St. Luke 1: 26-38 "God Became Man"
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; 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 of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
With all of the Christmas celebrations in our country, you would think that most people would know the basic facts about the birth of Jesus Christ. And, although many people know about Christmas, I fear that their true knowledge is very limited. I suppose that much of today’s lesson will be a repetition of some things that you already know, but I hope to shed some light on what God says about the birth of His Son.
We read in verse 26, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” Angels are popular in our society, and are often portrayed as acting independently. But clearly, the angel Gabriel is not acting on his own, but as the Scriptures say, he “was sent by God.” So what we are about to read is not just a message from an angel, but from God Himself. We read that he was sent to Nazareth in Galilee. The Jews lived in the south in Judea, with their capital at Jerusalem, and then in the center of Palestine were the Samaritans, and then Jews once again in the northern region called Galilee. Nazareth was not the smallest or largest town of that region.
And then we read in verse 27 that he went “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” The word here for virgin means the same as our English word for virgin, that is, a young lady who had never had sexual relations. This is of critical importance, as we will see later, when it comes to talking about the Father of the virgin’s child. But it’s necessary to say here that it is not a question of virtue. Some people think that being a virgin is somehow more virtuous than being a married woman, but this clearly contradicts the Lord’s word, for example where he says that a godly woman “will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:15)
And so we read at the end of verse 27, “The virgin’s name was Mary.” Verse 28 tells us, “and having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’” There are three reasons given why she should rejoice, and they are really all the same reason. The first is that she is “highly favored.” This phrase tells us that Mary became the mother of Jesus not because of something in her, but because of the favor or grace of God. Again, the angel says, “The Lord is with you,” which is really to say the same thing, that is, that Mary is to be mother by the grace of God. And again, he says, “Blessed are you among women.” Once again, the reason Mary is to be the mother of Jesus is simple and clear—it is a blessing that comes from God, not something in her, but, something that comes from God Himself.
We get our first insight into Mary’s character when we read in verse 29, “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.” I say that it tells us about Mary’s character because she did not presume that she was deserving of God’s favor and blessing. Instead of simply accepting such words, she was troubled at the saying, indicating that she had a healthy understanding of her own unworthiness. She did not reject the declaration of God’s grace, but, she wondered about it, knowing that she did not deserve such grace.
But the angel responds to her concerns in verse 30, where he says to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” The angel assures Mary not by a new declaration, but rather by repeating what is her, and our, assurance: “you have found favor with God.” From beginning to end, our only hope is that God is with us, that we have found favor with God. But, as Gabriel says to Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” If we have found favor with God, why would we afraid?
Sometimes I meet fearful Christians, people who say they trust in Christ, but who are afraid of every political or economic or social event. They forget that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” [1 John 4:4] Our hope and assurance is that we have favor with God, and Mary had found favor of God, and so she did not need to be afraid.
So having laid the foundation of trusting in God, the angel Gabriel now declares what God has decided to do through the virgin. He says in verse 31, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.” It is not a miracle that Mary should have a child, and so this declaration at this point emphasizes who that child will be—Jesus. The word Jesus means savior. There had been others with the same name, most especially, Joshua, whom God had used as a savior of his people, to bring them from across the river Jordan into the Promised Land. His work of salvation was limited, and did not result in eternal salvation. So the angel declares what kind of
Savior this Jesus would be, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” Here it is revealed the true importance of the fact that Mary would give birth while still a virgin. No man would be his father. His father would be the Highest, He who is above all things, God Himself. He would inherit the kingdom of His father
David, which indicates his earthly line, as a child of Mary, a descendent of David.
But unlike David, or his namesake Joshua, or any other savior or deliverer who had come before him, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” His kingdom would have no end, because His Father is the Lord God.
I love the history of modern kingdoms. America is now the most powerful nation, but, in the 19th century, it was England, in the 18th century, it was France, in the 17th century, it was Spain, in the 16th, Portugal—and so it goes. Nations that were once great and powerful have become small and unimportant, or even ceased to exist. But kingdom of Jesus that his Father God would give him would have no end.
Mary still does not understand, but, instead of arguing, she simply asks, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” [verse 34] She assumes that, of course, she would have to have a husband to be the father of her child. It is at this point that the angel makes it clear that this birth would not be a natural birth, but one unlike any other in the history of the world. He declares, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” The child of Mary would be conceived not by natural childbirth, not through a man or any man, but through and by the Holy Spirit of God. And that is the importance of the virgin birth. As virtuous as Mary was, Jesus being born of a virgin was necessary that he might be the son of a human, Mary, and the son of God himself.
There are many who doubt and dispute the virgin birth. After all, if a woman came to you and said, “I am a virgin and I am going to have a baby”, you would probably classify her as either a liar or insane. But the proof of the virgin birth of Jesus is not just in the declaration by Gabriel. It is in the results of that birth. Jesus lived a sinless life in every respect, Jesus performed miracle after miracle, Jesus taught flawlessly the word of God, and then finally, this same Jesus, after being cruelly murdered, rose from the dead. And the fact that the proof of the virgin birth of Jesus would await some years to come to fruition is perhaps the reason why we read in another place, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” [Luke 2:19]
And so that she might know about the truthfulness of all that he said, the Lord announces another proof of this prophecy. In a way, he does the same with us. God declares that if we trust in His Son, that we will have forgiveness of sin and life eternal. And, that should be motive enough for us. But, sometimes we need encouragement along the way, so the Lord sends blessings and cares for us, so that we might not lose heart. Mary is told that her cousin Elizabeth has conceived a son in her old age [verse 36]. First of all, the fact that an elderly lady like Elizabeth could give birth to a son, after so many years of childlessness, demonstrated that the angel was speaking the truth to Mary. But it points us directly to fact that God is able to give children to those who cannot have children. In Elizabeth’s case, it was impossible, because of her age. In Mary’s case, it was even more impossible, if we can say that, because virgins don’t give birth to children. But our God who is able to give children to the barren woman is able to give a child to a virgin, and so the angel says in verse 37, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Indeed, we have seen this principle since the very beginning of the people of Israel, for God had done the same thing with Sarah and Abraham. When the angels had come to declare that Sarah would give birth to a child, she laughed at the thought [Genesis 18:12], and even named her son Isaac, which means laughter, because how can old ladies have babies? But that’s just the point—our God is the God of the impossible.
How can God become man? Men believe that it is impossible, and so ignore or deny the reality of the virgin birth. But our God is the God of the impossible. It was necessary for our savior to be fully man, that he might suffer as a man for man’s sins. But he had to be God, that he might be a perfect sacrifice, and that he might have the power to rise from the dead, and defeat death and sin for all time. And that is exactly what began when Jesus, the Savior, was born of a virgin.
As difficult as this may have been to understand or believe when it was first announced, without all the evidences provided by the life and resurrection of Jesus, Mary does not reject the word of the Lord. Instead she says, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” [verse 38]. Many people praise Mary for her virtue, but her greatest virtue is this—when God spoke, she listened and obeyed in faith. And that’s because she like us was looking for the salvation of her soul. As she says in verses 46 and 47, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” And you—are you trusting in one who was born of the virgin, the one who is both man and God, who came into the world to save sinners. Can you say with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”?