The Bible

 

Luke 1:26-38 : The Annunciation to Mary

Study the Inner Meaning

        

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Luke 1      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter One

From Mark to Luke

1. Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things which are most surely believed among us,
2. Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
3. It seemed fitting for me as well, having had perfect understanding, to investigate everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
4. So that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.


Thinking above

As we have seen, the Gospel According to Mark begins with John the Baptist preaching repentance for the remission of sins. It is, in many ways, the major theme of Mark. But like any fine symphony, there are minor themes as well. One of those minor themes in Mark is the importance of belief. Therefore, in Mark the first words spoken by Jesus contain both themes—the major theme of repentance, and the minor theme of belief. As Jesus says in His opening comment in that gospel, “The kingdom of God has come near, Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15).

In the original Greek, the word for repentance is μετάνοια (metanoia), which means, quite literally, “thinking above” (meta = above + noia = thinking). Repentance begins with the recognition and acknowledgement of sin in ourselves. As self-love and personal ambition are subordinated, higher ideals begin to predominate. We begin to focus on loving God and serving our neighbor. In other words, we begin to think above and beyond our usual modes of thought. We see that there is more to life than the satisfaction of our temporal desires. In the process, we come to believe in and be led by higher truth. That’s why the words “repent” and “believe” are tied so closely together. In the last chapter of Mark, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16) 1 .

Focusing on belief

In Mark, as we have seen, there was a gradual transition from a focus on repentance to a focus on belief—a focus that continues as we begin the Gospel According to Luke. Consider, for example, the opening words of Luke: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us . . .” (Luke 1:1).

These opening words are significant. Things are not merely “believed”; they are “most surely believed.” 2

Belief, like faith, is associated with our understanding. It is about the rational, intellectual side of the human mind. Belief, however, is not blind faith. Quite the opposite; we come to believe or to have true faith through the disciplined use of our understanding. It is an intellectual process involving a rational sight of truth—whether it be a natural truth about physics or a spiritual truth about the incarnation. For example, after thinking about a point someone has made, and seeing the truth contained in the person’s comments, we might say, “I believe you have a point there,” or “I see what you mean.” The opening words of Luke, then, with so many references to “belief” indicate that this gospel will focus on the opening of the intellect, and the deepening of the understanding. In fact, it is in Luke where we read the words, “He opened their understanding” (Luke 24:45). 3

The opening verses of Luke contain several words and phrases that suggest the intellect. As we have already pointed out, verse 1 speaks about those things that are “most surely believed.” In verse 2, the author of Luke speaks about “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2). In the Word, terms that refers to the “eyes,” or “vision,” or “sight” represent inner vision, or the lack of it. In common speech, the expressions “Now I understand,” and “Now I see” are synonymous. We also say, “None are so blind as they who will not see,” “Look on the bright side,” and “That was a real ‘eye-opening’ experience.” In each case, we are using physical imagery to describe mental and spiritual conditions. That’s why the term “eye-witnesses” in this verse signifies some aspect of the understanding. Then, in verse 3 the author tells us that he “had perfect understanding” (Luke 1:3). 4

In our study of Matthew and Mark, we noted the importance of the first and last words of each gospel. We pointed out that the opening and closing words provide the key to the leading message in that gospel. Glancing ahead to the conclusion of Luke we find that the last words are, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). Here the references to “Jerusalem” and “temple” indicate that we are dealing with the human intellect, the level of the mind that is involved in thoughts and reasons rather than emotions and feelings. This is because the correspondence of the word “Jerusalem” is with matters of learning, teaching, doctrine and instruction. The people went to Jerusalem to learn about the truths of faith. 5

Similarly, when we read that “they were continually in the temple,” we can know that this, too, treats of our thinking and reasoning faculty. The temple in Jerusalem was made of whole stones, and stones throughout the Word represent truths. So, this reference to being “continually in the temple” also refers to that side of the human mind which is concerned with matters of truth, faith, and belief. 6

The Gospel of Luke, then, begins with a brief introduction which is filled with references to faith, belief, instruction, and understanding. As the four-verse introduction ends, we are left with a very clear reference to the intellectual level of the mind: “That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:4).

With so many references to belief, knowledge, and instruction in the opening verses, it is clear that this gospel will focus on matters that involve the intellect, and the deepening of our understanding. It will be an attempt “to set in order” an account of those things “which are most surely believed.” It will be about that “holy temple”—the place in our minds where we deeply contemplate truth, meditate on the Word, and turn to the Lord in prayer. All of this is what it means to be “in the temple.” 7

The Angel Gabriel Comes to Zacharias

5. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
8. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
9. According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
16. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.


After the brief introduction, filled with words that suggest the intellect and the understanding, we read of Zacharias, a priest: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest, named Zacharias” (Luke 1:5). It is important to note that the first episode in Luke tells the story of a priest who is employed in the temple. A priest working in the temple is a picture of the human understanding doing its proper work. 8

As the story continues, we learn that Zacharias is serving “in the days of Herod, the king of Judea” (Luke 1:5). Herod pictures the corrupt hereditary will. It is our lower nature, the part of us that is hell-bent on making itself king by declaring itself as all-powerful and all-knowing. It is the part of the human mind that sets itself up as sole arbiter of right and wrong. It will not tolerate any competitors—not even the King of Kings. This is the same Herod who murdered his wife, his three sons, his uncle, his mother-in-law. his brother-in-law, and commanded that all boys in Bethlehem, two years of age and younger, should be put to death. Suspicious of all threats to his power, he will not only refuse to acknowledge any truth that opposes his corrupt will, but he endeavors to destroy it at its birth. For Herod, the only power that exists is his own (see Matthew 2:16).

Zacharias, however, who represents our ability to understand higher truth, acknowledges that there is a power greater than himself and obediently submits to it. We read, therefore, that Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Unlike Herod, Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, are both righteous before God. At this point in the story, however, they have no children “because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). 9

When we first encounter Zacharias, he is burning incense in the temple of the Lord. It is an image of the life of prayer. The gentle, sweet-smelling smoke of incense rising upwards in the temple, symbolizes the way prayers ascend heavenwards in our mind. Suddenly, while Zacharias is at prayer, the angel Gabriel appears to him, and says, “Do not fear Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). 10

The son that will be born will be named “John.” He will grow up to become John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Lord. What is it in our own lives that “prepares the way for the Lord?” It is our desire to understand truth, beginning with a genuine affection for the letter of the Word — those basic stories and literal truths that we first encounter. This is the first step in our spiritual development, and it is represented by the birth of John the Baptist in us. As the angel puts it, John’s coming into the world will bring “joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” The angel goes on to promise that “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). In other words, John the Baptist (the literal sense of the Word) will also contain the internal sense—the very soul of the Word. He will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Gradually, as our understanding deepens, the literal meaning of the Word seems to disappear while the spiritual meaning shines forth. Even as the body fades, the spirit continues to grow. 11

But this does not happen immediately. Even though Gabriel proclaims that Elizabeth will indeed bear a child, Zacharias remains doubtful. He wonders how this can happen: “How can this be?” he says. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” (Luke 1:13). Zacharias’ question represents the human understanding in a state of doubt as to whether it can learn anything new. “I am old in age” says Zacharias. His question represents a state of doubt. At such time times, questions may arise. Is it too late to learn anything new? we might ask. Is it too late to change my mind? Have I become so ingrained in a certain way of thinking that I cannot conceive of anything else? The answer, which is contained in this episode, is “No. It is not too late. For those who trust in the Lord and walk in His ways, new truth can always be learned. For those who truly desire to be wise, it is never too late to learn. Our spiritual instruction and learning can continue forever. 12

Elizabeth Conceives

19. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
22. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
23. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25. Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.


