the men lay the body of Jesus. She did not return to the tomb then because it was the Sabbath. She waited until morning of the first day of the week.

Now let’s turn to one of the most beautiful stories in the Scriptures. This story is about the love of Jesus for His children. When Jesus rose from the dead He could have gone into Jerusalem and appeared to the apostles immediately. Instead He remained by the tomb until Mary came. Mary, this woman who had gone from the brink of hell to the heights of rapturous joy of knowing Jesus. Mary went to the tomb but she did not find Jesus. She did not understand where Jesus was.

Turn to John 20:1-3 and witness the love and compassion of the Savior, Jesus.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Let’s pause here for a moment. We have more details from the other Gospels about who went to the tomb on the first day of the week. From Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels we know that several women including Mary Magdalene went to the tomb very early in the morning. The stone was already rolled away and an angel told them that Jesus was risen. They remembered what Jesus had said and believed. They ran back to tell the disciples, but the disciples “did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11) Peter and John went to look, but only found the strips of linen cloth inside the tomb. John says that he “saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.” (John 20:8,9)

Mary, who loved her Savior so much, just couldn’t stay away. She went back to the tomb hoping to find Jesus. Continue in John 20:11-18:

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary had the privilege of being the very first witness to Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus gave her a very special honor. She was the first person to see Him after He rose from the dead. Others had heard the announcement from angels, but Mary had the special honor to be the first to see and speak to Jesus Himself. “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he dad driven seven demons.”(Mark 16:9)

Then Jesus commissioned Mary to be the first to proclaim His resurrection. When Mary announced Jesus’ resurrection to the other disciples she became the first preacher of the Good News. It is ironic that in a day when women were not listened to that Jesus chose to appear to them first. Because Mary proclaimed the resurrection first, she has been called the Apostle to the Apostles.

This was a special tribute paid to a faithful disciple. No one can ever share that honor with her or take it away from her. As women, we can and should try to imitate Mary in her deep love and commitment for Christ. Mary’s story assures us that Jesus treated women equally with men. The late Dorothy Sayers put it very well in her essay, “Are Women Human?” when she said:

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man … A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized … who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female … Nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything [inferior] about woman’s nature.

 Mary may have had a regrettable past, but Jesus gave her a wonderful future. Early church historians inform us that Mary continued her life as a leader among the disciples. This should be an encouragement to all women, and men, today that Jesus loves us and wants us to follow Him with all of our hearts, souls, strength, and minds. We can put the past behind us and like Mary and the apostle Paul, “know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. …..(and) press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. … forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to  what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:10-14).

Mary was laid hold of by Christ and gave her all for Him. Mary pressed on for Jesus. What a good example for us as we strive to follow the Lord Jesus.

 

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A Note About Jesus and Women

I have seen the Lord!

 So said Mary Magdalene to the disciples after she ran to tell them about the empty tomb. It was resurrection day and Jesus had appeared to Mary. She was the first of all of His followers to see Him. Later that evening Jesus would appear to a gathering of the disciples who would also rejoice that He was alive.

After Jesus suffered, died, and rose again “he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke abut the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Jesus would then tell His followers, men and women, to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. They would be empowered to go and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

In this study we will share the stories of women who interacted with the Lord. All of these women could exclaim with Mary Magdalene, I have seen the Lord!” Unfortunately, in many pulpits in America, the stories of women are neglected. Jesus not only interacted with many women, but that He also modeled the way that society should treat women.

Jesus did not try to change the culture by preaching about gender issues. Jesus simply modeled the way as He went about treating women like equal human beings. He shocked His disciples on many occasions, but He expected them to learn from Him. He expected them to see that in His kingdom women as well as men were to serve. He did not hand out specific job descriptions; He meant for women to follow Him in whatever way they were called.

 

Mary of Magdala – Apostle to the Apostles

There is probably no woman in the Bible that has been as misunderstood as Mary of Magdala, also called Mary Magdalene. The church has often portrayed her as the sinner who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. But that text in Luke’s Gospel does not name the woman, and it is not likely that the woman spoken of there is Mary. Others have thought that she is the woman taken in adultery in John’s Gospel. Again, there is no reason to suppose that. We really are not told much about Mary’s former life. We should be careful and see just what the Bible does say about her.

Apart from Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary of Magdala is mentioned more than any other woman in the Gospels. All four Gospel writers portray Mary as one of Jesus’ most faithful followers. As an eye witness to the important events of Jesus’s death and resurrection, it is crucial that we study about her. Let’s begin by turning to Luke 8:1-3 where we will find Jesus traveling about with the Twelve and some women followers.

