We Proclaim Jesus.
By Joseph Ametepe.
One of the most respected TV Journalists of the twentieth century was Harry Reasoner. In 1971 he gave a Christmas commentary that bears repeating. Here, in part, is what he said: "Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. If Christmas is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless Baby, it's quite a day. It's startling idea, and the theologians, who sometimes love logic more than they love God, find it uncomfortable...It is the story of the great innocence of God, the Baby, God in the power of man. And it is such a dramatic shot toward the heart that if it is not true, for Christians nothing is true. So even if you have not got your shopping all done and you are swamped with commercialism and the frenzy, be at peace...The story stands." ~Adapted from Daily Bread, December 25, 1994
Nowhere is statement: "The story stands" visually and vividly illustrated than in the Gospel of Luke. I thank God for Luke's Gospel, because God's Spirit led him to give us more details about the events leading up to the story that stands. Now the question is: What is "the story that stands" all about? The answer to this question brings me to the main idea of this Christmas Message based on Luke 1:26-38. God, in Jesus Christ, came down to earth as a Baby to become the Savior of sinners. Focus on that message today and everyday. Why? It will help to slow you down and keep the right perspective on Christmas.
Luke 1:26-38 is a unique and uplifting passage of Scripture. There are four significant reasons why I consider this passage unique and uplifting. First of all, it is unique and uplifting because this story with its uplifting message is unique to Luke's Gospel. You won't find it in the other three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John. In fact, Luke's Gospel has more information about the events leading up to Jesus' birth and the actual birth than found in any other Gospel. As a matter of fact, almost 90% of the material covered in Luke 1-3:23 is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Oh what a wealth of knowledge we would be missing if we did not have this precious Gospel of Luke. Second, Luke 1:26-38 is unique and uplifting because it is only in this passage that the Person of the Lord Jesus is uniquely called "the Son of the Most High" [Greek: huios hypsistou]. In Mark 5:7 and Luke 8:28, a demoniac who had torn apart chains and broken shackles in pieces, on meeting the Person of the Lord Jesus, "cried out with a loud voice: What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" He expanded the title by adding "God." The title "Most High" emphasizes the power and might of God. Believers have a God of power and might. Third, this passage is unique and uplifting because this is the only time in human history that the power of the Most High overshadowed a virgin to give birth to the Divine Child. Please take not of this. Such a mysterious overshadowing which enabled the Virgin Mary to conceive the Holy One called the Son of God will never happen again in human history. God doesn't need to repeat it! Why? I tell you why! Because the Holy Offspring from the womb of the Virgin Mary is God's One and Only perfect solution to our sin problem. The Offspring, Jesus, offered one sacrifice for sins, for all time (Hebrews 10:12). Fourth and finally, Luke 1:26-38 is unique and uplifting because it is the only time in the entire Bible that an angelic messenger greeted a human being with the words: "Hail, favored one" [Greek: Chaire kecharitomene]. This is also rendered, "Greetings, you who are highly favored" (NIV). Actually, the words translated "Hail or Greetings" [chaire] and "favored one" or "highly favored" [kecharitomene] have the same root for "grace" or "favor" [charis]. But now the question is: Why is Mary highly favored? Mark this well! Mary is highly favored because she is a recipient of God's grace. And may I say to you, as a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a recipient of God's grace and therefore highly favored in His sight.
The purpose of this Christmas article is to show that Jesus, the Son of God, came to our planet to become the Savior of the world. He chose to do this through a virgin who had found favor with God. Mary never expected to be used in such a glorious way. But God used her to accomplish something far beyond her wildest dream. God is still bestowing favor on His people. As a believer in Jesus Christ, God's favor is upon you. His desire is to use you to accomplish His greater purpose. What a season to be reminded of this important truth! I wonder how God is going to use you during this season of celebrating His Son's birth! Let's be open to Him! Although the story is unique to Luke (no other Gospel writer recorded or reported on the events in Luke 1:26-38), yet its message is universal. I would therefore urge all of us to pay close attention to its refreshing truths and teachings.
For this unique and uplifting passage, we will first of all focus on the sending of the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:26-28. Secondly, we will discuss Mary's startling reaction to the angelic messenger in Luke 1:29. Thirdly, we will examine the special message given to Mary by Gabriel in Luke 1:30-33. Fourthly, we will consider the sincere question asked by Mary in Luke 1:34. Fifthly, we will deliberate on the supernatural birth of Jesus in Luke 1:35-37. Sixthly, we will look at Mary's submission to the will of God in Luke 1:38a. Finally, we will conclude this article with the discussion of the sudden departure of the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:38b.
I. Sending of the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-28)
This unique and uplifting story begins with the Bible's teaching on the sending of the angel Gabriel. The Bible simply says:
"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you'" Luke 1:26-28 (NASB).
Without mincing words, the Bible makes it very clear that it was God's purpose to send the angel Gabriel, whose name means "God is great." It also precisely identifies the place to which he was sent on planet earth, and the person to whom he was sent. We see these simple yet significant facts in verses 26-27 of Luke 1. Notice the Bible states that in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God. Now the question is: When is the sixth month? Is it June on our calendar? That's not what the Bible is teaching. What it is teaching here is that six months after the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias as recorded in Luke 1:8-25, he appears to Mary. The sixth month is also Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy. Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. Actually, Gabriel himself personally and plainly settles the question regarding when is the sixth month. In encouraging Mary's faith, he declares: "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month" (Luke 1:37). The inspired writer, Dr. Luke, is simply telling us that in a space of six months, the angel Gabriel was sent two times to planet earth, first to Jerusalem, and now to Nazareth.
The name "Nazareth" means "watchtower." It was situated in the territory belonging to Zebulun (meaning, "dwelling"). It is never mentioned in the Old Testament. It was somewhat secluded and isolated from the main trade routes. Here, it is called by Luke, a "polis," the Greek word which can often be translated "city." But Nazareth was an insignificant little village. Actually, its relatively insignificant size vastly contrasts with Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Israel, where Gabriel's previous appearance had taken place sixth months earlier. The writer of the Gospel of John sheds much light on how the Jews in the days of Jesus viewed Nazareth. Nazareth was viewed with contempt. John records the contemporary Judean opinion of Nazareth as expressed by Nathanael: "Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.' Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'" (John 1:45-46). You get the point. Nazareth had a bad wrap. It's a place where Jews expected nothing good to come from. But here the Bible tells us, God chose to send Gabriel to Nazareth. There is an important lesson here for us. Here is the lesson. No distance or disadvantage of place will prevent God from reaching those for whom He has favors in store. When God wanted a message delivered to Zacharias in the great and glorious city of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, He sent Gabriel. When God decided to bring a message to Mary, in the insignificant little village of Nazareth, in Galilee (which means circle or circuit), He sent Gabriel. Personally, I like Gabriel's attitude. He carries God's message as cheerfully to Mary in Nazareth as to Zacharias in the temple at Jerusalem. I tell you friends, when God desires, when God determines to deliver a message to you, He will do so whether you are in the White House in Washington D.C. or in the slums of Soweto in South Africa. Why? No distance or disadvantage of place will hinder Him from bringing His message to those He desires to reach. Personally, I am so grateful for this refreshing principle. God's message came to me when I was living in a little town of Anyako, in the Volta Region of Ghana, in West Africa.