It is one thing to know what is true, and to offer prayers to God. like incense rising toward heaven. This is the part of the mind that Zacharias represents. But it is quite another to receive that truth in heart, to be deeply affected by it, and to bring it forth, as a woman brings forth a child—into life, into our daily actions. This is the part of the mind that Elizabeth is about to represent. But until she does so, she will be in a state of spiritual barrenness. Whatever the cause of that barrenness—whether it can be attributed to a doubtful understanding (Zacharias) or a hesitant will (Elizabeth) or both—spiritual barrenness has its origin in a lack of complete faith. It is the inability to totally believe the Word of the Lord. When belief is sure (“most surely believed”), there is no distinction between faith and action. An individual then bears spiritual fruit. But whenever there is doubt, uncertainty and hesitation, there will be barrenness.

In Zacharias, this state of uncertainty is represented by muteness—the inability to confess the Lord because of a faith that is not yet complete, an understanding that is not yet fully opened. This is why Gabriel tells Zacharias that he will be mute till these things actually happen. Glancing back to the end of Mark we notice that one of the signs which followed belief was that “they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17).

But there is a positive side to Zacharias’ muteness. As he quiets the internal chatter—as each of us must—the questions, doubts and uncertainties begin to subside. He enters a deeper level of contemplation and prayer. This is Zacharias in the temple, praying — a beautiful picture of the understanding in a state of humility, willing to learn; it is receptive, and eager to be instructed. It is a time of patient waiting, searching the scriptures, meditating on them, and pondering the wonders of the Lord’s Word.

It is during these quiet times of introspection in the light of the Lord’s Word that spiritual vision arises; we come to see the truth about ourselves, and we get a clearer understanding of our relationship to God and to others. This is why quiet reflection is so important. It is a time to grow closer to God so that He might open our spiritual eyes. In the language of sacred scripture, this is contained in the following words: “And the people waited for Zacharias and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. But when he came out … they perceived that he had seen a vision” (Luke 1:22)

It should be noted that it was necessary for Zacharias to come out of the temple, but not until his service was completed there. It was then that his wife was able to conceive. In every human being there is a Zacharias, a side which must perform the temple duties—the reading and meditating upon the Word of God. It is the part of us that tarries in the temple, leading a life of contemplation and prayer. Although this is essential, new life cannot be conceived in this state. We must leave the temple of study and prayer; we must go forth into life. Like Zacharias, we must first develop our understanding; we must tarry in the temple long enough to get the vision. And then we must allow the vision to lead us onwards to useful endeavor. And so we read, “Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived” (Luke 1:24).

It should also be noted that in the last chapter of this gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to “Tarry in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high” (Luke 24:49). So, this gospel—the gospel that focuses on the reformation of the understanding—begins and ends in the temple.

A Greater Miracle

26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.


The conception of John the Baptist is indeed a miracle, for he is born to an elderly couple that has never been able to bear children. But in the next episode we learn of an even greater miracle—Jesus is born to a virgin. We read, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women’” (Luke 1:26-28).

While the birth of John represents an awakened understanding of the literal sense of the Word, it is still relatively external—something that takes the cooperation of our human understanding, even as it takes Zacharias’ cooperation to produce an offspring. But when it comes to the deeper matters of the spirit, the human understanding plays a limited role. Its primary function, represented by Joseph, is to humbly recognize and accept the birth of new insights and new affections, while acknowledging that we have contributed nothing from ourselves: these miraculous births have a Divine—not a human—origin. They are from God, not from man. 13

These miraculous births come about through “the power of the Highest.” As human beings, we can create a better possibility for receiving these births—for example, through meditation, prayer, and reading the Word—and we can gratefully accept them. But we cannot produce them. We read therefore, these words of the angel, spoken to Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…. For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:31, 35, 37). New insights can come to us through study and reflection. Like Zacharias, we can receive visions, but the willingness to live according to those insights and visions is a greater miracle. And it comes as a free gift from on high; it is the “power of the Highest.”

To sum up: the birth of John the Baptist in us requires the cooperation of our understanding. It has to do with an appreciation for the literal truths of the Word. While it is a miracle in its own right, the willingness to live according to those truths is a much greater miracle. It is the power of the Highest being born in us, miraculously, without a human father; that is, without the cooperation of our finite understanding. Whenever this happens, all we can do is say, as Mary said to the angel, “Let it be to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38).

The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth (Good Meets Truth)

39. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40. And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42. And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44. For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55. As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
57. Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.


There is a certain level of excitement generated when people come into a new sight of the truth, and when their minds are raised into the light of some clearer understanding. And yet, there is a vast difference in degree between this sort of intellectual excitement, and the joy which can be experienced when that new level of understanding is combined with the birth of the desire to live according to it.

This moment of great joy, when goodness meets truth, is represented in these beautiful words of scripture: “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:39-41).

Elizabeth is delighted and amazed by this wondrous experience. But she also wonders why it has been granted to her. This experience is available to each of us. It takes place whenever a good impulse arises in us. This “arising” is represented by Mary’s taking the initiative and visiting her cousin, Elizabeth who is pregnant with a son who will be called “John the Baptist.” As soon as Mary arrives Elizabeth’s son leaps in the womb. Spiritually seen, this is a picture of some truth in our lives (John the Baptist) springing to life when touched with goodness.

Elizabeth wonders why she has been granted such a privilege, saying: “Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Her question is an important one. What is it that gives life to the truth that we carry in the womb of our minds? The answer is given by Elizabeth herself, as she praises Mary: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).

Blessed is she who believed.” This is a key statement, and it is fundamental to understanding the central message of this gospel. As we shall see, in episode after episode, those who believe will be blessed. Those who have faith will be saved. Again and again, people will hear Jesus saying to them, “Your faith has made you well.” Goodness will come to those who hold truth in their minds and long to put it into their lives.

True faith — the kind that can “make us well” — must be distinguished from blind faith. Genuine belief, is not a matter of believing something because others tell us it is true. Nor is it a matter of believing things that make no sense to us, even if learned authorities tell us that ‘these things must be taken on faith.” True faith is much deeper and more personal. It is the blessed acknowledgment that something is really so because it is really true. For example, God is good — all the time. God loves everyone — all the time. There are no exceptions. It is really so. In spite of any appearances to the contrary, we simply know that this is true, This is the gift of perception, the blessed ability to believe the truth because we perceive it to be true. This blessed assurance is given to all who trust in God and believe in God’s goodness: “Blessed is she who believed.” 14

Whenever we come into a state of belief, there comes with it a sense of something flowing into us from within; it is as though God is with us, reassuring us that “this is true.” It is an inner perception that something is true or not. And the central most universal truth of the Christian faith is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is confidence that he saves. The more we strive to do His will, the more confident do we become that He will save us. This is true faith. This is what it means, most deeply, to believe. 15

The Naming of John

59. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
60. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
61. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
63. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
64. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
65. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70. As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71. That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75. In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
76. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.