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

The apostle Luke first mentions Mary when he tells us about the women who were following Jesus and the disciples ministering to their needs. These women were not only above reproach but were committed followers of Jesus. They shared in all of the hardships of traveling disciples. There was nothing immoral suggested about the women followers. We can be sure that Jesus and his disciples would not do anything that would ruin their reputations. Actually, the only problem was that in that culture it was unthinkable for women to be in training as disciples. But Jesus broke the mold of the Jewish culture when He encouraged women to be his disciples.

Jesus’ enemies were always looking for ways to accuse Him. But no one could ever make accusations against the Lord for the way He treated women. Jesus thought that it was important for women to be disciples and learn from Him. He was kind and cared for them. One of these women was Mary Magdalene. We are only told that Jesus cast seven demons out of her. Once Jesus freed Mary from the demons her life was changed forever. She was no longer in bondage to them; she was free, and as a very grateful woman she chose to follow Jesus and minister to Him for the rest of her life.

The subject of demon possession seems very foreign to our modern ears. We do not really understand it in our day, especially in our culture. There are other places in the world, such as Haiti, where people fool around with demons, but to most of us they just don’t seem real.

For people in the area of Magdala in the first century, demons were very real. Magdala was a fishing village near Capernaum on the shore of Galilee. Apparently this area was a hotbed of demonic activity. Jesus had already exorcised a number of demons in that region. This was the home-town of Mary of Magdala.

Though it seems unbelievable to us, there really are fallen spirit creatures called demons that indwell afflicted individuals. We have several stories in the Bible where these demons even talk through the lips of the possessed person. Jesus confronted many demons and healed many people from them.

Notice that Jesus “healed” them. Scripture portrays demon possession as an affliction. While sin may have played a part in the demon possession, none of the demoniacs in the Bible is explicitly associated with immoral behavior. These men and women were seen as tormented, unwilling people suffering wretched indignities at the hand of evil spirits. They were miserable, forlorn, heartsick, and pitiable creatures. Often the demoniacs were insane. Most of them had various illnesses. They were shunned by society and so they were ill-nourished and very poor.

This was the life of Mary of Magdala when Jesus found her. Her demonic possession must have been very severe; she had seven demons. So, after her deliverance Mary had the strongest of reasons to love and follow the Savior. Jesus had saved her from much torment and misery. He rescued her from illness that probably would have led to an early death.

It is important to note here that no demon-possessed person in the Bible went to Jesus for help. Someone usually pointed them out to Jesus or He simple approached them Himself in His travels. The demon-possessed were often very defiant and usually asked Jesus to leave them alone. Mary no doubt would have been disabled by the evil demons to seek Jesus.

This is another beautiful part of Mary’s story. She didn’t have to seek Jesus; He sought her. Jesus drew her out of her darkness into the light. Some people, like the apostle Paul, don’t ask for Jesus in their lives, but Jesus chooses them. This should be an encouragement to us. Jesus looks past the sin and misery of our lives to what we can become. And Mary became a leader among women.

Since the Bible portrays those who were possessed as afflicted with disgusting symptoms of illness, we have no reason to believe that Mary was involved in any immoral behavior either before or after she met Jesus. No one would have wanted to come near her, let alone have intimate contact with her.

Again, Jesus showed His compassion and mercy. Just as He was willing to minister to those with leprosy or other untouchable diseases, He was willing to heal Mary. What a transformation! No wonder Mary became a faithful, grateful follower all the days of her life. Her love for Jesus and her gratitude for her healing enabled her to devote her life, along with some other women, to wholeheartedly serving Jesus. Luke tells us that she voluntarily used her own means to do this.

When Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, Mary followed Him, and stayed near to Him right to the bitter end. We know that she was at the cross with other women. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25) We know that most of the other disciples had scattered, but the women, including Mary stayed close by. For the account of Jesus’s crucifixion and death turn to Matthew 27:45-56.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud vice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to same him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

… When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

It must have been agonizing for Mary to watch the death of her beloved Lord. There was a mob there, screaming and shouting hatred at Christ. But she did not shrink away. In fairness to the men who had scattered, they were probably in greater peril than the women. The Romans may not have considered the women a threat. Still the Gospel writers did not hesitate to tell the true story of the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus. They were also willing to give the women full credit for their courage to remain at the cross.

Mary stayed close to Jesus to the end. Her thoughts and emotions are not recorded for us. But when Joseph of Arimathea was given permission to bury Jesus, she followed him to see the tomb where Joseph took Him and how His body was laid. She went home and prepared some spices and perfumes, and then rested, because it was the Sabbath.

In our next post, we will continue with one of the most beautiful stories in the Scriptures – when Jesus took time to show Mary His special love for her after His resurrection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Note About the Holy Spirit and Women:

In his Gospel, Luke wrote stories that especially show us how Jesus considered women as His disciples with the same privileges as men. In our last post we saw how Anna was the first prophetess in the New Testament.

