Study Notes: Luke 1:26-56
1:26 The angel Gabriel
The names of only two angels are revealed in Scripture: Michael and Gabriel. We'll look at Michael in detail when we see him show up in the books of Daniel, Jude and Revelation. But what do we know about Gabriel? Really not much at all. He appears in Scripture four times, twice in Daniel, and twice in Luke. We know that he has the appearance of a man, but causes fear when he appears. (I don't know if that's because he's huge, or glowing, or what!) He talks, he can walk into a room or just appear in it (with Zacharias, he appeared, with Mary, he walks in.) We also know that he spends almost all of his time standing in the presence of God.
But if there's one thing we've learned about angels as we've traveled through the Bible, it's that the important thing is not the man, but the mission and the message. In fact, the word "angel" means "messenger". What is Gabriel's mission? What is Gabriel's message? He first appears in Daniel chapter 8, when Daniel has had a strange vision about a ram. Gabriel arrives and gives Daniel understanding about the vision - that it is about kingdoms that would come, culminating with the kingdom of the anti-Christ - who would oppose even the Messiah, but be defeated.
About 10 years later, Gabriel appears once again to give Daniel insight and understanding. He proceeds to give Daniel what is possibly the most astounding, accurate, and articulate prophecies in all of Scripture. That Jerusalem would be rebuilt. The exact number of days after the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would enter Jerusalem. The prophecy of the death of the Messiah. The prophecy of the Anti-Christ and his actions during the tribulation period.
Then last Sunday Morning, we saw his third appearance. When Zacharias was at the altar of incense in the Holy of Holies, Gabriel appeared and told him that in their old age, he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son, who would go as a forerunner to the Messiah.
So far, we've seen that Gabriel's mission and his message is always Messianic. And now, as we look at our portion of Scripture this morning, we see Gabriel's mission climaxing by announcing the Messiah Himself - conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
Aside from Jesus Himself, Mary is possibly the most controversial person in all of Scripture. One one side of the church stands a group who claims that she is deity, one who sits at the right hand of Jesus interceding for us to Him. She is the merciful mother, a perpetual virgin. On the other side of the church stands a group who resents this heretical and extra-Biblical belief so much, that she is belittled, despised. But we should not be in either extreme - she should be neither deified nor despised. Our opinion of Mary should be the Bible's opinion of Mary. The Bible says of Mary that: 1) The Lord was with her, 2) That she had found favor with God, and 3) That she was blessed among women. She was blessed among women, not above women, however, the Lord was with her. In the book of Acts, we see the disciples
Acts 1:14 ...all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Notice that they were praying with Mary - not to her. However, she had found favor with God. So Mary is no goddess, but she was righteous enough to be chosen to be the mother of the Son of God.
Engaged to Joseph
The Jewish culture was (and is) very much different than ours. The engagement period for a couple was one year. To those people at that time, the engaged, or espoused, couple was legally considered husband and wife, but the relationship was not consummated until the marriage festival. If the engagement was broken off, they didn't just say "Never mind." There was actually a divorce. And, the gospel of Matthew tells us, when Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant, that's going to be his first thought - a quick and quiet divorce!
1:28-38 And you shall name Him Jesus
Gabriel says, "Mary - you're going to be the mother of the Messiah! Isn't that great news? And you're going to name Him Jesus!" Wait a minute... there's something wrong here! I know the Scriptures! In Isaiah 7, the Lord spoke to Ahaz, king of Judah, saying:
Isa. 7:14 "...The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Sure, the Messiah must be born from a virgin (and this is not something that happens every day, mind you), but doesn't the book of Isaiah says that His name will be Immanuel? Ah, but that's not what is written, is it? It says, "...She will call His name Immanuel." Immanuel means "God with us." His name was to be Jesus. His name was to be called "God with us". Now the name Jesus is quite interesting. It was the most common name of the day, much like the name "John" is today. It was the Greek version of the Hebrew name "Joshua". Yehoshua - meaning "Yahweh is salvation". When Joseph was thinking about divorcing Mary, an angel appeared to him in a dream, saying:
Matt. 1:20-21 "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.
