Tag Archives: Mary

Today’s Scripture – December 6, 2017

Luke 11:27-28 (NIV) As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

The crowds recognized that Jesus’ words were true and right, even though the Pharisees did not. The crowd recognized that Jesus’ power came from God, because they saw what He was doing without bias, even though the Pharisees saw everything that He did through lenses tinted by their biases against Him.

One of the women in the crowd shouted, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” She was not being impious in the least, nor was she attempting to instill worship of Mary, Jesus’ mother. She was simply stating that Jesus was such an amazing and exceptional person that His mother was blessed to have a son like Him, and even implying that a woman would have to be especially blessed by God to bear a son like Him.

This does not go against Scripture at all. In fact, Gabriel twice told Mary that she was highly favored by God (Luke 1:28, 30), Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, twice pronounce her especially blessed among women (Luke 1:42, 45), and Mary herself understood that she was especially blessed to be called upon to be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:48).

Jesus could have taken this opportunity to double down on all of this and affirm the unique blessedness of His mother. But He didn’t. Instead, He turned the focus away from all of that, and toward the key to kingdom life: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” In other words, even though Mary had been blessed indeed to be used as a vessel for the birth of Jesus, God’s focus was forward, to the establishment and growth of His kingdom. The blessed ones were not those who had been selected in the past, but those who elected to live in the kingdom in the future.

The people of God’s kingdom, those who are blessed now, are those who both hear God’s word, and who obey it. Who not only know the righteous requirements of the law, but who obey them as well. This is the basis of James’ urging to not “merely listen to the word,” but to “do what it says.” (James 1:22)

In essence, God’s focus on blessedness is not on the saints and heroes of the faith in the past, but on the saints and heroes of the faith in the present. Those who obeyed in the past were blessed indeed. But there are great blessings reserved for those who live in His kingdom here and now.

Father, we do so often get caught up in elevating the so-called saints of the past without realizing that we are called to be saints today – bright lights in our sin-darkened world, beacons that lead the way for those lost and wandering in sin. Help us to live out that calling, not forgetting those who have gone before, but also not elevating them in our own minds above what You are able to do in and through us today. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 16, 2017

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV) As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The two sisters, Mary and Martha, were very different. Martha was in charge of the house. She was a planner and a doer, with lists of what needed to be done running through her head all the time. Mary, on the other hand, was more laid back, doing what was needed when she saw it, or when she was asked.

On this day, Jesus came to their house, along with several of His disciples. Martha, always the good hostess, immediately set about the tasks that were necessary to feed all of those additional people that had suddenly showed up. She was moving quickly and efficiently from one task to another, please at her own ability to multi-task to get things done.

But as she looked into the room where Jesus was teaching, as He usually was, she grew increasingly irritated to see her sister, Mary, sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, listening intently while He spoke. Her irritation increased the closer it got to meal time, when she looked at her sister sitting there, not lifting a finger to help, and in all probability completely oblivious to everything that still needed to be done.

Finally, she could stand it no longer. That was when she confronted Jesus. She had opened up her home to Him and His disciples, she was getting things ready for a wonderful lunch, and she was having to do it all alone. Surely Jesus would tell her sister that she should do the “Christian thing” and help out in the kitchen instead of sitting there and listening to Jesus teach.

But Jesus’ reply took her entirely by surprise. Jesus was not going to tell Mary that making lunch was more important than what He was teaching. It was actually the other way around. Jesus would be more pleased if Martha would put all of her activity and preparations aside, and come and sit quietly, and learn from Jesus herself. There would always be much that could be done, but when Jesus is teaching, that should be the center of everything.

Father, it is humbling to realize that most, if not all of us, have a bit of Martha about us. It is very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in activities, even activities surrounding church, instead of really allowing ourselves to sit quietly in Your presence and learn from You. It is really easy to get so involved in “doing ministry” that we have no time to sit quietly with Your word so that we can clearly hear Your voice. Help me, Lord, to focus on the “one thing” that is really necessary: spending time with You to listen and to learn. And then help me to put all of the other stuff in its appropriate place behind that. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 4, 2017

Luke 3:23-38 (NIV) Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.
He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Out of the many prophesies that were made about the birth of the Messiah, there were three that had to be fulfilled in the life of anyone who claimed to be the Messiah, but which were fulfilled in only one person: Jesus.