In the book of Acts, Luke makes evident that the Holy Spirit commissions women to service in His kingdom as well as men. In his history of the early church, Luke shows how men and women work together in the kingdom of God taking the Gospel message of forgiveness and peace with God to the lost. The Holy Spirit fell on all believers at Pentecost, men and women. Women were gifted equally to serve in the church. Women as well as men were persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Women joined men in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

“For by one Spirit we were all (men and women) baptized into one body” (I Corinthians 12:13).

PROPHETESSES Miriam Deborah Huldah Elizabeth Anna Daughters of Philip

The Spirit gives the gifts as He wills; one of those gifts is the gift of prophecy. The apostle Paul said, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (I Corinthians 14:1). So women also receive the highest of the gifts.

This week’s story is from the book of Actsand is also about four women with the gift of prophecy – the daughters of Philip.

 

 

Let’s see how this came about. Turn to Acts 21:7-9:

We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Luke the evangelist includes the stories of many women in his Gospel and in the book of Acts. In this story Luke makes a special mention of women, even though at first glance it seems so unnecessary to the story. But Luke has wider purposes in all of his narratives. He packs a lot of truth in each one.

In this part of the book of Acts, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. Paul has taken the Gospel to many cities and preached many times about Jesus and salvation to both Jew and Gentile. He hopes to go to Rome some day.

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He told the disciples that they would take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). The remotest part of the known earth at that time was Rome. Paul would eventually get there. God would take him to Rome in an unexpected way. Paul would be arrested and tried unfairly. He would ask as a Roman citizen to present his case to Caesar. The Roman officials would send him to Rome as he requested. You can read all about this in the last 10 chapters of the book of Acts.

On the way to Jerusalem, a prophet named Agabus told Paul that he would be arrested and he begged Paul not to go there. Agabus gave his prophesy at the home of Philip the evangelist. Luke tells us that Philip had four virgin daughters who were living with him who also prophesied. We are not told exactly what they prophesied, or even if they also cautioned Paul about going to Jerusalem. We only know that Luke thought it was important to mention them.

Let’s give a little background to the story. Philip is said to have been “one of the seven”. This means that he was one of the original deacons that we read about in Acts 6. At that time there was a problem in the new young church. The Gentile widows were not given the same amount of care as the Jewish widows and some were complaining. The leaders of the church came up with a solution – men of good reputation, wise, and honest would be chosen to take care of the widows. These men were the first deacons, and Philip was one of them. We know then that he was a good disciple and must have had some leadership ability to have been chosen for such a responsibility.

Philip was also given credit for helping to start the evangelistic effort in Samaria. As Philip spoke to the citizens of Samaria many came to believe and “So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8).

As usual in Luke’s writings, though we are not told much, we can infer a lot. Luke has a way of really telling so much more if we read all of the Gospels and Acts. Other examples of women that Luke has included in his writings are Anna, another prophetess, and Mary the mother of John Mark. You must also pay attention to every word that Luke uses; each word is a description of a large portrait.

So there are some things we can deduce about Philip’s daughters thanks to Dr. Luke’s careful research and gifted writing.

If you had read Acts 2:17-18 for example, you would have learned that Peter told his Jewish hearers that a prophesy in Joel had just been fulfilled at Pentecost. Quoting from Joel 2:28, 29, Peter said:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

When you read the passage about Philip’s daughters you will recall that Peter said this, and will see that Luke is assuring you that indeed it came to pass that “daughters shall prophecy”.

An interesting fact to note is that these women are already second-generation Christians. Their father was a devout, well-known disciple and he must have been a godly father too. These girls desired to worship and serve God as their father did.
Why did Luke make a point to mention that these girls were virgins? There is much speculation, but perhaps Luke wanted to show that God might call women to other tasks besides the traditional ones of marriage and motherhood. We do not know that these young women didn’t get married later. On the other hand, like Paul and other male disciples, they might have chosen to remain single in order to devote their lives to serving God.

We don’t know how many children Philip had, but these four daughters were following the Lord using the gifts that the Holy Spirit had given them.

In its most basic meaning prophecy is giving the Word of God. In the Old Testament times, the prophets (including women like Huldah) heard from God and delivered the message to the Israelites and sometimes to the nations around Israel. These prophecies were not only God’s current teachings but they also contained predictions about the future. The prophets reminded the Israelites that there were blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience.

In the transition time for the new Church that we read about in the book of Acts, there are some predictions, such as the one by Agabus who warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Many of the references about prophecy are to prophecies that have been fulfilled. For example, all through Luke’s Gospel we read that the coming of Jesus was in fulfillment of God’s promises to save His people. The apostles and other writers spent much time showing how Jesus fulfilled those prophecies.

Prophecy today is still seen as “giving the Word of God”. Today’s prophets are those who can take the Word of God and teach it clearly to others. Women as well as men can tell God’s people, as did the prophets of old, that there are blessings for obeying God and there will be big trouble if they don’t.