After Elizabeth gave birth to her son, the time came for the naming of the baby. Everyone thought that the baby would be named “Zacharias,” after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No, his name shall be John” (Luke 1:60). This was a surprise to everyone because none of the relatives had ever had that name. When it came time for Zacharias to speak, he asked for a writing tablet and wrote the simple words, “His name is John” (Luke 1:63). Immediately afterwards the muteness that had descended upon Zacharias departed, and he begins to speak words of praise for the Lord. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,” he said, “for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David … that we should be saved from our enemies” (Luke 1:68-71).

Something wonderful has happened to Zacharias. His spirit-filled words are full of confidence in the saving power of God. As his prophecy continues, he speaks directly about the mission that his newly born son is to fulfill: “And you, child will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way, to give knowledge of salvation to His people … to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76, 77, 79).

Originally, we saw Zacharias as an old priest performing rituals in the temple. But now we see Zacharias as a transformed being, filled with the Holy Spirit. He is no longer the old priest who represented the faith of the former church—a faith that was based on obedience to rituals and traditions, however well-meaning or righteous. That was the “former church” in us—a state of mind where we may have indeed gone through the motions of prayer, but without a solid faith. In our former faith there may have been doubt as to whether God even heard our prayers. This is why the angel spoke to Zacharias, removing his doubt by saying, “Your prayer is heard.” The angel then added this promise: “Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).

This, of course, is what came to pass. The angel’s words were true, and a son was born. Zacharias now knows that God does indeed answer prayers. In the spiritual dimension of our lives, this is a significant lesson about the power of faith. Every anxiety, every worry, and every concern can be taken away if we have faith in God. While our pleas for riches and fame may not be satisfied, our prayers for patience, courage, love, and understanding will always be fulfilled. God answers our prayers, and responds to our needs, but we must first have faith that our prayers are heard, and that our needs are understood. This is to “believe in Him.” It is to have confidence that He gives us the light “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

As this episode draws to a conclusion, we read that John “grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80). This pictures the way our understanding of the literal sense of the Word continues to grow and develop as we continue to meditate on it and dwell upon its significance in our lives. Though we may not see immediate results, or any specific connection between the stories in the Word and our daily activities, something is nevertheless taking place deeply within our spirit. The time will come when those literal words of scripture will take on new meaning for us. Just as Mary, the mother Jesus came to Elizabeth, the mother of John, we will begin to sense the Lord’s goodness touching the literal truth of the Word we hold in our minds, and new applications will spring to mind.

The message then is to remain rooted in sacred scripture. If we hold the Word of God in mind, even the most literal stories, God can work miracles within us at a deeper level. Although John the Baptist in us will remain “in the desert” for a while, as long as we remain faithful to the Word, and to Him who gave it to us, those literal truths will take on more and more power. They will grow “stronger in spirit” until they come forth as loving actions in our lives. In the words of sacred scripture, John the Baptist “grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80)

Footnotes:

1. Arcana Coelestia 9032: “In the internal sense ‘being baptized’ means being regenerated, and being regenerated is being led into the good of love and charity by means of the truths of faith. From this it is clear that the truth as stated in the literal sense of the Word agrees with the truth as presented in religious teachings, provided that what is meant spiritually by ‘being baptized’ is understood. And the reason why it says that ‘one who does not believe will be condemned’ is that an unbeliever cannot be baptized, that is, be regenerated.”

2. It should be recalled that at the end of Mark, we pointed out that repentance comes first. Next in order is the reformation of the mind, or the establishment of a sound belief based on understanding. See True Christian Religion 571: “After repentance, next in order comes reformation…. Reformation is a state of thought from the understanding.”

3. Apocalypse Explained 1100:23: “There are people at the present day who wish the understanding to be kept under obedience to faith, holding even that a thing must be believed and not understood, and claiming that intellectual faith is not true faith.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 914: “Blind faith is faith separated from the understanding…. Hence it is, that they are: ‘Blind leaders of the blind. And when the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch’ (Matthew 15:14)…. Therefore, my friend, go to the Lord, and shun evils as sins, and reject faith alone, and then your understanding will be opened, and you will see wonderful things, and be affected by them.”

4. Arcana Coelestia 2148: “By ‘eyes’ in the Word is signified the interior sight, or the understanding.”

5. Apocalypse Explained 204:6: “The reason that Jerusalem is called the holy city is that it signifies the church where the doctrinal things of truth are taught.”

6. Arcana Coelestia 8988:5: “By ‘stones’ in general signify truths, and ‘precious stones’ [gemstones] signify truths which are [directly] from the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1298: “It was commanded that the altar [in the temple] should be built of whole stones, not hewn, and it was forbidden that any iron should be moved upon them (Deuteronomy 27:5-7; Joshua 8:31). This is because hewn stones, and stones on which iron has been used, signify what is artificial … and what is from a person’s own reasoning and imagining.”

7. Arcana Coelestia 2048: “The word ‘temple’ signifies the truth of faith in a person.” See also Arcana Coelestia 3700:2: “When a temple is mentioned there occurs to the angels the idea of truth.” This is because temples are built of stone, and stones, throughout the Word signify truth. In this regard we read the following in Arcana Coelestia 8941:6: “The temple at Jerusalem was built of whole stones…. For the ‘temple of the Lord’ represented the Divine Truth.”

8. Arcana Coelestia 10327: “A priest signifies a representative of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom . . . and the incense of spices signifies a representative of worship from truths.”

9. Apocalypse Explained 638:13: “In the internal sense, which is the sense of the spirit of the Word, by ‘wife’ is signified the affection for truth.”

10. Arcana Coelestia 9475: “Incense signifies the things of worship that are perceived with delight, such as acts of thanksgiving, adoration, prayer.”

11. Arcana Coelestia 5620:12: “John the Baptist represents the Lord as to the Word, which is the Divine Truth on earth….The ‘clothing of camel's hair’ signifies that the Word, such as is its literal sense as to truth (which sense is a clothing for the internal sense), is natural; for what is natural is signified by ‘hair,’ and also by ‘camels.’ His ‘food being of locusts and wild honey’ signifies the Word such as is its literal sense as to good; the delight of this is signified by ‘wild honey.’” See also Arcana Coelestia 4857:3: “The spiritual sense lives within the literal sense as a person's spirit lives within a person’s body. Like a person's spirit the spiritual sense continues live when the literal sense fades away. Therefore, the internal sense may be called the soul of the Word.”

12. Divine Providence 334: “Every angel is perfected in wisdom to eternity. But each is thus perfected in keeping with the degree of his affection for goodness and truth which he had when he departed from the world. It is this degree that is perfected to eternity.

13. Apocalypse Explained 475:20: “John only inaugurated them [the Jewish people] into knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord, and thus prepared them to receive Him, but the Lord Himself regenerates people by means of divine truth and divine good proceeding from Him.”

