Announcement of the Birth of Jesus to a Virgin: Part 1 of 3 (series: Harmony of the Gospels)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

-7 or 6 B.C.-

Nazareth

(2) Announcement of the Birth of Jesus to a Virgin
Scriptures (Is. 7:14) Luke 1:26-38

Luke 1:26-38
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.


Commentary
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!”

In the sixth month after his appearance to Zacharias (or after Elizabeth became pregnant), Gabriel reappeared—this time to a virgin (5See Article #5 page #66) named1 Mary who lived in the city of 6Nazareth, in the district of Galilee. Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph, a lineal descendant of David, who inherited legal rights to the throne of David, even though he himself was a carpenter. Betrothal was considered a much more binding contract than engagement is today. In fact, it could be broken only by a legal decree similar to divorce. The engagement was completed after negotiations had been carried on by the groom’s representative and the dowry money paid to the girl’s father. After the betrothal, which lasted for about a year, the groom could claim the bride at any time. A wedding was merely the recognition of the agreement that had already been established. Joseph had a perfect right to travel with Mary to Bethlehem.

When the angel visited Mary, Mary and Joseph were betrothed but they did not live together as husband and wife. According to Jewish custom, betrothal was a time of engagement that was as binding as marriage. The Law of Moses concerning breaking a betrothal by adultery, rape, fornication, or incest called for death by stoning (Deut. 22:23–30). When Mary became pregnant during her betrothal, Joseph decided to divorce her quietly. However, God explained to Joseph in a dream that Mary’s conception was the miracle of the Holy Spirit.

The angel went to Jerusalem to speak to Zechariah and now God has sent him to Nazareth, with a message for a young girl by the name of Mary. The messenger, both times, is the angel Gabriel. I can think of only two other angels that the Bible names. One is the Arc Angel Michael and the other is Lucifer, who we call Satan and the Devil. Gabriel had a message that was written before the foundation of the world, but it was withheld until God said that the time was right. Galatians 4:4 says,

“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

Mary is called a virgin. Today, some people do not know what that is. That is a woman who could never have a child in a natural way because she has never had a relationship with a man that would make the birth of a child possible. I cannot explain it any simpler. If you still do not understand, then you need to have someone explain to you about the birds and bees.

An unbeliever can say that he does not believe in the virgin birth, and that is ok. I do not expect them to. But for a believer, especially a preacher, to say that he does not believe in the virgin birth is a disgrace, and I would have to say that he is ignorant of God’s word. It is clearly stated in the Bible and it is essential to the Christian faith. To deny the virgin birth is to deny the divinity of Christ and without it, there is no explanation for the Resurrection. Gabriel told Mary that she was “highly favored” (Lit. “full of grace”) by God. This portrays Mary as being a recipient, not a dispenser of divine grace. Others were favored by God, but we are usually told that they were righteous in the eyes of God; that they were obedient and brought the proper sacrifices. Some of those righteous people are Zechariah, Elizabeth, Abraham, and David. Why was Mary favored? She must have been a wonderful young woman, but we know very little about her, except that God chose her and blessed her and God does not make mistakes. Two points should be noted here: (1) the angel did not worship Mary or pray to her; he simply greeted her. (2) He did not say that she was “full of grace,” but highly favored. What an honor to be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah! Mary humbly submitted to the Lord because she had faith that He would keep His promise. Her decision would bring her sorrow and suffering, but she willingly submitted it. She was “blessed among women” because of the grace of God given to her. All who trust Christ as their Savior are highly graced by the Lord (2Eph. 1:6).

Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Display Thine attributes divine;
But the bright glories of Thy grace
Above Thine other wonders shine:
Who is a pard’ning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
—Samuel Davies

Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, were both from the line of David. This is important, because God had promised David that the Savior of mankind would come from his line. (3See Psalms 89:34-37)

There is a fear among Protestants of giving too much attention to Mary, because that may ring of Catholicism. However, she was highly favored. It is true that she was blessed among women, not above women. She elevated the value of womanhood, but she was not lifted above women. It was a woman who brought sin into the world, but do not forget it was also a woman that brought the Savior into the world. Mary was perhaps the best female descendant of David suitable for this matchless ministry of rearing the very Son of God. We must be careful not to downgrade Mary, nor to exalt her too highly.

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Mary was bothered by what the angel said and she wondered what it meant, though she accepted it. She was afraid and that is a natural reaction for anyone who sees an angel. Why? In all probability, because she, though being a young woman of excellent moral and spiritual character, was still a sinner, who now was unexpectedly face-to-face with a strong, brilliant, sinless being.

This reminds me of a story I heard of a black man over in Memphis, Tennessee who said, “I never believed in ghosts until I seen one.” If you see an angel you have the right to be afraid, I would be. Anytime the supernatural touches the natural, it creates fear.

Gabriel will go on to explain that the Messiah Himself was to be born to her.


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