Philip’s daughters were at the very least encouraging the Church with their wisdom from God’s Word. These women were examples given to us by Luke that there were some changes in the new religion known as “the way”. Christian disciples will be made up of men and women. Women will be allowed to do many things that they were denied in Judaism. When the Holy Spirit came He gave gifts, including prophesy, to men and women. The Gospel will transform lives – religiously and socially. Women will no longer be second-class citizens. They will do their part in the life of the Church.

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A Note About the Holy Spirit and Women:

In his Gospel, Luke wrote stories that especially show us how Jesus considered women as His disciples with the same privileges as men. Luke often told his stories in pairs of women and men with the women coming off looking a bit more positive. When the men in the stories come off looking rather negative, it is because Luke is deliberately trying to destroy the ungodly stereotypes that existed at the time of the New Testament. Luke is trying to even out the playing field for female followers of Christ.

An example of this is the pairing of Zacharias and Mary at the beginning of his Gospel. Both Zacharias and Mary are approached by angels. Zacharias doubts the angel when he is promised that his aging wife Elizabeth will conceive and bear their son, John the Baptist. God punished Zacharias for his lack of faith by causing Zacharias to lose his ability to speak. Should Zacharias, a priest responsible for teaching people about God, not have remembered Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah from the Scriptures? Zacharias should have known that nothing is impossible for God.

Mary, on the other hand responded to her angel with, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” As we saw in a previous lesson, Mary’s song, the Magnificat, shows that she knew how many great things God had done for His people. Luke demonstrates that women have strong faith.

In the book of Acts, Luke makes evident that the Holy Spirit commissions women to service in His kingdom as well as men. In his history of the early church, Luke shows how men and women work together in the kingdom of God taking the Gospel message of forgiveness and peace with God to the lost. The Holy Spirit fell on all believers at Pentecost, men and women. Women were gifted equally to serve in the church. Women as well as men were persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.

We will share two stories in the coming weeks demonstrating how women were called to serve in the kingdom. First we will look at a story from Luke’s Gospel – Anna the prophetess. Our second story is from the book of Acts and is also about women with the gift of prophecy – the daughters of Philip.

 

Anna –  the first New Testament Prophet

Please turn with me to Luke 2:36-38:

 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

 Many people wonder why so few people in Israel recognized Jesus as the Messiah when He was born. They had been watching for Him. Daniel the prophet had practically set the date. The Jewish leaders had been studying the prophecies and were anticipating the arrival of the Savior. When John the Baptist began his ministry, the Scriptures tell us that the people were “in a state of expectation” and wondered whether or not John himself was the coming Messiah. (Luke 3:15). The fact is that the people were looking for their Messiah.

So, why did they not recognize Jesus as the Messiah? It is because they were looking for powerful military leader or a mighty politician who would become a conquering king. They expected Him to arrive with great fanfare amid loudly proclaiming throngs of people.

But, He was born in a stable. So, among the Israelites, only humble people like shepherds, and Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna recognized Him.  Of course, the very wealthy Magi that we read of in Matthew’s Gospel recognized Him. But they were foreigners and Gentiles, and God gave them a special revelation. Otherwise, only very lowly people knew that this baby Who was born in Bethlehem was the Lord Jesus.

God had given the shepherds the witness of the angels. Mary and Joseph had also been told what was happening by angels.

The Holy Spirit caused Simeon and Anna to recognize that the baby that Mary and Joseph brought to the temple for His circumcision was indeed the One Who would bring salvation to all peoples, even Gentiles.

When he received Jesus, Simeon blessed the baby and his parents. While he was doing this, Anna came by “at that very moment” and began giving thanks to God.

We have only these three verses about Anna in the Bible, yet they tell us a lot about her.

Anna was a prophetess. In the Old Testament we see three other women who were referred to as prophetesses. What is significant here, is that Anna is standing as a prophetess during the time of the transition between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This devout servant of God is the one to whom God trusted the revelation concerning the coming of His Son.

It is striking that Luke makes sure to record that one of the two witnesses to the birth and validation of the Messiah was a woman. Jewish law required that there be two witnesses to validate a claim. In those days, women were not allowed to be witnesses. But, God had blessed this woman and called her to be a testimony to His Son.

Another thing we know about Anna is that she must have been an unusually faithful believer. She came from the tribe of Asher. That tribe was part of the Northern Kingdom. The northern ten tribes had become apostate over the years. They even had built their own temples and changed the Old Testament to suit their new laws. They had their own priesthood and they had intermingled with the surrounding pagans and offered corrupt sacrifices. So, at some point, God must have dealt graciously with Anna and her family to move them to the Southern Kingdom where they could worship at the true temple in Jerusalem.

