That’s a Lotta walkin’

After the Angel Gabriel visits Mary to notify her of her pending pregnancy and then advises her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary immediately packed her bags for a visit with her relative.

Now just how far is Nazareth to the Hills of Judah? Remember Mary is around 12-14 years of age. And travel could be dangerous. Did Joseph go with her? If not, why not? (so many questions)

Well, since Luke never tells us an exact location, it’s assumed Mary walked or caravanned around 80 to 100 miles to confirm Elizabeth’s miracle. That’s crazy especially since the roads were probably rocky, and they aren’t wearing hiking boots or sporting a good pair of Nike’s. I don’t know if any mules were involved, but I can’t imagine them walking very fast, especially with a load on their back. What if you got a Donkey like the one on Shrek? I suppose a camel would be your best bet, but I’m thinking that would cost money, and being from Nazareth leads me to believe Mary possibly couldn’t have afforded that option. Hope she had a backpack.

Either way, that’s some dedication. And while I was reading on this, all I kept hearing in the background (like a soundtrack) “I would walk 500 miles…and I would walk 500 more.”

Opening Act

John the Baptist talking to Crowd

In the letter Dr. Luke is writing to Theophilus, he first tells of the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and then follows it with the announcement of Jesus’ birth. John the Baptist was to be born first to create excitement and get the people ready for the arrival of the Messiah – he was like the opening act for the Son of God. “Ladies and Gentlemen – who you’ve all been waiting for – JESUS!” (crowd roars)

Since both Luke and Theophilus are skeptics of miraculous conceptions, the doctor gave special attention to how Jesus was born. Did a virgin really have a son? According to the Old Testament, are the prophecies really coming to reality?

Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist when Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel. Mary is believed to be somewhere around 12-14 years old at that time. She was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter or mason, a descendant of King David. In those years, betrothed was different from engaged. It was similar to already being married, you can’t break it off unless you get a divorce, and could only divorce for sexual immorality.

Mary didn’t understand Gabriel’s greeting. Why was she chosen out of all the women? God just favored her. She asked how she would conceive since she was still a virgin. There is no “unbelief” in her question, it was built on faith. (vs. Zecharias that had no faith and was muted) Gabriel advised her The Holy Spirit would come upon her. Disregarding the social pressures she would face, and whether Joseph would marry her, she rejoiced. Mary was committed to God’s will. “however you want to use me…okay…let’s go!”

Why send Jesus? God needed to communicate with us on our level, in human form, to lead by example. To set up his church. Here’s a thought to ponder: So when God calls upon us, will we react like Zacharias (unbelief requesting a sign) or Mary (happy to do God’s will and rejoice)?

Study Luke 1:26-38 (ESV) / TFAB / Pastor Loren video

Zip it!

Dr. Luke begins his letter to Theophilus with the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth. He commences with the parents, noting Elizabeth comes from the line of Aaron and grew up around the temple with priests in her family line. Zacharias is a priest.

Both were old, Elizabeth past childbearing years. Socially and economically this was a disaster to not have any children, especially a son to care for them as they advanced in their age. During those times, barrenness was the women’s fault and viewed as a result of sin. In fact, men could divorce their wives for not having children. Elizabeth was aware of her reproach among the people and felt remorse and shame. However, both she and Zecharias were righteous before God, following the commandments, so why would she be barren? They prayed for years to be blessed with a child. And as each year passed, childless, they continued to serve the Lord.

Zacharias was just one of several priests His group would serve at the temple for one week, only twice a year. They would cast lots, or roll dice, to determine who would go in the temple to offer incense over the coals and say a prayer. This honor was allowed only once, per priest, in their lifetime. Zecharias had been going to the temple for decades, and **WOHOO** – he was finally chosen!

While in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared and scared Zach nearly out of his robes. Gabriel told him to relax, that he was just there to deliver a message. A good one. God had answered their prayers and they would have a son! Awesome right? But instead of joy, Zacharias responds with questions about their age and didn’t really believe so asked for a sign as proof.

Gabriel, annoyed, basically was like, “I don’t understand humans. I am Gabriel and stand in the presence of God and was sent to bring you this good news. You have been asking for decades for a baby boy. Your prayer has been answered and you’re not happy. You want a sign – okay – mute – that’s right shut-up-ya-face…for a year.”

Angel Gabriel pressed the MUTE button on Zacharias as judgment for the unbelief, while simultaneously, providing a sign good ‘ole Zach had requested. You know that phrase, “Be Careful what you ask for, or you just might get it…”

Here’s what I took from this lesson: God uses discipline to bring us back around to repentance and he ALWAYS answers prayers. We just have to be still and wait. Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is not right now, maybe years down the road. And during our times of “barrenness” – whatever it is (dissatisfied, illness, poor, cancer) be like Elizabeth and Zacharias – keep serving the Lord. Don’t give up.

Study Luke 1:5-25 (ESV) / TFAB / Pastor Loren video