This morning we are continuing to go through the Gospel of Luke. We’re going to be looking at Luke chapter 1 verses 26 through 38. Luke 1:26-38. Last week we looked at how the angel, Gabriel, came and made a pronouncement that the forerunner to Messiah has come. Well, in this passage, we’re going to see that Gabriel also has a message for someone else, but it’s a little bit different: he’s not going to be pronouncing the coming of the forerunner of Messiah, he’s announcing that Messiah himself has come. So, let’s have a word of prayer, then we’ll read the text.
Heavenly Father, as we read your word, I ask that you are honored and glorified by the reading of your word; you would open up our hearts and our minds and our spirits to your word, to what you’re saying and revealing to us about yourself in your word, so that our lives can be transformed to be in accordance with your word. And I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Beginning in verse 26, Luke writes:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from 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. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And 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 call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to 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 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Now, in this passage the two main things that we’re going to see is first that God is setting the tone and then he’s giving us information about Messiah.
God set the tone for Messiah’s coming (vv. 26-28)
In verses 26 through 28, God sets the tone for Messiah’s coming. How does he set the tone? Well, let’s take a look at it. First, in the first two verses, one of the first things that we see is that Messiah comes humbly. Messiah comes humbly. He comes from a humble upbringing. Check this out.
First, we have Galilee; Gabriel went from God to a city in Galilee. Galilee was a rural community. It wasn’t Jerusalem. It wasn’t the big city. It wasn’t where all of the important people are. This is out north of Jerusalem in an area just out in the boonies. Not exactly the most prestigious of places. But not just in Galilee—to a city called Nazareth (in verse 26).
Nazareth. Now, today we look at that and go, “Okay, Nazareth, no big deal.” But this was not just a city up in Galilee, this was a town that was actually looked down upon, and we see that in John chapter (I just went blank; well I have notes) in John chapter 1 verse 46. One of the disciples said, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” They looked down on this town. This was not a place where a leader comes from. These are humble upbringings.
But also notice that Luke mentions the name of the woman: “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name is Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name” (verse 27) “was Mary.” This also tells us about the humble upbringing of Jesus. Why? Mary was a common name. It’s like nowadays—well I can’t think of a common woman’s name—but common name historically for guys is “John.” In fact, in this church we have quite a few Davids, including our son David. Common name. What this tells us is that this young woman was not a woman of prestige; she was just the average, typical young woman like any other young woman. Nothing special about her in culture. Nothing elevated about her in society at the time. Just an average woman in a small town looked down upon in a rural city north of Jerusalem. Humble upbringing.
But also, that Jesus is coming as a humble servant. You see, the Jews had this idea of Messiah: Messiah was going to be a political leader who was going to come down in glory and power, and he was going to free them from the oppression of Rome. However, what Luke’s indicating is that’s not how Jesus comes in this instance. Now, he’ll come in power and glory in the Second Coming, but in this instance—in the First Coming—no, he’s coming as a humble servant. He’s coming to serve not the political needs of the people but the spiritual needs of the people. He came not to free them from the oppression of Rome but to free them from the oppression of sin. That is why he’s coming and why he came. And this humble background is setting the tone for Jesus’s coming.
But not just his humble coming, but also Messiah comes prophetically. In verses 26 and 27, this indicates that he’s coming prophetically. The first one is the messenger: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel.” Yes, mentioning Gabriel here has prophetic implications. Why? Because in the Scripture, if you look for the name Gabriel, four times. That’s it. Gabriel is named just four times: in Daniel chapter 8, Daniel chapter 9, and then Luke chapter 1 twice. That’s it. Which means when Gabriel shows up and is named, he has a very important message. And by the way, his message in Daniel 8 and 9 and his message in chapter 1 of Luke are essentially the same message with a slight little twist. in Daniel’s—in Daniel chapters 8 and 9, Gabriel told Daniel, “Messiah will be coming to atone for sin.” In Luke chapter 1, Gabriel’s message is this: “Messiah is here to atone for sin.” In every instance of Gabriel delivering a message, it’s about Messiah’s coming related to the atonement, which Luke will get to later on toward the end of the Gospel in chapters 22, 23, 24. But here, he’s indicating there’s a prophetic aspect going back to the book of Daniel.
