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 (Luke 1:26-38 ESV).
We have in this first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, the marvelous story of Christ’s coming into the world. This is the most amazing story.
THIS BIRTH WAS PREDICTED.
We all know that when a woman becomes pregnant, the birth of a child can be expected nine months later. Today, with ultrasound, doctors can often predict whether the child will be a girl or a boy. We use the expression in English: “She’s expecting.” Or, “they are expecting a baby.”
But the birth of Christ was predicted some 4000 years before. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned and were put out of the Garden, God in His mercy promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush Satan’s power:
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NLT).
God announces in the Garden of Eden that one would come and reverse sin’s curse, that one would be born of a woman.
This is what the Apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 4:4,
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman(Gal 4:4 NLT).
But we have all been born of a woman. How would we know when the promised one had come?
Down through the ages, time and time again, precisions were made so that no one could mistake when the promised one arrived.
God promised Abraham that it would be through his offspring that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. If God was going to become a man, he had to do it through a human family, and he had to choose a man, a family, a people, a nation. God chose a people, not to exclude others, but to be a channel, to bless all the nations of the earth.
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, prophesied that the promised one, the one we call the Messiah or the Christ, would be of the tribe of Judah, one of his 12 sons.
God promised King David 1000 years before the Christ’s birth that the Messiah would be a many times great grandson of David.
Micah 5:2 predicted 700 year before Christ’s birth that he would be born in the little village of Bethlehem.
Isaiah 7:14 predicted 700 years before Christ birth that he would be born of a virgin:
“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).
Many more prophecies tell us of that first coming of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, his return, and the kingdom that he will set up on earth when he returns.
No one else fulfilled the prophecies concerning his coming.
When a country sends an ambassador to a foreign country, that ambassador does not arrive unannounced. The host country has received all the documentation and is very well aware of the qualifications and the identity of the ambassador. And when that ambassador arrives, he has proper ID. He has proof of who he is. Otherwise, anyone could arrive at the airport and claim to represent another nation. I could claim to be an ambassador from the USA, but I would be “giaman””,” a fraud, because I have received no authority to represent the USA.
A country would not negotiate with a man who claimed to be an ambassador unless that man had the proper ID and documentation, the proper credentials to prove that he was who he said he was, that he represented the country that he claimed to represent, and that he had the authority that he claimed to have.
Why would you trust your eternal salvation to anyone but Jesus Christ?
Jesus warns us about false prophets, and false christs, thieves and robbers, those who claim to come in his name. Many have come. Many announce other messages, other teachings, other gods, but they were not sent. Jesus alone has the credentials. Before him, all the prophets pointed to him. After his earthly ministry, all true servants of God point back to Christ. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:5,
“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT).
All true servants of God point to Christ.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. When they asked John the Baptist questions as to who he was, whether he was the one to come, John denied it: “I am not the one to come. I am not the Christ.” John was a prophet of Christ. He pointed to Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
What other religious leader had prophets pointing to him? What other religious leader ever had a forerunner announcing his coming? Who announced the coming of Muhammad, or Joseph Smith? No one. The true prophets all pointed to Christ. He is the promised one. Why would you follow anyone else? These are questions that you need to think about if you are following anyone but Jesus Christ.
THE UNIQUENESS OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH
The story of the birth of Christ points to the “one of a kind” character of Jesus Christ. In all of human history, never had a baby been born to a virgin. Never would it happen again.
No other mother could make the claim to being a virgin. No other boy or girl has ever been born without the intervention of a human father.
No other man, woman, boy or girl has even been born of a virgin. No leader, no president, no prime minister, nor religious leader. Buddha was not born of a virgin. Bahaullah was not born of a virgin. Sun Myung Moon was not born of a virgin. No one else has ever been born of a virgin.
Of course, this is not the only unique characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures speak not only of his virgin birth
Substitutionary death on the cross
His bodily resurrection from the dead
His ascension to the right hand of God the Father
No one can compare with the incomparable Christ. And yet, this miracle, the virgin birth, as one writer said,
is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.
And so, as we approach Christmas this year, we celebrate not only the birth of a baby, but the coming of God to earth.
virgin birth: The biblical teaching that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother
Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.
Why a virgin birth?
The doctrinal importance of the virgin birth is seen in at least three areas.
1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Just as God had promised that the “seed” of the woman (Gen. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by his own power, not through mere human effort. The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and that was evident at the very beginning of Jesus’ life when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5).
2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. This was the means God used to send his Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4) into the world as a man. If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person. It probably would have been possible for God to create Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and send him to descend from heaven to earth without the benefit of any human parent. But then it would have been very hard for us to see how Jesus could be fully human as we are, nor would he be a part of the human race that physically descended from Adam. On the other hand, it probably would have been possible for God to have Jesus come into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, and with his full divine nature miraculously united to his human nature at some point early in his life. But then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus was fully God, since his origin was like ours in every way.
