Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Leper Healed

Luke 5:12-16

It is hard for most people to imagine the horror of leprosy in our day, because it is so rare. The rare flesh eating bacteria that sometimes appears in our hospitals is probably our closest comparison. Articles I have read state that leprosy itself progressively destroys the nerves’ ability to send messages to the brain about pain or needs for extra nourishment.

Because he feels no pain or discomfort in the injured part, the person causes himself serious injuries, even fracturing bones and tearing off pieces of flesh. Paralyzed people have a similar problem with one major difference. They no longer have control of their muscles, so only get hurt because something happened to them. The leper may unknowingly do it to himself.

In addition, because the nerves do not communicate back to the brain, to send more nutrients or healing responses, Cells die of starvation or infection, causing destruction of body parts. The paralyzed person cannot use his limbs, with the result that the standard flow is sufficient and maintains life in the limb. Since the leper can still use his limbs, the demands are much higher and the standard flow is insufficient, leading to cell death and loss of portions of the body.

Leprosy is highly contagious, and to prevent it’s spread, quarantine was the most effective procedure. The Old testament gave specific instructions for identifying leprosy, and demanded that the infected person warn others of the danger, and avoid accidental contact. While there was no known cure at the time, it sometimes disappeared and a means of determining this and declaring a person cured was also prescribed. It is against this backdrop that Jesus healing the lepers takes place.

“And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.” (Luke 5:12-13)

The leper recognized that Jesus could do what no one else could do, namely cure the leprosy. All he did was ask to be healed, believing that Jesus could. Jesus touched him and healed him with no further effort on his part, then commanded him to follow the procedure of being declared cured.

“And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Luke 5:14)

Leprosy is such an illustration of sin, both harming us itself, and causing us to destroy ourselves, while frequently not being recognized immediately. It also spreads from one person to another as a result of close association, so that as I Corinthians 15:33 warns, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Salvation can only be obtained through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 declares, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Salvation is obtained simply by believing and asking God for it. Romans 10:13 promises, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is his work that saves, as Ephesians 2:8-10 declares. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Because the leper was healed, he needed to go to the priests and be declared healed. The newly saved person needs to be baptized as a declaration of his salvation. Acts 2:38 commands, “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The leper was charged to tell no man before he was declared healed. His obvious change in behavior would portray the change soon enough. As people see what has happened in one life, others come wanting a similar effect in their own life. People flocked to Jesus, desiring healing and to hear what he taught.

“But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.” (Luke 5:15)

One very real danger is that of becoming so caught up in ministering to others that we neglect our own relatinship with Christ. It led to the rebuke of Martha in Luke 10:38-42, and of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. Jesus did not allow himself to be distracted by busyness, nor should we.

“And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Calling The First Apostles

Luke 5:1-11

The day after Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist pointed Jesus out as the Messiah. The apostle John and Andrew were there and heard him, and followed Jesus, as John 1:35-37 describes. “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.”

Excited about what they heard, they began to share what they learned with their friends and relatives. Andrew talked to his brother, Peter. “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” (John 1:40-42)

Apparently, they spread the word beyond that, reaching a man named Philip. John 1:43-47 tells of his response when he met Jesus. “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"

Jesus then spent the forty days in the wilderness being tempted, and the disciples resumed their normal lives for that period. After his return from the temptation, both Matthew and Mark mention Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James and John. Matthew 4:18 -22 recounts, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”

Both Matthew and Mark make it clear that this took place before Jesus cast out the demon in Nazareth in Luke 4:33-36. Apparently neither Luke, Matthew or Mark was present, but Luke uncovered and reveals more detail than either Matthew or Mark. It was this second encounter that fully convinced this first group of Apostles.

"And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. Lu 5:6 And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11)

Many are like the Apostles were at first, believing the words and getting involved to the point of going along for a while, but never fully committing themselves. Only when they step out by faith in obedience and see the results do they make that final commitment. Unfortunately, churches are full of people who have made professions, and even been baptized, yet never made that commitment of faith in their heart. The writer of Hebrews was addressing this very problem in the first six chapters.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Staying a Night at Peter’s Home

Luke 4:38-44

Apparently Jesus called Peter sometime during the period between Luke 4:14 and Luke 4:33. In studying history, it is often necessary to follow one string of events at a time. Luke is focused on the various healings and events proving that Jesus is the messiah at this point. As a result he brings up the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, before he explains how Peter became an apostle.

Several groups have held that Peter was not married and don’t allow their clergy to marry. While a number of Simons are mentioned in the New Testament, Matthew 8:14 makes it very clear that this is Simon Peter, or Peter. “And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.” Paul makes it equally clear in I Corinthians 9:5 when he names Cephas, better known by his Greek name of Peter, as being married. “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” He states that they have that right. I Timothy 4:1-3 names forbidding marriage as one of the teachings typical of those who have turned from the faith.