Now someone asks: Is it really important to talk about the sending of the angel Gabriel? What's significant about that? What's the big deal about that as far as the Christmas Story is concerned? Well' I'm glad you've asked. Your questions are excellent. You see, the angel Gabriel didn't decide one day on his own to make a trip to earth. He didn't say to one of his fellow angels-"Look, I have a cute idea! Do you want to hear about it? I'm not really busy today. So, I'm planning on doing something fun today. Have you heard about Galilee? There is a village there called Nazareth. I think it will be fun for me to go there. When I get there, I'll talk to some of the people, including the Virgin Mary about some fun and ear-popping stuff. But don't worry! I'll get back in time before our next time of gathering around the throne of God to worship Him. See ya soon!" And vanishes from the invisible world into the visible world!
Now, what's the point of this fabricated story? The point is that the Christmas didn't originate with Gabriel. It was not angel Gabriel's idea. It was Almighty God's idea. Please mark this down! Holy angels like Gabriel do not act on their own. They only do exactly what God directs them to do. Speaking of holy angels, David says in the Spirit in Psalm 103:20-21: "Bless the LORD, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will." The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews also speaks of holy angels in these words: "Are they [referring to holy angels] not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14). The expected answer to his question is, yes! Yes indeed! Please be reminded! Unless God specifically commissions His holy angels to carry His message to those He desires, they do not leave His presence. Unless God Himself personally sends them, they do not act. So the sending of the angel Gabriel by God Himself is very important to the Christmas Story. It makes the Christmas Story credible and convincing. It tells us that the Christmas Story is His idea from start to finish. It also show how stupid and senseless it is for people to pray to angels. But you say: "Your words are harsh and hard to hear." Please listen! The holy angels of God only act on God's commands. You think if you are in trouble and call on angel Gabriel for help, he will leave the presence of God and run swiftly to your aid? I remind you friends, angel Gabriel, and for that matter, no angel, will come to your aid or bring you a message to you on his own authority and power. Unless God sends His holy angels they aren't going anywhere. They stay put. A few years ago, an elderly woman gave me a paper which she thought was great. It was about angels and their good works for mankind. I sort of knew where the article was trying to emphasize. Having listed the many numerous helps angels give to human, it ended with this statement: "If angels do so much for us, why should we not pray to them?' I was appalled at this statement. Because it completely ignored the Bible's clear teaching that holy angels act only on God's commands. Earlier, in his visit to Jerusalem Gabriel himself spoke of being sent. Speaking to Zacharias in the temple, Gabriel makes this confession in his response to Zacharias's question of doubt: "The angel answered and said to him, 'I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news" (Luke 1:19). The Greek word used for "sent" comes from the verb "apostello." This verb occurs here and in Luke 1:26. We get our English word "apostle" from "apostello." Gabriel himself was very aware that he was sent. He didn't just decide to take off to planet earth on his own authority.
Now would you please notice the person to whom the angel Gabriel was sent. You see, before Gabriel left the holy presence of God, God Himself personally picked out the recipient of His message. He didn't leave that decision to Gabriel to make upon his arrival in Nazareth. In verse 27, the Bible tells us three specific things about the person to whom Gabriel was sent. First of all, we are told, the person is a virgin [Greek: parthenos]. Actually, twice in this verse, the Bible identifies the person as a virgin. It says, "to a virgin engaged,"...and "the virgin's name..." The repetition is for emphasis. God doesn't want us to miss the point that the recipient of His message through Gabriel was indeed a virgin. The importance of the virgin birth cannot be overstated. Why? Here is why? The correct view of our Lord's incarnation hinges fully on the truth that Jesus was virgin born. In fact, both Luke (1:27) and Matthew (1:23,25) state plainly, expressly, explicitly, unmistakably, and unequivocally that Jesus was born of a virgin. In other words, the makes it clear that Jesus, the Savior of sinners, was virgin-born. But may I ask: Who is a virgin?
Dr. J. Vernon McGee carefully answers this question. He writes:
"A virgin is a woman who could never have a child in a natural was because she has never had a relationship with a man that would make the birth of a child possible."
It would interest you to know that Luke, a physician by profession, gives the most extended account of the virgin birth.
I found this insightful information on the virgin birth in the November/December 2012 edition of "Israel My Glory." It reads:
"There are some who like to hoot and holler over the word "virgin," saying the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14, almah, does not mean a literal "virgin." They argue that Isaiah simply used a Hebrew word that typically meant a normal "young woman" who would give birth. Therefore, no notion of a virgin birth was intended. However, the Septuagint's Jewish translators who lived before Christ was born, specifically chose the Greek word "parthenos," which means and "inviolate virgin." Both Luke and Matthew used the same Greek word in the New Testament (Luke 1:27; Matthew 1:23). The Septuagint should settle the question of what Isaiah meant when he wrote, 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive.'" ~Israel My Glory p. 9
Do you believe in the virgin birth? Are you ready to defend the Bible plain and prominent teaching of the virgin birth? If not, why not?.
The second thing the Bible teaches about the person to whom Gabriel was sent is that, the virgin was engaged or pledged to be married. Literally, "having been betrothed to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David." "Betrothal was a formal relationship that existed for six months to a year before the marriage was consummated." ~Adapted fromthe New Bible Companion, p. 512
"Since betrothal often took place after puberty, Mary may have just entered her teens. This relationship was legally binding, but intercourse was not permitted until marriage. Only divorce or death could sever betrothal; and in the latter event the girl, though unmarried, would be considered a widow." ~Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p. 830
The point here is that engagements in those days were definitely more legally binding than the engagements of our day.