Truly, Anna had an amazing faith. She believed the Old Testament promises. She took the Scriptures seriously. She knew in her heart that Messiah was coming and was probably praying that it would happen soon.

We are told that Anna was a widow, and very aged. Widows had a very tough time in Israel. They were virtually guaranteed a life of poverty. So Anna must have been living just on charity or perhaps very frugally on the remnants of her family’s inheritance. Either way, she led a chaste and sober life, praying and fasting day and night.

Luke tells us that Anna “never left the temple.” (Luke 2:37) Apparently she lived right on the temple grounds. There were apartments in the outer courts, sometimes used as temporary housing for priests who were doing their annual service. Perhaps Anna was permitted to live there because of her lifetime of faithfulness and her steadfast devotion to the Lord. The people had also recognized her spiritual gifts and observed how she had been using them in the Lord’s service.

God graciously answered her prayer that the salvation of God’s people would come. When she was walking in the temple and overheard “at that very moment” Simeon blessing the child, she knew at once that the baby in Simeon’s arms was the promised Messiah. She began praising God. She did not stop there. Her message for the rest of her life would be that the Messiah has come! She thus became one of the first witnesses for Christ!

We really don’t know what became of Anna after this. She probably did not live long enough to see Jesus during His ministry. But we can be sure that this elderly, dignified, quiet, devoted woman proclaimed Christ for as long as she lived.

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Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world. Mary was an ordinary human being, but she had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

A few weeks ago, in Part 1 we told about Mary’s early life – her encounter with the angel Gabriel and her betrothal. Mary visited with her cousin Elizabeth, who was also miraculously pregnant with John the Baptizer. We then took some time out – in Part 2 –  to examine more closely Mary’s song of praise to God, often called the Magnificat. Mary’s song is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

This week let us pick up the story from Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home. When it was very nearly the time for Jesus to be born, Mary went with Joseph to Bethlehem. Women did not usually travel during the advanced stages of their pregnancies. Was she aware of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? We don’t know. We do know that angels spoke to Joseph as well. Perhaps the angel directed Joseph to take Mary with him even though her presence was probably not needed at the registration. We know that whatever came her way, Mary responded in obedience and with great courage.

Even upon arriving in Bethlehem Mary could have wondered if she did the right thing when she and Joseph found that there was no room for them at the inn. Still she humbly obeyed. It would not have been easy to give birth in a stable. Mary trusted God. Though barely out of childbed, she graciously entertained visitors – rugged shepherds who came by to rejoice in the birth of Jesus. All of these things she pondered in her heart.

When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to Jerusalem to be circumcised. Simeon gave praise to God for allowing him to see the Savior before he died. He also prophesied that Jesus would be a “light of revelation to the Gentiles.”

Simeon also gently told Mary that, “this child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34, 35) Mary was amazed at these words, but continued to ponder all of these things in her heart – something Luke would mention many times in his Gospel. Anna, a prophetess in the temple also praised God for the Savior. Mary was truly a thoughtful, pious woman.

About two months after Jesus’ birth, Mary went to the temple for her purification as also required. Mary is a faithful example of an obedient follower of God.

A short time later, when Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus, Mary courageously fled to Egypt with Joseph though Egypt was a land traditionally an enemy of the Israelites. Then returning home to Nazareth she and Joseph raised Jesus as a normal boy even though Mary knew that He was the Son of God.

Though Mary’s firstborn Son was special she led a typical life as a mother in a small village in Galilee. There is no evidence that she treated Jesus any differently than her other children. Mary would have fixed meals, washed robes, and schooled Jesus as a small boy. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus did anything other than what ordinary human boys do when He was young.

There is only one incident in Jesus’ childhood mentioned in the Gospels. (Luke 2:41-51) On this occasion Jesus astounded the leaders in the temple with His knowledge of the Scriptures and His wisdom in understanding and applying them to life. Of course Jesus is also God, but on this occasion He showed His attention to learning and His devotion to studying about His Father as a human child. We mustn’t forget that in Jesus’ day a twelve-year old had already had many years of training in the Torah. Mary would have helped Jesus with His Scripture memory and study even as Christian parents do today.

Jesus returned to Nazareth after this incident with His parents and was subject to them in all things. This means He was not only a good student, but He was a good Son. All during the years that Mary raised Jesus she would have been wondering just what it would mean that Jesus was the Messiah. What was He going to do?

So Mary enjoyed a normal family life with her children raising them the way all good mothers did in those times. At some point Joseph died. Mary did not remarry when Joseph died, but depended on her sons, especially her firstborn, Jesus, to help care for the family.

Mary would then be raising her children as a widow. Being the oldest Son, Jesus would have taken over the position of head of the family. He would have assumed the duty of seeing to it that His mother was protected as well as His sisters and brothers. These were all the normal duties of any son in those times. Jesus continued to care for her until the day that He began His public ministry.

