I had a bit of an “aha!” moment earlier this week when discussing the virgin birth doctrine with some friends on Facebook.
I was explaining how the account given in the book of Luke where Mary is confronted by an angel of the Lord took place before she became pregnant, whereas the account given in the book of Matthew where Joseph is confronted by an angel of the Lord took place after Mary became pregnant.
(I realized this two years ago when I began to challenge the Virgin Birth doctrine for myself.)
In the case of the book of Matthew, I had explained the need to start reading from the beginning of the chapter in order to better grasp what the author was attempting to convey in the rest of it, particularly the passage surrounding the visitation from the angel to Joseph. Well, the same went for the book of Luke.
Starring John the Baptist
When I quickly read through the whole first chapter of Luke again just then, I noticed the chapter was primarily about the announcement, conception and birth of John the Baptist.
The visitation from the angel to Mary announcing the fact that she would conceive and bear the Messiah was only secondary.
A Word from the Lord: To Believe or Not Believe
Then, as I looked closer, I realized it was about one person receiving a word from the Lord, and his not believing the word and being made mute for his disbelief until the word came to pass. Whereas another person received a separate word from the Lord, and she believed, and remained able to speak about the word before it came to pass.
Announcing Future Events
Also, when these announcements were given, they were proclaiming future events. Just like with Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 15 & 18, Manoah and his wife in Judges 13, and Isaiah and his wife in Isaiah 7-8.
I already knew this, but it was made more clear to me this go around.
After Zechariah is made unable to speak and he returns home from serving in the temple, Elizabeth conceives.
The event of Elizabeth conceiving a child in her old age was then used as a sign to bolster Mary’s faith when she receives the news that she would bring forth the promised Messiah.
I would consider that sign to be a miracle, demonstrating nothing was impossible with God, but it wasn’t completely unheard of (see Genesis 18:14).
No Record of Jesus’ Conception
The story jumps from the birth of John the Baptist to the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where the birth of Jesus takes place, with the following passage bridging the two events:
And the child [John] grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel. (Luke 1:80)
There is no record given in the book of Luke as to when (or how) Mary conceives her child. The natural assumption is that the man she was espoused to, Joseph, who was of the house of David, “knew” her sometime after John grew and became strong in spirit. Then she conceived when the Holy Spirit came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.
My Aha! Moment Takeaway
The big takeaway from this Aha! moment for me is context, context, context – something that I have been saying for years. However in this case, I’m realizing to not just consider the surrounding context, but always start from the beginning! 😉