We are still in Luke’s Gospel – but today, from Ein Karem we are moving to Nazareth. Something of incredible importance is happening right before our eyes – however, in order to unlock this mystery, we would need to use our key again and to turn to the Hebrew Scriptures.
THE GOSPEL IN GENESIS
When we read about the angel Gabriel appearing before Mary and telling her about miraculous conception and birth of her son, we can’t help but remember the Divine Annunciation of the miraculous birth in the book of Genesis. You might remember that Genesis 18 begins with a very interesting scene, where God comes to Abraham in the form of three Heavenly Guests. One of the main objectives of this visit was the Annunciation – the announcement of the miraculous birth of Isaac. This parallel becomes even more striking if we realize that Genesis 18 opens the Torah Portion Vayera – the same Torah portion that ends with Aqedat Izhak, the sacrifice Isaac. In this sense, the starting and the ending point of the Gospel of Luke are very similar to the starting and ending point of the Torah Portion Vayera: they both open with the Divine Annunciation of the miraculous birth of the son, and end with the sacrifice of this miraculously conceived and born son (called by Scripture, “the only son”).
A closer analysis of both texts reveals even more similarities between them. To both women, the heavenly message seemed incredible and impossible – because indeed, it surpassed all human understanding and imagination. Therefore, their first reaction was that of disbelief and doubt. In Genesis 18, when the Lord announced the birth of Isaac, Sarah laughed with that famous laughter within herself: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” When the angel announced the birth of Jesus, “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And yet, both of them acted in faith and obedience – and the history of humanity was changed because of their faith and obedience.
BLESSED VIRGIN … MIRIAM
Now let us talk about Mary. While today almost everyone recognizes the Jewishness of Yeshua (Jesus), His mother Miriam (Mary), a 1st century Galilean woman from Nazareth, seems to have been totally alienated from her Jewish background. She is better known by the titles Blessed Virgin or Our Lady. However, in the New Testament—especially in Luke’s Gospel—Miriam is depicted as clearly belonging to her people.
For instance, one has to know the Jewish wedding customs of the time in order to understand pregnant Miriam’s predicament. There were two stages of marriage in Jesus’ time: the betrothal and the marriage, and there might be one year or more between them. One of the main reasons for a betrothal period was to assure that the bride was not pregnant. To become pregnant during this period was a grave sin and a great humiliation. And yet, it was exactly at this time, when Miriam was already betrothed to Joseph and was awaiting the concluding stage of marriage, that the miraculous conception took place.
Miriam knew she was in a very difficult situation. Who would believe her story? And here we see this young Jewish woman, who just entrusted herself completely to the Lord, seeking support and encouragement in Him and from Him. True, she goes to Elisheva (Elizabeth), to the small village of Ein Karem, outside of Jerusalem, but probably on the way Miriam entered Jerusalem to pray and to pour out her soul before the Lord. And it looks like God comforted Miriam through the story of biblical Hannah – her suffering and humiliation, her miraculous birth and her praise: “My heart rejoices in the Lord…I rejoice in Your salvation” – because when Miriam greets Elisheva, she is full of joy and gratitude and praises the Lord with almost the same words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”
HIS NAME IS WONDERFUL!
According to Luke 1:31, Mary had to call her son Yeshua. We find an explanation of this name in Matthew: “for it is he who will save his people from their sins.“ In English (or any other translation), no connection can be seen between Jesus’ name and Him saving people. However, for Hebrew speakers this connection is quite clear: you probably know that Jesus’ original Hebrew name, Yeshua, means salvation. Is there anything else in this name, any additional messages that are lost in translation?
Yeshua is a shortened form of the name Yehoshua (“Joshua”). Yehoshua is a compound name consisting of two parts: The first part – Yeho – is the “prefix” form of the Tetragrammaton—God’s four-letter name: YHVH. The second part comes from the Hebrew verb yasha which means “to deliver,” “save”. Thus, first and foremost the name Yehoshua/Yeshua conveys the idea that God (YHVH) saves – and it was a very popular Jewish name at the time of Yeshua.
However, the Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew provides an additional surprising meaning of the verb yasha: to grant essence of existence. Thus, the name Yeshua would be closely connected to the tetragrammaton, YHVH, often translated as “the One Who causes to exist”. Some have even suggested that the name Yeshua is hidden within YHVH, as “Yeshua HaNazarei Vemelekh HaYehudim” (Hebrew “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”—the same as the Latin inscription on the cross).
Through multiple translations and changes in pronunciation, the tradition of naming him “Jesus” has obscured both His name and His message. His Hebrew name Yeshua, however, makes perfect sense: He is the One who saves and the One who grants “essence of existence”.
FROM MY MOTHER’S WOMB
Sometimes people ask, ‘If Jesus is the Messiah, why don’t we find His name in the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures)?’ We can find an amazing answer to that in chapter 49 of the book of Isaiah, describing the call and mission of the Suffering Servant: “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” What is the meaning of this prophecy? It means that, even though many of the titles which describe the character and the mission of the Messiah, were revealed in the Tanach: “Immanuel,” “Wonderful,” “Counsellor,” “Mighty God,” “Father of Eternity,” “Prince of Peace,” – His personal name was only to be announced just before His birth in time—”from his mother’s womb“. Remarkably, it happens right before our eyes when Gabriel says to Mary: “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Yeshua”.
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 Gen. 18:12
 Lk. 1:34
 1 Sam. 2:1
 Lk. 1:46,47
 Mt. 1:21