The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) testify of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. In this study our focus will be on Matthew 1 and Luke 1 where the objective is to begin building faith in Jesus Christ.
One thing a person discovers in reading and studying scriptures is how our Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, intervene in the lives of people where it appears to be quite impossible. This is consistent throughout the Old Testament and carries over into the New Testament. And reading this week’s study on Matthew and Luke chapter 1 – we find that there are two women who experience their own respective miracles. From our mortal perspective, such things appear quite impossible. How is it possible for a woman who had not engaged in any sexual relations to her husband able to conceive a Child? Furthermore, how is a woman who is barren and beyond the child-bearing age able to conceive? Along with this, what of those individuals we encounter in Matthew and Luke 1 as it relates to the miracle of Mary being chosen to bear the Son of God and Elizabeth bearing John the Baptist?
And one of the greatest miracles of all humanity is this: The birth of the Savior as described in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-35.
Significance and Importance of Christ – Matthew 1:1-17
Today, our society appears to draw further and further from understanding and knowing who Jesus Christ is. What is even more discouraging is how many Christians today know very little of Jesus Christ. His importance in our life and the significance of his birth, life, and ministry.
Comparing our society today with that of the First Century – we find parallels where many did not recognize, nor understood the significance of Jesus Christ. Neither did they even recognize or understand who he is.
Matthew was called to come unto Christ and follow him. He was one of the original twelve disciples, and later apostles, of Jesus Christ. His gospel is an eyewitness account to the many events describing the Savior’s life and ministry. His Gospel was written unto the Jews, and many within our society today, as a way to help people understand and recognize who Christ is, the significant role he played, and the fulfilled promised blessings of a coming Messiah.
One of the first things we take note of is how Matthew relies on the royal bloodline of Christ’s family history. Another aspect is understanding the term Christ and Messiah as they mean “Anointed”. This denotes the High Priestly King who will deliver His people.
The First Century Jews were expectant of a Messianic King who will come and redeem them from Roman Oppression. They failed to realize that the promised Messianic King was going to save humanity from the oppression of sin and death.
Anunciation of the Saviors Birth – Luke 1:1-38
Luke’s Gospel provides the annunciation of not only the Saviors birth by the Angel Gabriel – but it also provides the annunciation of John the Baptist as being Christ’s forerunner. Coming to Mary and announcing the Savior’s birth – the angel testified how nothing is impossible with God. Mary’s faithful response gives us personal insight in how we may respond to our Heavenly Father’s will with confidence and trust.
Another aspect of Luke’s Gospel is the prominent reference to the women and how they were influential. Such an idea being quite foreign during a time where women were not considered to be prominent or had a voice. Looking at how women were treated in the First Century helps us understand how we may personally feel lost, forgotten, oppressed, silenced, and even dismissed as being insignificant.
Consider how Mary played a significant and influential role. What does this reveal about you personally? How are you able to identify with Mary? With Elisabeth? Furthermore, consider the women in your own life and how they have influenced you.
Our Heavenly Father Works through His Faithful Children to Accomplish His Purposes
One of the ways to develop spiritual understanding is by learning and applying those things in our own personal lives. And it is quite helpful to remember the miraculous experiences of Joseph and Mary, Zacharias and Elisabeth. Take a moment to read through the following passages of scripture:
- Mary (Luke 1:26-56)
- Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)
- Elisabeth (Luke 1:5-7, 24-25, 40-45, 57-60)
- Zacharias (Luke 1:5-23, 59-64)
What is the take aways from these accounts that may be helpful today? What truths do you find that help you trust in the Lord – even when something seems quite impossible? What are some things the Lord has asked of you that may feel impossible?
Maybe there is some weakness in your life that seems impossible to overcome. Perhaps there is a heart of one who is unresponsive to any love, guidance, or appears lost because of the decisions they’ve made – how are we able to touch them in a way that calls them back into fellowship and relationship? Some are probably struggling with health issues that seem overwhelming. Still, others may face some financial constraints and are struggling to keep up with those essential and necessary things.
Regardless of the situation we are faced with – the Angel Gabriel may very well be speaking to us when he reminded Mary, “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And Mary’s response may also be ours when our Heavenly Father reveals His will: “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
Whatever you are seeking in the New Year – what is seemingly impossible to you that may require faithful obedience to surrender unto Heavenly Father’s will? How are you able to live a mindful and crucified Christian life where your response is that of Mary and living in a manner that is according to God’s word?
God’s Blessings come in His Own Time – Luke 1:5-25
Do you find yourself having to wait for a blessing? Feel that Heavenly Father is distant and not hearing your prayers? When we consider the story of Elisabeth and Zacharias – we are reminded that He has not forgotten us.
The miracle of the Saviors birth was one of a mortal mother and immortal father. We do not fully comprehend how this process occurred. What we do know is that when Mary asked the Angel Gabriel how she will be with child the response is this: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35). Such a miracle of conception appears far greater than the one where Elisabeth conceives despite her being barren and past childbearing age.
