Creed: The Gospel in a Nutshell
- Eva Marie Everson Contributing Writer
- 2005 5 Jul
When I joined the publishing world, one of the first things I learned to do was to put together a "book proposal." A book proposal is a written presentation of the manuscript you’ve either written or would like to write, which will be given to an acquisitions editor in hopes that he or she will read it, their eyes wide, left only to exclaim, "My goodness! This is the best idea I’ve ever heard."
Actually, most writers will be happy with a simple, "We’ll buy it!" But, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point I’m trying to make is this: a book proposal gives the skinny on what the author believes is a great idea. We writers are also expected to be able to speak our idea in three sentences or less. For a writer, that’s nearly painful!
Here’s Another Pretty Fantastic Story
The word "gospel" means "good tale." Some say it means "good news." Merriam-Webster gives the following definition: the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation.
That really is pretty good news.
The works of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which make up the first four books of the New Testament, are also called "The Gospel…" Specifically, The Gospel According To…Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
Matthew tells his version of the “good tale” in 28 first-hand chapters, Mark in 16, Luke in a detailed 24, and John in an emotion-packed 21.
In A Nut Shell
Both the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed tell this same gospel story in a "three sentence or less" way.
The Apostle’s Creed: And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty…
The Nicene Creed: and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
Conceived By The Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary
What we know about Jesus’ true father and His mother are limited, but precise. Unfortunately, the image we have of Mary has been fuzzied by tradition, art and religious attitudes. Mary was special, yes, but in our Father’s eyes we all are.
So what do we know about the "young girl" Mary?
She was young. Probably no more than 12 or 13 years of age, at which time young girls became engaged according to the traditions of the time. This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18) In the Jewish tradition of marriage, when a young girl became engaged, this period of betrothal lasted approximately one year and was legally—but not physically—bound.
Therefore at the time of conception, she was still a virgin. When the angel told Mary that she would carry the Son of God, she replied, "How will this be…since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34) Mary’s virginity fulfilled prophetic scripture found in Isaiah 7:14, which reads: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. It has been argued that the word “virgin” merely means “young girl” and not "untouched girl." No. In those days a young girl would have been untouched as she married both young and pure.
Mary had a servant’s heart. Read carefully Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel upon his giving her the message of her lifetime: "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Though Mary was impoverished and Galilean (Does anything good come out of Nazareth? John 1:46), she counted being a servant of God an honor.
She was obedient to God over self. Mary knew the possible outcome of being found pregnant and not yet having fulfilled her marriage to Joseph. This was cause for possible excommunication from the community or—worse still—death. In some areas of the Middle East, practices of stoning, etc. continue, even today. But Mary weighed her options and chose to move in God’s will for her rather than in what appeared “safest.”
She was obedient to God over man. Just before Gabriel left Mary, he told her she was to leave at once at go to her relative Elizabeth’s home. This would have been approximately 70 miles away, if the traditional location of Elizabeth’s home, Ein Karem, is correct. A long journey without the luxury of our modern means of travel. Luke’s gospel tells us that she remained there for three months before returning. Now to any thinking and calculating person, it’s easy for us to realize that it must have "looked like" when she returned, announcing her pregnancy. But Mary chose to do as God commanded her to do rather than worry about the conventions of society.
She was deeply spiritual. Upon Mary’s arrival at Elizabeth’s home, she was greeted by her relative with, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:42-45).
Mary had received confirmation that what Gabriel had told her was, in fact, true. Mary then "sang" her "song," an inspiring movement often referred to as The Magnificat. (Luke 1: 46-55) Within these 10 verses, Mary refers to herself only three times, and even in that, she returns her praises back to God. Within the remaining lines, Mary shows how deeply spiritual and how intellectual she really was in reference to the Scriptures. Much of what she said/sang had its roots in Old Testament verses and prophecy.
She could keep a secret. How easy might it have been to hear from Gabriel, then run out into the streets shouting, "It’s me! It’s me! I’m the chosen one! I’m going to carry Messiah!" But Mary kept these things—and so many other things—to herself. We don’t know what she said to Joseph when she told him of her pregnancy—if she told him of her angelic visit or if she simply told him that she was with child.
But it took another visit from an angel to fully convince Joseph. One thing is for sure, they alone seemed to be aware of this truth. (With the exception of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who lived very far away.) As Jesus grew to be a man, those around him seem wholly unaware of His parental heritage, other than the rumors, of course. We have no record of Nazarenes coming to Him for any kind of “early healing spree.” Mary knew the importance of remaining quiet until her son’s time had come to fulfillment.