Jesus made His identity as God’s Son public at His baptism. Was Mary present at Jesus’ baptism? The Scriptures do not say, but this was an important event in the life of a Jew; perhaps she was present. If Mary was there, then she saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and heard God’s voice from heaven. These things would have reminded her of that time over 26 years ago when the angel appeared to her and announced who her Son would be. She would have recalled Simeon’s words to her and also Anna’s prophecy. The things that she had been pondering in her heart would begin to make sense. As would be true for all of Jesus’ disciples however, it would take time for the mission of the Messiah to become clear.

On the way back home to Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and some of His brothers or friends stopped in Cana for a wedding. At this wedding in Cana we see the first opportunity to witness the change in the way Jesus related to His mother.

The story is well known. At the feast the wine ran out. This was a major embarrassment not only for the bridegroom but also for the steward who was in charge of the wedding feast.

Most readers comment on Jesus’ response to His mother, but I would like to back up first for a minute and ask, “Why did Mary even ask Him?” Did she realize that He could work miracles? He hadn’t done a miracle yet. And what kind of miracle was she asking for? Most of Jesus’ miracles would be about doing really important things like healing people or even raising people from the dead. Why was Mary asking Jesus to help with a less than a life or health-threatening situation? Why did Jesus go ahead and do this miracle as the first one of His public ministry?

In light of this, Jesus’ answer to Mary makes more sense. It was very kind and considerate. His response has always seemed harsh to people, “Woman, (note: not “mother”) why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) At first it seems like Jesus is giving His mother the brush off. We should remember two things.

First, Mary is now in a slightly different relationship with Jesus. Just like any young man who leaves home, Jesus holds His mother in great respect but must make His own decisions.

Secondly, Jesus knows what His life is to be. Remember, at the temple when He was twelve years old He told His parents that He must be about His Father’s business. What did Jesus think of making His first public miracle one of seemingly small importance? He could have told His mother that it was just too bad about the wine but His Father doesn’t want Him doing such trifling works.

Instead somehow Jesus indicates to Mary that He will help. Mary tells the servants to do what Jesus instructs them. In this way, Mary shows that she understands that her Son now has the authority. She is telling Him, “Yes, You are now to go out on Your Father’s business. I will return to Nazareth and You will go and do the work that Your Father has given You.”

As always, Mary had pondered all of the things that were told to her about her Son. Now she is beginning to see the reality of Jesus’ deity. Now she is beginning to understand what the predictions about her Son were all about. There would still be a long way to go as Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth would begin to unfold.

As Jesus’ ministry progressed people began to oppose Him more and more. Once after Jesus cast a demon out of a man the Pharisees accused Him, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24). These Israelites thought that Jesus was evil or insane. The rulers began to plot Jesus’ death.

It was right at this time that Mary and some of Jesus’ brothers and sisters came to see Him. Mary must have been wondering how things were going for Jesus. As a mother, was Mary worried about the anger and hostility that was clearly being shown by the Jewish leaders?

When someone told Jesus that His mother and brothers were waiting outside to see Him, He responded, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48) Some have said that Jesus’ response was being disrespectful to His mother. No, Jesus was not slighting them but trying to make a point. He immediately answered His own question by saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” as He pointed to His disciples.

As Mary listened to Jesus explain that, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50) she would have understood that Jesus was referring to more than just His physical family. Mary returned home with the assurance that she had a double relationship with Jesus, physical and spiritual. Jesus was her Son and her Savior.

We don’t hear about Mary again until we meet her standing at the cross when her beloved Son was put to death. There she was standing with other women, and John the disciple. What pain and anguish must have been in her heart as she beheld the cruel and painful death of her Son.

Here again, we see how considerate Jesus is of His mother. Though He has the weight of the sins of the world to bear, He takes time out to provide for Mary. He puts her in the care of John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John took Mary into his own household. Jesus shows that though He said that His family now includes all believers, Mary still held a special place in His heart. Though Jesus’ time on earth was growing short, He spent some of it doing His last duty as a human son by thoughtfully caring for His mother.

Mary returned home with John and waited for events to unfold. Was she as surprised as all of the other disciples when on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came and told Peter and the others that the tomb was empty? It is very likely that no one understood the full extent of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth until His resurrection. But what joy must have filled her heart when she heard the good news!

This is not the end of Mary’s story. We know that she was waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem along with the eleven apostles and over 100 other disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven. (Acts 1:14) The believers would be filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They would then all go out to proclaim the Gospel of the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that people could receive forgiveness for their sins and be at peace with God.

Mary would surely have been a willing and dedicated follower of Christ her Son proclaiming the good news to everyone. We know that she lived for at least a few more years because of the details of her life in Luke’s Gospel. Only Mary herself could have recounted such intimate details to Luke.

