we read the Bible, we should not only note what is said but also
interruptions to the narrative. One
good example is how Luke interrupted his narrative about the pregnancy
of Elizabeth [Luke 1:5-25] with a narrative about the pregnancy of the
virgin Mary [Lk 1:26-56]. Luke can be counted as an excellent writer;
his work is well-researched and rich in details.
So any interruption in his storyline is not accidental.
Let’s zoom in on the two narratives.
first thing that strikes us about the two narratives is how similar they
are. In the first narrative, the angel Gabriel appears to a Levite,
Zechariah. In the second narrative, Gabriel appears to a young virgin,
Mary. When a skillful writer puts two similar or almost identical things
side by side, what does he want us to do?
Do a comparison? Yes,
it’s very likely that he wants us to take that path.
So let’s compare what happens in the two narratives.
the Zechariah Narrative, what was the reaction of Zechariah when the
Lk 1:12 tells us that “he was startled and gripped with fear”.
This is the normal reaction of people when an angel suddenly
appears to them. Gabriel’s
first words were, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah” [Lk 1:13].
How did Mary react when Gabriel appeared to her?
She apparently did not react with fear, for the angel’s first
words were not: “Do not be afraid”, but were words of greeting and
praise. This may tell us
something about what kind of woman Mary was.
But Luke says that “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and
wondered what kind of greeting this was,” [Lk 1:29]. It was then that
she felt some fear, for Gabriel had to reassure her, “Do not be
both instances, the angel knew their names.
Isn’t that reassuring? There
are many people who feel that they are nobodies; no one knows them or
cares about them. How wrong
they are! God knows us all
by name and cares about each one of us.
He is looking after every one of us.
was the reaction of Zechariah when Gabriel told him that his barren and
elderly wife Elizabeth would become pregnant and bear him a son?
Zechariah said, “How can I be sure of this?
I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” [NIV].
The NASB translation is stronger: “How will I know this for
certain?” Zechariah's words express disbelief and the angel makes
this clear when he tells Zechariah,
“… you did not believe my words” [Lk 1:20].
the first place, wasn’t Zechariah’s question a ridiculous one?
The obvious answer is that he will know that the angel spoke the
truth when his wife became pregnant!
So strong was Zechariah’s disbelief that he was not talking
sense. Now, since
Zechariah's disbelief was so strong, would his remark about being an old
man and his wife being well along in years not be an exclamation?
did Zechariah disbelieve? Can
we learn something from him and avoid his mistake?
disbelieved because the “science” or body of knowledge of his day
told him that old women who had been barren all their life do no get
pregnant, and certainly not by old men.
Are we not like Zechariah too?
We believe everything that Science tells us and disbelieve that
God can do miracles outside of the scientific laws that He put in place.
to the Mary Narrative, how did Mary receive the angel’s words saying
she would be come pregnant by the Holy Spirit and bear a son?
Mary also asked a question, but in a different way: “How will
this be, since I am a virgin?” [Lk 1:34]. “How will…?”
denotes belief that it will happen, but seeks to know how the
matter would unfold.
Gabriel explained how she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and
not by any human, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be
to me as you have said” [Lk 1:38].
This verbal acceptance completed Mary’s belief.
But there was more. Mary
confirmed this not only with her mouth, but also with her subsequent
had told her that her relative Elizabeth was going to have a child in
her old age and “she who is barren is in her sixth month [of
pregnancy]. Nothing is
impossible with God” Lk 1:36 & 37]. The next verse says, “At
that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of
Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
“At that time” and “hurried” convey the meaning that Mary
wasted little time in making preparations and in actually going to see
the wonderful thing that had happened to Elizabeth.
We do not hear of Zechariah rushing home after hearing Gabriel.
a woman of faith and action Mary was!
A young unmarried woman rushing off to Judea, perhaps two days’
journey away on foot? And
staying with Elizabeth for three months [Lk 1:56]?
Was this normal behaviour for a young woman of that time?
Was there no opposition to her going off like that?
Even today, would you allow your teenage daughter to suddenly
pack up and go away for three months, to the other side of town, much
less the next province? Mary
not only believed, but also acted on her belief.
What an outstanding example she set for us!
aren’t the Zechariah and Mary Narratives also about the consequences
of unbelief? Zechariah was struck dumb for his unbelief.
Mary, on the other hand, seems to have had a wonderful time at
Zechariah’s home, receiving Elizabeth’s confirmation that she [Mary]
had been blessed, and breaking into a magnificent song, the
“Magnificat” [Lk 1:46-55].
Speaker on 20 April was Mr Lewis Lew. He spoke on 2 Peter 3:1-18,
"Living in the Last Days." The following is a summary of the
this chapter, Peter is reminding us that this earth will not last forever.
The Day of the Lord will come but "How do we recognize the coming of
the Day of the Lord?" Looking at the happenings in the world today
(earthquakes, Tsunami, wars, rumors of war), one wonders if this is the
sign of the birth pains Jesus was talking about in Matthew 24.
Christians what is more important is how we should live in the last days
before Christ’s glorious return. Peter
's message to believers is “You ought to live holy and godly lives as
you look forward to the day of God.” (verse 11).
There are 3 key words to consider.
are living in a time where ideology and values are in conflict with the
teachings in the Scripture. There are more cases of divorce, teenage
abortion, HIV patients, synthetic drug abuses and so forth. Christian
families are not spared of the woes in the world. Many live to be
"happy" but the Scripture teaches us to live to be holy. What
does it mean to live a holy life? The question is answered by the Apostle Paul
Colossians chapter three.
living a godly life, what is much needed today in the church is Unity.
Nations are rising against nations, people are against people and even
Christians are against Christians. Churches need to stand together to
guard against false teachings and to preserve those values true to
Scripture. Christians need to stand together to fulfill the work the Lord
has given us to do. Without unity, much work will be left undone. What
does it mean to be united? Paul's emphasis in Ephesians 4 is that we need
to keep the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace, using an analogy of
a human body.
we look forward to the day of the Lord's return, let us not forget the
mission He has entrusted us. What does it mean to be involved in the work
of missions? It means a costly sacrifice that demands our time, resources
and inconveniences to bring the Good News to the world! But all these
sacrifices cannot be compared to the sacrifice of Christ Jesus who died on
the cross for the sins of mankind.
wrote this letter to warn us and to prepare us for the "last
days." Let us earnestly
desire to live a life of holiness, unity and involvement in the mission of
speaker next week (4 May) will be Mr Tang Kok Fai who is working toward
the MCS at BGST.
Closed for Labour Day. BGST
offices and library will be closed on 2 May as Labour Day (1 May) falls on
the Sunday. School will resume on 3 May.