14. Faith 1-2: “At the present day the term ‘faith’ is taken to mean the mere thought that the thing is so because the church so teaches, and because it is not evident to the understanding. For we are told to believe and not to doubt, and if we say that we do not comprehend, we are told that this is just the reason for believing. So that the faith of the present day is a faith in the unknown and may be called blind faith…. This is not spiritual faith. Real faith is nothing else than an acknowledgment that the thing is so because it is true; for one who is in real faith thinks and says, ‘This is true, and therefore I believe it.’”

15. Faith 36: “The Universal of the Christian Faith is to believe in the Lord, for through believing in Him there is effected conjunction with Him, by which comes salvation. To believe in Him is to have confidence that He will save, and as no one can have this confidence except one who lives aright, therefore this also is meant by believing in Him.”

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2798, 2921, 3305, 3421, 5313, 9229, 10248

Apocalypse Revealed 56, 173, 294, 373, 481, 504, 520, ...

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 44, 120

Conjugial Love 82

Doctrine of the Lord 19, 29, 40, 42

True Christian Religion 82, 88, 92, 93, 98, 111, 112, ...


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 253, 328, 376, 677, 815, 852, 1069, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 30, 38, 216

Canons of the New Church 17, 39, 40, 43

De Domino 38

Justification 10, 13

Spiritual Experiences 4332

Marriage 82, 88, 92, 93, 98, 111, 112

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 13

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Judges 5:24, 6:12, 16

Ruth 3:11

2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 16, 23:5

1 Chronicles 17:12

Psalms 2:7, 45:7, 132:11

Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 49:1, 5

Jeremiah 23:5

Daniel 2:44, 7:14

Obadiah 1:21

Micah 4:7

Bible Word Meanings

sixth
Like most numbers in the Bible, "six" can have various meanings depending on context, but has a couple that are primary. When used in relation...

angel
"Angels" in the Bible represent qualities of the Lord himself, or a variety of things that come directly from the Lord. On a lower level...

Gabriel
Gabriel signifies an angelic society in heaven that is made up of people who teach from the Word, particularly about the Lord’s advent.

city
Cities of the mountain and cities of the plain (Jeremiah 33:13) signify doctrines of charity and faith.

galilee
when Galilee is mentioned in the Bible, it's referring to the "gentiles", to the spiritual states of people who were not in the Jewish church....

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

Fear not
Fear not, as in Revelation 1:17; Daniel 10:5, 12; Matthew 17:5, 7; 28:10, etc., signifies resuscitation to life, and at the same time adoration from...

name
It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

highest
'Highest' denotes the 'inmost,' because interior things, with person who is in space, appear as higher things, and exterior things as lower. But when the...

over
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

Jacob
Jacob is told twice that his name will now be Israel. The first time is when he wrestles with an angel on his journey to...

ever
“Age” is used in slightly different ways in natural language, and those differences are reflected in the word’s spiritual meanings. All the variations, though, reflect...

kingdom
In the most general sense, a kingdom in the Bible represents a church. In a more specific sense, a kingdom represents a church in regards...

seeing
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

answered
To "answer" generally indicates a state of spiritual receptivity. Ultimately this means being receptive to the Lord, who is constantly trying to pour true ideas...

ghost
There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

upon
'Over' or 'upon' in the Word, signifies being within, because the highest part in successive order becomes inmost in simultaneous order. This is why the...

son of god
The Lord, in some places, calls Himself 'the son of God,' at other times, 'the son of man (ἄνθρωπος).' This is always according to the...

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Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Angel Appears to Joseph
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to Zacharias
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angelic Appearances at the Time of the Advent
A sermon about the angel Gabriel's appearances to different people and how this pictures aspects of the preparation we must do for the Lord's birth in our own lives. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Angel with Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel with Zacharias
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Annunciation
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Blessings: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Call His Name Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Joy and Happiness
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Elizabeth Greets Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Name Is John
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Name Will Be Called: The Development of the Lord in Our Lives
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 John the Baptist
Compare the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus Christ. What do the births of these men mean in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Mary and Elizabeth
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary's Song of Praise
Mary's song of praise, often called the Magnificat, in a color border.
Picture | Ages over 15

 Mary Visits Elizabeth
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Naming John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Our Savior
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Picture of the Angel Gabriel
Project | Ages up to 10

 Prophecies of the Advent
Prophecies of Jesus' advent on earth often use the image of new light dawning in darkness to describe the spiritual impact His birth would have on the world.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angel Appearing to Mary
Use oil pastels and watercolors to show the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angel Appears to Mary
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Angel Appears to Mary
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Angel Appears to Mary Mobile
Make a simple mobile to show the angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she would give birth to a Son and should name Him Jesus.
Project | Ages 3 - 8

 The Angel's Promise to Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Annunciation
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Birth of John
Zacharias and Elizabeth were very good people who wanted a child very much. The Lord answered their prayers. John was born to help prepare people to learn from the Lord. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Introductory Level, for ages 5-6.
Religion Lesson | Ages 5 - 6

 The Birth of John the Baptist
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Birth of John the Baptist
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Magnificat
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Maidservant of the Lord
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Mother of the Lord
Imagine what it must have been like to suddenly see an angel and be told such great news.
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 The Name Mary
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Savior
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Spread of the Lord's Word
We can be like the shepherds and others who have spread the good news as we learn about the Lord and find ways to tell people. Maybe this Christmas you can share your enjoyment of the story of the Lord’s birth with a friend or neighbor. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 5, for ages 10-11.
Religion Lesson | Ages 10 - 11

 Understanding the Virgin Birth
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Zacharias and the Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Zacharias’s Dumbness
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Zacharias Sees Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

Commentary

 

You Shall Bear a Son

     

By Rev. Eric Carswell

The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
By Henry Ossawa Tanner - http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/annunciation.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4864374

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35

What amazing words these must have been to Mary, a young woman, when she first heard them. Just minutes before she had probably been engaged in some mundane task of daily life in her mother's home, perhaps grinding flour or baking bread, maybe weaving or spinning wool into yarn. If she was like most young women who are shortly to be married, her mind would have been turned to her future life with Joseph, what their home would be like, the children they would have and the life that they would lead together. Happy images of the future would have filled her thoughts. She would have had her hopes, dreams and expectations--images of how her life would be as the future wife of Joseph.

Suddenly with the appearance of the angel Gabriel, her visions of the future contained a new and dramatically different element. The angel told her that she was highly favored and blessed among women, that the Lord was with her and that she would soon conceive and bring forth a son whose name would be Jesus. This child would be given the throne of Mary's ancient forebear, King David, and reign forever.

Mary voiced the question of how this would take place. She knew the order of natural conception and knew that the angel's message did not fit into this order. In explanation the angel Gabriel told her of the greatest miracle of all time saying, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

We are called to believe that miracles do occur. Some people are troubled by the idea of miracles based on their picture of cause and effect in this world. They have accepted that the only causes are natural ones, the laws of physics and so on. For such a person the idea of Jesus being born without a natural father is fantastic beyond belief.

But we are called to believe that miracles have and do occur. There are forces that attack this belief. We have grown up in a culture that has a strong sense of natural order. Science today is capable of explaining so many events that previously were mysteries. It is capable of explaining them by means of fundamental laws of nature. For some this sense of natural law can become so strong that the Lord's active presence within creation vanishes. For some there is no Divine intervention within this system. All is fixed and moves along with changes taking place by mere random accident. But it could be noted that according to natural law most changes result in more chaos, not less chaos. Changes tend toward the break down of a higher order into a lower one.