Also, he mentions the word “virgin” twice. He says in verse 27, “to a virgin betrothed to a man,” and later at the end of that verse, “and the virgin’s name was Mary.” he didn’t have to say virgin. He could have simply said woman or young woman. No. He mentioned virgin twice. Why? Because Luke, through the Holy Spirit inspiring him and leading him, is indicating that Jesus’ coming fulfills Isaiah 7:14, that the Messiah will be born of a virgin. And what this indicates is Jesus is coming prophetically.
But also, not just the name of Gabriel and not just the fact that Mary is a virgin, also in verse 27, “to a man betrothed” (or married to a man) “whose name was Joseph.” Now, by the way, I say married. A little bit of an explanation. Marriage and their day worked differently than ours. When it says betrothed, we think engaged. Marriage—what—has a two-phase aspect: that is the betrothal stage (in which they are legally married but they haven’t consummated the marriage), phase two, they’ve consummated it. They’re in phase one so they are legally married. But she’s betrothed to Joseph.
Now, this is significant because this goes back to the Old Testament. Remember Joseph from the book of Genesis? Some little interesting parallels between Joseph here and Joseph of the Old Testament. Joseph of the Old Testament was a promised son who brought his family to Egypt, and by doing so saved his family and the people of God. Well, here Joseph of the—in Luke chapter 1, the adoptive father of Jesus—was going to raise the promised son. And this Joseph also (we’ll learn, we learn in other texts) took his family to Egypt, and this promised son saves the people of God. So, we have prophetic implications here.
But not just that, we’re not done with the prophetic. Joseph was of the house of David, verse 27, of the house of David. Now, this also has more proph—there’s a lot of prophecy in here, and by the way, we’re just scratching the surface. A lot of prophecy. David, in 2 Samuel chapter 7, a promise—a covenant—was made with David by God, and the covenant says this: “David, your heir will rule on your throne forever.” That was a promise from God. Now, they were waiting to see who was that heir. Was it Solomon? Was it Solomon’s kids? Was it—they were waiting and waiting and waiting, and what does Gabriel say? Luke is indicating that Joseph was of the house of David, and we see later that Gabriel says that Jesus will reign on the throne of his father David forever. Jesus is the fulfillment of 2 Samuel chapter 7. He is a rightful blood heir to David’s throne, and Jesus sits on that throne for eternity.
But also not just the fact that he comes humbly and comes prophetically, Messiah comes as a free gift. Verse 28: “And he came to her”—this is Gabriel, Gabriel came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Now, a little bit of a side note here. If you’re reading the King James or the New King James, you will also see a third phrase: “blessed are you among women.” However, that line is not in the oldest texts. It was added later, and so Gabriel didn’t say that line. However, that line, “blessed are you among women,” has been used by Catholicism to venerate—and yes, even worship, and they even use the term “worship”—Mary. We are not to worship Mary. This text is not about Mary; this text is about Jesus. Nowhere in the Scripture will you find a part that is not about Jesus. In fact, Jesus himself said all of it points to him. Now, side note over. By the way if you’re a visitor, you’ll learn that I do some rabbit chases every now and then. Makes it kind of interesting (at least to me).