The third and final thing the Bible teaches us about the person to whom the angel was sent is to disclose the person's name. The Bible simply says, "and the virgin's name was Mary" (Luke 1:27). The Greek for "Mary" is "Mariam." "Mary" is the Greek form of "Miriam," the Hebrew name of the first prophetess mentioned in the Bible, who was also the sister pf Moses and Aaron (see Exodus 15:21). "Miriam" in the Hebrew means "loved by Yahweh," that is, "loved by the Lord." What a lovely name given to Mary by her parents. The Bible portrays Mary as a humble and obedient individual whose heart was devoted to God (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; Acts 1:14). Someone says this of Mary:
"Occupation: Wife, Mother! Best known for: Her obedience to God's message through the angel Gabriel. Becoming the earthly mother of Jesus Christ even though she was a virgin. Her consistent presence with Jesus through His life."
What are you best know for as a believer in Jesus Christ? What would people remember you for as a Christian when all is said and done? Think about that!
Having clearly identified the person to whom the angel Gabriel was sent, the Bible now vividly describes Gabriel's first move upon appearing to Mary, that is, "the Amazing Announcement." When Gabriel appeared to Zacharias six months earlier, he did not give him greetings. He simply calmed Zacharias's fears and delivered his message (see Luke 1:11-25). But now Gabriel greets Mary at the beginning of his amazing announcement. The Bible records his greetings in verse 28: "And coming in, he said to her, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." Gabriel's greetings literally reads: "Hail, having been favored one, the Lord is with you." This is also rendered as: "Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you" (NIV). The Greek word for "Hail" or "Greetings" [chaire], is "Ave" in Latin, from which comes "Ave Maria" or in English, "Hail Mary." This phrase is a sacred phrase and very significant for the Roman Catholics. I cannot tell you how many times I addressed Mary that way when I recited my rosary as a Catholic boy. But thank God, today I pray directly to God through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.
Now, would you please notice that the Bible does not tell us what Mary was doing or where exactly she was in Nazareth when the angel came to her to make the amazing announcement. Personally, I thank God He didn't. You know why? A shrine would have been built there for Mary worshipers to visit daily or annually. Wherever there is a so-called apparition of Mary, a statue and a shrine are built. Thousands flock such sites to pray and worship the Virgin Mary. But when the angel Gabriel visited her, he did not worship her or pray to her. We are simply told he greeted her with words she probably never heard in her life. Actually, the expression "favored one" or "highly favored" [kecharitomene] has the same root as the words for "Greetings" or "Hail" [chaire] and favor [charin] in verse thirty. The Greek verb from which "highly favored" comes "charitoo," also means 'to be acceptable," "to bestow grace upon," or "to give grace to." The Bible is therefore clearly teaching here that Mary is highly favored simply because she is a recipient of God's grace. Please get this! Mary is not a dispenser of divine grace. She does not give grace. That is not what she is called to do. Only the God of grace gives grace. Mary is simply a recipient of divine grace. Actually, a similar combination of words occurs in Ephesians 1:6 where the Bible says: "to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." The expression "freely bestowed" is the same Greek word as for "favored one" [charitoo]. Luke 1:28 and Ephesians 1:6 are the only places in the New Testament where the verb charitoo occurs, translated respectively as "favored one" and "freely bestowed." The "grace" in view here is that which is given to all believers apart from any merit of theirs. It's like God is reminding believers that what He did for Mary, He has done for them as well. A believer in Jesus Christ is also a recipient of God's grace.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are missing out on one of the God's richest gifts-His gift of grace, which He freely, fully, and faithfully bestows on all who put their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins-past, present, and future.
In addition to affirming to Mary that she is a recipient of God's grace, the angel Gabriel also assures her that the Lord is with her. One of the ways in which Old Testament believers greet each other is shown in Ruth 2:4. When Boaz came from Bethlehem, he greeted his workers with these words: "May the LORD be with you!" and they said; "May the LORD bless you." What a wonderful way for Christians to greet each other today-invoking the presence of God and the blessing of God one each other. I think greeting each other this way is far better than saying: "Hey dude! What's up?" Yes, you can laugh if this cracks you up.
Actually the expression "the Lord is with you" calls to mind the way the angel of the Lord addressed Gideon to assure him of God's help in the assignment he was about to receive in Judges 6:12. Similarly, Gabriel is assuring Mary of God's sure and steadfast help in the great and glorious call upon here life to become the Mother of the Messiah and Savior of the world. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God wants to assure you today of His presence with you. The Lord Jesus Himself gave His disciples this comforting and uplifting promise before leaving to heaven: "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"(Matthew 28:20). I tell you friends, no attack or accusation, no battle or betrayal, no crisis or circumstance, no difficulty or distress, no foe or fray, no hardship or heartache, no obstacle or opposition, no problem or predicament, is to be despaired of, if you have the Lord with you. Please be reminded of this simple yet significant teaching. "The Lord is with you," is not a clich�, rather it is a confident booster for the believer in Jesus Christ. But you ask, why is it a confident booster for the believer? Please listen! If the Lord is with you, that is, if His presence is with you; you can count on His power to work on your behalf. You can be assured of His protection in your life. You can receive His pardon. You can rely on His to fulfill His promises for your life. You can trust Him for His provisions for your life. You can enjoy His peace no matter what life throws at you. You can be confident that He will be patient with you. But the question is: Do you as a believer in Jesus Christ walk with confident assurance that the Lord is with you? Do you practice His presence as Brother Lawrence did many years ago? If not! Why not?
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, please let me say to you, you are not only missing out on receiving God's free grace in Jesus, but you are also missing out on the Lord's presence with you. This, I tell you friend, is the greatest gift of Christmas-God's presence in Jesus Christ, not the presents under the Christmas tree. You can receive this gift by simply acknowledging to God that you a sinner. Accept the forgiveness Jesus is offering you for all your sins on the basis of His sacrifice on the cross. Admit that you can't save yourself from your sins. Allow Jesus to have the joy of saving you by putting your trust in Him today!
II. Startling reaction to the angelic messenger (Luke 1:29)
Having clearly and concisely presented to us Gabriel's sudden appearance and his unexpected greetings to Mary, the Bible now vividly describes her startling reaction to the angelic messenger.
Have you been startled before? What did you do? How did you feel in that moment? I remember vividly a startling experience in my life as a teenager. It was a clear and calm day. The sun was setting. I was holding my little baby nephew in my lap while sitting in the courtyard. Suddenly, from the flat concrete roof, something fell flat on my head. In my fear and panic, I threw my little baby nephew from my hands right onto the cement floor of the courtyard. That was the only way I could free my hands in my state of panic. I reached for my head and thrust away whatever fell on my head. Lo and behold, it was big male lizard that had fallen unexpectedly on my head. Why he did it, I'm still not certain. Perhaps, he wanted a first landing spot that was not too far from the roof. And then from there, to the ground. That way, he would lessen the impact and the pain of falling to the ground directly from the roof. Anyway, when I came to my sense, I heard my little baby nephew, Rex, crying distressfully at the top of his voice. He had been startled more than me and suffered physically and emotionally more than me. My fear turned to pity. I picked him up back into my arms to calm him down. Later, I was so mad at Mr. Big Lizard for startling me and saddened that in my fear, I unintentionally hurt my little nephew.
