Mary's Visitation, Part 3
Oct 04, 2013
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Luke 1:28 to tell her that she would give birth to the Messiah. We read there,
28 And coming in, he said to her, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
The salutation, “Hail,” (chairo) is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew greeting, “Peace” (shalom). The term “favored one” is charitoo, from charis (grace). In Hebrew thought, grace is a legal term reserved for the one who has received a favorable ruling in the divine court. It is explained by the angel’s next statement, “The Lord is with you,” that is to say, He is on your side, or He has decided in your favor.
The extra phrase that appears in the KJV, “blessed art Thou among women,” is not in the original and so is omitted in the NASB. In checking with Panin’s Numeric New Testament, I found that he also omits it. To add this phrase would destroy the perfect numeric (gematria) pattern of this passage. Hence, we omit it as well. (This phrase appears later in Luke 1:42, where it is unquestioned.)
Men did not Speak to Women
Gabriel no doubt appeared as a man to her, as we so often see in Scripture. It was highly unusual in that culture for a man to speak to a woman, especially alone. So Mary was no doubt startled by his greeting, at least until she discovered that he was an angel. The Hebrew scholar, John Lightfoot (1602-1675), who was an expert in Talmudic teaching, wrote:
It was very rare and unusual for men to salute any women; at least if that be true in Kiddushin. Rabh Judah, the president of the academy of Pombeditha, went to Rabh Nachman, rector of the academy of Neharde, and after some talk amongst themselves, “Saith Rabh Nachman, Let my daughter Doneg bring some drink, that we may drink together. Saith the other, Samuel, saith, We must not use the ministry of a woman. But this is a little girl, saith Nachman. The other answers, But Samuel saith, We ought not to use the ministry of any woman at all. Wilt thou please, saith Nachman, to salute Lelith my wife? But, saith he, Samuel saith, The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness. But, saith Nachman, thou mayest salute her by a messenger. To whom the other; Samuel saith, They do not salute any woman. Thou mayest salute her, saith Nachman, by a proxy her husband. But Samuel saith, saith he again, They do not salute a woman at all.” (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. 3, p. 25)
The angel’s words themselves were also unusual, for they were the same that Gabriel had given to the prophet Daniel, as the NASB renders Daniel 10:19, “O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you.” The translations are only slightly different on account of the difference in language.
Mary was first startled by the appearance of an angel who looked like a man. But his salutation was also troubling, not only because the man was addressing her directly, but also because he treated her with the respect shown to the prophet Daniel. It is obvious that Luke’s intention was to address the cultural inequality of the day. The lesson to be learned was that if Gabriel showed respect to women equal to that shown to the great prophet Daniel, then Theophilus and others ought to do the same. Luke 1:29 (NASB 1995 updated version) reads,
29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
Gabriel’s appearance no doubt startled her. But the wording of his salutation made her “very perplexed” (diatarasso). That is, she was greatly agitated, troubled, or perhaps very uncomfortable and embarrassed by the respect shown by Gabriel.
The rabbis frowned upon men talking to women—even to their own wives in public. The prevailing attitude toward women is seen in the Talmudic quotation above, where Rabbi Samuel says, “The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness.” Even today in the Jewish state the Orthodox do not permit a woman to sing. It is not surprising, then, that many American Jewish women in the 1960’s revolted against these restrictions to form the Women’s Liberation Movement, or the Feminist Movement.
Luke’s account showed that God treats women equally and favorably. If the voice of a woman were “filthy nakedness,” then how could Mary even reply to the angel without being guilty of blasphemy?
Luke records that earlier in the chapter Gabriel first spoke to the man (and priest) Zacharias, and later to the woman, Mary. These two visitations run parallel to each other for comparative purposes. The record shows that the man doubted and was struck dumb until the birth of John, while the woman, though she had questions, did not doubt. This distinction was easily discerned by Theophilus.
The Name of Jesus
After the initial salutation, the angel continued in Luke 1:30-33,
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor [charis, “grace”] with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus [Iesous]. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.”
Gabriel told her to call her son by the name Jesus (Greek: Iesous). It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Yeshua. This name differs from the sign given by the prophet in Isaiah 7:14, where the name is Immanuel, “God with(in) us.” The reason for this distinction is apparent when we understand that the Messiah was to come twice. His first appearance was as a man named Jesus; His second appearance has the added feature of God being in us as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). For this reason, it is not until Revelation 21:3 that we read,
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among [meta, “in the midst of, among, amid”] men, and He shall dwell among [meta] them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among [meta] them.”
The promise of God was to dwell with us or among us, and His presence was pictured in this way when He dwelt in the tabernacle and later in the temple. But those were the days when God’s presence was external. The day of Pentecost in Acts 2 brought His presence closer to us, proving that the greater promise of the Father was to indwell His people. Thus, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16,
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Therefore, no longer is God with us externally, but He is with us internally. Moses prophesied of this also in Deuteronomy 30:11-14, telling Israel that they did not need to go to heaven or to the abyss to find the word of God. Verse 14 says,
14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.
The Israelites could hardly have comprehended the full significance of Moses’ revelation, but this is more easily seen in light of the New Covenant. The promise of Immanuel is also reflected in 2 Thessalonians 1:10,
10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among [en, “in”] all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
This promise was not fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, for it began only on the day of Pentecost ten days after His ascension. Pentecost was the start of the promise, but its full development is seen in the fulfillment of Tabernacles, as implied in Revelation 21:3. Pentecost is a mixture of wheat and leaven, but the full promise of God has no mixture.
So Mary was to call His name Jesus, rather than Immanuel. The glory of the Father rested fully upon Him, but He was yet an external temple. Hence, it was necessary for Him to leave the disciples, so that the Holy Spirit might come upon them at Pentecost. Jesus told them in John 16:7,
7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
So we see that the two names of the Messiah prophesy of the two comings of Christ, each having a different purpose. The man Jesus walked among the disciples but yet remained an external being. He had to “go away” in order to send “the Helper,” that is, the Holy Spirit, to indwell His people and to endow them internally with His presence.
Son of the Most High
The angel calls Jesus “the Son of the Most High.” Lightfoot tells us that this was a term that was used commonly in that day, and that “Messiah and the Son of God are convertible terms” (Commentary, p. 25). So there is no doubt that Mary understood by Gabriel’s words that she was to bring forth the Messiah, even though the term messiah itself was not used.
The fact that God was to “give Him the throne of His father David” further identified Him with the Messiah, for it was commonly believed that the Messiah would succeed to the throne of David after throwing off the yoke of Rome. Hence, the angel said that the Messiah was the Son of the Most High, but was also the son (i.e., descendant) of David. He could be both, because He had two parents. His Father was the Most High, but He was also descended from David through His mother. Through His mother, Jesus was qualified to take the throne of David, but through His Father, He was qualified to rule the earth from the spiritual temple that He is building (Ephesians 2:20-22).
In promising that Jesus would be given the throne of David, Gabriel makes no mention of the conflict over the throne that would lead Him to the cross. Neither does Gabriel tell her of the conflict yet to arise between Jesus and the priestly authorities, whereby the priests would usurp His throne, repeating the prophetic story of Absalom.
Nonetheless, the fact that David returned to reclaim his throne from Absalom shows that Jesus will indeed be victorious in the end. The drama was about to begin, but Gabriel hid this from Mary during this visitation. She had enough to ponder for one day.
This part 3 of a mini-series titled "Mary's Visitation." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part 3 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones