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Mother of Jesus

Luke 1:26-56

(Luke 1:26-56 NIV) In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, {27} to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. {28} The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." {29} Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. {30} But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. {31} You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. {32} He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, {33} and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." {34} "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" {35} The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. {36} Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. {37} For nothing is impossible with God." {38} "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. {39} At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, {40} where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. {41} When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. {42} In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! {43} But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? {44} As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. {45} Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" {46} And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord {47} and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, {48} for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, {49} for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name. {50} His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. {51} He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. {52} He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. {53} He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. {54} He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful {55} to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." {56} Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Preliminary: Mary’s Reputation

One key fact stands out about Mary: her reputation within the Roman Catholic church. Her stature there is such that one author called her “the fourth person of the Trinity.” It is not my purpose to exalt creature to creator status; nor to conduct an attack on the Roman Catholic church. Rather, I will propose three questions:

·         Why was it necessary for God to use anyone for this purpose?

·         What caused Him to select Mary?

·         What lessons can we learn from this?

The Necessity of Mary

Why did God need to use a “Mary?” The question may be broken down into two parts:

·         Why was it necessary for Christ to come in the flesh?

·         How, then, was this to be accomplished?

The Incarnation

Why was it necessary for Christ to come in the flesh? Why not some supernatural, ghostly visitation, a glowing saucer in the sky with a loudspeaker?

The legal answer

The answer is found in the Old Testament. A reading of (for example) of Leviticus chapter 16 will show that, over and over, God associates the shedding of blood with the forgiveness of sin. It is a curious feature of the Old Testament Law:

·         The Law is a code of conduct which will stand for no deviation.

·         But God knows you will deviate from it, sinners that we are.

·         Therefore, some atonement must be made to cover for this.

Atonement is always made in blood. Indeed, as the author of Hebrews has it,

(Heb 9:22 NIV) In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

So, if the Law is to be satisfied once and for all -- if the word “final” is to be written on the payment slip -- there must be a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, a sacrifice must be unblemished. In some cases, it must be first born. Therefore, the ultimate - “final” sacrifice is the first born of God, the purest possible person. Indeed, the Bible expressly declares that it was for this purpose that Christ came:

(Gal 4:4-5 NIV) But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, {5} to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

To “redeem the law” -- that is the purpose of the Incarnation.

The moral answer

But what of those who do not recognize the Law? It was given to us as example, but only to the Jews as Law. The sense of the Atonement can be generalized to that of a “ransom:”

(1 Tim 2:5-6 NIV) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, {6} who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

Indeed, it can be seen as the reason He came:

(Mat 20:28 NIV) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Why? In the moral sense, we can see it this way.

Only the person sinned against can forgive, but anyone can atone. If I owe a debt, you can pay it for me -- but only to the person to whom I owe it. If I injure someone, the court (in any country, under any law -- i.e., in general good morality) will make me pay recompense to the victim of my errors. I know this might happen, so I buy insurance against it -- like auto insurance. I line up someone else to make the payment for me -- just in case.

Now, when I sin, I have offended God. In some sense, I “owe” God. But I can’t pay -- what do I have that He would want? How could I meet His divine standard of perfection? I’m held hostage by my sin. But (praise God!) I have a Friend who can pay the debt -- and has. (Ephesians chapters one and two).

The picture

There is one overriding picture we need to put in our minds: the Passover lamb. The Israelites did not understand (probably) why God was doing what He was doing. They knew, however, that the way to avoid the death of their first born children was to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the door posts. Thus, the Destroying Angel would “pass over” that house.

If you want to get the feeling of it, think of being pulled over for speeding. The officer approaches the car, sees your “UCLA Alumni” sticker on the car, and comments that “at least you went to the right school.” Then he gives you a warning and lets you go. How do you feel about the Alumni Association dues now?

That’s Jesus Christ, our Passover lamb:

(1 Cor 5:7 NIV) Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Why a Woman?

OK, so the Christ must come in the flesh to be a sacrifice. Why not have Him just appear, or come down out of heaven, or ..... Why a natural birth?

First, it was prophesied -- as a nemesis of Satan:

(Gen 3:15 NIV) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

But this is no ordinary birth, as was foretold to Isaiah:

(Isa 7:14 NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Here we see that the virgin birth is a “sign.” That means a way we can recognize the real Christ. But the main reason is that without a birth there is no real incarnation; no way for God to become Man. It is a mystery, to be sure, but it is the faith:

(John 1:14 NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Character of Mary

So then, a birth is required, and that means a virgin of Israel, of the house of David, to give birth in Bethlehem, .... the list goes on. What kind of person is this Mary? We have in this passage most of the clues to her character.

She is submissive in obedience. “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord” (verse 38) in the old King James. Her response to what must be an overwhelming message is one of submission and obedience.

