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What’s to Fear

The virgin's name was Mary. And [Gabriel] came to her and said,

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

But she was greatly troubled at the saying,

and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

And the angel said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary,

for you have found favor with God”

(Luke 1:27b-30 ESV).


Background music: David Nevue, Away in a Manger, from O Come Emmanuel


Now I have seen some troubling sights in my day. And I have heard some troubling news. But there’s troubling . . . and then there’s troubling!

Here we read that Mary was greatly troubled.


Gabriel was sent by God with the most glorious news. His opening greeting (chaire in the Greek) can also be expressed with a hearty “Hail!”.


He goes on to call her favored one, or charitoō, meaning, “to grace, highly honor, or greatly favor.”


Gabriel’s greeting seems meant to prepare Mary. Because whenever someone is told the Lord is with you, it’s typically because they need the encouragement for some great task ahead. Some task your heart may fear. But with Gabriel’s explicit “the Lord” (kyrios), Mary would have understood that reference as a person “exercising absolute ownership rights.”


This troubled Mary . . . and rightly so! It’s quite understandable, considering the extraordinary occasion. But I wonder by what, precisely?  Was she deeply troubled by the visitation? By the angel’s appearance? His message? Or all of the above?


Luke went on to explain that Mary tried to discern his greeting, or dialogizomai, “to reckon thoroughly, deliberate, or intensely reason.”


But good ole’ Gabriel tells her not to phobeō, “be afraid.” He doesn’t want her “to be alarmed, terrified, or frightened.”


And the Greek for deeply troubled? Well, it’s diatarassō (dia means “through to the limit” and tarassō is “trouble”). It can be translated as “to agitate greatly, acutely distressed, or greatly disturbed.” This is the only time it is used in the New Testament. It’s a unique word reserved for this one unique occasion.


So Mary rushed to Elizabeth to see the sign spoken of by the angel, affirming the authority of his word. (Thankfully, God had prepared a companion for her in Elizabeth—so they could face the possible impossibilities of God together.)


What we are to fear has always come into question.


And sometimes we get it wrong.


There are some things we fear that we shouldn’t. And other things we don’t fear that we should.


Like God.


But it’s a matter of the type of fear that’s appropriate.


Some fear He is an angry God . . . but shouldn’t.


Some have no reverence for Him at all . . . but should.


There is a proper, healthy sort of fear when it comes to God—it’s the revere kind.


Jehovah-God is a god to be feared. But at times He’s relegated to a jolly Santa (with skewed opinions about what we deserve).


Secular arrogance has forgotten to fear God. Forgotten the need for His mercy. A mercy that knows we don’t have a hope without Him. So, He birthed salvation in that Babe, born of troubled Mary.


Yes, we rejoice that, in Christ, our salvation has come! We would rightly tremble if He had not.


It is because of Him that we can be fearless in matters of faith—for He has secured our peace with God. He has given us a hope we can trust. And He empowers us to do those fearful things for Him. As He did for Mary.


Though troubled at the meaning of this heavenly message, Mary submitted willingly—ever the humble servant. She endured many grievous troubles—but the Lord was with her. His grace favored her with strength. Strength to trust.


Where lies your fear? In God . . . or man? In present circumstances . . . or in your eternal future? It’s a question worth asking. And an answer worth weighing.


You might be troubled by the news you hear. But you can give over your troubles and fears to God—and rest in the peace you have in Jesus. For with the mere whisper of His name, Immanuel, peace comes in remembering He is with you.


Resource: Hebrew-Greek ESV Key Word Study Bible

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