Everybody’s got an opinion on the Bible, it seems – whether they’ve read it or not.
That’s the case of absent-minded psychology professor Eric Sprankle at Minnesota State University Mankato, who tweeted the outrageous and ill-informed suggestion last week that God did not permit Mary to consent to being impregnated by the Holy Spirit.
“The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen,” he tweeted. “There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”
When another Twitter user pointed out the absurdity of the professor’s claim, noting that Mary clearly did welcome God’s calling to be the mother of the Messiah, the King of Israel, the Savior of all humanity, the God-hater Sprankled this retort: “The biblical god regularly punished disobedience. The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’ To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”
Sprankle is obviously out for attention in his war with God, but he’s hardly alone these days within college campuses, the news media and other cultural institutions angry with God. Earlier in December, he tweeted a photo of a toy Christmas elf with his arm around a statue of what appears to be Baphomet, an occult depiction of an entity regularly associated with Satanism. Sprankle also decorated his Christmas tree with Satanic decor, as shown in another tweet he sent last weekend.
But we can turn this effort at blasphemy around by putting the spotlight of truth on the faith, boldness and maturity of this heroic Israeli teen of the first century.
The first words spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel are these from Luke 1:28: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
But Mary was troubled and the angel comforted her by saying: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 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: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
“How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Mary asked.
“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. 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. For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
What was Mary’s response? “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
That is not only consent, it is a blessing, an affirmation, an acquiescence.
But my favorite words from Mary come later when she speaks to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. It’s not only a beautiful passage of Scripture, it’s a prophecy and an explanation of how God saw righteousness, holiness and even perfection in men and women in a fallen world – even before the birth of the Messiah.
It is often referred to as the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
Mary had accepted the words of the angel Gabriel who had told her about her Son in Luke 1:32-33: “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: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
Why did she accept those words?
Because she, as a believer, was eagerly awaiting the Messiah. He had been prophesied from Genesis through all the prophets from Isaiah through Malachi. She believed God. She loved God. She feared God.
That’s the secret – believing, in faith, in what God has told us from the beginning. Mary saw something remarkable, miraculous and unique because of her faith.
But some might wonder why Mary seemingly witnessed so much sadness in her life and never witnessed her Son rule and reign as King of kings.
That is still to come, of course, as surely as He came the first time.
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