Think of the example of a person quickly typing out a document on a computer. You would expect that errors would be introduced into the typing. What is the likelihood that the errors would improve the original document? It’s possible, but rather unexpected. But the argument for pure natural evolution is that given enough time and the forces of natural selection life as we now know it has developed. Asserting that human life came about purely by random accidents starting with the genetic code of the most primitive life millions of years ago seems akin to saying that given enough time and enough typed copies a simple child’s nursery rhyme could evolve into a Shakespearean play without any plan or higher thought being involved.

We are called to believe that miracles do occur. However, the Writings for the New Church have taught us that we are not to expect to see the miracles of the Old and New Testaments performed today in the same way they were performed in the time those books were written. We read:

The reason miracles are not done at this day, as before, is that miracles compel, and take away free will in spiritual things; and from being spiritual, they make a person natural. All in the Christian world . . . can become spiritual; and they become spiritual solely from the Lord through the Word; and the faculty for this would perish if they were brought to believe through miracles. (True Christian Religion 501)

Partially based on statements such as this, a person can come to a pattern of thinking that does not believe in the Lord’s ability to affect things for good in a miraculous way even today. A person could believe in God, but still tend to view the progression of his or her life as following laws of a machine-like system. Anything that does not fit into this fixed system is believed to be a miracle that would take away spiritual freedom--the very freedom that the Lord was born into the world to reestablish.

Perhaps, though, it is too easy for us to become too limited in our view. So limited that we block out a sight of the miracles that can occur within our own lives without taking away our spiritual freedom. Perhaps it is too easy for this limited point of view to block out a sense of the Lord's presence, a sense of the Holy Spirit's presence. How does the Lord reach out to touch our lives?

What of Mary's life? The events surrounding the first Christmas were a major intervention within her life. The same is true of her husband to be, Joseph. Both of them could have denied the possibility of a miraculous conception and this state of denial would have been far more damaging than that of Zacharias's. Could the Lord's birth ever have taken place if Mary was not willing to accept the angel's words? Her firstborn was to have a continuing effect throughout her whole life. His presence was not without many events that brought a sense of awe and wonder to both Mary and Joseph. We know of at least one event that showed that raising Jesus was not always easy. At age 12, they spent three anxious days searching for Him, only to find Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of teachers, listening and asking questions.

In addition to the way in which Jesus' birth and life intervened in Joseph and Mary's life, think of the way His presence affected the disciples. Many of them were happily going about their daily jobs when they were called to leave all behind and follow Him. While this intervention sometimes involved something of the miraculous, it also involved an element of free will. Just as Joseph and Mary could have resisted the words of the angel announcing that the Lord would be born, so also the disciples could have heard the Lord call them to follow and shook their heads and returned to their work. There were many, many others who were influenced in this same way. Many others who heard the Lord's words calling to them and had their lives profoundly influenced by what He said.

The Lord comes to each of us in our lives many times each day. While we may not have anything occur in our lives that an objective observer would call miraculous, it is not true that our lives will follow some pre-established route, set by our inborn nature and directed by compelling experience of the natural world. The Lord's first birth represents the way in which He comes in any age to anyone who will receive Him. Just as the words of the angel Gabriel would have been a dramatic intervention within the happy normalcy of the future that Mary would have envisioned, so also the Lord can come to us announcing the conception of a future for us that is far different from the one our natural mind would envision. The Lord comes to us offering and promising a far different set of reactions to daily events from the ones we presently have--a different perspective, a far greater patience in some areas and a stronger resolve and commitment in others. He comes to us bringing light to areas of thoughts that we had resigned ourselves to being in deep darkness and bringing warmth to much that we might otherwise have done from need or duty.

The angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin, whose name was Mary. Ancient prophecies had promised that the Messiah would be born as the child of a young woman. Several hundred years after this prophecy was given, a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, introduced a new element of the miraculous by using a word in this prophecy that was not the general one for a young woman, but rather the distinctive Greek term for "virgin." When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, the gospel of Matthew records that he quoted this prophecy according to the way it is presented in the Septuagint. The Writings for the New Church make it quite clear that this seemingly added idea is correct and even essential in our understanding of the Lord's advent.

There are two distinct reasons for the importance of a belief in the virgin birth. One reason has to do with the essential need for Jesus to be born with a natural mother but without a natural father if He was going to become our Savior and Redeemer. It was crucial for the work of Jesus that He not derive from His birth any of the internal evils that are passed on through the soul provided by the natural father in any natural conception. His soul and life came directly from the infinite God. His developing mind and life were the ever more perfect manifestation in human form of the Father and creator, our Lord and God. But it was important that He take on a natural mind at first empty of any experience and knowledge as you and I were born with. It was important that He take on the hereditary inclinations to evil that birth to a natural mother brought to His life.

The second reason for believing in the virgin birth exists because of the representation of the term virgin and what this says about how the Lord comes to us in our lives. We are told that a virgin represents someone who willing to have his or her life affected by truth. In this story, Mary represents a state of mind in each of our lives that is not controlled by self interest nor committed to a determined course of action. It is a state of mind that is open to new possibilities.

The Lord comes to us to each of us bringing the promise of a new conception of life just as the angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary. He comes promising a rebirth or regeneration of life that is radically different from the one we come by naturally. It is not to the hustle and bustle of established life that He appears, but rather to those states of mind that, like the virgin Mary, look forward to something new and different and most importantly are willing to receive the conception of this new life. The life that comes to us naturally, apart from any presence of the Lord, is like a child conceived of a human father and mother. Without the Lord's presence, this life cannot have any other basis than self-interest and worldly concern. Experience may teach us to broaden this self-interest and to temper these concerns, but apart from the Lord's advent within our lives they will never rise above this level. The Lord is born within each of our lives within the states of mind that are willing to be affected by what the Word teaches--by the states of mind that are willing to rise above the prompting of our natural inclinations to be self-serving and natural in our interests, thoughts and actions. He is born within the states of mind that are willing to turn outward to recognize and serve the needs of those around us. He is born within the states of mind that are willing to recognize that natural things exist to serve the needs of mankind and creation as a whole and have their proper uses as well as their abuses.

Our preparation for the celebration of Christmas, more than any other event of the season, tends to turn people outward to others. It is a time that can help us to recognize the community of caring people that we live in. And it is a time that can remind us that many are in need--there are many people who can use our help. This help may be a matter of providing food, clothing and shelter for those have not been able to or have not yet come to be provident enough to provide them for themselves. It can be a matter of giving a hand to someone who could use some help with a job, sharing some burden with them. Christmas is a time when we give gifts that symbolize and love and friendship for others. The most lasting gifts are those that we give when we recognize the spiritual needs of others—when we recognize that, by our words and actions, we can help the Lord bring loving warmth to another person's life. We, by our words and actions, can bring the light of greater understanding to another person's life. We have the capability of helping others receive far greater blessings in life than they might otherwise. Our preparation for and celebration of Christmas can remind us of how a truly Christian life is one of wisely giving and of serving. The state of mind that receives this reminder is the one imaged by the virgin, Mary.

