In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,
to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! [Blessed are you among women.]"
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
"Don't be afraid, Mary," the angel told her, "for you have found favor with God!
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus.
He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David.
And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!"
Mary asked the angel, "But how can this happen? I am a virgin."
The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God.
What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she's now in her sixth month.
For nothing is impossible with God. "
Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." And then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)
Let's examine the credibility of the four prime witnesses Mary, Joseph, Luke and Gabriel. As I told you yesterday, I am glad Luke gave us this testimony. He pays attention to detail and was a doctor. When a doctor adds his credibility to "something medical" it adds credence. Luke would have been the first one to check it out. Was Jesus indeed born via a virgin or not? His medical mind would tell him this was an impossibility. Nowhere in his case histories would he ever find a precedent for this. There has only been one virgin birth in all of time. Virgin births are impossible. So you can bet Luke would have checked it out. But of course Luke could not have performed a post natal examination. It was too late. I am convinced that he interviewed Mary herself but it would been too late to examine to test the veracity of what he had heard and what she said. Something about what she told him or the way that she told him must have convinced him she was telling the truth.
Take Mary's testimony. Here is a young girl engaged (betrothed) to be married. We will examine the Jewish betrothal practice tomorrow. But for now, suffice to say Mary herself declares with her response to Gabriel that she was a virgin. At this point in time I don't know why she said what she did. She interpreted Gabriel rightly when he said "the Lord is with you . . . you will have a son." There is no indication in the Greek text that Gabriel was talking about "now". It could have been later in which case she would interpret it as after she was married. Rather she interprets it as being in the immediate future. That is still a puzzle to me and I can't offer you an answer at this point. One of my unanswered questions that are marked and tucked away for later. [Yep I don't have it all figured out yet.] But Mary's statement "How can this happen? I am a virgin." makes it abundantly clear that indeed she was a virgin. Why else would she respond as she did unless this was something out of the ordinary, extraordinary, supernatural. That's where God steps into the picture.
Take Joseph's testimony or rather his actions. For that we need to switch to Matthew. It is interesting that Luke doesn’t include Joseph's action at this point. Mainly because he is telling the story from Mary's point of view. I am convinced that he is dealing with eye witness account and it is Mary's account he is focused on. Here is Matthew's comment on Joseph's reaction.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. "Joseph, son of David," the angel said, "do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord's message through His prophet: "Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named Him Jesus. (Matt 1;18-25)
Suffice to say it is very clear he thinks she is telling the truth that she is pregnant. But he knows full well that he is not the father. If he is not the father then that leaves us with two alternatives. What she is saying is true and God is involved as the text declares or another man is involved and he's out of there. Once again God has to bring an angelic visitation to Joseph so he can accept what is going on. As we will see tomorrow Mary was risking too much to have been involved with another man. At first Joseph plans to break the betrothal quietly. (Fat chance of doing that). But when it is all revealed to him by the angel he plans to not go near this new bride of his. He doesn’t want to get mixed up in all that is going on. For his own reputation I suspect but maybe too for God's. He doesn’t even go hear Mary when he can cos he is a bit freaked out by all this. A perfectly natural reaction. We must take the Bible text at face value and believe that God is involved.
When the chief angel comes and tells you something like this then you had better believe him. This was indeed a message from God himself to prepare Mary for what was going to happen to her. That's why He used His most trustworthy angel. It is the only thing which explains all the facts. When it comes down to that level, you have the choice to either believe God or not. I know for some of you that might be hard. As for me I have seen enough of the supernatural over the years. "Unexplained things" that can only be explained by God. This is one of them. You either accept it or reject it. Sorry I can't produce an artefact from the past of Mary's pregnancy test on a piece of cloth that has HEAVENLY DNA on it. When it comes down to the bottom line you will have to accept it by faith. But don't be worried about that because all of us have to accept things by faith. We all have to faith people at some stage. It is just that many don't want to put our faith and trust in God. How foolish, He is the only One worth putting your faith and trust in.
What is betrothal in the Jewish culture all about? More tomorrow.
Every time your faith is put on trial, your character is placed on the witness stand. AR Bernard
True faith only goes into operation when there are no answers. Elisabeth Elliot
If you can't accept what God says, the problem is you are trying to fit God into your theological box.
If God says it, that settles it. Ian