She is a woman of purity. She explicitly asks how this can happen -- she understands sex well enough for that! (The question is “how”, not “whether.”) In asking the question -- of an angel of the Lord, Gabriel himself, not one you would want to “fake out” -- she shows what she is. She is a pure virgin, and not at all self conscious about it.

She is one who has a deep relationship with God. Poetry is a window on the soul, and in the Magnificat (verses 46-55) we have a beautiful picture of Mary’s relationship with God:

·         She is one who “rejoices in the Lord.”

·         She thanks God for His blessings, both on her and on her people.

·         She knows God’s character, knowing Him to be

·         merciful

·         knowing the thoughts of all, and opposing the proud

·         faithful (verse 55)

Christ’s view of Mary

It’s interesting to see our Lord’s own view of His mother. It’s recorded in two places:

(John 2:1-10 NIV) On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, {2} and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. {3} When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." {4} "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." {5} His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." {6} Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. {7} Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. {8} Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, {9} and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside {10} and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

(John 19:25-27 NIV) Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. {26} When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," {27} and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

(It’s no accident that John, the closest friend Jesus had, is the one to record these). The adjective “dear” is used only twice by Jesus -- and only of His mother.

Henry Halley, a Bible commentator of the 1920s, described the Papacy this way:

“It arose on the ruins of the Roman Empire, in the name of Christ occupying the throne of the Caesars; a Revival of the Image of the Roman Empire inheriting the Spirit thereof; ‘the Ghost of the Roman Empire come to life in the garb of Christianity’ ... It brought itself to power through the prestige of Rome, and the Name of Christ, and by shrewd political alliances, and by deception, and by armed force; and by Armed Force and Bloodshed has maintained itself in power“ (flaming capitals in the original) -- from which you can see how he felt about the Catholic church. Yet see how he views Mary:

“Mary was a quiet, meditative, devoted, wise woman, most honored of women, queen of mothers, sharing the cares common to motherhood. We admire her, we honor her, and we love her because she was the mother of our Savior.”

Lessons to be learned

Mary stands not, as misstated, the source of grace, but rather as example to us. Some key points:

The example to women

Women today feel the desire to be “liberated.” The word means many things to many people. Several of them are the denial of the woman of the Scriptures. The one most particularly offensive is the role of motherhood. Today, motherhood is supposed to be an afterthought (certainly not to be ranked with career and prestige) -- something of the thought of “I’m superwoman, I can do that too.”

Consider, however, that the honor due to Mary is for one thing: motherhood. She was counted worthy to be the mother of our Lord.

The example to all of us

Much of what I have to say here applies to motherhood in particular. Please consider, however, that we, the church, are the bride of Christ -- female to Him who is male to us all. There are three keys of her character I would give you:

The key to submission: knowing God. How many women would tell you something like “Submit to some guy? Not me sister!” God doesn’t ask you to submit yourself to “some guy” -- He asks you to submit to the husband you know, the one you know who loves you to the point of giving his life for you. Submission is so much easier to one you know; one who loves you.

So it is with us, the church. We are to be submissive to our Lord, and this starts with our knowing Him.

·         Do you know His mercy?

·         Do you understand that He knows your thoughts, and opposes the proud?

·         Have you seen His faithfulness?

All these things Mary saw.

The key to service: Purity. I had to repair my wife’s glasses yesterday. A tiny screw had popped out and been lost. I found an old pair of glasses to obtain a replacement screw, and then went to select a screwdriver. I picked one of those tiny “jeweler’s” screwdrivers -- because that was the tool that would do the job. I have a lot of screwdrivers, but only that one would do. God’s toolbox likewise has different tools (us) for different tasks.

But suppose I came and found the tip of that screwdriver rusted and corroded. I’d have to throw it away and get a new one. So it is that purity makes us a tool fit for the Master’s hand, to be used at His tasks. Do you ever feel that God does not make sufficient use of you, that your life needs some greater task? Perhaps it is not the shape of the tool, but the shape the tool is in!

The key to obedience: faith and trust. As the angel told Mary, nothing is impossible with God. He will not work beyond our trust, however.

You know this from married life. Your relationship depends upon trust; that trust must be nourished. Can you tell where serving each other stops and trust begins?

So it is with God. If you wish to be His obedient and submissive servant, you cannot do it with a Missouri attitude. Compare the attitudes:

“Lord, I want you to work great things through me. But you understand that until I see great and miraculous things, I’m going to go on doubting that you can or ever will work through me. So I’m just going to sit back and wait for you to do a miracle in my life -- then you’ll see just how hot and on fire I can be.”

“Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.” “May it be to me as you have said.”

Which of these is pleasing to God? And through which of these people will He do great things?

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