“And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.” (Luke 4:38-39)

One of the things we are impressed with is Jesus’ humility and love for the people. He went into the most humble homes, and touched even those everyone else avoided. He was available all the time. In a day when many pastors do not want to live close to the church so they’re not bothered all the time, it gives a different perspective on the pastor’s job. Not only did he heal Peter’s mother in law, but he touched and healed many others who came even after the sun had set, long after hours, and he is our example.

“Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.” (Luke 4:40-41)

When Dad first came to Kirtland, over ninety percent of the people were members of the Mormon church. There was a serious push to get my folks to join as well. After Dad talked to some of them, they began to come back to learn more and a few got saved. It wasn’t long before we were told that the Mormon church had forbidden their members to talk to Dad because he would lead them away from the Mormon doctrine. It was funny, because that is when those who were unsatisfied with Mormon doctrine began to ask more questions.

I think something similar occurred with those who were demon possessed. Even a demon possessed person still has the capability of controlling himself and making decisions if he chooses. They were dissatisfied with what the demons provided, and looking for something better. Like an alcoholic, they still retain the ability to refuse to take a drink, but only exercise the power occasionally. Their desire for change brought them to Jesus, where the demons tried to turn them away with accusations that he would destroy them.

Jesus forbid the demons to advertise for him, because they knew who he was, but accepting their recommendation would imply association. Paul, Peter, John, and Jude warn of the danger of associating with those who teach false doctrine, because it allows them to appear as part of us and deceive people with impunity. He did not allow himself to be distracted by the greater following he might attain. He also did not allow the physical needs of the people, or their desires to distract him from his main purpose, of turning people to God.

“And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.” (Luke 4:42-44)

Helping hurricane or earthquake victims, providing medical treatment, or building house are all good and necessary things, but we must not allow them to distract us from our primary purpose of leading people to Christ. The story of the rich man and Lazarus demonstrates that it is better to be go to heaven than to be rich. It really doesn’t matter if a person was rich or poor if he goes to hell.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Power Over Demonic Spirits

Luke 4:33-37

Demon possession is something many modern Christians struggle with. Part of the problem is the way it is portrayed in movies and the media. Modern psychology and psychiatry have also contributed to the confusion. Religious leaders and society as a whole have further compounded the problem by creating confusion as to what the spirit is and does. A lot of false teaching has resulted, with many Christians accepting the Bible’s statements as to having evil spirits cast out, with no real understanding of what it means.

In the book Competent To Counsel, Jay Adams pointed out that the vast majority of what we call mental illness does not involve any physical malfunction of the brain. Studying patients in a mental institution, he concluded that the majority were there as a result of a sense of guilt. Rather than taking responsibility for their actions, they allowed the guilt to take control of their thinking and began to act erratically, often in anger and violence. Like the alcoholic, people began to excuse their behavior as being beyond their control, allowing them to avoid taking responsibility. The temporary relief of the sense of guilt encouraged them to repeat the behavior, and it became habitual. Demon possession begins when satanic spirits begin to manipulate the thinking, bringing back the sense of guilt to trigger further episodes of the behavior. The attitude of re4bellion, anger, or fear controls the person’s thinking.

Modern psychologists often use drugs to suppress the feelings of guilt, reducing the erratic behavior, but not addressing the underlying problem. Counseling sessions focus attention away from the triggers, often blaming others for the sense of guilt, again temporarily holding the behavior in abeyance, but never eliminating the cause. As Dr. Adams says in his book, it is like opening the lid of a pressure cooker to let off some of the steam, then putting it back on without turning down the fire. The pressure will begin to build as soon as the lid is closed, and can become dangerous. A man in Albuquerque went off his medications, and murdered four people before being killed himself because the underlying guilt had not been dealt with and the demonic spirits used it to control him.

As Jesus said in Matthew 12:43-45, just driving out the evil spirit that is in control only sets the stage for worse behavior. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” Most studies indicate that psychiatric treatment results in temporary changes to more acceptable behavior without alleviating the guilt and anger.

Both the person and the demonic spirit controlling him are aware of the world around them and recognize that Christ threatens their present lifestyle. The guilt cannot be avoided by bad behavior. Luke records a typical reaction.

“And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.” (Luke 4:33-34)

Jesus performed no ritual to drive out the demon, simply commanding him to come out. As I John 4:4 says, “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” and the evil spirit could not refuse to obey. No ritual is needed to invoke the power of God, it resides in his children already, according to Acts 1:8.

“And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.” (Luke 4:35)

Relinquishing control is seldom pleasant, and demonic spirits are especially troubled because it foreshadows their future imprisonment in the lake of fire. When Christ casts out the demon, he also removes the attitude that enabled the demon to gain control, by taking away the guilt, giving the person back control of himself. The demon can only regain control if the person then voluntarily goes back to the sin. The house is no longer empty. The demon often makes a final demonstration of control in a childish act of defiance.