  • He was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). This had never happened before Mary conceived Jesus, and has never happened since. Jesus’ conception in a virgin and His birth while His mother was still a virgin is unique in human history.
  • He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2) (as opposed to other Bethlehems in other parts of the country). This particular Bethlehem was King David’s hometown. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was anomalous, since His parents weren’t from there and didn’t live there. They lived in Nazareth, several day’s journey north in the region of Galilee (Luke 1:26-27). In order for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, God orchestrated a great census that required everyone to relocate temporarily to their family’s ancestral homes, and for Mary and Joseph, that was Bethlehem.
  • The Messiah would be a direct descendant of King David, to whom God made the promise that one of his own descendants would sit on his throne forever (1 Chronicles 17:14, among others). Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, who was a direct descendant of David through Solomon and the succeeding kings of Judah (Matthew 1:1-17), which established Jesus’ legal claim to the title of Messiah. But Joseph was not genetically Jesus’ father, and therefore that promise could not be fulfilled through him. Luke, as he did throughout his gospel, presents things from Mary’s viewpoint, as she was still alive for him to interview. So the genealogy in his gospel belongs to Mary, not Joseph, as is shown by the qualifier, “He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph…” Luke then, following the normal way of presenting genealogies at the time, focuses only on the paternal lines, skipping over the women, including Mary herself, and traces Mary’s lineage back to a different son of David: Nathan, who was also, like Solomon, born to Bathsheba (1 Chronicles 3:5). John the Baptist was a double descendant of the high priest Aaron, through both his mother and his father (Luke 1:5), and in the same way, Jesus was a double descendant of David, through both His earthly father and His mother.

Unlike Matthew, Luke traces Jesus’ lineage backward. And unlike Matthew, who traces it back to Abraham and stops, Luke traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Adam, “the son of God.” Those last four words are cleverly used, because they not only refer to Adam being a direct creation from God’s hand, thus God’s first human “son,” but also loop back around to refer to Jesus as God’s only begotten Son; God’s Son instead of Joseph’s. Thus Luke’s genealogy gives a concise history lesson showing how Jesus was a real human being with roots that go back to the very first man, showing how He was a direct line descendant of King David, fulfilling a key requirement for Him to be the Messiah, and showing clearly that He was the Son of God Himself.

Father, You thought of (and orchestrated) everything! All through history You were moving things into line so that, at exactly the right time, everything would be fulfilled exactly as You had foretold it. You not only know what must happen, You tell us, and then You make it happen. You are amazing, Lord! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 10, 2017

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV) And Mary said: “My soul glorifies 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.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

If a person only read the first four verses of Mary’s inspired poem, they might come to the conclusion that Mary’s focus was all on herself. But the fact is, it was her recognition of the miracle that God was including her in that inspired the whole chain of thought. When someone sees the miracles that God is doing in their own lives for what they are, they can suddenly see beyond that to other ways and other places that God has worked and is currently working.

In Mary’s case, she recognized fully that she wasn’t anyone special that God should have chosen her. Instead, His selection of her to bear His Son was an act of grace, enabled by her wholehearted devotion to Him. In this one act, God had pulled her of the obscurity in which 99.99% of the people in the world live and die, and had given her a key role to play in His redemptive plan.

But in the midst of this realization, she also realized that God had always worked His plan of redemption through the lives, not of the rich and powerful, but of the non-descript and ordinary who had given their hearts to Him. Often He raised these devoted people from obscurity to high position, like Joseph the son of Israel and King David. But at the time that His call was placed on their lives, they were just normal people living out normal lives.

Mary could see that, through both her own pregnancy and that of Elizabeth, God was remembering and fulfilling the promises He had made to His people to restore them and to bless them. The two of them were not only living in the times of fulfillment, they, as humble and unassuming as they were, had been given key roles to play in that fulfillment.

Even today God is at work in the world setting people free. And even today He tends to work,  not through the rich and powerful, whose lives are often full of thier own agendas, but through the lowly and meek, the nobodys, who are humble and completely devoted to Him. Through them, God is currently changing the shape of people’s lives around the world, transforming not only their own personal futures, but actively transforming whole societies through their lives.

Father, Your ways are so different than ours, but Your ways result in transformation, while ours are so much less powerful and effective in making the positive changes we want to see. Help me, as one of Your people, to yield myself entirely to You, to never seek out the world’s approval, but only Yours; to never follow the world’s path to success, but to be willing and open to whatever You call on me to be and to do. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 9, 2017

Luke 1:39-45 (NIV) At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

While Mary sorted all of this out, she decided that she would make the journey to the hill country of Judea near Jerusalem to see Elizabeth, and to witness for herself what God was doing. This was no lack of faith on her part, but a simple desire to see for herself the miracle that Gabriel had told her about. And Mary hoped to find in Elizabeth, as one who had experienced God’s power in her own body to do something impossible, someone with whom she could openly discuss her own experience.

As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the baby jumped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit, instantly seeing things that were invisible to other eyes, able to understand things that were hidden, and given clear words to speak God’s truth boldly.

For example, Elizabeth knew that Mary was pregnant, and that the baby she was even then carrying was the Lord, the promised Messiah. Because of that, Mary, as the one whom God had selected for this role, was truly the most blessed woman who had ever lived. And she also knew that there had been a moment when Mary had had to trust in God’s word, and to say agree to His plan for her life. She knew that when that moment had come, Mary had trusted and agreed.

Elizabeth was surprised at Mary’s unexpected arrival, but she was glad that she had come for the same reasons that Mary had decided to make the trip. Here now was a woman who could relate to what she herself was experiencing; a woman with whom she could compare notes and with whom she could talk about things that no one else would really understand.