When we think of these two other possibilities, it helps us to understand how God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.1
3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. As we noted in chapter 24, all human beings have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam (this is sometimes called “inherited sin” or “original sin”). But the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam. And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ.
This idea seems to be indicated in the statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where he says to 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.” (Luke 1:35)
Because the Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the child was to be called “holy”2
In some circles, Mary has been exalted to the position of a mediator between God and man. It is stated that she was born without sin, that she never died, but ascended into heaven where she ever waits to intercede on our behalf.
The Scriptures paint another picture of Mary. Very little is said of this one who was “highly favored.” Later in the Gospels, each time that Mary is mentioned, Jesus puts distance between himself and his mother. One day the crowd told Jesus that his mother and brothers wanted to see him.
“Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 48 “Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 “Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.” 50 “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:47-50 NLT).
On another occasion, as Jesus was talking
“…a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother– the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” 28 “Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:27-28 NLT).
Jesus is saying that the greater blessing is hearing the Word of God and doing it. You can be as blessed as Mary who heard the Word of God and did it.
Notice how Jesus puts distance between himself and Mary in John 2.
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus said to his mother, “What have I to do with you?” or “What is there between you and me?” Mary would have to learn that she could not come to Jesus as his mother, but as his disciple.
After Jesus gave her to the care of John, there is only one more mention of her in the New Testament. In Acts 1, Mary is found in the upper room with 120 disciples who are praying and seeking God. She is never mentioned again. She is not found in the epistles of Paul, nor in the epistle of James, the brother of Jesus and son of Mary, nor in the epistles of John who took care of her. This obedient Jewish girl became a disciple of Christ, not a mediator between God and man for we read in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Mary was born like all other children; she needed the Savior to whom she miraculously gave birth. She became his disciple, she lived for him, she died and was buried, and she will be raised with all those who are dead in Christ on that resurrection day.
While some have constructed many myths about her which have no biblical support, others have frequently reacted adversely in refusing to see in Mary the model of one who, in the words of Jesus, did the will of God, who heard the word of God and obeyed it. This episode in the life of Mary is a wonderful example for us of voluntary submission to the will of God.
Some six or more months before… The angel Gabriel: Jerusalem and Nazareth, some 70 miles away. Not the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the lowly village of Nazareth.
The reputation of Nazareth. Not a large city, perhaps 15,000 which was a fair size in those days. Major highway between Tyre, Sidon and Jerusalem, between Egypt and Damascus. Merchants, Roman soldiers, Greek travelers. City of ill-repute. Nathanael who lived close by asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
In the midst of this city was a young Jewish girl, a virgin. Mary was a descendent of King David through Nathan (physical descent). Joseph was a descent of David through Solomon (legal descent). But 1000 years had passed since the glory of the Davidic reign, and this teenage girl who was engaged to be married not to a king, but to a carpenter.
The Presence of the Angel
There is no doubt that Mary was a godly teenager. She was a girl who sought God, who wanted to please him, to do his will. The record is clear: she had kept herself pure. God had seen her. He knew her heart. So he sent his angel Gabriel to give her the message. There are special blessings for those who love God and keep his commandments. Angelic visits are few and far between, but divine visitation is not confined to temple courts or palaces of earthly kings. Any humble heart may be honored by a messenger from heaven. And while most of us will never see an angel, if we seek his face, and seek to do his will, God will visit us and bless us.
Gabriel greets Mary as one who is “highly favored.” She is not one who gives divine grace, she receives it. God had decided that she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary is also greeted as one who enjoyed God’s special presence: “The Lord is with you.”
The Promise to Mary
Gabriel had come to announce a special promise to Mary. 700 years before, Isaiah had prophesied in “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14).
Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
These wonderful words puzzled Mary. She wanted direction. “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” She did not doubt the word of Gabriel as Zacharias had done. She did not ask, “Can this be?”
God wants to do some great work in our lives. He wants to delivers us from harmful habits. He wants to make us soul winners. He wants to make this church a great witness to this city. We read in his Word what he wants do in our lives. Do we respond like Zacharias or like Mary? Ephesians 3:20 says that he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.“
Mary had asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
She would give birth to the Messiah. But he would be not only the Messiah; he would be the Son of God.
In Genesis 1:2 the Holy Spirit overshadowed the waters of the earth and brought for creation. The Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary and begin the new creation.
Let us be clear about this. God did not have physical relations with Mary as some think. Such a doctrine is blasphemous. God worked a miracle in the teenage girl so that without sexual intervention she gave birth to Jesus. Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus.
You see, God does not have a body. Jesus tells us in John 4 that God is spirit. That is His nature. He does not say that God has a spirit, but that God is spirit.
The Bible does speak of the arm of the Lord, that it is powerful to save. It speaks of the eyes of the Lord going to and fro throughout the earth. The Scriptures use terms like these to help us understand that God is all powerful and that He is all knowing. The Bible also speaks of the feathers, the wings, and the pinions of God,
“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4 NLT).
but I have never heard anyone suggest that God is a type of bird. These figures are simply to shows us that God is our protection.