The Lord comes to each of us in our lives, just as the angel Gabriel came to Mary. He comes telling of events that can take place, if we are willing, which far exceed anything we might picture ourselves. He promises us a new life, born within our own, but not taking its source from us. He promises the presence of the Holy Spirit within this new life. He comes with a miraculous intervention in the natural course of events. The words of the angel Gabriel to Mary are also words to us with the promise of a new life that will profoundly affect what we care about, think and do each day throughout the year. These words are the promise of a new life for each of us.

After the close of this service you are invited to take the sacrament of the Holy Supper. This act of worship represents our desire to receive the Lord’s gifts of love and wisdom within our lives, represented by our eating of the bread and drinking of the wine. There is a powerful reminder of the words of the angel Gabriel in The True Christian Religion description of this sacrament

...the Holy Supper for those who approach it worthily is a kind of guarantee and seal put on their adoption as sons of God ... the Lord is then present and introduces into heaven those who are born of Him, that is, who are regenerated. (True Christian Religion 728)

As the angel Gabriel said to Mary, so the Lord would say to us, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1573; Isaiah 7:1-15; Luke 1:26-38)

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #815

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815. Verse 11. And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, signifies confirmations from the sense of the letter of the Word in favor of faith separated from life, and the consequent falsifications of the truth of the church. This is evident from the signification of "the two beasts" treated of in this chapter, as being the confirmation of those things that are signified by "the dragon," for "the dragon" signifies especially faith alone (see above, n. 714; and "the beast coming up out of the sea" signifies reasonings from the natural man confirming the separation of faith from life (see also above, n. 774; therefore this "beast" signifies confirmations from the sense of the letter of the Word in favor of faith separated from life, and the consequent falsifications of the truth of the church. That "the dragon" is further described by these two "beasts" is evident from verses 2, 4, 11 of this chapter. There are moreover two means by which any heretical dogma may be confirmed, namely, by reasonings from the natural man and by confirmations from the sense of the letter of the Word; and these two means are what are signified by these two "beasts." The former "beast" signifies reasonings from the natural man, because the "sea" out of which that beast came up signifies the natural of man, while this "beast" signifies confirmations from the sense of the letter of the Word, because the "earth" out of which it came up signifies the church where the Word is. This "beast" signifies also falsifications of the Word, because the Word unless it is falsified can never confirm a false dogma, since all things of the Word are truths; consequently all truths can be confirmed from the Word, but by no means falsities, as can be clearly seen from what has been said above and also from what follows in this chapter.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 714, 774)


[2] As passages from the Word have been cited above n. 785 in which "works," "deeds," "working," and "doing" are mentioned, I will now cite passages where "faith" and "believing" are mentioned, but only from the Gospels, and not from the Epistles of the Apostles, and for the reason that the Gospels contain the words of the Lord Himself, all of which have concealed in them a spiritual sense, through which immediate communication with heaven is granted, while the writings of the Apostles contain no such sense, although they are nevertheless useful books for the church.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 785)


[3] The passages of the Word where "faith" and "believing" are mentioned are the following. In Matthew:

There came a centurion to the Lord, saying, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof; but say the word only, and my boy shall be healed. Jesus hearing, marveled and said to them that followed Him, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. And He said unto the centurion, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed be it done unto thee; and his boy was healed in that hour (Matthew 8:8, 10, 13).

The Lord healed this person and others according to their faith, because the first and primary thing of the church then to be established was to believe that the Lord is God Almighty, for without that faith no church could have been established. For the Lord was the God of heaven and the God of earth, with whom no conjunction is possible except by an acknowledgment of His Divinity, which acknowledgment is faith. The centurion evidently acknowledged the Lord to be God Almighty, for he said, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof; but say the word only, and my boy shall be healed."

[4] In the same:

A woman afflicted with an issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus' garment; for she said within herself, If I shall but touch His garment I shall be healed. Jesus turning and seeing her, said, Daughter be of good cheer, thy faith hath made thee whole; and she was healed in that hour (Matthew 9:20-22).

In the same:

They brought unto Him one sick of the palsy lying on a bed; Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven. Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house (Matthew 9:2-7; Luke 5:19-25).

In the same:

Two blind men cried, saying, Have mercy on us, Thou Son of David. Jesus said unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it done unto you; and their eyes were opened (Matthew 9:27-30).

No other faith than that which is called historical, which at that time was a miraculous faith, was meant by this faith whereby the sick were healed; consequently by this faith many wrought miracles at that time. This faith was, that the Lord was Almighty, because He was able to do miracles of Himself; for this reason He also allowed Himself to be worshiped, which was not the case with the prophets of the Old Testament, who were not worshiped. But there must always be this historical faith before it becomes a saving faith; for a historical faith becomes a saving faith with man by his learning truths from the Word, and living according to them.

(References: Luke 5:18-25; Matthew 9:27-29)


[5] In the same:

A woman of Canaan, whose daughter was vexed by a demon, came and worshiped Jesus, saying, Lord, help me. Jesus said unto her, Great is thy faith; be it done unto thee as thou wilt; and her daughter was healed (Matthew 15:22-28).

In John:

A ruler whose son was sick besought Jesus to heal his son before he died. Jesus said unto him, Go thy way, thy son liveth; and the man believed in the word that Jesus spake unto him. And his servants met him, saying, Thy son liveth. Therefore he believed, and his whole house (John 4:46-53).

In the same:

Jesus finding the man born blind whom He healed, said unto him, Believest thou, then, on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him? He said unto him, Thou hast both seen Him and He it is that speaketh with thee. He said, Lord, I believe; and he worshiped Him (John 9:35-38).

In Luke:

Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter was dead, Fear not, only believe, and she shall be made whole; and the daughter was raised up again (Luke 8:50, 55).

In the same:

One of the ten lepers that were healed by the Lord, who was a Samaritan, returned and fell upon his face at the feet of Jesus; and Jesus said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole (Luke 17:15, 16, 19).

In the same:

Jesus said to the blind man, Thy faith hath saved thee; and immediately he was able to see (Luke 18:42, 43).

In Mark:

Jesus said to the disciples, when they were unable to heal a certain man's son 1 who had a dumb spirit; to whom Jesus said, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth; the father of the boy crying out with tears, said, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief; and he was healed (Mark 9:17, 23, 24).

There were three reasons why faith in the Lord healed these; first, because they acknowledged His Divine omnipotence, and that He was God; secondly, because faith is acknowledgment, and from acknowledgment intuition; and all intuition from acknowledgment makes another to be present; this is a common thing in the spiritual world. So now, when a New Church was to be established by the Lord, it was this intuition from an acknowledgment of the Lord's omnipotence from which they were first to look to the Lord; and from this it is clear what is here meant by faith. The third reason was, that all the diseases healed by the Lord represented and thus signified the spiritual diseases that correspond to these natural diseases; and spiritual diseases can be healed only by the Lord, and in fact by looking to His Divine omnipotence and by repentance of life. This is why He sometimes said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee; go and sin no more." This faith also was represented and signified by their miraculous faith; but the faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them; the truths themselves and the life itself according to them make the quality of the faith. But more about this in what follows.

