As we go back in time to time when our Lord visited this earth and His people Israel, we now meet with another character playing a major part in the “Christmas Story”.
A virgin espoused to Joseph, a man of the house of David, the king of Israel with the promise of a kingdom established for ever.
The name Mary seemed to have been a popular name among the people of Judaea (known as Jews) during this time. There are several women named Mary that are mentioned by the “Gospel writers”, but this Mary is by far the most famous of all of them. Now in our time, the name Mary has been a very common name for girls. Growing up in a majority Italian neighborhood, you could guess that any girl’s name was “Maria” with a pretty good chance of being right. The same would probably be true among Hispanic folks as well.
For a moment, let us look at the origin of the name “Mary”:
Anglicized form of Maria, which is derived from the Hebrew Miryām (sea of bitterness, sea of sorrow). There is much debate over the meaning of the name, however. While “sea of bitterness or sorrow” seems to be the most probable, some sources give the alternative definitions of “rebellion,” “wished-for child,” and “mistress or lady of the sea.” The name, borne in the Bible by the virgin mother of Jesus, has become one of the most enduringly popular names in the Christian world.
In the Old Testament, there is a woman who changed how she wanted to be known to a name similar to “Mary”.
Ruth 1:20 — “And [Naomi] said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.”
So, despite what we may think of when we hear the name Mary, that there were so many women in Judaea named Mary will probably tell us something about what life was like for the Jews of that day. Bitterness was the lot of a people who, under judgment, are living as the tail, while the stranger among them was the head (Deuteronomy 28:44).
We now come to a message from the angel Gabriel, who we met first in the book of Daniel, speaking to the prophet Daniel about the seventy weeks numbered on his people, and then to Zacharias about his future son.
This angel said the very first “Hail Mary” in the history of the world. Elisabeth is credited with the second. When we read how this young lady responded to the “Hail Marys”, we can free ourselves from all of the gross error and superstition that has crept up over the centuries about this young lady who would from henceforth be called blessed by all generations (Luke 1:48).
Luke 1:28 — “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
Getting back to this “Jewish Christmas”, let us closely examine what it was that Gabriel told Mary:
Luke 1:30 – 33 — “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
So Mary and her espoused husband Joseph were told independently about the name of their soon coming Son. Joseph was told the importance of the Name, “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Now Judaea, and all of Israel, had been without a king for quite some time. There was a king of Judaea1 (king of the Jews) at this time, but he was not he rightful king. Rome’s appointee was not the one with the right to that kingship, for by God’s word it was to David’s seed forever:
2 Samuel 7:8, 12 – 16 — “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: … And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity2, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”
Yet we saw since the carrying away to Babylon that no son of David had a seat on David’s throne, and that a Gentile power appointed a king over the Jews. Even further back, we saw the kingdom divided, and since the days of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, David’s son did not rule over the house of Jacob, but only over the kingdom of Judah (Judaea), and even that was now lost. Even in this day, we see the state of Israel in the news constantly, being governed by a prime minister by popular vote, who must constantly justify the state’s actions to the United Nations, pleading for its right to exist. He must plead his cause and justify, of all things, building houses!
But in this annunciation to this young Jewish lady, the times are promised to be changing. There is no more thought of sin and chastening, for a sceptre of righteousness will be the sceptre of His kingdom (Hebrews 1:9; Psalm 45:6), and therefore of His Kingdom there shall be no end! The promise of the promise-keeping God would so gloriously be fulfilled. The virgin did conceive and was with child of the Holy Ghost (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18, 23), and He is called the Son of God. He is God with us, Immanuel!
Elisabeth throws a Hail Mary
Mary went “with haste” to visit her cousin Elisabeth. Both had a miraculous story of an unconventional birth. Yet, one clearly overshadows the other. This one, this Son of God, would be the most miraculous birth in the history of Israel’s miraculous births. Elisabeth and her miracle baby both knew it too, and filled with the Holy Ghost she said:
Luke 1:42 – 45 — “…Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Now this was also the exact right thing for Elisabeth to say, for she said it while filled with the Holy Ghost. Elisabeth knew that Mary was carrying He Who is to be Israel’s redeemer, Adonai as the Scriptures call Him, My Lord! And because of this salutation, Mary could not help but open up her mouth with joy.
Mary Answers Elisabeth’s “Hail Mary”
Luke 1:46 – 55 — “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
Note how many times we read “He hath”! The handmaid of the Lord left all of the praise with Him.
Now notice that as Mary closes her magnificat, notice who it is that the Lord Jehovah will be helping. Yes, during this very Jewish Christmas advent season, the praise that Mary so beautifully spoke was how that the Lord “hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
How many Gentiles do you read about in that?
This event was the greatest event up to that time in Israel’s history!
Isaiah 9:6 – 7 — “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
Never lose sight that in this prophecy, the “us” is the nation Israel. Yes, there was blessing for Gentiles in this, but the promise was to Israel:
Romans 15:8 – 9 — “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy…”
The Gentile place was to eat the crumbs that fell from the table, and that would be great enough3!
Now Mary’s answer to this is the one that we all should consider — “My soul doth magnify the Lord; for He hath…”
A Jewish “Hail Mary”
Incidentally, during the ministry of our Lord among His covenant people, an Israelite woman among his listeners shouted out a “Hail Mary”:
Luke 11:27 — “And it came to pass, as [Jesus] spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.”
Christ Answers this Jewish “Hail Mary”
Luke 11:28 — “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”
In the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, even family relationships are of little consequence. James, the Lord’s brother, learned this lesson as well, for he never refers to himself in his epistle to the twelve tribes scattered abroad as the Lord’s brother, but as the servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1).
As we close this “Advent devotional” I wish for you, my Jewish or Gentile reader, to find salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. You will be saved in one way, and one way alone. Family ties won’t do it. National heritage won’t do it. Only faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and His death for our sins, and His glorious resurrection from the dead will suffice to save anyone.
1 Corinthians 15:1 – 4 — “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”
- Luke 1:5
- Notice how this prophecy has an immediate scope — Solomon and his sons and grandsons — and an eternal scope, the coming Messiah, the Anointed Son of God!
- Matthew 15:27. Gentile believers today are not dogs eating the crumbs that fall from Israel’s table, but are indeed fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel (Ephesians 3:6). This was an unrevealed mystery, not the Gentile position by prophecy. This is the fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9).
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