Well, Mary had a startling experience of her own in the little insignificant village of Nazareth. Notice what the Bible says in Luke 1:29:
"But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what can of salutation this was" Luke 1:29 (NASB).
I tell you folks, when the supernatural touches the natural, it always creates fear. Mary was no exception. We are told in Luke 1:12 that when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in the temple in Jerusalem, he was troubled and gripped with fear at the very appearance of the angelic messenger. But in Mary's case, it was the angel's words, namely his greeting (Luke 1:28)-that greatly disturbed her. The Bible is teaching here that Mary was greatly troubled, terrified, disturbed, deeply confused, or perplexed [Greek: diatarasoo], not so much at the sight of Gabriel, but more so at the saying of Gabriel.
Bible Commentator Matthew shares this insight about Mary's reaction to Gabriel:
"Had she been a proud ambitious young woman, that aimed high, and flattered herself with the expectation of great things in the world, she would have been pleased at his saying, would have been puffed up with it, and (as we have reason to think she was a young woman of very good sense) would have had an answer ready, signifying so much but, instead of that, she is confounded at it, as not conscious to herself of anything that either merited or promised such great things; and she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. Was it from heaven or of men? Was it to amuse her? Was it to ensnare her? Was it to banter her? Or was there something substantial and weighty in it? But, of all the thoughts she had as to what manner of salutation it should be, I believe she had not the least idea of its being ever intended or used for a prayer, as it is, and has been for many ages, by the corrupt degenerate, and anti-Christian ages of the Church, and to be ten times repeated for the Lord's prayer once, so it is in the church of Rome." -Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. V, p. 584
The Bible tells us Mary also kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. After the initial shock, Mary was able to think about what this encounter and the angel's greeting were all about. The Greek word translated "kept pondering" is "dialogizomai." Our English word "dialogue" derives from this verb. This Greek verb also means "to reason," "to consider," "discourse, whether in silence with oneself or by speech with others." Mary reasoned silently in her mind or discoursed with herself what the salutation of Gabriel was all about. In fact, would continue the practice of pondering things the rest of her life. Recall when the shepherds came to Bethlehem to tell what the angel told them about the birth of Jesus, the Christ and Lord, Mary, we are told, treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:19). Do you, like Mary, treasure and ponder in your heart the truths and teachings of God? Do you have a habit of pondering the promises of God?
An important set of questions arises in our story at this juncture. Why was Gabriel sent to Mary? Why did Gabriel come from the invisible world to the visible world? What was his God-given purpose for coming to the little insignificant village of Nazareth? To just scare Mary? To startle her? To show her what the face of a holy angel looks like? You know, and I know that, none of these was the reason for which God sent Gabriel from the invisible world into the visible world. The angel Gabriel was specifically sent to deliver a special message from God to Mary about her privileged role in the birth of Jesus, the Savior and the Son of God.
III. Special message from God to Mary about the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:30-33)
Since the Greek word for "angel" [aggelos] means a messenger, one who announces, proclaims or brings a message, the Bible now focuses on the special message from God to Mary about the birth of Jesus. This special message is also called "the Annunciation of Jesus' Birth." Several important truths are enshrined in the annunciation recorded in Luke 1:30-33. We will take care careful note of these truths as we dig deeper into these verses. Notice what the Bible says there.
"And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end" Luke 2:30-33 (NASB).
Please notice that before angel Gabriel delivers the special message from God to the Virgin Mary, he first clams her fears and assures her that she has indeed found favor with God. "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (v. 30). This literally reads: "Fear not, Mary, for you did find favor with God." The expression "fear not," is essentially the very same thing Gabriel said to Zacharias when he appeared to him six months earlier in the Jerusalem temple (Luke 1:13). Actually, the form of the Greek expression "fear not," or "do not be afraid" [me phobou] is better rendered "stop being fearful" or "stop being afraid." Remember Mary was greatly troubled or disturbed. In other words, fear, has taken hold of her heart. Knowing very well that fear would rob Mary of receiving the message God had for her, angel Gabriel acted quickly and decisively to calm the startled and fearful Mary. I tell you friends, fear is a robber. Fear is a thief. It will rob you and I from receiving the message God wants us to receive. It will steal the blessing God wants us to have. Thank God, He always acts quickly and decisively to calm our fears. Mary was not left in a state of panic and fear. How loving! How precious! How encouraging! What the angel Gabriel did for Mary, the Holy Spirit is willing to do in our lives as believers in Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you: What fears are you facing today? What is the fear that is buried deep down in your heart? Failure? Financial challenges? Family problems? Fear that your marriage may not survive the tough times? Fear of rejection? Foreclosure? Failing health? Fear of the future? Fear of being forsaken or forgotten? Fear of death? May I say to you, on the authority of God's Word, that God Almighty is very interested in dealing with that fear. He wants to deliver you from that fear. Would you turn to God with the fear in your heart? It doesn't matter what your fear is, if you would humbly turn to God with that fear, I guarantee you, God will deal with it, calming and comforting your heart. But the question is: Do you desire for God to deal with the fears in your heart? Or do you want to continue to be enslaved by the fears in your heart? The choice is yours! My heart's desire is that you would not allow any fear to continue to dominate your life. God is willing to take care of it. Turn to Him and you will find the calming peace and quiet assurance that Mary enjoyed in the presence angel Gabriel.