Well, not only is Jesus coming humbly and prophetically, he comes as a free gift, and the greeting by Gabriel indicates this: “Greetings, O favored one.” “Favored.” That’s a term that’s used a lot today: having God’s favor. What does favor mean? Well, we have to look at the Greek. In the Greek, what favor means is “to bestow freely upon.” In other words, a free gift. In fact the word used here, “O favored one,” the Greek word used for “favored one” is the same word used in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 6 when Paul says that salvation is freely given. It is the same word. And the root word for this in Greek is the word grace. Jesus is freely given, never earned. Salvation, likewise, is never ever earned by anything we do it; is a free gift of God. This is part of why Paul could say in Ephesians that we are saved by grace, not by works, and he could say in Romans that it is a free gift given to people by God because of the fact that even Gabriel says to Mary, “favored one.”
Now, what does this mean of Mary? Well, simply, it means this: God chose her. She did nothing to earn this. She did nothing to warrant being the one who will give birth to Messiah. Nothing she did made her worthy. She—like us—was a mere sinner condemned to hell apart from salvation in Christ. And by the way, I’m convinced that she did have salvation in Christ because of faith (not her works) because of what we see later on in various gospels—in the various gospels—about her: that she did have faith. But she did not earn this blessing. Instead, what Gabriel is saying is this: “You have been sovereignly chosen to give birth to Messiah. Why? Because he chose you. On what basis? His will. Why? Because he wanted to.” Simple as that. Nothing she earned about it.
But also, “the Lord is with you.” “The Lord is with you” points back to the call of Gideon—the call of Gideon. When the angel (who actually is not Gabriel in this case), when the angel shows up to Gideon, he says, “the Lord is with you,” the exact same phrase Gabriel uses here when he greets Mary. No wonder she goes, “Favored? I’m getting this free gift, and you’re connecting me with . . . I’m not Gideon. I don’t . . . what?” No wonder she was befuddled by the greeting. But it points to Gideon. And this idea of that “God is with his people.” This also has connections by the way to Isaiah in chapter 7 when he said that Messiah will be called “Immanuel.” Matthew picks up on this, Luke does not record this, but Matthew picks up on it. However, Luke does include that idea in this greeting when Gabriel said to her “the Lord is with you,” indicating that Jesus is God with us. He is freely given to us. Never earned; freely given.
God told us about who is coming (vv. 29-38)
Now, not only is God setting the tone in verses 26 through 28, in verses 29 to 38, God now tells us about who was coming. God’s going to outline some characteristics and some traits and some information about this child. Now, we often can look back and say we know it’s Jesus, he’s the Messiah, okay, we know all that. Now, there’s some information here that he’s revealing to us.
First in verses 29 to 30, Mary’s reminded once again that Jesus—that the Messiah—is a free gift. Check this out. In verse 29 to 30: “But she was greatly troubled at the saying.” Well, no wonder. It’s a weird greeting with a lot of associations that she probably would have known about. “And tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Who wouldn’t? “And the angel [Gabriel] said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,’” reminding her, “Mary, you were chosen. Why? Because God chose you. This is being given freely to you. You haven’t earned this; you can’t earn this. It’s given to you as a gift.”
Now, I’m sure some women might be thinking, “Gee, what a gift: labor pains.” But this actually was a gift because she was going to give birth to Messiah who’d been promised all the way back in Genesis chapter 1 at the fall of Adam and Eve. So for thousands of years, they’ve been waiting and now this gift has come. No wonder she’s perplexed.
But then God does something: he names the child. Verse 31: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Now, here the English “Jesus” doesn’t capture the connections as well. Most likely, he would have been speaking to her in Aramaic—possibly Hebrew, most likely Aramaic—but he would have said, “You shall name him Yeshua.” Yeshua. That has connections to Joshua in the Old Testament in Genesis and Exodus. Now, think about this: Yeshua (Joshua) in the Old Testament was the person who led the people of God into the promised land defeating the enemies of God. However, everything Joshua did in the Old Testament was just a type and shadow looking forward to what Jesus himself will do. Well, Yeshua (Jesus here, the Messiah) does lead the people of God into the ultimate promised land—the new heaven and the new earth—and defeats the ultimate enemy of God’s people: sin and death. He is the Messiah, and God named him Jesus for a purpose. Now, Jesus was a common name at the time, but there are prophetic implications here. But he’s telling us something about Jesus by telling us that Jesus is the one who will save his people and lead them into the promised land.
