Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 22

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 22

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By Dr. Jim Barnette
Professor, Samford University
Senior Pastor, Brookwood Baptist Church

Is Jesus God?
Luke 1:26–35

The virgin birth points to Jesus’ divinity. (26–29)

God’s initiative of grace chooses a young unmarried woman from an obscure village to be the mother of the Son of God. 

Nazareth was a small town of about 1,500 people in Jesus’ time mentioned nowhere in the Old Testament or other ancient writings. Its close proximity of three miles from Sepphoris, a city called “the ornament of all Galilee,” reminds us that Nazareth was not quite so isolated. 

Although Mary was not yet married, she was betrothed. According to custom, the marriage would have been arranged by her father. She would live at home for a year after her betrothal. Then the groom would come to take her to his home and the wedding celebration would last for a week. The wedding was legally binding after the engagement. In fact if Joseph had died before the wedding, Mary would have been considered a widow. Unlike Zechariah, Mary had not been praying for a child; the initiative was entirely God’s. 

Thus the fact that Mary is “favored” speaks not so much to Mary being “full of grace” but the fact that God graciously chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus.

Jesus was born fully human, but the promise of an eternal kingdom points to His divinity. (30–33)

Gabriel explains why his assurance of God’s grace on Mary is so significant for her. The wording here is almost identical to the “virgin” passage in Isaiah 7:14 and to the assurance the angel of the Lord gave to Hagar in Genesis 16:11. 

The name “Jesus” is derived from the ancient Hebrew “Joshua,” which had been common in Old Testament times and which continued to be a popular name through the first century AD. Matthew 1:21 provides an explanation for giving the child a name that means “saves:” “because He will save His people from their sins.”  

The striking term “Son of the Most High” points to Jesus’ divine sonship and is thus linked to His messiahship as foreseen in 2 Samuel 7:12–14 and Psalm 2:7–9.The description is based on the Old Testament language and describes the significance of Jesus as the anointed Messiah in the line of David who would rule over an everlasting kingdom. 

Jesus’ title as the Son of God points to His divinity. (34–35)

In response to the angelic announcement Mary asks a question similar to Zechariah’s query: “How can this be?” Unlike Zechariah however, Mary does not ask for a sign; she simply asked questions. 

Asking questions is not itself a mark of unbelief; to ask for a sign is already marked as a sign of lacking faith. Mary has a questioning faith; Zechariah wanted a sign on which to base his faith. Later Jesus would remind us that the blessed ones are those who have not seen and yet believe, and the writer of Hebrews would remind young Christians that faith calls for the conviction of things not seen.

Gabriel’s response emphasizes that the baby would be born by the power of God. Once again the Holy Spirit is mentioned, as Luke does six more times in his first two chapters. 

The word for “overshadow” carries the sense of the holy, powerful presence of God, as in the description of the cloud that “covered” or “settled upon” the tabernacle when the tent was filled with the glory of God. The word is used in all three accounts of the transfiguration to describe the overshadowing of the cloud. In each account of those three Gospels the voice of God comes out of the cloud, identifying Jesus as God’s Son. This declaration is a striking reminder of Luke 1:35 where the life that results from the enveloping cloud is identified as “the Son of God.”