 

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The Song of Mary

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

You can see the similarity in Mary’s song to other songs in the Old Testament. Here is a list for you to look up: Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18); Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:20, 21); Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31); Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10). We will refer to many of these songs in this post below.

Turn to Luke 1:46. Filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoicing in God’s goodness Mary sang:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

Hannah – “My heart exults in the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:1)

Moses – “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:1).

Miriam – “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:21)

Deborah – “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I – to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Judges 5:3)

 

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

“My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Psalm 9:14; 13:5; 35:9; 48:11; 68:3; 97:1; 149:2)

Isaiah – “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; My soul will exult in my God” (Isaiah 61:10)

 

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

Hannah –

“For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the Lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“For thus says the high and exalted One… I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)

 

 For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4)

“How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

“And she (Elizabeth) cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Luke 1:42, 45)

 

(Why is Mary going to be called “Blessed”? Note the word is “blessed” not “bless-ed”. She is the one who has received the blessing. Why? Read on.)

 

 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

“Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise?” (Psalm 106:2)
“The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.” (Psalm 126:2)

“Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things.” (Joel 2:21)

 

 And holy is His name.

“And give thanks to His holy name.” (Psalm 97:12; 105:3)

“Holy and awesome is His name.” (Psalm 111:9)

“Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 47:4)

 

And His mercy is on those who fear Him

“’I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

 

 From generation to generation.

“Thou, O Lord, wilt keep them; Thou wilt preserve him from this generation forever.” (Psalm 12:7)

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever; The plans of His heart from generation to generation. …. I will cause Thy name to be remembered in all generations; Therefor the people will give Thee thanks forever and ever.” (Psalm 33:11; 45:17)

“Thou, O Lord, dost rule forever; Thy throne is from generation to generation.” (Lamentations 5:19)

 

He has shown strength with His arm;

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; Strength and joy are in His place.” (I Chronicles 16:27).

“I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

“With the saving strength of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6; 21:1; 28:7; 31:4; 37:39; etc…)

“For the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2).

“The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,” (Judges 5:5)

 

 He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Hannah – “Boast no more so very proudly; Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth.” (I Samuel 2:3)

“Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him; And tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud.” (Psalm 94:2)

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty.” (Isaiah 2:12)

 

 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

“Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his Throne to the first born of the captive who was in the dungeon…” (Exodus 12:29)

“And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations” (Haggai 2:22).

 

 And exalted the lowly.

“He sets on high those who are lowly” (Job 5:11)

“Yet He regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15)

 

 He has filled the hungry with good things,

Hannah – But those who were hungry cease to hunger. … He raises the poor from the dust.” (I Samuel 2:5, 8)

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:7)

 

And the rich He has sent away empty.

Hannah – “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread” (I Samuel 2:5)

“Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, …. For when he dies he will carry nothing away” (Psalm 49:16, 17).

“… his eyes were not satisfied with riches” (Ecclesiastes 4:8)

“But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20)

 

 He has helped His servant Israel,

Moses – “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. … Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15; 3)

Miriam – “The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

Moses – “So Israel dwells in security, …. Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?” (Deuteronomy 33:28, 29)

 

 In remembrance of His mercy,

I am the Lord your God, etc……..

“The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9)

Referring to Israel and God’s dealing with them:

“In His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9)

“’Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

“Let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” (Judges 5:31)

 

 As He spoke to our fathers,

The Ten Commandments – “Then God spoke all these words saying” – (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5: 1-22)

“Hear now and I will speak” (Job 42:4)

“Hear, O My people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)

“God has spoken…” (Psalm 60:6; 62:11; 85:8; 99:7; 105:31; 108:7, etc…)

 

 To Abraham and to his seed forever.

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country … to the land which I will show you; …. I will make you a great nation … I will bless you …. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12: 1-4)

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

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As we turn to the stories of women in the New Testament let us begin with:

A Note About Jesus and Women

Women were not treated with respect in Jesus’ day. The rabbis had a saying, “Talk not much with womankind.” And this statement was found in the Talmud, “It was taught: Do not speak excessively with a woman lest this ultimately lead you to adultery.” In other words, men can’t speak straight across to women as equal human beings.

Jesus broke the mold. By interacting with women the way He did, He was directly violating the rules of the Pharisees. In contrast to this the Gospels, especially Luke’s Gospel, show Jesus lifting women to a place of freedom and respect that they had not known before in Judaism.

Christianity is different from all of the rest of the world’s religions.

While the leaders in Israel would cater to the rich, Jesus would go to the poor. While the Pharisees would only speak with other men, Jesus would speak with women. The leaders would emphasize the externals of religion; Jesus would emphasize the heart condition.

I’ve never heard a sermon on the interaction of Jesus with women. I’ve heard only a handful of sermons on any woman period. This really concerns me. At the very least it leaves the impression that women are not important. At the worst, it gives the impression that we have not learned anything from the Lord Jesus about how to treat women.

