“Two Responses : Doubt Vs. Faith” ( Luke 1: 38, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


(Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 1:03pm)

Zechariah, when Gabriel appears to him as he is burning incense to the Lord in the temple, is “startled and overcome with fear.” (Luke 1:12) Mary, when Gabriel appears to her and speaks of God’s favor, is “deeply troubled by [his] statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.” (Luke 1:29)

 

When Gabriel tells Zechariah that his barren wife Elizabeth is to bear a son and that they shall call him John, Zechariah responds, “How can I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18) Zechariah asks for proof, given his circumstances.

 

When Gabriel tells Mary that she will be with child and bear the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32) Mary asks, “How can this be?” asking to understand the message, given her circumstances. Gabriel explains, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:34, 37) With the angel’s explanation which Mary readily accepts, she responds, “I am the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

 

Elizabeth later proclaims, “She [that is, Mary] who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)

 

On the other hand, Gabriel proclaims to Zechariah, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at the proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

 

Mary immediately acts, visiting Elizabeth so that the unborn children – Jesus and John – may meet even before their births. John leaps in the womb at the presence of His Lord, the One he will go before to prepare the way for the salvation of God’s people.

“The Prophet Of The Most High” (Luke 1: 76 – 77, ESV) by Carley Evans


Zechariah sings first to God and then to his unborn son. He sings a song first of praise, then of delight. He sings of joy that his own child will be “called the prophet of the Most High,” and predicts his son “will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

John will preach “knowledge of salvation.” He will tell of  “the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78 – 79)

John when he has grown into a man sends two messengers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus, after healing many, answers: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Luke 7: 20, 22 – 23)

Before they leave, Jesus asks John’s messengers, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’ I tell you among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7: 24 – 28)

“For God So Loves The World” (Luke 1: 68 – 70, ESV) by Carley Evans


John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah is “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he prophesies that God “has visited and redeemed His people. and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”

Zechariah calls us to praise our God. We are to lift our faces to heaven, and remember how much God loves us, how much He sacrificed for us, how much He intercedes for us, how much He covets us.

God “saves [us] from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; [He] shows the mercy promised to our fathers and [He] remembers His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father, Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” (Luke 1: 71 – 75)

Zechariah calls us to “serve [God] without fear.” How? We serve God without fear because He loves us. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4: 10) “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4: 17 – 19)

The author of 1 John calls us to live out this love of God in our lives “in this world.” He writes that “as He is so also are we in this world.” We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and call the whole world to Him. We are to ring out the glad tidings, the good news of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, born of a woman from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice. Rejoice. I say it again: Rejoice. For God is come.

“Willing To Obey” (Matthew 1: 20 – 21, ESV) by Carley Evans


Joseph has a dream.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some issues with believing a dream! I view my dreams with great suspicion, always considering them as NOT prophetic.

In Joseph’s case, his betrothed is visited by Gabriel, whose words to her confirm Joseph’s dream. (Luke 1: 26 – 33)

Where two are gathered in [His] Name, there He is also. (Matthew 18: 20)

Gabriel, who is the angel of the Lord, refers to the prophet Isaiah, who writes: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His Name Immanuel.” (Matthew 1: 23)

Gabriel tells Joseph to name his son Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 21)

Like Mary before him, Joseph believes. I do think he confirms this dream with Mary, speaking with her later, hearing her report of Gabriel’s visit and the angel’s words to her. Gabriel’s visit to Mary comes before she “is found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1: 18) Gabriel tells her beforehand not to be afraid, that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, overshadow her and give her the baby who is Jesus. She keeps this to herself, sharing it later with Elizabeth. I see her not sharing it with Joseph, perhaps out of fear. After all, she knows she may be stoned to death, outside the city gate. But when Joseph finds Mary pregnant, he is just and decides “to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1: 19) He is kind and does not want Mary to die. Perhaps he also does not want her unborn child to die.

When Gabriel tells Joseph to take Mary to be his wife, Joseph confirms the dream with Mary. All that Mary has stored in her heart now comes out. I imagine her relief and her thrill to find that Joseph is also a faithful servant of God; that he also is willing to obey.

“You Have Found Favor With God” (Luke 1: 30 – 33, ESV) by Carley Evans


“For you have found favor with God,” are the words which come to Mary from Gabriel.

Here’s the rub — was Mary worthy to carry our Lord? Was there something innate in her which made her the only woman ever born who might carry the Christ? Not necessarily so. Mary finds favor with God. God chooses to bless Mary; and Mary believes and accepts the blessing. Mary has done nothing that we know of which qualifies her to carry Jesus except that she is betrothed to Joseph, a man from the house of David and that she is a virgin and that she lives in Nazareth.

Mary is not sinless. She is not born free of sin. However, Mary is the first Christian. She accepts her son as the Son of God and as her Messiah when Gabriel speaks to her. She accepts that she is to name her child Jesus and that He “will be called holy.” She does not fully comprehend all that is to be, but she gives herself to Her son before He is born. (Luke 1: 35)

When Mary greets Elizabeth, “the baby leaps in her womb. And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1: 41) Elizabeth shouts “with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1: 42, 45)

God’s sovereign blessing and Mary’s belief are what qualify her to carry Christ.

“Beyond Mary’s Imagination” (Luke 1: 26 – 28, ESV) by Carley Evans


Elizabeth is in her sixth month of pregnancy when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her that she is favored to be the mother of God.

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” is the only question Mary asks of Gabriel. (Luke 1: 34)

Gabriel’s response is simple, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1: 37)

Mary says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38)

In this exchange, Mary shows herself to be completely trusting of her God. What Gabriel has told her is impossible by any stretch of the imagination. She does not ask how “the Holy Spirit will come upon” her or how “the power of the Most High will overshadow” her. (Luke 1: 35) She does not question that her son “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1: 32) She does not protest when Gabriel tells her that Elizabeth, who is old and thought barren, will also have a son and that she is already in her sixth month.

Mary simply accepts, even though she is troubled at first when Gabriel calls her “O favored one.” (Luke 1: 28) The greeting is meaningless to her initially, and only frightens her. Gabriel reassures Mary, telling her that she should not be afraid, that she “has found favor with God.” (Luke 1: 30)

Mary’s response is an acknowledgment that she is God’s servant, that He has favored her. She recognizes that God has chosen her for an unfathomable task — she is to carry God’s Son and name Him Jesus. Mary knows very little at this point except that she will obey.