Now would you please notice the reason Gabriel gives to Mary to stop being afraid. He assures her just in a few words that she had indeed found favor with the supreme God of the universe. How special is that! You can summarize Gabriel's introductory words to the annunciation in the words: "Fear not...found favor with God." Gabriel is simply telling Mary: "You have found favor with God. Therefore, you should not give way to disquieting and distrustful fears. Fear not, though the world frown upon you. You have found favor with God." Actually, the words, "you have found favor with God" takes us back in time to Genesis where Noah is spoken of as having found favor with God. Mary, like Noah, found favor with the sovereign God of the universe. God has sovereignly chosen to give Mary the glorious privilege of playing a part in His great plan of redemption. In fact, you can say that whenever a person finds favor with God in Scripture that person was greatly used of God. Noah found favor with God, and was greatly used of God in his generation (Genesis 6-9). Abraham found favor with God (Genesis 17-18), and was made a father of a multitude of a nation. Joseph found favor with God (Genesis 37-50), and rose from being a prisoner to the position of a prime minister in Egypt. Moses also found favor with God (Exodus 2-33), and was mightily used of God to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Now the Bible tells us, Mary has also found favor with God and will play a privileged and unique role in the birth of the Savior of the world. I tell you friends, when the favor of Almighty God, the supreme, sovereign, and self-sufficient ruler and possessor of the universe is upon your life, He will be so pleased to use you. Yes, even you and me, in accomplishing something far greater and far glorious than our wildest imagination. When God bestows His favor upon His children, He is so delighted to use them to fulfill a far greater purpose-His divine purpose. This is exactly what is about to happen in the life of the Virgin Mary. God is so pleased and delighted to use her in His awesome plan of redemption-a plan which is far glorious than Mary's wildest dream! Because of God's favor upon Mary's life, her life was fulfilling. Her life was fruitful. Her life flourished. She experienced fullness to the point of joyfully declaring her song of praise: "The Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name" (Luke 1:49).
Do you know that the favor of God was upon the Lord Jesus Himself? The Bible tells us in Luke 2:40: "And the Child [referring to Jesus] continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." No wonder, our Lord's life was fulfilling, fruitful, and flourished.
Please note this! Without the favor not God upon your life,-your life and mine will full of fear. Your life and mine will be full of frustration. Your life and mine will be fruitless. Your life and mine will be a failure. Your life and mine be marked by futility. I tell you friends, God's favor upon your life and mine makes an eternal difference. With it, your life and mine will be fulfilling. Without it, your life and mine will be a failure as far as God's purposes are concerned. Perhaps, that is why the psalmist passionately cried out to God in prayer: "Remember me, O LORD, in Your favor toward Your people; visit me with Your salvation" (Psalm 106:4).
Now someone asks: Is it possible for God's favor to be upon my life? The answer: Yes indeed! You don't need the angel Gabriel to come and say that to you. Why? Jesus Christ has opened wide the door of God's favor to sinners like us. All you need to do to begin experiencing the awesome privilege of God's favor upon your life is to put your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all your sins-great or small, secret or overt, past, present, and future. He is willing to forgive your sins and pour out His favor upon your life. Do you know why Jesus will do that for you? Here is why? Jesus died on the cross so that we can receive pardon for our sins. Jesus bore our punishment-that is, the wrath of God against our sins. Jesus' death delivers us from the penalty of sin. The death He died, He died to sin in order to break the power of sin over our lives. And in the future, Jesus will deliver us from the presence of sin. By turning to Jesus and trusting Him wholeheartedly, you will be wonderfully saved and begin the life of experiencing the favor of God upon your life. Like Mary, your life will be fulfilling and fruitful to the praise of God's glory.
Actually, the Greek word translated "favor" [charin ~from charis], also means "a kindness granted," "a benefit," "grace," "acceptance." It speaks of a favor done without expectation of return, absolute freeness of the lovingkindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the Giver. It is unmerited and unearned favor. ~The Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, p. 1886.
Personally, I thank God for being the God of favor, who, out of His free-heartedness, is so willing to lavish His incredible and inexhaustible grace upon such a worm as me, who has been wonderfully redeemed by the blood of Christ.
Now notice the first important truth to be made known to Mary in the special message being delivered to her. It has to do with the foretelling of the birth of Jesus. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus" (Luke 1:31). Angel Gabriel begins the foretelling of Jesus' birth in a rather dramatic fashion. Notice the Bible says: "And behold," [Greek: kai idou]. The term "behold" [idou] is used here to introduce something new and quite extraordinary, which calls for special attention in the situation. It is a call to closer consideration and contemplation. It sometimes serves to enliven a narrative by arousing the attention of hearers or readers. It is as if the angel Gabriel is saying to Mary, "I am about to tell you something new and dramatic and extraordinary, which calls for special attention. Therefore, pay close attention to what I am about to say to you and take it to heart. You are about hear why my preliminary assurance of your having found favor with God is so significant for you. Even though you are a virgin, you will have the glorious honor of being a mother-yes, the mother of the Savior of the world." It should be noted that the wording in Luke 1:31 is virtually identical to Isaiah 7:14 (Septuagint) and to the assurance the angel of the LORD gave to Hagar (Genesis 16:11). Later, God Himself used similar words with Abraham regarding the birth of Isaac by Sarah who was past childbearing age (Genesis 17:19).
I like Gabriel. I wished I had his communication skills. He was very specific, succinct, and straight to the point. Using the language of certainty, he tells Mary she will bear a Son. "Mary, what I am telling you is carefully planned by God. It is not a coincidence or chance event." Gabriel also tells her specifically the name to call her Son. It is Jesus. The name Jesus had been common in Old Testament times and continued to be a popular name through the first century A.D. (TDNT, 3:284-93). Actually, Jesus is a transliteration of the Hebrew name "Yeshua," which we know from the Old Testament as "Joshua." The name itself means "Yahweh is salvation" or "the Lord is salvation." Names were important, and even Jesus' name pointed toward the reason for His birth. Matthew 1:21 provides an explanation for calling the Son Mary is bear Jesus. "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." You see, it was not as if Mary and Joseph sat down as parents do today to decide on a name. The name was selected by God Himself and announced to Mary by Gabriel, the angelic from heaven, who stands in the presence of God. Gabriel is simply telling Mary: "What the world desperately need is a Savior to save it from the stranglehold and slavery to sin, Satan, and self. This Savior is Jesus." This reminds me of the song: "Thank You Lord, for saving my soul. Thank You Lord, for making me whole. Thank You Lord, for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free." Sing it. Let Jesus know that you are grateful to Him for saving your soul from sin. Personally, during daily time with the Lord, God's Spirit reminds me to sing this song in gratefulness to Jesus my Lord and Savior.
Dr. McGee writes this on the birth Jesus through a woman:
"It is so easy to say that a woman brought sin into the world, but remember, it was a woman, and not a man, who brought the Savior in the world."
Mary, a virgin, living in poverty and obscurity, was given the unique privilege of becoming the Mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Savior the world desperately needs. Is Jesus your personal Savior today? Is Jesus your sin-bearer? Do you have salvation in Jesus? He is the only One through whom you can obtain salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Do you have assurance of salvation in Jesus?