What's not obvious in the English is the statement that it is God Himself in Mary's womb. The angel said, "You shall call His name 'Yahweh is salvation', because it is He who will save His people." That baby inside of Mary is Yahweh Himself! God said in Isaiah that the virgin will call His name Immanuel, "God with us." Truly, Jesus Christ was, and is, God with us.
The Son of the Most High
He was also to be called "the Son of the Most High". In true Gabriel fashion, this is actually a prophecy. Because only one person ever called Jesus the Son of the Most High... Who was that one person? Well, in Mark 5, Jesus and His disciples took a boat across the sea of Galilee to the region of the Gerasenes.
Mark 5:2-7 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. And constantly night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones. And seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"
This man who was possessed by a legion of demons was the only one who ever called Jesus "Son of the Most High God". It is interesting to me that many modern theologians write off the accounts demon possession in the Bible as mental illness. But when we look at the cases, we see that this is no mental illness. For these people have knowledge not yet revealed on earth.
Mark 1:34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.
The throne of His father David
Matthew and Luke both list the genealogies of Jesus Christ. Matthew begins with Abraham and goes down through David to Joseph, Jesus' legal father. Luke begins with Adam and goes down through David to Mary, Jesus' genetic mother. Jesus will be both legally and genetically heir to the throne of David. We'll talk more in depth about this when we get to Luke 3 - there are some fascinating insights of how intricately the Lord orchestrated the birth of His Christ.
1:39-45 Mary goes to Elizabeth
Remember last week, we looked at the fact that John the Baptist was conceived when Elizabeth was a senior citizen. Now, six months later, her relative Mary shows up at her door. She was probably going there to confirm the angel's message. If Elizabeth wasn't pregnant, Mary could have written it off as a delusion. But if in fact Elizabeth was pregnant, then that meant that she was too. And if anyone on earth could relate to this supernatural pregnancy, I imagine it would have been Elizabeth.
A visitor's greeting
Now keep in mind that it's been awfully quiet around the household for the last six months. Elizabeth's been in seclusion, and Zacharias has been stricken - being unable to speak. Mary's voice of greeting must have been like music to her ears. Now when the sound of Mary's greeting reached Elizabeth's ears, the Baby leaped in her womb for joy, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
I believe that there is an important lesson for us here devotionally. Today in the Body of Christ there are many women who are in Elizabeth's shoes. Pregnant, or caring for a child, in seclusion, their husbands don't talk. Look at what an impact a joyful greeting from a relative, a sister in the Lord, can have. The baby leaped for joy. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Ladies, here is a call to minister to your sisters in the Lord. The ministry of friendship and fellowship - visitation - stopping by to give a "hello" and a hug can make such a difference. James said that:
James 1:27 This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God... to visit orphans and widows in their distress...
It will impact a senior citizen, or an expecting mother, (or in Elizabeth's case, both!). Take the time to minister to other women in this way. Won't it be blessed then, when on the last day, Jesus will say to you:
Matt. 25:36 "...I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me."
And men, there is a lesson for you as well. Zacharias was home - but he wasn't talking. He had an excuse, but you don't. Does your wife feel like a widow? Is she sick of the way things are? Does she feel like a prisoner? It doesn't matter that your body is there. If you're not communicating, your wife is missing out - and she won't have that supernatural joy that comes from interacting with you. "Well, I'm busy - there's a good game on - I've got my own life..."
Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her
Phil. 2:4 do not look out for your own personal interests, but... for the interests of others.
1:46-55 Mary's Song
Many of your Bibles have the title "the Magnificat" over Mary's song. I've often wondered what in the world that is, and it turns out to have a very simple answer. In the Latin texts of the Bible, the first word of Mary's song is "Glorifies", as in "Glorifies the Lord, my soul does". "Glorifies" in the Latin is "Magnificat", and that's why they call it that. We could take lots of time to analyze the Mag-NI-fi-cat, but essentially, these are some very beautiful verses showing Mary's humility, giving all the credit to the Lord.
1:56 Mary leaves
Mary leaves while Elizabeth is in here 9th month - just in time to miss the delivery of John the baptist. Next week, we'll look at the births of both babies: John and Jesus.
©2006 Ron Daniel - Any distribution not for profit is permitted
All Scripture (unless otherwise indicated) taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE
©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.