As we continue through Luke, we run across the account of the announcement to Mary of the brith of Jesus who is to be the Messiah. Following this, she visits with her relative Elizabeth. How exactly they are related is uncertain but it would seem that since Elizabeth is of the line of Aaron (v.5), then Mary may also be of the Aaronic line. Hence, Jesus is of the tribe of Judah (through Joseph, see v.27) and of Levi, further cementing his position as priest and king. However, it must be noted that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek because the Hebrew writer states Jesus descended of Judah (Heb 7.14).
When I read the story of Mary (I’m sure I’m not alone in this), my mind goes to my mother. My mom reminds me a lot of Mary and she often reminds me of just how blessed she has been and is to have son like me (no one like mom to make you feel good about yourself). She doesn’t do it to brag and I certainly don’t write to brag about my mom or me; what I’m saying is that it must have been a difficult thing for Mary when Jesus came in one night from the carpenter shop, having completed his final project, and sitting down he told his mom about his necessity to go to Jerusalem to fulfill his purpose. I remember when I left for Lubbock, TX to go to preaching school that my mom wept not because she was mad or angry, but because she knew it was finally time to give her son back to the Lord. I would imagine as Jesus told his mother about his mission to Jerusalem, tears welled in her eyes and she remembered back to the day the angel came.
The Angel’s Appearing
In Luke 1.26, we find that Elizabeth is in her sixth month when the angel visits Mary. Gabriel, the same angel who appeared to Zechariah (v.19), who stands in the presence of the Lord now appears to Mary bring a message with him. First, he commends Mary. He calls her “highly favored one” (NKJV) in verse 28. The question is raised: how did she get to be highly favored? Can anyone become highly favored like Mary? Certainly. We grow to be highly favored with God the same way Mary did, which is the same way Jesus. In 2.52, the text says Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” This is something we grow in over time and it seems to be that one does this by obeying the Father’s will, which is what Jesus did his entire life.
It is necessary in this study to interject a word about Mary’s favor with God. Catholicism must not impede our understanding nor view of Mary. She is a mere woman; in her own words, she is a “maidservant” or “the Lord’s servant.” The idea of “highly favored” is not that she is full of favor, Catholicism not withstanding. She has not favor to confer on anyone; rather, she has received favor from the Lord, just as her will as he lives his life (cf. 2.52). As one commentator wrote: “God had given her His free and uncaused grace in a unique measure by choosing her as mother of His Son.”
It is doubtful whether Mary understood all of these things when the angel appeared to her. But she is greatly disturbed at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this was. It would appear that she may feel that this kind of greeting is not suited for her. She appears to be a modest and sober young lady. Yet again, we find God using the simple and humble people in life to fulfill his purposes. In this case, he picks a virgin from the dusty little town of Nazareth to bring into the world the Messiah. What an awesome responsibility for this lowly maidservant (1.48)!
The Angel’s Announcement
Beginning in verse 30, we have the message the angel brought from the throne of God. First, he assures with “Do not be afraid” (major theme). The reason she does not need to be afraid is because she has found favor with God and will therefore carry out one of the greatest assignments a servant could have, namely give brith to God’s Son. Catholics misinterpret/mistranslate this verse to say “Hail, Mary, full of grace” as though she is the source of grace for all men. This, of course, is foolish; only God has the grace necessary for the salvation of our souls. As another commentator has written: “Gabriel is simply saying that God’s favour (sic) rests on her.”
Very specific details are given concerning the child she is to bear: sex, name, character, purpose. All these are related by Gabriel to Mary. Gabriel conveys the message of the Lord that was announced to David in 2 Samuel 7, that one would sit on the throne of David forever and this of course is Jesus. But also Isaiah 9 is caught up in this as well in that Gabriel announces that “his kingdom (that is his rule, reign, dominion) will never end” (v.33). Jesus is the final fulfillment, then, of all the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah going clear back to Abraham (land and nation have been fulfilled, but Jesus fulfills the seed promise, cf. Gal 3.16), yea even unto the garden (Gen 3.15). The King is coming and Mary is to bring him into the world.
Mary realizes something is wrong: she is a virgin and has never been with a man. She is pledged to Joseph (v.27), but they are yet to be married. It is a similar like that of Zechariah however, Mary had favor with God (these words were not spoken to Zechariah, though that is not imply Zechariah was not favored by God, after all he was rigtheous, cf. v6). But probably more important than that is the attitude of the heart. Zechariah doubted and voiced his concerns out of unbelief (v.20). Mary’s question appears to be out of innocence.
The Angel’s Answer
To answer her question about how all this will come about Gabriel explains that this birth will take place supernaturally with the power of the Holy Spirit behind. Gabriel also testifies to the divinity of Jesus by stating that he is the Son of God. It would seem that Mary has no knowledge of her relative, Elizabeth, pregnancy for Gabriel tells her what has happened. Verse 37 is a bit tricky: the American Standard renders it “For no word of God shall be void of power.” However, just about every other translation has something akin to “For nothing is impossible with God.” Probably both are right: the Greek is something like – not impossible (double negative – therefore, possible) with God every single word (or event). Thus, with God every single word/event is possible. Like the children’s song goes: My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. If God said it, as sure as sunrise, it’s going to happen.
I must stress that we should not allow Catholicism to fuzz our image of Mary. Mary’s response to what is going to take place is phenomenal. It is a response of faith that a true woman of God would and should have to the will of God. She acknowledges her position before the Lord (that is, a servant) and is ready for the will of God for her life. It will cost her friends, perhaps family, reputation, and almost a husband. But in her mind she desires the Lord’s will be done and therefore prays (more or less), “come, Lord Jesus.”
Mary and Elizabeth
After her incident with the angel, Mary makes the trek to the hill country where her relative, Elizabeth, lives. When the child, just six months old still in the womb, hears the words of Mary, he leaps in and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit (another theme rampant in Luke). Elizabeth appears to prophecy; having no knowledge of the events that took place (it would appear) she blesses Mary her child, and wonders about her visit from the Lord, yet inside Mary. And even the baby in Elizabeth, John the Baptist, aware of his Lord’s presence leaps for joy also. Finally, there is a blessing bestowed on Mary for her belief in the power of God to work within.
From Mary we learn the proper perspective to the will of God in our life. We have God telling us what he desires in our life (His word) and we need an attitude of “May it be as you say, Lord.” We also learn about God. As stated before, We are witnessing the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to Abraham: the promise of blessing through a seed. The blessing is salvation for mankind. The seed is Jesus. God is faithful. He made a promise and he ahs not forgotten. He has carried out promises in the past and will continue to fulfill his promises today because he is faithful.