SSL 2- Luke 1:26-38 - CONCEIVED
BACKGROUND: Our text for today will focus on Mary, the mother of our LORD Jesus Christ, as reported in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 26-38. Bible scholars refer to this story as the "Annunciation of Mary," or to paraphrase, the "announcement" to Mary. Mary is the person who, among the Christian community, is referred to as "blessed among women" (a title quoted by Elizabeth, Mary's cousin and the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:42). In truth and fact, she was just a young teen-aged girl from Nazareth, a relatively unimportant town in the hills of Galilee. She belonged to a poor but honorable Jewish family who could trace their descent to David, Israel's greatest king. She had been trained in the Scriptures and knew that God had promised to send a Messiah, who would one day rescue her people Israel and be their king. But for 400 years, God had been silent, no new Scripture had been written, and no prophets had spoken. Every Jewish girl at that point in history probably prayed for the honor of being the mother of the Messiah. Yet, Mary, being a poor girl from a humble family in a small town, most likely didn't have any great expectations that her life would be much different from that of her mother or from the other women in town. At this point in her life, Mary was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter there in Nazareth. They would be married within a year, and she was now spending time in her home learning how to be a good Jewish wife and mother. Joseph was known to be a good man, established in his trade, and she was grateful that her parents had made such a good match for her. She looked forward to life with him. Then one day, as Mary was going about her usual tasks, she suddenly had an unexpected visitor.
Read Lk. 1:26-29 - REJOICE, YOU HIGHLY FAVORED ONE!
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
v. 26: "...the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth" - The "sixth month" refers to the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy with the baby who will be known as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. The Angel "Gabriel" is the same angel who announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband we covered last week's in Luke 1:5-25. The stories are tied-together because both women are unlikely candidates for motherhood: Zechariah and Elizabeth are elderly and past child-bearing age, while Mary is an unmarried virgin.
v. 27: "to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary - The word used for "virgin" (Gk. pathenos) means an unmarried chaste woman. This brief mention is all the attention that Joseph receives here as contrasted with Matthew 1, which begins with a lengthy genealogy of him. In this Gospel, however, Mary has the lead and Joseph plays only a supporting role. Mary's prominent role as depicted here is quite remarkable in this patriarchal society. Girls like her were often betrothed in their early teens and generally expected to be seen but rarely heard.
v. 28: "And coming in, he said to her, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you'" - The Greek word used here for "favored one" (xaritóō [khar-ee-to'-o]) literally means a person who receives grace. Though Luke doesn't cite OT Scripture like Matthew, the angel's promise to Mary, "the Lord is with you," repeats similar promises made by God to Moses (Exodus 3:12), Gideon (Judges 6:12), and Jeremiah (Jer.emiah 1:8).
v. 29: "But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was" - Mary would have been as puzzled as much by the appearance of the angel as by what he said. In her small world, she would rarely see a strange man, much less have one appear out of nowhere and address her I such a direct manner. I mean, what does an angel look like? A regular person? Mary's further confused by his exclamation-"favored one! The Lord is with you." Remember that Mary is in a world dominated by males, who would normally receive complementary titles like "favored one." She might have been wondering if the man/angel had made a mistake-i.e., who is this person and why is he saying these things to ME.
Lk. 1:30-33 - BEHOLD, YOU WILL BEAR A SON
30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 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; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."
v. 30: "The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God'" - Like Zechariah in v. 12, and the shepherds in Luke 2:9-10, Mary was most likely afraid of the angel. Fear is a natural reaction to God's or the presence of one of His messengers, but God is merciful to those who fear Him. Notice that he identifies her by name. The angel's statement, "you have found favor with God," is a key verse here. The text says nothing about Mary's faith, religious virtue, or other characteristics that would tell us why God chose her. But as with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, and others, God chooses whom God chooses-a mystery. The main point we need to understand is that Mary is not chosen because she deserves favor but is favored because she is chosen.
v. 31: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus" - The name "Jesus" (Gk. Iésous [ee-ay-sooce']) translates to Joshua in Hebrew, which means "salvation comes from the LORD."
v. 32: "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" - Luke uses the honorific "Most High" as a reference to God, so that the "Son of the Most High" corresponds to the Son of God, a name that Luke often uses in his writings for Jesus. Interestingly, several chapters over, Satan will use the title "Son of the Most High," in his efforts to tempt Jesus (Luke 4:3, 9). John the Baptist is named as the "Prophet of the Most High" in Luke 1:76.
v. 33: "and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" - As you probably know, the "House of Jacob" refers to the Nation of Israel (Exodus 19:3; Isaiah 2:5-5, 8:17). This is the fulfillment of the promise God made to David, who wanted to build a temple for God, but God forbade him and said, "...I will set up your seed after you...He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Samual7:11-13). However, the fulfillment of the promise was not to be found in Solomon but in Jesus, for Solomon built a temple that lasted only 370 years, but Christ will build a house in heaven that will last for all eternity (2 Corinthians 5:1). God could have chosen the temple in Jerusalem for this announcement, but instead chose a simple person in an ordinary town as a complete contrast to the glory of the Son of the Most High. All this is good news-that God has a plan and a place for every person, especially the ordinary person. But we must acknowledge that favor with God can often be a two-edged sword. God offers mercy but no life of ease. For Mary, God's favor didn't bring prosperity or comfort. Instead, she conceived a child before she was married, was forced to flee to Egypt to escape Herod's plan to murder all the male babies, and ultimately saw her son die on a cross.