The second important truth in the special message delivered to Mary deals with the fame of Jesus. In the first part of verse 32, the Bible proudly says this of Jesus: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High." Actually, the same promise of "he will be great" was made of John the Baptist in Luke 1:15. But may I say to you, the greatness or the fame of John the Baptist pales in comparison to that of the Person of the Lord Jesus. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is superior to angels. It also reveals to us that Jesus is far greater than Moses. He is greater than Aaron the high priest and all the high priests of the Aaronic priesthood. And certainly, Jesus is greater than John the Baptist. A fact, John the Baptist did not dispute but humbly acknowledged. Giving what seems to be one of his final public testimonies to the Jews, John the Baptist says: "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11; cf. John 1:26-27). Later, in his final witness of Jesus, John says of Jesus: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). This verse is one of my life verses. The point here is that, when it comes to the greatness or fame of Jesus, one can confidently say that He is in a distinguished class all by Himself. I tell you friends, Jesus is truly great, incontestably great as to His Person and Work.
In fact, the subsequent title given to Jesus, "the Son of the Most High or the Highest" [huios hypsistou] sets Him apart from all others. This title is a striking and special term. In all of the Bible, Jesus alone is called by the title, "the Son of the Most High." In other words, it is unique to Jesus. Later, John the Baptist is called "the prophet of the Most High" (Luke 1:76). But Jesus alone is called "the Son of the Most High,"which puts Him in a different category of fame altogether. To be called "the Son of the Most High" reveals Jesus' identity as the unique Son of God. He is the Divine Son of God and the Messiah born in time. This title also signifies Jesus' equality with God. In other words, Jesus is of the same nature with the Father and very dear to Him.
Bible Teacher and Author John MacArthur writes:
"Since a son bears his father's qualities, calling a person someone else's "son" was a way of signifying equality. Here the angel was telling Mary that her Son would be equal to the Most High God." ~The MacArthur Commentary, pp.1272-73
What fame! What greatness! Jesus deserves it all!
The third significant truth communicated to Mary in God's special message to her has to do with Jesus' full right and claim to the Messianic throne. Speaking with the language of certainty and great conviction, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her Son alone has the full right and claim to the Messianic throne. "And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David" (Luke 1:32b). David's throne was emblematic of the messianic kingdom. This establishes Jesus as the Messiah. It affirms His messiahship. No doubt, His divine sonship is linked with His messiahship as shown in the prophetic passages such as 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Pss. 2:2-9; 89:26-29). Please note that the description of Jesus' Messianic destiny follows the statement of His sonship, and that sonship is related in verse 35 to His divine origin. Clearly Luke sees the Messianic vocation as a function of God's Son, rather than seeing sonship as just an aspect of messiahship. ~Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p. 831
Now please notice that the giving of the throne of David to Jesus is to be done by the Lord God Himself. This means the giving of the Messianic throne is not left in the hands of the Jewish people or any other group of people. It is not subject to the vote of the people. God Himself has decided to give the throne of David to Jesus. This means the matter is settled once for all. People will not give Jesus that throne. They will not acknowledge Jesus' right to rule them. But the Lord God Himself has made a firm and an unalterable decision to give Jesus the full right to rule them. Blessed be the Lord! His purpose to give the throne of David to Jesus will not be thwarted.
The fourth part of the special message delivered to Mary deals with the future reign of Jesus. In the first part of verse thirty three, Gabriel confidently says: "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever-literally, unto the ages." The Greek verb translated "reign" (basileuo) also means "to be king," "to rule." It applies to God, to Christ, to those who belong to Christ (Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5). The usage here as applied to Jesus Christ means to have predominance. I tell you friends, a day is coming soon when Jesus will have predominance and be the undisputed, unchallenged preeminent one of the universe. The Bible is here emphasizing both the Jewish character of the Millennial kingdom and the eternal preeminence of Jesus' rule and reign over all. Isaiah 9:7 says of Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of peace: "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this." Please make no mistake about this! The future reign of Christ is never to be disputed. It's never to be doubted! And I tell you friends, it will never be delayed. It will be manifested in all its fullness and glory at God's appointed time.
Now, we come to the fifth and final important truth disclosed in God's special message to Mary through Gabriel. It centers on Jesus' faithful and enduring kingdom. The angel literally says in the second part of verse thirty three: "And of the kingdom of Him there will not be an end." Jesus' kingdom is an eternal kingdom. Other kings and kingdoms do not endure to every generation. But Christ's does. Oh yes, His role as Mediator will one day be finished as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. But the kingdom of the Father and Son as one, will never end. Actually the prophet Daniel speaks Christ's faithful and enduring kingdom this way: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever" (Daniel 2:44).
What a special message that was delivered to Mary by Gabriel, the angel who stands in the presence of God. It is a message that obviously refers to Jesus' first Advent (vv. 31-32a) as well as His Second Coming as King of kings and Lord of lords (vv. 32b-33). In fact, the message looked to the past, present, and future. Reminding us that God's dealings with His believing children take into account our past, present, and future. How encouraging! Certainly, this was a message Mary never forgot. And it's a message we should never forget. It's a message that focuses on the foretelling of the birth, the fame, the full right and claim of, the future rule and reign, and the faithful and enduring kingdom of the One around whom human history revolves-Jesus, the Son of the Most High, Ruler of an everlasting kingdom. Have you embraced this message? Has this message changed your life? Have you been diligent in spreading this message about Jesus, around whom all of human history revolves?
IV. Sincere question (Luke 1:34)
Having clearly, concisely, and convincingly presented the special message from God to Mary, the Bible now describes for us Mary's sincere question. There are those who teach that people should not ask God questions because it is a sign of distrust and doubt. But that is not an accurate representation of the Bible's teaching. God knows that asking honest and heartfelt questions is one of the ways we learn. So He has no problems if we ask Him questions as His believing children. But here is the catch. God wants us to ask Him sincere, heartfelt, honest questions that will help us learn and grow in our faith in Him. This is exactly what Mary did here. The Bible says:
"And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" Luke 1:34 (NASB).
The last part of Mary's question, literally reads, "since I know no man." Do you know the first person to question the virgin birth in a sincere and honest way? It was Mary herself. She asks the angel: "How will this be? How can this be, since a man I know not? Let me know how this birth will take place angel Gabriel. You say, even though am a virgin, I will be the Mother of the Messiah, the Son of the Most High! Instruct me further in this matter. I desire to know how this will come about. How could I bear a child when I had never had relations with a man. Please let me know." You see, "Mary understood that the angel was speaking of an immediate conception, and she and Joseph were still in the midst of the long betrothal, before the actual marriage and consummation. Her question was borne out of wonder, not doubt, nor disbelief." ~MacArthur, p. 1273
In other words, "unlike Zechariah, Mary does not ask for a confirmatory sign but only light on how God would accomplish this wonder. As Luke has it, the question does not relate to the remarkable person and work of her promised Son but arises from the fact that she does not know [ou ginosko, i.e., has not sexual relations with] a man." ~Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p. 831
Because Mary's question was sincere, honest, and heartfelt, not asked out of doubt, distrust, or disbelief, the angel did not rebuke her as he had Zechariah (see Luke 1:20). It's amazing the discernment Gabriel has! He was able to discern the unbelief, doubt, and distrust behind Zacharias's question, which at first glance, seems to be honest. Zacharias asked: "How shall I know this for certain? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years" (Luke 1:18). The question seems honest. But Gabriel's discerning eyes saw the disbelief and doubt behind the question. But he was also able to discern that Mary's question was one of wonder, not of doubt. Her question was sincere. It was honest, free of doubt. Do you come to God with honest and heartfelt questions? If so, ask Him. He will not frown nor rebuke you. But if you come to Him with questions that express doubt, distrust, and disbelief in Him or in His word to you, be ready for a stern rebuke from God. He will rebuke you because He loves you and wants you to mature in Him.