The Anunciation of the angel Gabriel also includes the name of Mary’s son. In Greek, it is Iesous (Jesus), and the Hebrew equivalent is Yehoshua (Joshua) and means: The Lord is salvation. Because of this miraculous conception – the Savior is properly called the Son of God. Specifically, he will be called – Son of Ha’Elyon. It is one of many passages within the Gospel where Christ is distinguished as being separate and distinct from that of the Father. And it is quite important to understand how Christ is both – Son of God and Son of Man (or Son of Mary).
As for the promised Messiah being fulfilled – the application for us today is this: Like Elisabeth and Zacharias – some are living faithfully and obediently and have yet to receive promised blessings. What example do you discover as it relates to waiting upon the Lord in fulfilling His promise?
Have you felt discouraged while waiting upon the Lord in receiving promised blessings? What caused you to doubt Heavenly Father’s ability to bring about those blessings into your life? Have such discouragements caused you to experience a crisis of faith? Questioning the reality of God?
For me personally – one of the spiritual truths I have had to learn rests upon the idea that I had this false idea that God will provide necessary miracles on demand and instantaneously. This does not mean He won’t do so in an instant. What it means that sooner or later I had to learn there are times and seasons in my life that are His and His alone to direct. If our Heavenly Father provided instantaneous miracles all the time – there will be no room to exercise and grow in Faith. And since faith is how we place our trust, confidence, and hope in God – regardless of good or bad times – our suffering will eventually give us those spiritual opportunities and experiences where we see His arm reveal in our behalf in guiding us through our challenges.
It is this reason the Prophet Isaiah taught that those who …wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).
The Faithful are Willing to Submit to God’s Will – Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38
At times, you may wonder – as Mary did – how our Heavenly Father’s plan, or promises, will be fulfilled. Believing that through God’s power all things are possible is one thing. Personally, experiencing and knowing that through God’s power all things are possible is quite another thing. The latter helps us learn about ways to overcome the seemingly impossible in our lives. And like Mary, we may sometimes find that His plans for our life are vastly different from what we had planned. Where it begins is learning to accept God’s will and purpose for our own life.
Consider the words the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary and what message you take away from that message (Luke 1:26-38). It may look something like this:
Gabriel’s Words to Mary
The Lord is with you (v. 28)
How will this be? (v. 34)
Message for Me
My Heavenly Father is aware of my situation and struggles. And it is okay to ask questions to better understand His will for me
And it is not just Mary’s response that helps us understand the importance of seeking and following the will of God. Joseph’s righteous example in Matthew 1:18-25 helps us understand the struggles we personally wrestle with and how we may receive personal revelation regarding the necessary direction, wisdom, and insight that helps us.
Mary’s Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving (Magnificat) – Luke 1:46-55
The final reflection of this week’s study focuses on what is referred to as Mary’s Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving – or the Magnificat. In this, she testifies of Christ’s mission and purpose and the significance it serves down through the ages. The promised blessings to lift those who are lowly, filling those who are hungry, and humbling those who are proud in heart and mind.
What spiritual insights do you discover for yourself in her Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving? Have you found yourself showing gratitude and thanksgiving to Heavenly Father for the blessings you’ve experienced and received? What aspects of her Psalm resonates with you?
Notice how she magnifies the Lord and proclaims God’s greatness by rejoicing in who the Savior is. And it starts by acknowledging the Will of God in her own life – choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah – and what great things were done for her.
Reflect on the following message contained in Mary’s Song:
Our Heavenly Father Looks Favorably Upon each one of us – vv. 46-49
One quickly discovers how our Heavenly Father responds to those who are humble. He is not impressed by our wealth, knowledge, social status, or religious conformity. It is humility where He looks favorably upon us. And it is the reason He looked favorably upon Mary. It is her humility where she received a place of significance and honor. She is blessed because of being the vessel carrying the Savior and bringing him into the world. Not only that, but she is also blessed to have nurtured and raised him. Thus, she rightly praises our Heavenly Father and not praise herself.
Today, there are many who stand proud and lack any sense of humility. Because humility gives us a proper perspective and is the means through which we receive the promised blessings.
Our Heavenly Father Shows Mercy – v. 50
Mary rightly praises God because of His mercy in that Christ is sent to provide the necessary sacrifice and atonement whereby humanity is saved from sin and death. God extends his mercy toward those who fear him. He does so with intent and purpose.
Our Heavenly Father is Ready to Help People, vv. 51-53
Another thing is how quickly God humbles those who are proud and arrogant. Individuals who believe they have it all figured out and believe they have it together. To them, he does not show mercy and grace. However, for those who are lowly and hungry – He extends to them the help they seek after.
Our Heavenly Father Remembers His Promises, vv. 54-55
Throughout scripture we read how often God remembers the covenants and promises made. We find this through Moses and the Exodus. In the Gospels, we find that God remembers his promises and therefore provided fulfillment to the many ancient prophecies of a coming messiah that will redeem humanity from sin and death. This being in accordance with the promises made to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 22:16-18).
Discovering how God keeps his promises helps us trust in Him and His will and purpose for our lives today.
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