“And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.” (Luke 4:36-37)

Many purported to cast out demons in Jesus’ day, but Jesus’ approach and his results were far different than those of the others. He simply told them to go and they went. The power is the test whether something is of God, not the claims, as Paul declares in I Corinthians 4:19-20. “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Again, it demonstrates that Jesus is the Christ, not just another man.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jesus Preaches At Nazareth

Luke 4:14-33

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. ” (Luke 4:14-15)

We are unsure of the exact sequence of events during this period, but Luke tells us that Jesus taught in various synagogues. As a result people began to recognize him as a man of God. The message he gave in Nazareth was not the first time he’d preached. He made Capernaum a base, Fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah that Matthew 4:14-16. The exact sequence of events during this period is unclear, although it appears that Jesus went to Cana of Galilee, where he turned the water into wine, as described in John 2:1-11, before the message recorded here, as he refers to other miracles in his message. It appears that John was already one of his disciples and he was acquiring others.

The entire group was fascinated as he talked of the mission God had given him, explaining that it was the fulfilment of the scripture. They were amazed, because they had known him as a child and were impressed by his understanding. Perhaps there was even a little pride in a local boy making good, but it was tempered by familiarity.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? (Luke 4:14-22)

Next Jesus explained that the very familiarity would hinder their hearing the message he preached. The ones most likely heed the message were outsiders such as the Sidonian widow Elijah stayed with or Naaman the Syrian, that Elisha healed.

"And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily, I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:23-27)

The people apparently viewed him as a traitor because he didn’t make Nazareth his base, and took offense that he thought they would fail to obey God. Their reaction shows that he was entirely correct, going so far as to try to push him off a nearby cliff.

“And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.” (Luke 4:28-30)

I have always wondered if he did like he did at Jerusalem when he escaped the mob who tried to stone him. John 8:59 states, “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” Apparently he made himself invisible and walked right through the middle of them.

"But he passing through the midst of them went his way, And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.” (Luke 4:30-32)

Jesus had the power of the Holy Spirit and it affected everything he did. It was not the powerful delivery, but as a person who really knew what they were talking about, as Matthew 7:28-29 describes. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” John 7:15 reemphasizes his knowledge. “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” Jesus was the authority on the subject. He wasn’t just pretending to be an authority, He knew as a result of the Spirit's teaching and power.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Temptation Of Christ

Luke 4:1-14

As Messiah, Jesus would be a priest forever. Hebrews 5:1-2 describes the priest’s responsibility. “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.” Because of his own temptation as a human, the priest can understand the need for forgiveness for others.

To fulfill that responsibility, it was necessary for Jesus to be tempted just like any human being, and as James 1:13 tells us, “for God cannot be tempted with evil.” He had to be born human to qualify as Messiah, which is why the virgin birth is so critical. He had to be both God and man. Hebrews 2:17-18 explains. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”

Because it was necessary that Jesus experience these temptations to the maximum level, the Holy Spirit led him into a position of maximum temptation, weakening him to point where others would yield. Satan could not pass up such an opportunity, because success would destroy God’s plan. He literally used every possible temptation at this point, and throughout his ministry. I John 2:16 describes the areas we can be tempted. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Since only Jesus was present, and Matthew and Luke give almost identical accounts, it is obvious that both heard the story from Jesus himself. Physical stress can weaken one’s resolve to a degree one is susceptible to temptation. Fasting is often portrayed as a way of attaining spiritual strength, but when misused, it weakens instead. Like developing muscle strength, improper exercise can do serious harm. As a result, God gives some very specific guidelines for fasting that are usually overlooked. Jesus spent forty days in fasting.

“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.” (Luke 4:1-2)

After forty days without eating, Jesus’ body would have been desperately demanding food. Satan starts by appealing to that physical demand of the flesh, suggesting that Jesus use his power as God to escape the suffering that others could not . In doing so, he would have given up his humanity, but Jesus refused, saying that man must live by trusting God rather than just physical things.

“And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:3-4)

Seeing that Jesus would not yield to the lust of the flesh, Satan then tempted him with the lust of the eyes, offering possessions, power, and fame. Jesus could bypass all the struggle by just yielding himself to Satan. Again Jesus rejected the offer, quoting scripture saying those things were to be obtained only through God’s power.

“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:5-8)

When Jesus quoted scripture for his refusal to yield again, Satan attacked his pride. In effect, he dared him to prove he was who he claimed to be. He quoted scripture himself to imply that failure to do so would mean Jesus didn’t really trust God. Again Jesus quoted scripture that we are not to challenge God just to show off our spirituality.

“And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Luke 4:9-12)

When Jesus refused to yield in any area, Satan departed. Jesus did exactly what James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” As promised, Satan left, but only temporarily. He will always try again later.

