Luke provides for us a detailed account surrounding the birth of the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah, and the birth of the Messiah.
It is highly likely that Luke sought out Mary to interview her and ask about the details surrounding the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. With many of these details, she is the only person who would know this information. Imagine how exciting for Luke to go and find Mary and sit and talk with her at length about her experience of being the mother of Jesus. We can imagine it must have been a very dear, heartwarming experience.
We can picture Luke, sitting with Mary in a small room, perhaps sharing tea and a fresh loaf of baked bread. Luke brings with him a satchel with papyrus scrolls, an earthenware container of ink, and a few quills. Luke looks at her with admiration. Mary, advanced in age, tells Luke all that he needs to know, as the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance beginning with the day of Gabriel’s visit.
Mary’s account begins six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John.
We learn four details about Mary. We learn where she is living, her relationship status, she is of the lineage of King David, and that she is a relative of Elizabeth.
Mary is living in Galilee, the northern part of Israel, in a city called Nazareth, about 65 miles north of Jerusalem. Galilee is not the most desirable place to live in Israel. But, living in Nazareth is affordable. The land is beautiful and fertile, but the political conditions are not so good.
The area of Galilee suffers greatly ever since the time of judges,. It is attacked continually because it is on the northern outskirts of the nation. Galilee is in the Northern Kingdom after the civil war. About 700 years before Jesus is born, Assyria conquers the Northern Kingdom, including Galilee.
After the Jews return to Israel from Babylonian captivity, around 500bc, the land is full of Assyrians and Gentiles. A garrison of Roman soldiers lives in Galilee.
In short, people don’t brag about being from Nazareth.
Mary is betrothed to Joseph. Being betrothed (engaged) is the same as being married. The requirement for breaking off an engagement is the same as for divorce. According to custom, Mary and Joseph will be married within a year.
Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph are of the lineage of David. God promises to David that one of his descendants will be the Messiah, the King who will save God’s people (2 Samuel 7:10-26). The writers of the New and Old Testament frequently remind us that the Messiah will come from David’s lineage.
In this account, we begin to see an emerging picture of the humility of Jesus. The Apostle Paul speaks about the humility of Jesus and how He empties Himself of His privileges.
Imagine being the God of the Universe, and you want to pick your mother and where you will be born.
He does not choose parents of influence. There is nothing glorious about Mary. She and Joseph are poor. Their only claim to fame is they are a distant descendant of King David. Even that, we can see, brings little to no advantage.
Jesus does not look for a mother who lives in a vibrant, cultural, economically privileged neighborhood. Jesus picks a down-trodden distressed, “wrong side of the tracks” hometown. Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, an unpopular city, away from the religious center.
Jesus’ character is humble. It is His nature. He doesn’t choose Mary and Nazareth to make a point and prove His humility; He chooses them because it is natural for Him to do so. We have to try to be humble. For Jesus, He doesn’t even have to try. He is humble.
As we live, we are to follow the humble example of Jesus. We need to strive to make choices, speak words, and live in a way that reflects the humility of Jesus. As children of God, we need to have the character of humility.
Mary tells Luke of the visit by the angel Gabriel. She tells Luke when Gabriel greets her; she is very perplexed. She is not puzzled at Gabriel. It is likely Gabriel looks like a human, as he does when he appears to Daniel. What puzzles Mary is the greeting; Gabriel’s salutation. He says, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
She ponders the salutation. Maybe she asks herself, “Favored one? What does it mean that I am favored? Favored how? I am a young girl living in Nazareth. I have done nothing to deserve God’s favor. The Lord is with me? What does that mean? I don’t see the Lord.”
The salutation of Gabriel is very, very strange to Mary. Seeing that Mary is bothered, Gabriel tells her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”
Mary is perplexed because she knows enough about God and her sin to realize she does not deserve God’s favor. If she thought of herself as favored, the salutation would not be perplexing.
Mary fears God. She knows she is a sinner. Mary needs mercy from God because of her sin. She doesn’t see herself as being worthy of God’s favor.