Jesus showed that He valued women when He spoke to them. This must have been shocking to those around Him. We know from John’s Gospel, for example, that even the disciples were “surprised to find him talking with a woman,” (John 4:27).

Jesus knew His Scriptures better than anybody. Women were created in the image of God at the same time as men (Genesis 1:27). Putting aside all of the issues in today’s “gender debate”, let us focus on how Jesus treated women. What can we learn from that?

Let’s begin with the story of the first woman in Jesus’s life – His mother Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world. Mary was an ordinary human being, but she had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

We learn the most about Mary in Luke’s Gospel. Doctor Luke took it upon himself to interview many disciples of Jesus in order to write his story. Luke wanted everyone to know that he was giving the exact truth of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, and so he wrote the things “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” (Luke 1:2). The main eyewitness was of course Mary who was there from Christ’s conception until His death.

It should not surprise us then that we have Mary’s words recorded for us in Luke’s Gospel or that there are so many details about Mary’s interaction with Jesus. Mary was still alive and probably shared all of the stories with Luke personally. Even after the resurrection Mary continued to be a faithful witness. That explains how we know the very conversations that Mary had with the angel, Elizabeth, Jesus, and others.

We don’t know very much about Mary’s upbringing. We know that she had a sister, Salome, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John. Salome was also a devoted follower of Jesus and was there at the cross with Mary when He was crucified. Of course, we also know that Mary was related to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Besides this, we only know that she grew up in Nazareth as the daughter of a poor but hardworking family.

From her song, the Magnificat, we can see that Mary grew up in a godly family. Perhaps listening to and reciting or singing the Scriptures was a big part of her every day life. Girls did not go to the synagogue as boys did, but that doesn’t mean that Mary, who loved God with all of her heart would not have loved to hear the stories of God’s mighty works. When the angel came to see Mary, she knew Who God was and what He had promised, and was ready to obey God.

In the Scriptures, we first meet this humble peasant girl when an angel of the Lord goes to Mary’s home and announces God’s plan for her to bear Jesus. At the time of the Annunciation, Mary was probably a teenager. Back in that day, girls were often betrothed at age thirteen. Her marriage was probably arranged by the parents of Joseph, her prospective bridegroom. Joseph was a carpenter. He was also a godly and righteous man.

In those days a betrothal was as legally binding as a marriage. In fact, if a betrothal was broken by one of the parties, through infidelity for instance, there had to be a divorce proceeding. There were two ways to get the divorce, a public trial, which would have been very humiliating for Mary, or a quiet proceeding. In the quiet proceeding, the wronged party could get two witnesses to sign a release with him and send the other party away. In Joseph’s case, he thought that he would just send Mary somewhere to have her child secretly and avoid disgrace. We know that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, and then Joseph knew that everything was all right. This was God’s plan. And so he willingly took his part as Mary’s husband and earthly father of Jesus.

Mary must have known what could happen to her when Joseph found out that she was pregnant. She knew that the horror of public scandal might await her. But she trusted God to take care of her. She surrendered herself unconditionally when she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) Mary did not doubt or question God. She just immediately, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will.

Some people think that Mary did not believe the angel when she was questioning, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Luke had already told the story of Zacharias who did not believe the angel. When the angel told Zacharias that he and his barren wife would have a child, it was just too hard for him to believe. (Luke 1:5-25)

But unbelief was not the motive behind Mary’s question. Mary was not questioning the angel because she doubted God. She merely wanted to know how a virgin could get pregnant. Though the Bible doesn’t say, I have to wonder if the humble maiden also wondered why she was the one who was chosen. After all, the Israelites had been waiting for their Savior for hundreds of years. Perhaps Mary thought that she wasn’t good enough to be the mother of the Messiah; nevertheless she believed God.

So the angel explained to her that God would be the Father of Jesus. The Holy Spirit would cause the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Indeed, Jesus would be the King who would sit on David’s throne. Mary’s response was of total submission to God, ” I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

And so, Mary’s faith is an example to us. She proved her faith by responding with humble obedience. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who confirmed this, “and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 2:45) Mary knew that the child she carried was the Savior that everyone had been waiting for. Jesus is the promised king, the promised son of David.

Mary, the first New Testament Theologian

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

Mary’s song fills this pattern. (Luke 1:46-55) – In the next post we will focus on Mary’s song – the Magnificat.

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home. When it was very nearly the time for Jesus to be born, Mary went with Joseph to Bethlehem. Women did not usually travel during the advanced stages of their pregnancies. Was she aware of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? We don’t know. We do know that angels spoke to Joseph as well. Perhaps the angel directed Joseph to take Mary with him even though her presence was probably not needed at the registration. We know that whatever came her way, Mary responded in obedience and with great courage.

In our next post we will continue with Mary on her life’s journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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