“And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.” (Luke 4:13)

Matthew 4:11 makes it clear that once Satan had departed, God took care of the cravings that made Jesus vulnerable, demonstrating that God could be trusted to supply our needs as he promises. “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”

Because he has been tempted in every area just as we have, Jesus can understand how we would yield, although he did not. We can come to him boldly, expecting relief as a result. Hebrews 4:15-16 encourages us, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Having faced and overcome the temptations, Jesus was prepared to pursue his ministry fully.

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.” (Luke 4:14)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Further Evidence That Jesus Is Messiah

Luke 3:23-38

The Messiah was prophesied to come from the family of David in many passages. Isaiah 9:6-7 is a familiar example. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

Besides being the descendent of David, the messiah was also to be a descendant of Abraham, as we see from Genesis 22;16-18. “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”

Genesis 3:15 prophesied that Messiah would be a descendant of Adam and Eve, a given, but also that he would be the descendant of the woman, referring to the virgin birth. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." To be the Messiah, Jesus had to fulfill each of these prophesies.

While they seem a tedious to read, The genealogies in Luke and Matthew Make it clear that Jesus fulfilled these prophesies. Some have been troubled by differences in the genealogies, not realizing that Luke gives the genealogy of Mary. The word son used specifies an immediate relationship, not necessarily a son, and can be used to refer to a son in law as well as a son. The word begat, on the other hand, used in Matthew, refers to being physically the descendant of. Thus we see that Jesus was qualified to be the Messiah on both sides of the family. Though he was not Joseph’s son, His lineage would not be subject to attack, while as Mary’s son he was still qualified. The genealogies are critical to verifying that Jesus is the Messiah.

"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri,

Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim,

Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda,

Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” (Luke 3:23-38)

The genealogies diverge at the time of David, with Joseph being descended from Solomon, while Mary descended from David’s son Nathan. While Luke works backward from Mary to Adam, Matthew starts with Abraham and works his way to Joseph.

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;

And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1:1-17)

It is interesting to note that Israel took fourteen generations from Abraham to David, gradually drifting away from God, was restored under David and spent fourteen generations before they had to be restarted under the Babylonian rule. Fourteen generations later it happens again with the ministry of Jesus.

I wonder if mankind can only do stay focused about fourteen generations before forgetting God so completely he has to restart them? Each time after being restarted, the first generation served God but interest in obeying him declined as time went by and people were farther from their roots, until finally only starting over got them refocused.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Introducing Jesus to the Public

Luke 3:21-23

While Jesus’ birth was announced to a number of people, the general public had no realization of who he was. John spent most of his ministry as the advance man. Calling people to repentance and telling them that Messiah was coming. When John baptized him, God introduced him publicly to the world as his own son. Each of the gospels identify this as the real beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age,” (Luke 3:21-23)

John was a distant cousin of Jesus. He had heard the prophecies by his father as well as the Old testament prophecies. When he saw Jesus, he had no question as to who he was. Even before the baptism, he identified him as the Messiah, and the reason for his own ministry, in John 1:29-31.

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.”

Knowing who Jesus was, and that he had done nothing to repent of, John felt that he needed to baptized by Jesus, rather than to baptize him. Jesus asked him to do it anyway because it was fitting that he do everything others did in obedience. Others were baptized as a sign of repentance and their commitment to do right, somewhat like someone taking an oath of office or signing a pledge, and it was proper that Jesus should set the example. When he did so, God clearly identified him as his own son.

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

This is almost the only time we find God the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit simultaneously present, making it cleat that while they are all God, they function as separate beings. That the observers took special notice is apparent from the fact that while the writers obtained their reports different ways, all of them record the same event, with only a few differences in minor detail.

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)

John 1:32-34 records John the Baptist’s statements about what he had seen, and some of what the holy Spirit had revealed to him as proof of Jesus being the Messiah. He declares that that is exactly what he saw.

“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

John then records an event which none of the other writers mention. While we know the identity of one of the two mentioned, there is no identification of the other. It is possible that it was the apostle, John, who never speaks of himself in his writing, but is clearly identified by other writers in other situations.

“Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” (John 1:35-37)

That it was John seems to be indicated as well by Johns statements in I John 1:1-4. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. "

Monday, October 18, 2010

John’s Imprisonment

Luke 3:19-20

Modern events are often set up by a promoter who rents the facility, arranges for the necessary staff and services, sells tickets and does the advertising. The speaker, or music group, or teams can devote their entire effort to preparing for and performing. If the event goes well, the promoter will hardly be remembered. John recognized that his responsibility was as promoter of Jesus ministry. Once Christ took the stage, John’s ministry would largely end. John describes his position in John 3:27-31.

“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.”

Not long after Jesus began his ministry, John was imprisoned, and later beheaded because of his teaching about divorce and remarriage. Herod had an affair with his brother’s wife and she left Philip to marry Herod. John insisted that by marrying her, Herod would be sinning, and the woman, Herodias, was angry about it. Luke describes the bare essentials.