V. Supernatural birth of the Son of God (Luke 1:35-37)
The angel Gabriel was fully prepared for his mission to Mary in Nazareth in Galilee. Mary's question didn't catch him flat-footed. It didn't baffle him. It didn't surprise him nor did it catch him scratching his head. His answer to Mary can be summed up in these words: " a supernatural birth." Without wasting time and speaking with great confidence and conviction of heart, Gabriel proceeds to tell Mary that the birth of her Son, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God, will indeed be a supernatural birth-one of a kind-a miracle of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Godhead. "To Mary's problem of "How?"-it seemed impossible to human reckoning-God's answer is "the Holy Spirit." ~Macdonald, The Believer's Commentary, p. 1371.
Notice the angel's confident answer to Mary:
"And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God."" Luke 1:35-37 (NASB).
In effect, the angel is saying to Mary: "A divine power will accomplish this birth. Not the power of an angel will be employed in this supernatural work, as in other works of wonder, but the power of the Person of the Holy Spirit Himself. In other words, no man, no prophet, no priest, and yes, no angel will have anything to do with the birth of the Son of the Most High. This birth will be the creative act of the Holy Spirit Himself, not the sort of divine-human cohabitation often portrayed in pagan mythology."
Actually, Luke mentions the Holy Spirit repeatedly in the first two chapters of his gospel to emphasize the prominent and powerful role He played in the incarnation story (Luke 1:15, 35, 41, 47; 2:25, 26, 27). Most often, when the Christmas Story is told, the Holy Spirit is treated as a "Forgotten Character." His role is rarely or only briefly mentioned. But that was not the case with angel Gabriel. He emphasized the prominent role of the Holy Spirit in the supernatural birth of Jesus. It would interest you to know that angel Gabriel is a Trinitarian. He believes in One God in Three Persons. In his special message to Mary, he spoke of Jesus as the Son of the Most High and later as the Son of God. He also spoke of God the Father, calling Him "the Lord God." Now he speaks of the Third Person in the Godhead as the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. What a lesson Mary was taught about the Three Persons in the Godhead by the angel Gabriel who stands in the presence of God! Gabriel explains to Mary that the supernatural birth will occur when the Holy Spirit comes upon her and the power of the Most High overshadows her. Now, what does Gabriel mean by using the word "overshadow" (episkiazo)? Episkiazo refers to a mysterious expression for that which enabled Mary to give birth to the Divine Child. "It carries the sense of the holy, powerful presence of God, as in the description of the cloud that "covered" (Hebrew: sakan, or "settled upon") the tabernacle when the tent was filled with the glory of God (Exodus 40:35; cf. Psalm 91:4). ~Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p. 832
Let this be made clear! The use of "overshadowing" does not refer to a carnal union of a pagan god with a woman producing some kind of semi-divine offspring! This is not what Gabriel is telling Mary! The Bible speaks here of a spiritual overshadowing by the Holy Spirit that will produce the Holy One, who had no sin nature, and who never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). In fact,episkiazo is used in all three accounts of the Transfiguration to describe the overshadowing of the cloud (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). Likewise, in each account the voice comes out of the cloud identifying Jesus as God's Son, a striking reminder of Luke 1:35 where the life that results from the enveloping cloud is identified as the Son of God. ~Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p.832
Gabriel goes on to explain to Mary that because the power of God, that is, the power of the Person of the Holy Spirit, is involved in bringing into being her Child, this Child is Himself called by Gabriel, "the Holy Offspring" or "the Holy One,"-literally "the Holy thing begotten" [to gennomenon hagion]. This expression reads: "the thing being born holy." Because of the Holy Spirit's involvement and the meaning of the "holy" [chaste, pure] the angel is making it clear to Mary her Son's purity. In other words, she is being told that she is not bringing a sinner into the world. Rather, she is bringing One who is altogether holy, pure, into the world. This Child would not and could not share in the common corruption and pollution of human nature. You see, the union with man and woman can only produce a child with a sin nature. God's only way of bringing the "Holy One" into the human family is through the virgin birth, in which the Holy Spirit overshadows the virgin. Speaking in the Spirit, David, the sweet psalmist, prophet, and king of Israel, humbly and honestly makes this solemn admission in Psalm 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." This is true of all humans from the birth of Cain. It is true of me. It is true of you whether you accept it or not. But that is not the case with Mary's Son. Her Son would be different. He would be virgin-born through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and so is "the Holy One."
Gabriel goes a step further by confidently declaring that the "Holy One" "shall be called the Son of God" [klethesetai huios theou]. In effect, the angel says: "Mary, let this be known to you. Your Son will actually be God manifest in the flesh." In other words, from conception Jesus was fully God and fully Man without a sin nature. This is truly the wonder of wonders! I confess to you, language cannot explain and exhaust the mystery that is hidden here.
As Gabriel faithfully and confidently explains to Mary how the supernatural birth would occur, I believe he could see faith arising and taking hold in Mary's heart. Desiring to encourage her further in her faith, Gabriel breaks the news to Mary that her relative Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy. This is what verse thirty six is all about. "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month." The birth of John the Baptist is obviously miraculous. But it is a virgin birth. Gabriel is simply saying that this miracle should boost and bolster Mary's faith in God and in His word. In other words, he cites the pregnancy of Elizabeth as further evidence of God's marvelous power. You see, God loves to encourage the faith of His believing children. Nothing pleases Him more than our steadfast and strong faith in Him. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him." Mary's faith was important to God. As such, He used the miraculous birth of John the Baptist to strengthen her faith in Him and in His word.