Mary has done nothing to deserve God’s favor. God chooses her because of grace. The definition of grace is undeserved favor. Mary is just like every person who lives, Mary is a sinner who deserves God’s wrath.
Let’s be very clear. No one deserves God’s favor. Every person born since Adam is guilty of breaking God’s laws; including Mary. We have all lied, mistreated people, coveted, and so forth. There is nothing we have done to deserve God’s attention. We all fall short of God’s glory because we all are guilty of breaking God’s laws. In God’s eyes, we are criminals, felons, lawbreakers, crooks, and offensive.
God shows us favor because of grace. Mary receives God’s favor because of grace.
The angel tells Mary incredible news. She will conceive and have a son, and she will name Him Jesus.
Any Jew hearing the description Gabriel gives of Jesus recognizes that he is speaking of the Messiah. Mary knows her Bible. There is no mistake in Mary’s mind that she is to be the mother of the Messiah. The Messiah is great. The Messiah is the Son of the Most High. And, the Messiah will sit on David’s throne and reign over a kingdom that will never end.
We can imagine every descendant of David wondering if they will give birth to the Messiah. The time of waiting for a Messiah is over. Mary is the mother of the eternal King who sits on David’s throne. It’s hard to imagine what must go through Mary’s thoughts in the months of her pregnancy.
Mary knows Jesus is the Messiah. Luke is letting us know that Jesus is the Messiah.
Luke tells us this account, so we know Jesus is the King of all kings. What about you? Is He your King? Is Jesus your Lord? Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore, submit to Jesus as King.
The Old Testament tells us about the Kingship of the Messiah. Isaiah prophesies Jesus will be King. He tells us the government will rest on His shoulders. The government has a large impact on the quality of our life. Jesus' government has no corruption. He establishes and upholds a government of justice and righteousness.
A distinguishing feature of Jesus’ government is that peace is ever-increasing. Jesus sits on the throne as the Prince of Peace. Swords are turned into plowshares. Gone are the days of tyranny, corruption, narcissism, and injustice. His kingdom has no upheaval or scars of war.
There is no end to Jesus’ rule as king. There are no elections. No military coups. The rule of Jesus is not for a few terms, but it is everlasting. He reigns forever.
Do you confess Jesus as your King?
When Mary hears she will have a child, she asks a very important question. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?
Gabriel tells 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.”
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the most powerful force in the universe, Jesus, God the Son, takes on human flesh and enters the womb of the virgin Mary.
Here is a challenge: Explain the necessity of the virgin birth in a way that is concise (because we want to finish the sermon before supper), thorough (because if we leave out an important truth, it is incomplete teaching), and accurate (because we need to be Biblical).
The Messiah serves two roles. He is King of kings, and the Savior of the world. The virgin birth is not necessary for the Messiah to be King, but it is necessary for the Messiah to be our Savior.
Anyone who breaks God’s commands is guilty of sin. Therefore, everyone needs a Savior because God is a perfect Judge and must punish the guilty. We need to be saved from God’s punishment for sin, which is eternal punishment in hell.
We cannot take an animal to God and offer it as a sacrifice in our place. As a human, we need a human sacrifice. Jesus is born as a human.
But, as a human, Jesus may not be born of Adam’s seed. Because Adam sins, his seed does not give spiritual life. Every one born of Adam is spiritually dead. This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus, we must be born again spiritually.
The Apostle Paul says it like this:
So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45)
The Apostle Paul also says:
through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Ro. 5:18)
In other words, Adam gives us physical life, but Adam does not impart spiritual life. Jesus is the second Adam, born without a sin nature, but with a life-giving nature.
If Jesus were to sin, He also would need a Savior. But, Jesus does not sin. He offers His life as a perfect, sinless sacrifice to God. When we put our faith in Jesus' perfect life and perfect sacrifice for our sin, our faith makes us righteous.
To be without sin, Jesus needs to be a human without a sin nature. All those who are of Adam’s seed, are born with a sin nature. They sin naturally. We don’t need to teach our children how to sin. It is their nature.