“But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.” (Luke 3:19-20)

Both Matthew and Mark refer to the events, but Mark gives greater detail in Mark 6:17-20. “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”

Herodias hated John and demanded his death because of her sin. Herod, on the other hand, refused to kill him because he still had a respect for God despite his wickedness. As a result, he was curious about John’s teaching. In addition, though he was appointed by Rome, he was still swayed by public opinion to a degree. Executing John could well cause a rebellion. Matthew 14:5 tells us, “And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.”

To silence John’s condemnation and appease Herodias, Herod had him imprisoned, but John was able to continue his ministry on a limited scale for a time. Becoming discouraged, he would later contact Jesus for reassurance. Jesus himself said There had never been a greater prophet than John, in Luke 7:28. "For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist:” Even such a great prophet and man of God had moments of doubt, as we see from Luke 7:19. “And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” Occasional moments of doubt are normal in trials, but they will not be prolonged if the Holy Spirit is allowed to work freely.

Friday, October 15, 2010

John’s Ministry Begins

Luke 3:1-18

Herod died about three years after Jesus’ birth and was succeeded by Archelaus. When John begins his ministry about twenty five years later, Archelaus had been succeeded by Pontius Pilate as governor, and Archelaus’ sons shared the throne of the surrounding areas, with each being responsible for a particular region. Only people of the time were aware of the agreement to split the responsibility, again validating Luke’s authenticity, as does his identification of the high priests, which would not have been known outside Israel.

“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” (Luke 3:1-2)

While we are never told that John was a Nazarite, he definitely lived a lifestyle similar to that of the Nazarite. Mark 1:6 describes it. “And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;”. From Matthew 11:18 we learn that many people took offense because he refused to eat and drink like they did. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.”
Mark 1:6 describes his lifestye, “And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;”.

While camel’s hair and a leather belt was appropriate for sheepherders and farm laborers, it wasn’t suitable for polite society, and the priests would not have recommended it. As Jesus told the crowd later, it didn’t stop people who wanted to hear God’s word, although others were offended. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” (Matthew 11:8-9).

John starts by preaching what Isaiah had said about preparing the way for Messiah, which was a familiar and pleasant message, some what like the message of the Second Coming is to many “Christians” today. He stressed getting themselves prepared for the event by the baptism of repentance.

“And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:3-6)

Hebrews 9:22 states, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” John in no way stated that baptism would take away sin. Unfortunately, the Jews had fallen into the habit of offering the sacrifices with no sense of real repentance, but simply going through the ritual. John said that was not acceptable, setting baptism as an evidence of their sincerity. Ritual and tradition would not suffice.

“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Luke 3:7-9)

Matthew 3:11-12 points out that John’s baptism was only a statement of repentance. Jesus Christ would baptize or immerse initially in the Holy Spirit and later, at the judgement with fire. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

While the common people came confessing their sin, the most religious groups were not, according to Matthew 3:5-8. “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” Merely being baptized meant nothing without action on. The people asked what actions would indicate their repentance.

“And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:10-14)

Many wanted to believe John was the Messiah, but he was very explicit that he was not, and reminded them that the baptism of fire would separate those who believed in Christ and those who did not. Baptism in water would not save them.

“And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.” (Luke 3:15-18)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Childhood of Jesus

Luke 2:40-52

Some would deny that Jesus had siblings, but according to Matthew 12:46-47, he definitely did. “While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.” Matthew 13:55-56 makes it clear they were Mary’s children. “Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?”

Other than the brief stay in Egypt, we know little about jesus childhood. The incident related here is the kind of incident the family would have noted and remembered in later years. While we can’t be sure, Luke’s comments imply that it was Mary who related the story. From the story we get a profound impression of Jesus as a child, and of a sincere and Godly family life.

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.” (Luke 2;40-41)

Jesus grew in a normal manner, deeply religious, but thinking things through logically and carefully. Nevertheless, he was still very much a child, and like any young man, could forget about everything else when absorbed in something that held his interest.

“And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.” (Luke 2:42-43)

Jesus obviously was not a trouble maker and his parents trusted him, expecting him to be with the other kids in the group they traveled with. They had no reason for concern until he didn’t show up for supper. When a boy misses a meal, something is wrong, and it got his parent’s attention.

“But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” (Luke 2:44-47)

Having traveled a days journey from Jerusalem, Jesus’ parents were another day getting back and didn’t find him until the third day after they had gone. They were surprised to find him in the temple, listening to the most educated men of the land, and asking questions. Everyone there was amazed that such a young man could have such a depth of understanding as his questions and responses.

His parents were amazed that he seemed to have totally forgotten about them in his absorption with learning about God. He was surprised that they would be concerned, because he saw it as his purpose in life. To him it just seemed so obvious what he would be doing.