(References: Luke 17:15-19, Luke 17:15-16, 18:42-43; Mark 9:17-18, Mark 9:23-24)


[6] In John:

When Lazarus was dead, his sister saith, Lord, by this time he stinketh. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, If thou wouldst believe thou shouldst see the glory of God? (John 11:39, 40).

In Luke:

Jesus said to the woman who was a sinner, and who made His feet wet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, which she also anointed with oil, Thy sins are forgiven thee; thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace (Luke 7:38, 48, 50).

From this it is clear that it was faith in the Lord's omnipotence that healed them, and that the same faith remitted, that is, removed, sins. The reason of this was that this woman not only had faith in the Divine omnipotence of the Lord, but also loved Him, for she kissed His feet. Wherefore the Lord said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee, thy faith hath saved thee," because faith makes the Divine of the Lord to be present, and love conjoins. It is possible, however, for the Lord to be present and not be conjoined; from which it is evident that it is faith from love that saves.

(References: John 11:39-40)


[7] Again:

Jesus said to the disciples in the boat, Why are ye fearful, O ye men of little faith? Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the sea, and there came a great calm (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39-41; Luke 8:24, 25).

Peter, at the Lord's command, went down out of the boat and walked upon the waters; but when the wind became strong he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus took hold of his hand and said, O man of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt (Matthew 14:28-31).

When the disciples could not heal the lunatic, Jesus said unto them, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? and Jesus healed him; and He said to the disciples that they could not heal him by reason of their unbelief (Matthew 17:14, seq.).

Jesus came into His own country, and there they were offended in Him; and Jesus said, A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:57, 58).

The Lord called the disciples "men of little faith" when they were unable to do miracles in His name, and He was unable to do miracles in His own country because of their unbelief, for the reason that while the disciples believed the Lord to be the Messiah or Christ, also the Son of God, and the prophet of whom it was written in the Word, yet they did not believe that He was God Almighty, and that Jehovah the Father was in Him; and yet so far as they believed Him to be a man, and not at the same time God, His Divine to which omnipotence belongs could not be present with the disciples by faith. For faith presents the Lord as present, as has been said above; but faith in Him as a man only does not present His Divine omnipotence as present. For the same reason those in the world at the present day who look to His Human alone and not at the same time to His Divine, as the Socinians and Arians do, cannot be saved.

(References: Luke 8:24-25; Matthew 13:57-58)


[8] And for a like reason the Lord could not do miracles in His own country, for there they had seen Him from infancy like another man; and therefore they were unable to add to that idea the idea of His Divinity; and when that idea is not present while the Lord is present, He is not present in man with Divine omnipotence; for faith presents the Lord as present in man according to the quality of the perception of Him. Other things man does not acknowledge and therefore rejects; for in order that the Lord may operate anything with man by faith the Lord's Divine must be present in man, and not outside of him.

John:

[9] In John:

Many of the multitude believed on Jesus, and said, When the Christ shall come, will He do more signs than those which this one hath done? (John 7:31).

In Mark:

These signs shall follow them that believe: in My name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word by signs following (Mark 16:17-20).

As the Jewish nation believed in Jehovah solely because of miracles, it is evidently a miraculous and not a saving faith that is here meant; for they were external men, and external men are moved to Divine worship only by external things, like miracles which forcibly strike the mind. Moreover, a miraculous faith was the first faith with those among whom a New Church was to be established; and such a faith is also the first with all in the Christian world at this day, and this is why the miracles performed by the Lord were described, and are also now preached. For the first faith with all is a historical faith, and this afterwards becomes a saving faith when man by his life becomes spiritual; for first of all it is to be believed that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and that He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite, and one with the Father. These things must be known; but so far as they are merely known they are historical, and a historical faith presents the Lord as present, because it is a looking to the Lord from His Divine nature. And yet that faith does not save until man lives the life of faith, which is charity; for he then wills and does what he believes, and to will and to do is of the love, and love conjoins to Him whom faith presents as present. The signification of those miracles that the disciples were to do, and that were done by them in the beginning of the Christian church, as casting out demons, speaking with new tongues, and others, may be seen above n. 706.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 706)


[10] In Matthew:

Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:14-20).

In Mark:

Have the faith of God; for verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou lifted up and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, what he hath said shall be done for him. Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye ask when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive them and ye shall have them (Mark 11:22-24).

In Matthew:

Jesus said to the disciples, If ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which has been done to the fig-tree, but even if ye shall say unto this mountain, be thou lifted up and cast into the sea. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask believing in Me, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:21, 22).

In Luke:

If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed ye would say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou rooted up and be thou planted in the sea, and it would obey you (Luke 17:6).

That this is to be understood otherwise than according to the words is evident from its being said to the disciples, that "If they had faith as a grain of mustard seed they would be able to pluck up a mountain or a sycamine tree from its place, and cast it into the sea;" also that "all things whatsoever they asked they should receive;" and yet it is not according to Divine order for one to receive what he asks if he only have faith, or for the disciples to pluck up a mountain or a tree from its place and cast it into the sea. But "faith" here means faith from the Lord, consequently it is called "the faith of God," and he who is in faith from the Lord asks for nothing but what contributes to the Lord's kingdom and to himself for salvation; other things he does not wish, saying in his heart, Why should I ask for what does not contribute to this use? Therefore if he were to ask for anything except what it is granted him from the Lord to ask he would have no faith of God, that is, no faith from the Lord. It is impossible for angels of heaven to wish and so to ask for anything else, and if they were to do so they could have no faith that they would receive it. The Lord compared such faith to the ability and power to cast a mountain or sycamine tree into the sea, because the Lord spake here as well as elsewhere by correspondences, and therefore these words must be understood spiritually. For a "mountain" signifies the love of self and of the world, thus the love of evil; and a "sycamine tree" signifies the faith of that love, which is a faith in falsity from evil, and the "sea" signifies hell; therefore "to pluck up a mountain and cast it into the sea by the faith of God" signifies to cast these loves, which in themselves are diabolical, into hell, and likewise the faith in falsity from evil; and this is done through faith from the Lord. This comparison of the ability and power of faith from the Lord with plucking up and casting a mountain and a sycamine tree into the sea was also made because in the spiritual world such things actually take place. There these loves of evil sometimes appear as mountains, and the faith in falsity from evil as a sycamine tree; and both of these an angel can root up and cast into hell through faith from the Lord. (That a "mountain" signifies love to the Lord, and in the contrary sense the love of self, see above, n. 405, 510; and that a "fig-tree," or a "sycamine tree," signifies the natural man in respect to its goods and truths, and in the contrary sense the same in respect to evils and falsities, see above, n. 403.

(References: Luke 17:15-19; Matthew 21:21-22; The Apocalypse Explained 403, 405, 510)


[11] So much respecting miraculous faith. Passages from the Gospels respecting saving faith, which is faith in truth from love to the Lord, shall now follow. In John:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life. He that believeth in Him is not judged; but he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God (John 3:14-19).

In the same:

The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand; he that believeth in the Son hath eternal life, but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the anger of God abideth on him (John 3:35, 36).

In the same:

Except ye believe that I am He ye shall die in your sins (John 8:24).