That is why the Bible says that God is invisible.
Colossians 1:15 ESV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
1 Timothy 1:17 ESV To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 11:27 ESV By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Why is God invisible? He is invisible because He does not have a body. Now you can hear my voice, but you cannot see me. Nonetheless, you know that I am not invisible. You know that if you were to walk into this radio studio, you would see me sitting at a chair and speaking into a microphone because I have a body. I am not invisible. God is invisible because he does not have a body.
And that is one of the reasons why God became man. Notice this conversation between the Father and the Son, a conversation that took place in the members of the one true God before the Father sent His Son into the world:
“That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. 6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God– as is written about me in the Scriptures.’“ 8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Hebrews 10:5-10 NLT).
And so, the Word became flesh. He lived among us, John says. The disciples looked upon the
“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14 NLT).
He was fully God and continued to be fully God, but he took on himself full humanity. Fully God and fully man: God made visible! He told Philip: “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.”
Yet, fully man. He would fast for 40 days and experience hunger (Matthew 4). In John 4, he was weary at the well in Samaria. On the cross, he was thirsty. And then he did the most human thing of all: he died.
Yet, that’s why he had to be born. He was born to die, to die for you and for me. The Father prepared a body for the Son, that He might offer it as a sacrifice in our place, a sacrifice for our sins. He was born to die.
Nor is it correct to say that Mary is the mother of God. Mary is never called the mother of God in Scripture. She is called the mother of Jesus. Gabriel said that “The holy one to be born would be called the Son of God,” and not because of Mary, but because of the miracle worked by the Holy Spirit.
Mary would receive an encouragement to her faith: her cousin Elizabeth, who was past the age of childbearing, was six months pregnant. God is not limited by the ordinary. He can do, and does, extraordinary things. God is not imprisoned within that which men call the natural; but for his own purposes, he can act in a way men can only describe as supernatural. “With God nothing shall be impossible.” Or better, “For no word from God shall be void of power.”
The Focus Of This Story
Mary is the servant of the Lord. She is the servant that God uses to bring His Son into the world. And yet, we need remind ourselves that Mary is not the focus. She is not the reason for the appearance of Gabriel. The focus of this story is on the child that would be born.
. 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.”
The Posture of Mary
Mary’s posture was that of a servant: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.” Barclay: “I am the Lord’s servant. Whatever he says, I accept.”
We think that it was wonderful for Mary to have been chosen by God, and it was. But what of the reproach? What of her reputation? Mary was 17 or 18 years old and engaged to Joseph. There is no reason to believe that he was an old man. What would he say? We know from Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph was going to divorce her because he knew that he had never been with her. Mary was not believed by the one she loved. What about the accusations? The shame? Even the possibility of being stoned? Perhaps one of the reasons she went to be with Elizabeth for three months was to avoid the shame.
Why did she go to see Elizabeth? Was she trying to get away from suspicious looks from her family members? Then why Elizabeth? Elizabeth was much older, past the age of child bearing, but she was pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary recognized that God was doing something in Elizabeth’s life. God had worked a miracle in Elizabeth’s life and she would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Elizabeth would understand the miraculous. Elizabeth would be more inclined to believe Mary’s story… 2013-12-09.
And yet, when she arrived at Elizabeth’s, the baby that Elizabeth was carrying, leaped in her womb and and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She exclaimed with a loud cry, “…why is this grated to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Jesus in the womb is the LORD God. The focus is on Christ.
Let us note that the unborn child is not a tissue or a substance or something to be expelled or aborted. Young woman, however you became pregnant, the child you are carrying is the image of God. God is weaving that child in your womb. That child belongs to God. God is trusting you to protect that child and to raise it to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, there may be shame. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why she accompanied Joseph on the long and difficult voyage to Bethlehem when she was “great with child.”
Mary and Joseph were chosen to be parents to Jesus. They were chosen because they were godly. They loved God. They knew His Word. God entrusted to them the responsibility of raising the Messiah.
It is not always easy to accept God’s will; but it is always best. Mary was submissive, and she gave the world the Savior. His name would be Jesus for he would save us from our sins.
Mary could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.” Had this been her response, she would never have had the child.
Nor was Mary totally passive. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.“ This is active passivity. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, her body, to God. We must not think that we can accomplish the promises of God by our own strength. Nor must we think that we have no part.
We cannot break the power of sin over us by our might, nor can it be broken without our participation. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.“ Pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” Pray with David,
“Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:13-14).
You need more fruit in your life. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.“
You need to be baptized into the Holy Spirit. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.“ Actively seek the Lord.
You need to be a soul winner. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.“
Let us wait with expectant hearts. Through the Christ child which he gave for all of us, God will accomplish in us all that he has promised to do.