“And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.” (Luke 2;48-50)

Despite the angel’s messages to both Mary and Joseph, and the events surrounding his birth, Jesus was so completely normal that they had difficulty understanding how he could be so different from other children in some ways. Though they knew he was God’s son, they still thought of him in human terms. Nevertheless, they, and Mary especially, were aware of the differences.

“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)

Though he was God, Jesus submitted himself to his parents as a normal child, learning to obey like any other child. As a result, he behaved in such a manner as to please both God and the people who knew him, unlike many kids today, who have far less reason to think they have the right to do as they please.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Those Who Seek, Find

Luke 2:36-39

While most of Jerusalem, including the priests took no notice of Jesus’ birth, there were two who were very aware of what it portended. Like Simeon, Anna was older, and did not get so caught up in the things around her that she neglected God. She was about eighty four years old. She had been married for seven years, but after her husband’s death, she did not remarry, but devoted herself to serving God, spending a lot of time in fasting and prayer. She is of the little known Jewish tribe of Assher, or as it is in Greek, Aser.

“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” (Luke 2:36-36)

Like Simeon, Anna is led by the Lord to come to the temple at the time Mary and Joseph have Jesus there, and God revealed who he is to her. She Also thanked the Lord for having seen the one she had waited for, and told all those who were looking for the coming of the Messiah who he was. Unfortunately, as we see later, most of the people paid no attention.

“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

They then returned to Bethlehem, apparently for some time before moving to Nazareth, during which the wise men came to see Jesus, as described in Matthew 2:1-12. It is significant that although Jesus’ had been presented and recognized at the temple after his birth only a very few were aware of his birth. Even the priests and scribes were not aware of it’s occurrence, though they clearly knew the scripture about it. The wise men, probably as a result of Daniel’s teaching and writing in Babylon, were more attentive to God’s word than the most religious of the Jews.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:1-12)

By the time the wise men arrived, Joseph and Mary had moved into a house in Bethlehem where the wise men found them. When the wise men didn’t return as he’d asked, Herod ordered the death of all the babies in the area around Bethlehem as described in Matthew 2:16-18, fulfilling another prophecy relating to Messiah’s birth. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”

That the time in Bethlehem was fairly extended is obvious from the fact that Herod had been so careful to find out when the star appeared, then killed all the babies up to two years old just to be sure. God warned the wise men, then awoke Joseph in the middle of the night to enable them to escape Herod. “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)

The stay in Egypt fulfilled another Prophecy about the Messiah. History tells us Herod died about three years after Christ’s birth making the stay in Egypt only about a year or two. Because of the danger from Herod’s son, Joseph did not go back to Jerusalem, but to Nazareth.

“But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)

It is at this point Luke picks up the story again, with Joseph and Mary moving to Nazareth, and fulfilling the prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene, or citizen of Nazareth.

“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.” (Luke 2:39)

A Nazarite is one who has taken the Nazarite vow of purity, to not cut his hair or beard, not to touch any dead body, or to eat or drink anything made of grapes, besides all the other laws. Jesus was a Nazarene, but not a Nazarite, eating and drinking regular Jewish food and living like most of the people around him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Prophecy of Simeon

Luke 2:25-35

To fulfill the law regarding purification after giving birth, Mary and Joseph went down to the temple in Jerusalem about six weeks after Jesus’ birth. Since people came to the temple daily, their coming attracted little attention. Like church members today, the majority were so caught up in their own lives that they didn’t hear the still small voice of God. In fact, the only ones who took any real notice were a few people who were listening to God.

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” (Luke 2:25-26)

Throughout the Old testament we find men like Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Daniel, who placed God above everything, and as a result the Holy Spirit came on them in power. Most of them are even less well known than Caleb, just trusting God whatever happens. Simeon was such a man, but God used him to reinforce what the angels had told Joseph and Mary.

“And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:27-32)

Simeon’s prayer got both Joseph and Mary’s attention, in that it prophesied of his reaching both to the Jews and the Gentiles. They would not forget the event, and his statements to Mary would call the Angel’s message back to their minds, reminding them of who the baby was, and warning that there’d be some distress as a result.

“And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35)

As Simeon stressed, Jesus would be a light to both Jews and Gentiles, revealing what was really in their hearts. As Ephesians 5:13 declares, “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” Those who have something to hide resent having their wrong revealed. John 3:20-21 explains the conflict that would result. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

It is important that we understand that Jesus did not come to bring what the world thinks of as peace. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The peace he promised was personal peace for the individual, not for the whole world. John 14:27 describes it. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Far too many Christians are trying for the wrong kind of peace.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fulfilling the Law’s Requirements

Luke 2:21-24

When God made his covenant with Abraham, Abraham’s family agreed to circumcise every son when he was eight days old. It was a token or evidence of his accepting God’s covenant. Any man who was not circumcised was to be excluded from Israel as having rejected God’s covenant. Baptism serves the same purpose in the church, identifying those who have accepted the new covenant. Like circumcision, it takes place after the new birth, but refusal to be baptized implies rejection of the covenant, and isolates one from membership in the church. Genesis 17:9-14 describes the command.