In the same:

They said to Jesus, What shall we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answering said, This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom the Father hath sent. I am the bread of life; he that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst. This is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone that seeth the Son and believeth in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. Not that anyone hath seen the Father save He that is with the Father; 2 He hath seen the Father. Verily I say unto you, he that believeth in Me hath eternal life. I am the bread of life (John 6:28, 29, 35, 40, 46-48).

In the same:

Jesus said, He that heareth My word and believeth Him that sent Me hath eternal life, and shall not come into judgment, but shall pass from death into life. Verily I say unto you, that the hour shall come when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. Even as the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:24-26).

In the same:

Jesus cried out, saying, If anyone thirst let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. These things He said of the Spirit which those believing in Him were to receive. (John 7:37-39).

In the same:

Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he die yet shall he live; but everyone who liveth and believeth in Me shall not die to eternity (John 11:25-27).

In the same:

Jesus cried out and said, He that believeth in Me believeth not in Me but in Him that sent Me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in Me may not abide in the darkness. And if anyone hear My words and yet believe not, I judge him not; he that rejecteth Me and receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth him, the word that I have spoken shall judge him at the last day (John 12:44-48).

In the same:

While ye have the light believe in the light, that ye may be sons of light (John 12:36).

In the same:

Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me (John 14:1).

In the same:

As many as received Jesus, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe in His name (John 1:12).

In the same:

Many believed in His name, beholding His signs (John 2:23).

In the same:

These are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in His name (John 20:31).

In Mark:

Jesus said to the disciples, Going into all the world, preach ye the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned (Mark 16:15, 16).

These and other passages describe saving faith, which is to believe in the Lord; and to believe in Him is also to believe in the Father, because He and the Father are one. "To believe in the Lord" signifies not only to adore and worship Him, but also to live from Him, and one lives from Him when he lives according to the Word which is from Him; therefore "to believe in Him" is to believe that He regenerates man, and gives eternal life to those who are regenerated by Him.

(References: John 3:14-18, 3:35-36, John 6:28-29, 6:33, John 6:39-40, 11:25-26; Mark 16:15-16)


[12] "To believe in His name" has a similar signification as "to believe in Him," since the Lord's "name" signifies every quality of faith and love by which He is to be worshiped, and by which He saves man. This is signified by "His name," because in the spiritual world names that are given to persons are always in accord with the quality of their affection and life, and in consequence the quality of each one is known from his name alone. So when anyone's name is pronounced, and the quality that is meant by the name is loved, that one becomes present, and the two are united as companions and brethren. The quality of the Lord however is everything of faith and love by which He saves man, for that quality is the essence proceeding from Him; therefore when that quality is thought of by man the Lord becomes present with him, and when this quality is loved the Lord is conjoined to him. Thence it is that those who believe in His name have eternal life. This shows how necessary it is that man should know the quality of faith and love, that is, the Lord's "name;" also how necessary it is to love that quality, which comes by doing those things that the Lord has commanded. The names "Jesus" and "Christ" moreover involve this same quality, since "Jesus" means salvation, and "Christ" or "Messiah" Divine truth, which is everything of faith and love as to knowledges, doctrine, and life. When, therefore, these names are mentioned their quality must be thought of and they must live according to it. This is what is meant by the words of the Lord in Matthew:

Jesus said, If two of you on earth shall agree in My name respecting anything that they shall ask it shall be done for them by My Father who is in the heavens. For where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:19, 20).

There is, indeed, a presence of the Lord with all and also a love towards all; and yet man cannot be led and be saved by the Lord except in the measure of his reception of the Lord by faith in Him and love to Him.

(References: Matthew 18:19-20)


[13] This shows how necessary it is for man to know the quality of faith and love, that is, the Lord's name, also to love it, since the Lord can be loved only through His quality. That the Lord, and not the Father, must be approached and must be worshiped in accordance with the quality of the faith and love that is prescribed in the Word the Lord Himself teaches, saying:

That no one has seen the Father at any time but that the Son brings Him forth to view (John 1:18);

Also that no one cometh to the Father except through Him (John 14:6);

Since the Father and He are one (John 10:30).

Therefore to approach the Father and not the Lord is to make two out of one, and thus to worship apart from the Lord the Divine that is in Him. And this destroys in man the idea of Divinity in respect to the Lord, which again makes evident the truth:

That he that believeth in the Son hath eternal life (John 3:36).

[14] That to believe in the Lord is to believe in the Father, the Lord Himself teaches also in John:

He that believeth in Me believeth not in Me but in Him that sent Me; and he that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me (John 12:44, 45).

This means that he that believes in the Lord believes in Him not separate from the Father, but in the Father; and it is therefore added, "He that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me." So elsewhere in John:

Believe in God, believe in Me (John 14:1).

In the same:

Philip, believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? Believe Me, that I am in the Father and the Father in Me. Verily I say unto you, He that believeth in Me, the works that I do he shall do also, because I go to My Father (John 14:10-12).

In the same:

In that day ye shall ask in My name; and I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; and I go unto the Father. The disciples say, In this we believe that Thou camest forth from God (John 16:26-30).

"To come forth from the Father" signifies to be conceived of Him, and "to go to the Father" signifies to be fully united to Him. That "to come forth from the Father" means to be conceived of Him is clearly evident from His conception (Matthew 1:18-25; and in Luke 1:34, 35). That "to go to the Father" means to be fully united to Him is evident from the glorification of His Human by the passion of the cross, which has been spoken of above; and therefore He says, "In that day ye shall ask in My name," and no more in the name of the Father.

(References: John 12:44-45, 16:26-28, John 16:30; Luke 1:34-35)


[15] In the same:

Jesus said unto Thomas, Because thou hast seen Me thou hast believed; happy are they that have not seen and yet have believed. And Thomas said, My Lord and my God (John 20:29, 20:28).

It was because the Lord was now fully united to the Divine Itself, which is called the Father, that Thomas called Him his Lord and his God. So elsewhere in the same:

Say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of My Father believe me not; though ye believe not Me believe the works, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in the Father (John 10:36-38).

That the Jews did not believe is evident in John 5:14-17; 10:24-26; 12:37-39; Matthew 21:31-32. The cause of their unbelief was their wish for a Messiah who would exalt them to glory above all the nations in the world; also that they were wholly natural and not spiritual; also that they had falsified the Word, especially where it treats of the Lord and also of themselves. That such were the causes of their unbelief is evident also from the faith of the Jews at this day, who are altogether natural, and know or wish to know scarcely anything about the Lord's kingdom in the heavens. That neither would those in the Christian world at the present day believe that the Lord is one with the Father, and is therefore the God of heaven and earth, is meant by the Lord's words in Luke:

When the Son of man cometh shall He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).

But on this subject, the Lord willing, more will be said elsewhere.

Footnotes:

1. The photolithograph has "filiam" "daughter," for "filium," "son. "

2. The Latin has "Father" for "God."

(References: John 3:14-18, John 5:14-47, John 6:33, 6:39-40, John 11:25-26, John 12:37-49, John 16:26-28, John 16:30, 20:28-29; Luke 17:15-19; Mark 9:17-18, Mark 16:15-20; Matthew 9:27-29)

  
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