But also in verses 32 and 33 and then in 35, God tells us through Gabriel that this child is the promised Davidic king. What’s he say? Verse 32: “[this child] will be great, he will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of his father David, he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” That goes directly back to the Davidic covenant that God made with David. Well then, check verse 35: “And the angel said to her,” once again Gabriel, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God,” and the phrases “the Son of God” and “Son of the Most High” are synonymous. Jews would have understood these titles to mean this: this is the king that God promised he would send who will rule forever. The Son of God—Son of the Most High—was a title of royalty. But not just any royalty; royalty sent direct by God who will rule for eternity. And what Gabriel is telling Mary is this child is the fulfillment. And guys, we’re just scratching the surface on what’s being revealed by God in this pronouncement to Mary. So, he is the promised Davidic king fulfilling 2 Samuel 7.
But also in this pronouncement, God’s revealing the divinity of Jesus. Verses 35 through 37: “And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Now, a little context here. Mary basically said, “Um, how’s that work? I’m a virgin.” And he says, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and by the power of the Most high—well, the power of the most high will overshadow you; child would be called holy, Son of God,” which again has Davidic royalty titles, but also indicates the deity, but continuing, “And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren,” and we’ll get to that in a minute, that’s actually important, “for nothing will be impossible with God.”
Some things here that point to Jesus’ divinity. First, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Now, medically if a woman conceives a child with absolutely zero help from any male—zero male contribution—the technical term (and this has only been theorized, it’s never been scientifically proven and it’s actually never happened in medical science) called human parthenogenesis. In other words, conception without a man. Well, I would tell medical science this: yes, it has happened only once in history, and it cannot happen outside of a direct intervention by God; it is a miracle and it happened with Mary. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is divine, and we know from other texts that Jesus is God the Son. He is divine. We see that.
Also called holy, son of God. Remember when Jesus was asked by someone, “Good teacher, how do I get to heaven?” And Jesus’ answer was, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Only God is holy. This child is holy. This child is divine. He is the Son of God conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is God the Son.
But also, Gabriel gives her a third indication that Jesus is divine: Elizabeth’s own pregnancy. Elizabeth was barren (as you saw from last week, and if you weren’t here last week, you can find the sermon on YouTube and on our podcast) but Elizabeth was barren in her old age, and a miracle happened and she conceived the son six months before this happened: John the Baptist or John the Baptizer. And that is a sign to Mary that the forerunner of Messiah has come. Her son is Messiah. Her son is divine. Jesus is divine. And so, we have multiple signs pointing to Jesus’ divinity.
But there’s even more information that we have in here about this child. Remember I said we’d get back to the idea of Elizabeth being barren? Gabriel didn’t have to tell her that he could have just said your cousin Elizabeth. She’d have known who that is, and she’d have known she’s up in age and not likely to have children and hasn’t ever had a child and—well until John. She’d have that. She—Gabriel didn’t have to say “barren,” but he did anyway. Why? Because he’s pointing something out. He’s connecting Mary back with the barren women of the Old Testament and to Elizabeth.
Now, in the Old Testament there were five women who were barren but given a child by God, and those children grew up to be important figures in God’s plan, and we talked about those last week. Elizabeth is the sixth woman who was barren, given a child by God who has an important role in the plan of God. Mary, although she’s a virgin, she’s a married woman without child—you could call her barren—and she’s given a child by God who not only is important in God’s plan, he is God’s plan. What he’s indicating here is that Jesus is the culmination of everything that had come before. All those important figures, Jesus is the culmination because he is the purpose, he is the plan, he is Messiah. But it’s also interesting the fact that Mary is the seventh. Seven in Scripture is the number associated with perfection. Jesus is the perfect culmination of everything.
