Thursday

25 March 2010

"Do not be afraid, Mary ... you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus." (v.30-31)

Background

Today is nine months before Christmas Day and is the celebration of the Annunciation of the Lord.

As we are in Passion Week (the week preceding Holy Week) we relive the story that started it all. This passage talks about the virginal conception of Jesus, which was the work of the Holy Spirit.

Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, was a rather obscure place, nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament. Whilst at home in Nazareth, the angel Gabriel approaches Mary with the word "greetings" which, in the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, is translated as 'Ave'. This is the origin of the famous prayer 'Ave Maria'. 

In Jesus' day, to be 'pledged' to marry meant there was to be no sexual relations between the couple until they were married. So to tell Mary she was going to give birth to a baby while she was pledged to be married and while she was a virgin was undoubtedly something of a surprise! Mary's answer "How can this be?" is probably a mixture of disbelief (compatible with Elizabeth's husband Zechariah earlier in the chapter - verse 19) and a response to the task ahead. "How come you have chosen me?" might be a more contemporary way of putting it!

The angel tells Mary that the baby will be named Jesus. In Hebrew, the word 'Jesus' means 'the lord is salvation'. The title "The Son of the Most High" (verse 32) has two meanings. First is that Jesus was the divine son of God. Second is that he was the Messiah, which is explored in verses 32b-33. "Most High" is frequently used of God in both the Old and the New Testaments. It is in the Old Testament that we are first told about the Messiah who will be a descendant of King David (Isaiah 9:7) and will come to save people from their sins. Mary and Joseph were both descendants of David so Jesus was rightly an "ancestor of David".

As we approach Holy Week, the week of Christ's death and resurrection, this passage reminds us that nothing is impossible with God: virgin births, resurrection, miracles. We experience the beginning as we approach the end.

To Ponder

Do you have confidence in God to make the unlikely things happen?

How does God making the impossible possible affect your faith? To what extent is it a stumbling block or a stepping stone?

Where is your faith today?

Bible notes author: Sanya Strachan

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