Jesus is God. The infinite value of Jesus makes the exchange of His life valuable enough for not just one person, but for all people. The sacrifice for all our sins collectively needs to be of a value greater than one person. Jesus’ life is not a one-for-one exchange, it is a one for many.
Jesus is placed in the womb by the Holy Spirit, and He is a holy offspring. Jesus is not born of Adam’s seed. Jesus is born spiritually alive.
One more thing, Jesus is not created like the world, “Ex Nihilo” (God creates everything “out of nothing”). Jesus is preexisting before taking on human flesh. He leaves heaven to come to earth in Mary’s womb.
We are born of Adam’s race. We are born spiritually dead. We have a sin nature.
Salvation is a gift from God placed in the virgin womb of Mary. God offers to us, the gift of a sinless sacrifice.
We do not receive the gift of salvation because of our good works. We do not earn it. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. We do not deserve this gift. It is not earned. It is a gift.
Jesus is the spotless lamb of God. Jesus, who knows no sin, becomes sin for us that we may be forgiven by God and become children of God by faith.
We need a sinless sacrifice. Believe Jesus is our sacrifice. Praise God, Jesus is born of a virgin.
Gabriel gives Mary a sign to help her belief that as a virgin, she will give birth. She is given a sign that she can verify. Gabriel tells Mary of her relative, Elizabeth, advanced in years, and formerly barren, is now six months pregnant.
Then, Gabriel makes an astonishing statement, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Mary is to believe nothing is impossible for God.
We also are to believe that nothing is impossible with God. Luke writes this account so all who read it will believe the exact truth. Luke’s goal is that we put our faith and trust in God’s word.
Think about who is telling Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Gabriel is no ordinary creature. He is extraordinary. Gabriel stands before the throne of God. He sees God. He hears what God says and sees what God does. Gabriel has a perspective of God that we do not have. We can trust what Gabriel says.
Gabriel knows God may create anything just by speaking. Gabriel witnesses God calling the stars by name and making them spin. Gabriel sees God leading His people out of Egypt and across dry land to the other side of the Red Sea. He watches as God sends fire down for Elijah’s sacrifice and how God protects Daniel in the lion’s den. There are millions of things that Gabriel sees God do. Gabriel knows God accomplishes His will, and nothing stands in His way.
We are to have the same belief. Don’t misapply this for selfish reasons. We are to understand that God’s will is not impossible for Him. Nothing can stop God from accomplishing His will. We know what is God’s will because it is in the Bible.
Do not make the mistake of not believing God creates the Universe by the power of His word. Do not make the mistake of not believing the virgin birth. Most importantly, do not make the mistake of not believing that God raises Jesus from the dead. Put your faith in the God who does the impossible. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
Believe God accomplishes His will.
Mary’s response to Gabriel is amazing. She declares herself a bondslave of the Lord. A bondslave is not a captured slave who doesn’t have a choice. A bondslave willingly places themselves in submission to their master. Mary declares herself to be a bondslave of God. And, as God’s bondslave, she declares that she desires God to do anything He deems necessary.
Mary is willing to put her life in jeopardy. Being pregnant out of wedlock is no small matter. She is willing to put herself through shame and humiliation if that is what God wants her to do. She trusts God and knows that He will care for her no matter how difficult the circumstance.
This last response is a summation of all the previous responses we are to have in reading this passage.
As God’s children, we are to endeavor to be humble and take on the character of God. We are to respond to God’s word with humility.
We are to be a bondslave to Jesus, the King who sits on the throne of David. We are to willingly be in submission to Him. A reason to submit to Jesus as a bondslave is that He is a good King. He proves He is good because He willingly leaves His throne in heaven, takes on human flesh, and lays down His life to prove His love for us. Nobody has shown us, such great love.
We need to be willing to say, “Have your will with me, Lord. I trust you with my life. Even if the circumstances will be difficult for me to bear, I trust that Your ultimate desire for me is for my good.”
Endeavor to be a humble bondslave of God.