Authorized Version Translation:
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
- 1. The angel tells Mary that she will conceive in her womb.
- 2. This conception will result in a son.
- 3. The son is to be named Jesus.
- 1. The only textual difference between the Nestle/Aland 26 and the 1769 edition of the Authorized Version is to be found in the spelling of the word translated "shall conceive". There is no difference in the conjugation of this verb because of this spelling difference -- i.e., the difference has absolutely no meaning-impact.
- 2. The word translated "conceive" is used 16 times in the New Testament, 5 of which refer to "conceptions", 4 of which refer to Elizabeth and Mary in Luke's record. There is no indication of any kind that it was not Mary's 'egg' which was fertilized so that she 'conceived'. The notion that Jesus was "created" in Mary's womb without the use of Mary's egg is just a notion of foolish men. The fact that exactly the same word is used of Elizabeth in the angel's conversation with Mary confirms the reality that the same thing occurred with both women: their eggs were fertilized and they became pregnant.
- 3. After the conception, the pregnancy will run its course and culminate in the 'delivery' of a son. The text does not say that the pregnancy will run its course (which is what all would expect to happen), but because of the fact that all would expect this, only some indication in the text that it was not to be normal would contradict the 'interpretation' that it was to run its course [communicators are required by the conventions of communication to communicate within the boundaries that make understanding possible if they wish to be understood -- one of these boundaries is to recognize what impact one's words will have on one's hearers in terms of their expectations].
- 4. Mary was told that she was to name her son Jesus. This is the Old Testament name 'Joshua' and it means what Joshua of Old Testament fame illustrated as its meaning: Yahweh will make a broad place. The broadness of the place signifies a specific kind of life-experience that is notably without the 'pressure' that comes from being 'restricted'. There are all manner of implications here for Paul's later teaching on the nature and function of Law as a producer of the pressure of condemnation.
- 5. The conception and giving of birth are the practical explanation of the meaning of "finding favor with God" because Gabriel's announcement was "...you have found favor with God and you will conceive in the womb and shall bring forth a son..." What this boils down to is that "finding favor with God" means having the privilege of service to God. In other words, "...you have found favor so that you will become His instrument..."
- a. In our self-centered world, we have made "finding favor" to mean at least two very wrong notions...
- 1) "Finding favor" has come to mean that someone has been especially "good" and has caught God's attention by that remarkable behavior.
- 2) "Finding favor" also has come to mean that someone is going to have God "serve" them and dish up some fantastic benefits with no strings attached...i.e., "I have been blessed by God by being allowed to win the lottery -- Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! -- and I plan to use the winnings to buy a new car and move into a new, and larger, house...but, of course, I plan to "tithe" on my winnings (to keep the 'grace' flowing)."
- b. The truth of grace as it is given in the Bible is that...
- 1) "Finding favor" means that God has settled His attention upon someone with no consideration of whether that someone is especially good or especially bad, or especially anything in between! Grace, by definition, is completely independent of a consideration of the 'worthiness' of the recipient.
- 2) "Finding favor" means that God has a task that He intends to accomplish through an intermediary and has settled upon the one whom He has determined will be that intermediary. That there are consequential benefits is fundamental to the notion of "Yahweh is gracious" because being gracious means that the one being gracious seeks the benefit of the object of grace, but the method of grace is, by this text, the imposition of a mediatorial identity that, when fulfilled, will result in that benefit.
- a) One of the most problematical issues in respect to "benefits" is identifying something as a "blessing" when it is, in fact, more of a curse than a good. Because men highly value what is despised by God [Luke 16:15 "...that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God"], they call good "evil" and evil "a blessing".
- b) This does not introduce the notion of law-keeping unto blessing -- i.e., 'accomplishing God's assigned task so that receiving the benefits of that fulfilled task is then granted'.
- c) Rather, the 'mediatorial identity' is given as "Promise" -- God is going to accomplish this, but the recipient of the grace is going to be both His instrument as well as the recipient of the benefit that naturally accrues from divine activity. Mary didn't go out and set about to "get pregnant"; she simply acceded to the divine summons to instrumentality. She didn't have anything to do with the accomplishment of the task of becoming pregnant; she didn't have anything to do with dominating the physiological processes that went on in her body that contributed to the nourishment of the Holy Child within her; she didn't have any thing to do with the daily processes of growth to fruition; and she didn't have anything to do with the onset of birth pangs that resulted in the birthing of Jesus. The very most that she did was to yield to the summons to be the instrument of God. This yielding is called "believing" -- as Elizabeth declared in 1:45 -- and this "believing" simply means that she accepted the fact that there would be a performance of the things God said. She was not going to be the performer (that is fundamentally contrary to Promise as stated in Romans 4:21), but there was going to be a performance that would include her as the instrument.
- d) BUT, she, as instrument, was going to be the recipient of the glory of that instrumentality. There were many in Israel who wanted to be "the one" whom God chose to get the glory of being the mother of Messiah. The key issue here is this: glory consists of being an instrument of God in bringing blessing to others. It consists of being envied (in a good way) by those who value being an instrument of blessing in God's hands. It also consists of being treated with honor by those who value being an instrument of God. But, it does not consist of seeking the envy or the honor -- those are by-products of seeking instrumentality unto blessing. Whether one is seeking to be such an instrument, or seeking the results of such instrumentality, is revealed most clearly when such instrumentality does not yield the fruit of recognition and honor. If one is upset by not getting the fruit, it becomes clear that it was not instrumentality that was being sought, but, rather, honor.