Father, by putting the urge in Mary’s heart to take the long journey south, You provided support and encouragement for both women during critical phases of their supernatural pregnancies. For Elizabeth, that support and encouragement came at the end of her pregnancy, when there would be fear that something might still go wrong. For Mary, it came at the beginning, when she most needed assurance that she had chosen the right path, in spite of the complications that she knew lay in front of her. Such great love and compassion You have for Your people! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 8, 2017

Luke 1:34-38 (NIV) “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Some point to a similarity between Mary’s question of Gabriel and that of Zechariah (1:18). They then try to explain the disparate treatment that the two of them received. But the questions are not actually that similar. Zechariah wanted proof, some sign that would overpower his doubts that God could accomplish what He was promising to do, while Mary was simply asking about the “how”: How was God going to accomplish this pregnancy, since she was a virgin.

That was a reasonable question. In the history of the world it had always taken the union of a man and a woman to produce another human being. Even in miraculous births like Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and even John, the miracle was that God enable the natural methods of conception to work for those who were sterile, past the age of child bearing, or both. Mary was expecting Gabriel to tell her that either she needed to move her marriage to Joseph up – awkward and suspicious-looking to the rest of the village, or that the Messiah would be conceived later, after the marriage took place. The latter seemed less likely based on the urgency and immediacy of the angel’s announcement.

But there was a third option that no one would ever have considered. God was doing a completely new thing. The child to be born, Jesus, the Messiah, would be a real human being, hence the need for a human mother. But He would also be fully divine. Therefore, Mary’s pregnancy would be initiated supernaturally, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the uniting of sperm and egg.

Even though Mary said nothing at first, Gabriel knew that her mind had been thrown into confusion by this whole scenario. It seemed to impossible, even for God to do (and it had never been done that way before!). So he laid out the evidence of Elizabeth’s miraculously enabled pregnancy, something that no one would have believed possible at her advanced age. For Mary, this was like a Bible story come to life and, even though Elizabeth’s pregnancy had not been initiated like her own would be, it settled in her heart an assurance that it really could be done as Gabriel was promising.

As said before, Mary was a righteous devout young woman, completely devoted to God. As such, she would never consider saying no to something that was so clearly His will for her. Even though she knew that this whole thing would undoubtedly cause complications for her, even in her relationship with Joseph, she trusted that God would protect her, and the He would be able to make everything work out right.

So she said yes. And, at that moment, Gabriel vanished, and the work was done in her body. The reality of the Messiah had begun!

Father, it is much easier to trust and believe Your promises, and even Your callings on our lives, when we can see or reason out how You could make it happen. It’s harder to trust when Your promise or calling seems impossible to our finite minds, when the way ahead seems dark. Help me to take Mary as my model in those times – to be someone who cannot ever imagine saying no to Your will, so who simply says yes, trusting You implicitly to work out all of the details and to provide every necessary thing on the way. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 7, 2017

Luke 1:26-33 (NIV) In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 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.”

Luke is always quite precise about his dates. He can be, because he researched carefully everything that he included in his gospel. Six months after Elizabeth conceived John, Gabriel appeared again, this time to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus.

Luke is careful to point out that Mary was both a virgin and engaged, which would make the guarding of her virginity even more vital, since her wedding night was approaching, and there would be strong negative consequences if Joseph did not find her to be a virgin.

Joseph was a descendant of King David, as well as being a completely righteous man (Matthew 1:19). Mary herself was a devout and righteous young woman and, just like God had chosen Zechariah and Elizabeth to be the parents of John, He chose Mary to give birth to Jesus, and Joseph to be His earthly father, tasked with guiding Him, teaching Him, and protecting Him.

Gabriel’s greeting, which made Mary wonder what exactly was going on, was actually very straight forward. Mary was indeed highly favored, because she had been chosen to be the instrument through which the Son of God would come into the world. And as such, God really was with her, present in her life and in the events that would soon take place in a unique and unprecedented way.

The description of the child that Mary would bear left no doubt as to who He would be. Even His name, Jesus, or Yehoshua in Aramaic, meaning “the Lord is the Savior,” painted a clear picture of what He would accomplish (outlined even more clearly in Matthew 1:21: “You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”) The child would also be called the Son of the Most High, which clearly identified His divine origins. He would rule over God’s people, His rule being symbolized by David’s throne, even though Jesus’ kingdom would ultimately extend over the whole world, something that neither David nor any of his successors ever imagined. And finally, Jesus would not be the beginning of a dynasty; He Himself would reign over God’s people forever.

All of these element combined to form a very clear picture in Mary’s mind: the baby that she was going to give birth to was going to be the long-awaited Messiah! People had been waiting for Him for centuries, and the time had finally come. And she was going to be His mother!

Father, the way You do things is amazing. You continually work the plan You have designed until every single element falls into place. You choose exactly the right people to be the key players in Your plan based on their hearts, not on the externals. And those You choose, You bless with Your presence. I praise You today for who You are, and for what You are doing, even now! Amen.

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