Read Lk. 1:34-35 - THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL OVERSHADOW YOU
34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"35 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.
v. 34: "Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" - Growing up under the tutelage of her mother and other Jewish women of synagogue, Mary probably knew all about the "birds and the bees," so she asks a very relevant question. The phrase, "since I am a virgin," is transliterated from the Greek words andra ou ginōsko, which literally means "I have not known a man," itself a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse. Mary's question is similar to Zechariah's, "How can I know this for certain?"(Luke 1:18); however, the angel struck Zechariah mute but answers Mary's question. The difference is two-fold: (1) Zechariah expressed doubt while Mary expresses only confusion; and (2) Zechariah asked for a sign while Mary simply asks for an explanation.
Observation: Some Christians might warn us that we should never question God, but Mary did. She asked "How?" Questions cause us to grow and learn. Questions stretch our minds and hearts and increase our understanding. Questions and the exploration for answers add to faith, even if the questions themselves are not fully answered. Mary's question here arose from faith not doubt.
Ask: What would your response to the angel be-Faith or like Zacharias, unbelief?
v. 35: "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" - The Holy Spirit will perform this miracle so that Mary will become pregnant with child andra ou ginōsko-without having known a man. This forms an important part of God's plan. In this verse, the angel calls this child "the holy child, the Son of God", with the clear intent that these titles differentiate this child from all others ever conceived. This Gospels of Matthew and Luke both affirm that (1) the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, (2) Joseph is not the father, and (3) Mary, at the time of conception, was a virgin (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35).
Read Lk. 1:36-37 - EVERYTHING SPOKEN BY GOD IS POSSIBLE
36 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.37 For nothing will be impossible with God."
vv. 36-37: The older woman, Elizabeth, is Mary's relative. Although called a "cousin" in KJV, the word actually used for relative (Gk. sungenis) isn't that specific. Basically, in v. 36, the angel is telling Mary that if God can do this for an elderly, infertile women, He can surely do it for a virgin. The declaration of v. 37, "for nothing will be impossible with God," is wholly consistent with God's nature, character, purposes, and promises, together with his omnipotent power to create. In short, Mary can be confident that everything the angel told her is true and will come to pass.
Read Luke 1:38 - MAY IT BE DONE TO ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD
38 And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
v. 38: By her statement, "bondslave (servant [ESV]) of the Lord, may it be done to me," Mary doesn't ask for confirmation but steps out in faith. One Christian commentator said that Mary's response qualifies her as Jesus' first disciple. She exemplifies complete submission to God's Word and promise.
v. 38-Cont'd: The angel's swift departure must have left Mary's head spinning with all that had just happened to her over a span of just a few minutes, yet, as the chapter moves forward to Mary's Magnificat (a song of praise) in Luke 1:46-55, we hear her express her humility and sense of joy at being chosen by God for a momentous role in salvation history. But hers won't be a comfortable journey. On one occasion, she and her other sons will find themselves on the outside seeking to see Jesus, but He seems to decline their company at that time (Luke 8:19-21) and she will witness Jesus' death on the cross (John 19:25-27). But never do we hear a hint of complaint from Mary's lips. She never tries to escape her calling as the mother of the Messiah and sets an example of the kind of faithfulness that all of us should seek to emulate.
There are many viewpoints from which we could examine the story of the angel's announcement of Jesus' birth to Mary. For example, we could examine what it tells us about Jesus: (1) that He will be the Messiah, the heir of David's ancient throne (v. 32); (2) that He is of both divine and human origin (v. 35), and (3) that He is both figuratively and literally God's Son (vv. 32, 35). But in terms of personal application to me and you, we can also examine these passages as a lesson in discipleship, as a window into Mary's soul. She was Jesus' first disciple, if you really think about it. I mean, what motivated her response to God?
Every time I read Mary's reply to the angel, I'm floored: She simply says, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." So, here we are seeing a teenaged person who is facing potential misunderstanding and rejection from her family, her husband to be, and her community. And yet she agrees! Mary affirms the bedrock truth that undergirds our discipleship, which I will paraphrase: "I am the Lord's servant and will submit my life to the God's Word."
Ask: So, in terms of discipleship, how does Mary's example speak to you and me?
(1) Like Mary, after all is said and done, we must still decide: (a) Am I a servant or a master? (b) Is my allegiance to the Lord or to my own desires, my private agenda?
(2) Sometimes it takes great turmoil in our souls to reach the place of submission, yet it's a place all Christians must reach. Even before Jesus was conceived, Mary was faced with some hard decisions: (a) Will I obey and make way for this King? Or (b) will I take the easy way out that avoids problems and pain?
(3) Mary's example tells us what our response must be: "I am the Lord's servant and will submit my life to the God's Word."
PRAYER: Lord God in heaven, you ask each of us a very hard thing. Please help me and everyone here today to count it a great honor and blessing to be your servant and to serve You in a particular way. Help each of us to serve You with joy and not with a complaining attitude. Help all of us to be the kind of servant, so when we stand before Your throne one day, You will say, "Well done good and faithful servant!" I ask this in the name of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ, AMEN.