Theme: The Wonder of God’s Grace
We see the birth of Jesus through the eyes of Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherd, Mary, and the angels.
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Of course, the most wonderful human character in the story is Mary. Who can do justice to her experience and to the way she saw the birth? I know I cannot. Joseph saw the birth of Jesus through the eyes of Jewish tradition and expectation. The innkeeper regarded the birth through the eyes of bland indifference. The shepherds looked on the birth of Jesus through the eyes of the poor, marveling that he could have come for them. But Mary? Mary saw the birth of her firstborn son through the eyes of a tremendous faith. We see Mary’s faith at several different points in these stories.
First, we see it when the angel Gabriel came to announce the conception and birth of Jesus. The angel called her “highly favored” (Luke 1:28). And she was! She was favored more than any other woman has ever been. But she was puzzled when the angel announced that she would give birth to a son: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end” (vv. 31-33).
These are the themes that in a very short while would be rolling around in the mind of Mary’s fiancée Joseph. But Mary did not pick up on Jesus being a descendant of David, which he was; he came from David through both Joseph’s and Mary’s ancestors. The two of them were distant cousins. She did not even pickup on the promise that Jesus would reign on David’s throne forever. What she was thinking about, quite naturally, was that she was a virgin. She had never known a man and therefore could not conceive. “How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin” (v. 34)? The angel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (v. 35).
That is an explanation, of course. But it is not a full explanation, certainly not a scientific one. And the fact that people have been raising questions about the Virgin Birth ever since shows how much faith it took for Mary to accept the angel’s word and prepare to give birth to the Savior. Mary asked, “How can this be?” Certainly it is one of the great mysteries of all time. No one can ever really explain it, But Mary did not argue or ask for further details. Neither did fall into some strange or unbecoming fit of ecstasy. Instead, with quiet, simple belief she accepted the angel’s announcement and reasoned inwardly that God can indeed do anything.
The angel said, “Nothing is impossible with God” (v. 37). So Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38).
The next time we see Mary she is on the way to the hill country of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Why Elizabeth? It was because Gabriel had told her that Elizabeth was going to have a son in her old age, and since Elizabeth was obviously part of what was going on, Mary went to her as the one other single person who could understand her and in whom she could trust. She certainly needed somebody. Her position was extremely delicate and even dangerous. She was pregnant and not yet married to Joseph. He could cover for her, of course, acknowledging the child as his. But why would he do that? The child was not his, and how could he possibly understand about the angel or conception by the Holy Spirit? Besides, if Joseph should repudiate her and expose her openly, she could be stoned for what people would regard as her “sin.”
Mary needed a friend, and she found one in Elizabeth. But nothing Mary says or does indicates any real turmoil, still less doubt or unbelief on her part. On the contrary, when she meets Elizabeth, she breaks forth into that great song of praise known as the Magnificat:
My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name… (Luke 1:46-49).
The third time we see Mary is in the chapter we are studying, and here she is marveling at all that has happened. Verse 19 reports, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
With what eyes did Mary see the birth of Christ? Explain.
What was Mary’s initial response to the news she would bear this special child (Luke 1:38)?
Why was Mary’s position delicate and dangerous?
Note how Mary pictures God in verses 46-49; then note how she describes her own position.
How did God meet Mary’s needs through her visit with Elizabeth?
Application: Is there a time when you treasured or pondered God’s Word in your heart? Do you need to do this more often? How can you accomplish it?