So, how did Mary respond to this information? In verses 34 and 38: (34, we have her question) “Mary said to the angel ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’” Now, this contrasts with Zechariah’s response in verse 18 we looked at last week. Zechariah was told, “You’ll have a son,” and Zechariah went, “Ha ha, yeah, sure. I’m old. Ain’t gonna happen. Can’t happen. Thanks.” Mary’s reaction is “Wow, um, but I don’t understand. I’m a virgin.” Now, in print the words don’t convey emotion or tone. However, we can tell the type of response each one had by how Gabriel responds to each one. Gabriel looked at Zechariah and said, “You didn’t believe” and pronounced judgment upon him; he was mute until the son was born. So at the time that this is happening, Zechariah is still silent. But how did Gabriel respond to Mary? He said, “Okay,” verse 35, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” He explained how it’s going to happen. Now, did he give her every single detail? No. He basically said God will do it. God will do it. No judgment, but an explanation. This tells us that Mary’s response will simply lack of information, lack of understanding. And if you remember in James, he said if anybody lacks wisdom let him ask and God will give it to him. She lacked wisdom. She lacked understanding. She asked and the angel gave her an explanation.
But we also see in her final response, in verse 38, indicating that she’s not responding in disbelief like her cousin Zechariah (cousin by marriage), she’s responding in faith. Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Whatever God wants to do, let him do.
Oh, if only that was our prayer in our daily life: God, whatever you want to do with me, so be it. Now, I could get into the cultural implications of a young woman who has not entered the phase of consummating her marriage who ends up pregnant. I could get into that, but I’ll simply say it this way: her life—physical life—could be in jeopardy. And what does she say? “Whatever you want, the Lord. I am your servant. Do to me whatever you want.” If only that was our plea and our prayer to God: your will be done; not mine, your will. She responded in faith.
Now, did she at the time of this pronouncement, at the time Gabriel was standing in front of her—you’ve heard the Christmas carol, “Mary, Did You Know?” Well, did she know everything about Messiah at this exact moment? Probably not. She would have discovered more and more later. In fact, it says, I believe in Matthew, we may say in Luke, that she took all this and put it in her heart and basically meditated on it. She spent time thinking about it, so she would have learned more and more. But at this time? No. She probably not did not fully understand exactly what was going on. She didn’t understand completely all of the reasons and all of the implications and all of the spiritual meaning, but her answer was, “Lord, whatever you want, you got it; do your will to me and through me.” That is faith!
So in this pronouncement, we have seen that the Messiah will come humbly, prophetically, and as a free gift. But we also see that he is the Messiah, the promised one, the king of kings, the Lord, God in flesh. He is Christ (which is Greek for Messiah). He is the one.
Which brings us to this simple question of what does this mean for us today? This is all good information but what does it mean for our daily lives? It simply means this: the Jesus we profess, the Jesus that we love, the Jesus that we serve is the God of the universe. Does our life reflect that we are serving the God of the universe or a God who simply pleases us?
Which God—which Jesus—do we serve in our daily life? Do we serve the Jesus revealed to Mary in Scripture, or do we serve a Jesus of our own creation? Which Jesus do we serve? And I don’t mean here on Sunday (well, includes here on Sunday), I’m talking about tomorrow morning when you go to work and that co-worker is just irritating you. I’m talking about when you’re going to the store and the person cuts you off on the road and angers you. You go to the store and there’re three checkouts and 500 people in each line and your patience is tested.
When you have an opportunity to do something for the Lord and you have a choice: take the opportunity or serve self. You have an opportunity and a calling to spend time in the Word of God on Tuesday or Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: do you put the Bible down and let it collect dust or do you open it and say, “Lord, show me in your Word what you want me to know”? What does our daily life reflect?
Which Jesus do we serve? This that we’ve seen here is a wonderful, powerful, mighty, holy, righteous Jesus who is worthy of us saying as Mary said, “I am a servant of the Lord; do as you will to me.”