Now the question is: How is Mary related to Elizabeth? The Bible makes it clear that Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. It states in Luke 1:5 that she was of priestly descent-"from the daughters of Aaron," that is, both husband and wife were from the priestly tribe. Therefore, Mary must have been related to Elizabeth through her mother, who would have been of a descendant of Aaron. So, Mary was a descendant of David through her father. The Bible has already affirmed that Joseph was a descendant of David (Luke 1:27; Matthew 1:16). So Jesus could rightly be called a "Son of David."
Please notice Gabriel concludes his explanation of the supernatural birth with further faith boosting words. "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Literally, "because will not be impossible with God every word" [hoti ouk adunatesei para tou theou pan rhema]. This is surely one of the most reassuring statements in all Scripture. It states a great truth of certainty, confidence, and conviction. But please take careful note of this. As reassuring as this statement is, as confident-generating as this great truth is, as faith boosting as this truth is, it is sad that some Christians distort and twist its true meaning. Here is what I want you to understand so as not to distort or misuse or misapply this great and reassuring truth of Scripture. There is nothing impossible with God when He has determined, desired, or decreed to do it. But God will not do the impossible we desire or ask of Him. Dr McGee writes:
"Many people use this verse as a cliche to cover up the fact that they want their own selfish desires. Anything God determines to do He can accomplish, because there is nothing impossible with God. But that does not mean He will do everything believers want Him to do, because some things are not included in His plan. Let us put everything in proper perspective before we do a lot of talking that will hurt and harm the cause of Jesus Christ rather help it."~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. IV. p. 248
Remember, God gave a promise that seemed humanly impossible to Abraham. His wife, Sarah was way past childbearing years. Abraham was as good as dead. Humanly speaking it was impossible to have a child. Because this was what God desired, decreed, and determined to do for Abraham and Sarah, we are told, "with respect to the promise of God, he [referring to Abraham] did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able to perform" (Romans 4:20-21). I tell you friends, God will do the impossible that He Himself has promised or purposed or planned, not the impossible I want Him to do, which has nothing to do with His divine plan and purpose. Bible Commentator Matthew Henry share this insight: "No word of God must be incredible to us, as long as no work of God is impossible to him."
VI. Submission to the will of God (Luke 1:38a)
With great patience and poise, the angel Gabriel clearly and confidently explains how the supernatural birth will occur. The question is: How would Mary respond to his clear and confident explanation? Mary's response reveals her submission to the will of God. Though Mary was in an extremely embarrassing and difficult position, though she was facing the stigma of unwed motherhood, though she would be facing accusation of adultery-a sin punishable by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:13-21; cf. John 8:3-5); yet, Mary willingly and wholeheartedly submitted to the will of God revealed to her through the angel Gabriel. The Bible vividly describes her submission in these lovely words:
"And Mary said, 'Behold, the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word'" Luke 1:38a (NASB).
Notice Mary calls herself a "bondslave" [doule], literally, "handmaid," that is, a female slave or servant. Her exemplary attitude of servanthood reminds us of that of Hannah, when she was praying for a son (1 Samuel 1:11, where the Septuagint (LXX) also has "doule," -servant. But please understand that Mary's servanthood is not a cringing slavery, but a submission to God that in Old Testament times marked genuine believers. In her submission to God, Mary says in effect: "Lord, I am at your service, at Your disposal. I make myself available to You, to do what You have commanded me. I wholeheartedly and humbly yield myself to You for the accomplishment of Your wondrous purposes in and through my life. I choose not to dwell on the danger of ruining my upcoming marriage and blemishing my reputation. I leave this issue with You and submit entirely to You." Oh beautiful submission! Oh blessed surrender! Mary exemplified it so well to us.
Please notice Mary only desired what God had decreed to happen in her life. She says: "May it be done to me according to your word" [rhema]. Trusting submission, true surrender, is guided by and grounded on the word of God. Here we see, Mary's lovely and living example of true discipleship in submitting fully to God's word and promise. Unlike Zacharias, Mary's response carried no request for a sign. She simply submitted herself to the Lord, and surrendered willingly to His will. Total servanthood! Trusting submission! True surrender!
Actually, Mary's response of saying, "may it be done to me according to your word" recalls the earnest plea of the psalmist. "Remember the word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope" (Psalm 119:49). Like Mary and the psalmist; are your desires guided by the word of God? Are your hopes grounded on the promise of God? Is your life characterized by total servanthood, trusting submission, true surrender to God and to His will for your life?
VII. Sudden departure of the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38b)
Having successfully completed the divine task given to him, angel Gabriel didn't linger in Nazareth. Mary had wholeheartedly embraced his message and expressed unwavering faith in God. There was therefore no need for Gabriel to loiter about or hang around on earth. And so the ends this remarkable section with the sudden departure of the angel Gabriel, back into the invisible but real world.
The Bible simply says: "And the angel departed from her" Luke 1:38b (NASB).
Gabriel wasted no time in returning to the presence of God, to give a detailed account of his mission in Nazareth, and wait to receive new instructions. And so, just as he suddenly appeared from the invisible world into the visible world, so also he suddenly disappeared from the visible world into the invisible world. You see, encounters with angelic beings in this age is always a transient thing, and soon it's over. However, in the age to come, our encounter with them in our glorified state as believers will be constant and permanent. I must also point out that Gabriel didn't need to stay on earth to guard and protect Mary until the Holy Child is born. God is capable of guarding and protecting her from heaven.
I have just written to you about the story that stands. The heart of this story is this: God, in Jesus Christ, came down to earth as a Baby to become the Savior of sinners like you and me. This story stands because it is true. It is trustworthy. It is credible and convincing. It is a story that focuses on the supernatural birth of Jesus Christ, the One around whom human history revolves. Though God, He came to be our Savior and Redeemer. He came to save us from our sins, since it is impossible for anyone of us to do so. The crucial question for at this moment is: Have you been saved from your sins by Jesus Christ? If you have, how are you living your life to reflect Jesus your Savior to a lost world? Are you wholeheartedly submitting to His will for your life? Are your willingly surrendering every area of your life to Him? Are you worthily serving His purpose for your life? Are you worshipfully seeking Him and His direction for your life?
If you have not put your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you can ask Him to do so at this very moment. Simply turn your heart to Him and pray:
"Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I have sinned against You and deserved to be forsaken and condemned by You. Please, I sincerely ask that You forgive me of all my sins and save me today. I believe You died on the cross for my sins. Please cleanse me and accept me on the basis of Your sacrifice on the Cross. I willingly open the door of my heart to You. Please come and make my heart Your home from this day and for the rest of my life. Take full control of my life and fill me with Your Spirit that I may love You, live for You, serve You, and follow You all the days of my life. Thank You for saving me today."
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant" (Luke 1:68-69).