Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
Thesis: The reality of the characterization of one as "bondservant of the Lord" comes out when that one is faced with an awareness of significant need in another.
Introduction: This morning we are going to begin our consideration of a new thought-unit in Luke's record. The big-picture issue in this new paragraph has its identifying marks in both Elizabeth's and Mary's persistent references to how the Lord has so highly exalted Mary. Clearly Luke wanted Theophilus to understand how God deliberately focused upon a "nobody from nowhere" so that she became "the" somebody that she has become in the recognition of fellow-believers throughout the centuries. There is a grave danger is presenting this activity of God -- it is seen in the deification of Mary by those who are called "the devout" -- but there is an equal danger in not presenting this activity of God -- the failure of men to adequately grasp their future in the plans of the God-of-this-activity. It is rather like Moses lifting up the brass serpent in the wilderness: there was the ever-present danger of men turning the gift of God into a god; but, there was the equal danger of all dying who did not have any remedy if the serpent isn't lifted up in the camp. Generally, this razor edge is everywhere because the hearts of men are inclined to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, but those same hearts will remain unconverted if God restrains Himself simply because of the probability of perversion.
February 29, 2004
- I. Luke's Focus Upon Mary's "Focus".
- A. There are three statements that dovetail on the issue of the strength of Mary's commitment to visit Elizabeth.
- 1. The first is the 'participle/verb relationship'.
- a. The typical translation(s) treat the two words as equal statements of two things Mary did...misleading us to a small degree.
- b. Luke told Theophilus that "arising, Mary went..."...giving the impression that she didn't let much time lapse between her actions.
- 1) The "arising" implies that Gabriel's visitation was (like the angel sent to Joseph in Matthew 2:14) at night and the actions taken were rather immediate.
- 2) The "went" is a very common verb that means to "go into directed motion"...but the idea of "directed motion" strongly implies a specific goal.
- 2. The second is the phrase "in these days".
- a. There are two ways this phrase might be understood...
- 1) That it took Mary several days to decide on her course of action, or...
- 2) That Mary's activity was deliberately tied to the events that were unfolding in Luke's record of "these days".
- a) "These days", under this thesis, become a reference point for Theophilus as he ponders Gabriel's "visitations" [Note that in Luke 1:5 and 1:24-25 he ties certain crucial divine actions to certain historical realities].
- b) "These days", then, becomes a reference point to get Theophilus to consider how the actions taken are connected to the Divine Plan.
- b. The point of Luke's record is that once Mary discerned what God was doing, it became her goal to participate in His workings as His "bondservant" [this is the second thing that makes 'a specific goal' come to the surface].
- 3. The third is the word translated "with haste".
- a. The word itself does not mean "to hurry"; it means "to become deliberate in the pursuit of an objective" [if speed is built into the pursuit, then "haste" becomes a part of the issue, but if speed isn't involved in the pursuit, then "haste" becomes a faulty translation].
- 1) 2Peter 1:5 uses this term to emphasize a commitment to a specific goal.
- 2) Hebrews 6:11 does the same thing.
- b. The point Luke is making is that Mary suddenly become "obsessed" with taking up a specific goal...
- B. There is no escape from Luke's intent to present Mary as "a woman on a mission".
- C. The question is "why"?
- 1. There is nothing in the text anywhere that makes us aware that Mary needs to go to Elizabeth's house.
- 2. The "need" appears, in the scale of important things to do, to be somewhere down among the "not anywhere near critical" category...kinda like picking up a gallon of milk on the way home because we are going to run out in a day or two or three.
- a. This is precisely the point: all through the text God makes it abundantly clear that He values things in a different way than we do.
- 1) Remember the deliberate identification of Mary as from Nazareth in Galilee: a focus on a nobody from nowhere in terms of human perception.
- 2) Note that Luke deliberately refuses to identify the "city in Judea" where Zacharias lives and only refers to it being "in the hill country" as an apparent contrast to the city of Jerusalem as a humanly conceived "big deal".
- 3) In other words, Mary is taking up a specific focus of behavior that, in no way, seems to men to be important, but is presented as if something crucial is to be decided by it.
- b. Jesus did this very same thing one day when the disciples were arguing about how great they were in respect to the Kingdom and He made the embrace of a small child a greater activity than casting out demons.
- 3. The point is: God operates on a completely different scale of values than we do.
- a. In God's mind, Elizabeth's need for a helper during her last trimester was of greater significance than anything else Mary had to do.
- b. In God's mind, being a bondservant means doing "with due diligence" what arises on the horizon as 'needful' regardless of whether it will appear to men to be a "significant" act or not.
- 1) With God, the issue is "who is the Master, and who is the bondservant?", not "what" is to be done [Remember 2 Kings 5].
- 2) With God, the "critical" tasks will be assigned on the basis of how well "diligence" was married to the "mundane" in the will of God [Luke 19:17].
- a) The issue here is not "obsessive perfectionism" which arises out of the need to be recognized for the quality of a task accomplished [this is salvation by works!].
- b) The issue here is "focused diligence to make love manifest", which arises out of the need to make sure others have no lack [this is sanctification by love!].
- II. Luke's Focus Upon Theophilus' "Identity".
- A. There is no greater "lesson" for a "lover of God" than the lesson that involves acting out of love for God instead of acting out of a need to be recognized by men.
- B. The truth of this "lesson" is revealed, not by the "diligence" that has its origins in human inspection, but in the "diligence" that has its origins in loving concern for what is needful. [It's highly likely, in the day of judgment, that those who made sure the carpet was vacuumed so the visitor to the church would not be offended will be more highly rewarded than those who got to stand up in front of everyone and be "recognized" for his/her skills -- remember the widow's "two cents"!].