“And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.”

To qualify as Messiah, it was necessary that Jesus fulfill all the terms of God’s law. As devout Jews, Mary and Joseph obeyed the commands in the law, taking him to be circumcised on the eighth day as God had commanded. At that time he was given the name Jesus as the angel had instructed. It is probable that this was done in Bethlehem.

“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:21-24)

They later fulfilled the purification ceremony for the mother, as specified in Leviticus 12, coming to the temple at least forty one days after his birth, and offering a sacrifice to God. Before that she was not allowed into the Temple.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood.

This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female. And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” (Leviticus 12:1-8)

The purification period ensured that the woman was completely healed up before she went into the temple and that the baby was also healthy. What ever God’s reasoning, it protected the mother, the baby, and those they came in contact with from spreading contagious diseases as a side benefit.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Announcement Of Christ’s Birth

Luke 2:1-20

Thanks to Luke’s attention to historical events it is possible to determine the date of Christ’s birth within a couple of years. One reason for rejecting many pseudo gospels is their lack of historical accuracy. Luke was a contemporary and familiar with the culture and the laws of the day. In addition, his stories make it apparent he was personally acquainted with most of the people he refers to or their friends. Roman records support his claims about the taxation.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.” (Luke 2:1-2)

By having everyone pay their taxes in the city they were originally from, Rome could be sure they got everyone’s money, but most cultures were not that concerned with taxes, as they didn’t have such an excessive infra structure and weren’t so large. That Luke knew this is evidence that he was a contemporary. The details here could have only come from Mary or Joseph themselves.

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:4)

It is impossible to estimate how many people may have been forced to travel to their home city to pay their taxes and be recorded on the census, but the number was significant. With no way of reserving rooms, and considering that most inns had only one or two rooms that were rented out, it is not hard to believe that the inn was full. Today most people would not think of sleeping in an animal shelter, but even during the depression, Mom’s family had to live in a chicken house for a while, and Dad’s family rented a sheep shed because that was what was available. Homeless people often live in conditions most people wouldn’t endure on a camping trip and consider them normal. Sleeping in the stable would not have provoked much concern. It provided needed shelter, and camping out was a way of life.

Nearly everyone has seen to cowboy movies where the night herder rides around the cattle to keep them together and prevent attacks. With sheep it is even more necessary as they are more vulnerable. Even today, sheepherders live with their sheep to protect them. As a result they become very acquainted with nature, and aware of God’s creation. While many are not Christians, few are atheists or agnostics.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” (Luke 2:8-9)

Their awareness of nature tends to make outdoor people more receptive to the things of God. As a result the angels appeared and announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, while the people in the cities were completely unaware of it. To them it was an event, while most people in the city probably would have considered it just another baby and ignored it. To those who work closely with animals, a birth is especially exciting.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” (Luke 2:10-20)

Whether Luke got the story from Mary or one of the shepherds is unclear, but that he had interviewed others is obvious. The shepherds arrived before Joseph and Mary moved from the stable, and spread the news, but it never got to Jerusalem.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Prophesies Of Zacharias

Luke 1:57-80

Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.” (Luke 1;57-58)

Being well past child bearing age and having given up hope of having a child, it must have been really exciting to Zacharias and Elizabeth. Friends and relatives were thrilled for couple, rejoicing that God had performed such a miracle. It was customary to name children after close relatives, and the decision to call the child John was a surprise to the community.

“And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.” (Luke 1:59-64)

Breaking tradition often results in conflict, but God had instructed them what name to call him in verse 13. When Zacharias obeyed God by insisting on the name, the people were amazed. God rewarded his obedience and restored the ability to speak that had been lost as a result of his lack of faith. The miraculous restoration of his speech, coupled with the miraculous birth attracted a lot of attention among the farmers and shepherds of the hill country, although the cities took no notice.

“And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.” (Luke 1:65-66)

The Holy Spirit then filled Zacharias, and caused him to prophesy again of Messiah, the one who would sit on the throne of David and deliver Israel. He refers back to the many prophecies such as the one in Isaiah 9:6-7. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” The first recorded prophecy goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15.

“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:67-75)

Some of the prophecy was directed to what John himself would do. This also related directly to prophesies in the past, such as MalachI 3:1. “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 40:3 describes the message he will carry. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” John is to be the fulfillment of that prophecy.

“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)

Luke 1:15 declared, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.” Staying in the desert and hill country helped to avoid some of the distractions the cities would have offered.

