Mary had a front-row seat for an unbelievable life full of amazing stories: the angel Gabriel showing up out of the blue to tell her that she, a virgin, was pregnant (Luke 1:26-38)-and not just expecting, but expecting the Son of God; the baby’s birth in an animal shed far from home (Luke 2:1-7); the odd parade of well-wishers saying beautiful and occasionally frightening things (Matt 2:1-12; Luke 2:8-38); the mad dash to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (Matt 2:13-14).
The New Testament is full of “Marys.” With six or seven different women sharing that same name, it’s easy to get confused. The Mary we’re looking at here was a resident of Bethany, near Jerusalem. She was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. We meet her in three separate stories in the New Testament.
The story of Judas Iscariot may be the most unsettling cautionary talk in all of Scripture. For three years Judas spent practically every day in the presence of the Son of God-experiencing his miracles, listening to his teachings, and watching him change lives and give hope to multitudes.
Scholars have debated the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 for centuries. Three primary views tend to dominate the discussion. One view holds that the prophecy “the virgin will conceive” refers to a young, unmarried woman of marriageable age (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word translated “virgin”), who actually lived an married in the time of Isaiah and then gave birth to a son. Thus, this was not a “virgin birth” but a normal instance of marriage and childbirth.
WHAT DREAMS WERE INTERPRETED? Not every dream was thought to be from God. Not every dream was significant. Some could be wishful thinking (Psa 126:1; Isa 29:7-8). In times of need and especially when a person sought a word from God, dreams could be significant.
In Bible times, a marriage was arranged through a legal agreement between the parents of the groom and the bride (Gen 24:4). The groom’s parents selected a woman for their son to marry, then paid the bride’s parents a dowry, or bride-price, to compensate them for the loss of her services as a daughter.
Elizabeth, mentioned only in Luke’s Gospel, was married to a priest named Zechariah. “Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).
Yet in a culture where children were viewed as a primary evidence of God’s blessing, they were also childless. Elizabeth was unable to conceive. This barrenness was a source of deep disgrace to her (Luke 1:25). Only those who’ve suffered through fertility issues can fully appreciate the sting of all those unanswered prayers, the piercing pain of an empty nursery. Since Elizabeth and Zechariah “were well along in year” (Luke 1:7), it’s not unreasonable to assume that they had given up the hope of ever becoming parents. Continue reading WOMAN OF THE DAY (ELIXABETH: THE MOTHER OF JOHN THE BAPTIST)→
Some Christians join skeptics on this point. They doubt Matthew’s claim about Mary: “While she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18), Continue reading A PREGNANT VIRGIN?→