The Handmaid of the Lord

   Jesus Christ was born on September 11, 3BC.  Nine months earlier in 4BC the real December story occurred as his mother Mary was visited by the archangel Gabriel.

Luke 1:26
   And in the sixth month [of Elisabeth's pregnancy- see verse 36] the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

   Gabriel is one of three archangels noted in God's Word.  Gabriel is sent by God when a very important message is to be delivered.  He had recently (six months earlier) visited Mary's cousin Elisabeth with a message that she would have a baby.  Elisabeth was "well stricken in age" while Mary was a young teenage girl. Elisabeth was now six months pregnant and Gabriel was sent with another very important message from God to her cousin Mary.

Luke 1:27
   To a virgin espoused [betrothed] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

   The Greek word translated virgin is the word parthenosParthenos is a word used for a young woman.  In Biblical culture a young woman would not have sexual relations until after the wedding ceremony at a time set by the priest.  However, the word parthenos is not used exclusively of a woman who had not had intercourse as the the word virgin is used today.  There are Biblical examples of women being called parthenos who have had children before and therefore the word parthenos should be understood simply as a young woman.  We know from the rest of the context that Mary was a virgin by today's standards and that she had not had sexual intercourse.

   Mary was espoused or betrothed to a man named Joseph.  Betrothal in Biblical culture was the second step in a five-step, involved marriage arrangement:

  1. Prearrangement - Years before the marriage women in the groom's family would choose a young girl and arrange for a future marriage.
  2. Betrothal - A formal ceremony held about one year before the actual wedding.  The groom's family arranged a dowry and a jewel called the "10 pieces of silver" was given by the groom to his future bride.  This was a formal and legal commitment between the man and woman and required a legal divorce to dissolve it.
  3. Wedding - At the wedding ceremony the priest would set a time for the couple to come together for sexual intercourse and living together - usually within a week or so after the ceremony.
  4. Coming Together - The couple begins living together and the man "takes his wife unto him" and sexual intercourse becomes part of their life.
  5. Honeymoon - The first year of marriage the couple lives alternately with the groom's family, the bride's family, the groom's, etc.  During this year, they have no visitors but are to "get to know each other."  At the end of the year, the groom builds an apartment on his family's home for them.
Luke 1:28
   And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

   Mary was highly favoured or graciously accepted by God.  She was blessed.  She was not and is not "the Blessed Virgin" or "the Mother of God" or any of the other titles that exalt her position above the simple wonderful truth that this was a young woman who loved God and believed His Word to end that she was able to be the mother of Jesus Christ.

Luke 1:29
   And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

   You must remember that angels do not appear to men as "flying women singing Christmas songs."  Angels are messengers.  They usually appear as any other man.  There is no record in God's Word of an angel with wings or of a female angel.  Nor is there a record of an angel singing his message.  This greeting was troubling to Mary just as it would be if a stranger came up to you and said: "Hello, God has great things in store for you.  God is with you and you are very blessed."

Luke 1:30
   And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

   Gabriel reassured Mary with "Fear not, Mary" and for the second time told her that she had God's favour [grace].  Grace is God's unmerited favour.  Mary was not favoured of God because of something she had done.  Grace is pure giving from God to man.  You don't earn it.  God just gives it.  Now that Gabriel has Mary's attention . . . here comes the message:

Luke 1:31-33
   And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
   He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
   And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

   I wonder if Mary even heard past the first sentence.  You are going to have a son.  Mary was betrothed but not yet married.  She was a virgin [by today's definition].  How was she going to have a baby?  And not just any baby.  This was the Christ promised since Genesis 3:15 and looked for by Israel throughout the old testament.  The amount of information provided by the angel was amazing!  Mary knew she was going to have a baby.  She knew before she got pregnant it would be a boy.  She did not have to think about what to call him.  She knew he would grow up.  She knew he would be a great man.  She knew he would be the promised Christ!  WOW.

Luke 1:34
   Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

   Here the Word of God confirms that Mary was a virgin by today's definition.  She was a young betrothed woman who had not yet gone through the wedding ceremony nor had she had sexual intercourse with a man.  How could she have a baby?

Luke 1:35
   And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost [THE HOLY SPIRIT - God] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow [cover] thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

   God designed the human body and procreation in the beginning with Adam and Eve.  God does not overstep His own design.  The only way for Mary to have a baby was for a sperm to fertilize an egg in Mary's womb.  God was going to provide the male seed and Mary was going to supply the egg.  God would be the father, therefore Jesus would be the son of God.  God is a spirit.  God was not going to have intercourse with Mary.  God was going to CREATE a sperm in Mary's womb.

   Gabriel provided one more piece of information so that Mary could accept God's Word and believe:

Luke 1:36-37
   And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
   For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Verse 37 - "nothing shall be impossible" are the Greek words:

   No word of God spoken by Gabriel was impossible.  To believe you must have information.  Believing is having confidence and trust in information received to the end you act upon it.

   Gabriel had delivered a lot of information:  The grace of God.  Mary  was going to have a baby boy.  She was to name him Jesus.  He was going to be the Christ.  God was going to plant the seed.  God had worked a miracle for her cousin Elisabeth.  The word of God is POWERFUL!  God gave Mary enough information that she could have confidence and trust in the word and believe it.  Now look at the believing of Mary:

Luke 1:38
   And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

   Be it unto me according to thy word!!!  That is believing.  You get information - What does God's word say?  And then you act.  Mary got the information and responded "Lets do it!"  And that is not all she said.  She responded "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

   The Greek word for handmaid is the word douleDoule is the feminine form of the Greek word doulos.  A doulos or doule was a bonded/branded servant.  In Bible lands and times there were two kinds of servants.  One servant was simply an employee.  A doulos was considered part of the family.  A doulos servant was a servant who had served a family for many years and been offered his/her freedom.  When offered freedom, this servant responded with: "No, I do not want to go free. I love my master and I want to continue to serve the family forever."  The master then put a brand on that servant's ear and treated him/her as a trusted member of his family.  The master provided for all the doulos' needs and the doulos served faithfully as a trusted member of the master's family.

   Mary's response was the response of the doule.  I will serve you God as a trusted branded servant in your family.  Be it unto me according to thy word!

Cortright Fellowship
© Copyright December  1997 Michael Cortright