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.” (Luke 1:80)

As a result of his development in the desert, John developed a different lifestyle than those in the cities, making him stand out as different when he began his ministry. Matthew 3:4 describes his differences. “And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” He was not the typical well dressed, sophisticated and polished preacher of his day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Confirmation of God’s Promise

Luke 1:39-56

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.” (Luke 1:39-40)

Zacharias and Elizabeth had returned to their own home, but when the angel announced Elizabeth’s pregnancy to Mary, she believed God statement and went to visit her. Pregnant women did not go about much in public as they do in our society, and Elizabeth had hid herself five months. Mary withdrew herself from society to go help and encourage Elizabeth, spending three months with her.

“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:41-45)

As soon as Mary spoke to Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit revealed God’s plan to Elizabeth, confirming the angel’s prophecy. One thing we find is that God will always confirm his plan so that we do not have to spend our time guessing whether it is God’s will when we follow him by faith. Mary is blessed that she has believed God and acted accordingly.

The confirmation clearly encouraged Mary, as we see in the next verse. Apparently she was under some apprehension as to her position considering the penalties assessed against women who had had premarital sex marrying some one else. That she was still virgin would be hard to prove. It could well mean she’d never be able to marry or leave her parent’s home. Public scorn can be devastating. Elizabeth’s statements relieved some of the concern.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.”(Luke 1:46-50)

With her own concerns alleviated, Mary is able to rejoice fully in how God works and to give thanks for his blessings. Even in a time that could have seemed very troubling, she is able to trust, and recognize that as Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” As a result, she is able to “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” as I Thessalonians 5:18 instructs.

“He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.” (Luke 1:51-55)

The time with Elizabeth, away from the public eye and the suspicions of her family and friends gave Mary an opportunity to come to terms with her pregnancy. She realized she had to go back and acknowledge the situation, realizing that Joseph could rightfully decide not to marry her and her family might shun her.

“And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.” (Luke 1:56)

When Mary returned to her home in Nazareth, Her pregnancy was advanced enough that she didn’t hide it, and her fiance, Joseph had to be told. Matthew records Joseph’s struggle with how to handle the situation just as it had troubled Mary.

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.” (Matthew 1:18-19)

Under the law, a person was required to marry a person they had sex with. To marry someone else was adultery, and deserved the death penalty. Aware of the teachings of Deuteronomy 22:27-28 and Exodus 22:16-17, Joseph had to face the fact that if she had had sex with someone else, she was not free to marry him. Matthew 19:6 and I Corinthians 6:16 imply that the same standard still applies. Recognizing that he had no evidence that she was a willing participant, Joseph could not justify demanding the maximum penalty.

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

The Angel convinced Joseph that he was free to marry Mary and thus eliminated any public censure for her pregnancy or taint of scandal. Joseph demonstrated great faith to go through with the marriage despite the situation. It must have been difficult, but as Matthew explains, this was necessary to prove that Christ was the Messiah.

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” (Matthew 1:22-25)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Announcement of Christ’s Impending Birth to Mary

Luke 1:26-38

I John 5:6 stresses that the best proofs that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and Savior of the world are seen in his physical birth and his death, proving that he is God in the flesh, and that he is human. “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” I John 5:8 declares that three things, the physical birth, the physical death, and the actions of the Holy Spirit are the earthly testimony of who he is. “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

One evidence that He is the Messiah is given in Isaiah 7;14. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Many today translate the Greek word parthenos as a young woman, but as Mary herself states, in her case, it meant more than that. The word used in Isaiah means specifically a woman or girl who has had no sexual experience. If Mary were not in fact a virgin, then Jesus could not fulfill the prophecy, and could not be the Messiah. To be born of just a young woman would be meaningless as a sign, as babies are born to young women every second of the day. To be born of a virgin, however, would be miraculous. Even modern science requires a complex surgical procedure to approximate it.

Numerous times it was prophesied that Christ would be of the house of David and sit on his throne. Isaiah 9:6-7 is one such reference. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

Jeremiah 23:5 makes a very similar statement. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” To Qualify as Messiah, Jesus had to meet this requirement. Because Joseph was descended from David, he would be recognized by the people as being qualified, even though joseph were not his father.

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” (Luke 1:26-29)

Gabriel’s greeting to Mary was unusual, and left her wondering what was going on, but it definitely caught her attention. Even more surprising was his prophecy of her pregnancy and of the son she would bear, that he would be a king and that he would be called the son of God.

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

Knowing that there was no way she could be pregnant since she was still a virgin, Mary did not question what the angel said, but she did ask how it was going to happen. As the angel explained it, the Holy spirit would implant the sperm, Making the child truly the son of God. He then referred to the pregnancy of Elizabeth at her age as evidence that God could do what he said.

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:34-37)

Unlike Zacharias, Mary accepted the angel’s prophecy, believing and yielding to God’s will in her life. She demanded no special sign to convince her of the angel’s message.

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38)