Luke 1:26-27 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
One of the most remarkable things about Mary is how unremarkable she appears in the Bible. In fact, the Bible says very little about her. She was from Nazareth—a place so small and out-of-the-way that it’s not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Since girls were often married within a year of puberty, she may have only been thirteen at this time. And apart from some knowledge of the Bible (Luke 1:46-55), there is no indication that she was unusually godly.
Mary was a good mother, no doubt, but she was not perfect. When Jesus was twelve years old, she accidentally left him alone in Jerusalem, for three full days (Luke 2:41-50). And during Jesus’ ministry she tried to take control of him, because she thought he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). And although she truly believed in Jesus, not all her children believed (John 7:5).
Nevertheless, this ordinary girl from Nazareth was given the extraordinary honor of being chosen by God. This was so unlikely that for the rest of her life she must have said: I don’t know why you chose me, God, but I’m so glad that you did.
This should also be the attitude of all who belong to Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), wrote Paul. [N]ot because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9), wrote Paul again. Every Christian ought to say, every single day: I don’t know why you chose me, God, but I’m so glad that you did.
Luke 1:31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
This was an appropriate name for Messiah since Jesus means, The Lord Saves. Likewise, the angel said to Joseph, you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The world’s greatest problem is not ignorance, poverty or disease—but sin. From Genesis to Revelation the problem is always sin; the answer is always salvation; and the only Savior is Jesus Christ.
Luke 1:32 The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
To Mary, this could only mean that Jesus would grow up to be king, and she would be queen mother. She likely thought about this every day of Jesus’ life. But if this ignited her imagination, we can imagine her dismay when Jesus was crucified. When Jesus died on a cross, it seemed like every promise of God died with him.
There is an important lesson here for anyone who has ever been disappointed with God. Sometimes it seems like God over-promises and under-delivers. He promised Mary that Jesus would sit on David’s throne and rule over Israel. What actually happened was that Jesus died and went to heaven. However, when Jesus returns, he will rule the entire world forever—and this is more than Mary could have imagined.
In the short-term, God may seem to over-promise and under-deliver. But in the long-term, it is just the opposite. We can trust him now, even through disappointment, because the future will surpass our greatest dreams. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), wrote Paul.
Luke 1:34 How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin?
Mary understood how babies were conceived, and wanted to know how a virgin could give birth. The angel went on to explain that God himself would be the Father. This staggering fact is at the heart of Christianity. Jesus Christ is more than merely human; he is also divine.
The enemies of Christ are alarmed by this idea, so they reject the virginal conception. They do not want to concede that Jesus is divine, because then they would have to bow to him. But Mary is the mother of Christ, and God is his father, so he can rightly be called the God-man. And . . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Philippians 2:10), wrote Paul.
Luke 1:35 The Holy Spirit will come on 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.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this event hundreds of years before. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), meaning God with us. This is wonderful, of course, but it also raises a problem. How can one person be truly human and truly divine at the same time? God is all-powerful; humans are not. God is all-knowing; humans are not. God is everywhere; humans are not. How can Jesus Christ be finite and infinite at the same time? Answer: We don’t know.
Theologians call it a mystery. They are not saying it is illogical, irrational or contradictory, but that it’s beyond our understanding. If we understood everything about God, it would not be the true God we understood, but one of our own making. The God of the Bible is not one we would invent, or one that can be fully understood—we simply have to live with that.
Luke 1:38 I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled.
The angel’s word to Mary would be fulfilled, but not without cost to Mary. First, to get pregnant outside of marriage was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:20-24). Second, Joseph might not believe the Holy Spirit made Mary pregnant, so he might break off the engagement (Matthew 1:19). Third, even if Mary convinced Joseph, she would not convince most people, and would bear the stigma the rest of her life (John 8:41). Fourth, even though she did not know it, the only crown Jesus would wear in her lifetime would be a crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29).
So when Mary said, I am the Lord’s servant, she had no idea what she had agreed to. But she knew the one with whom she had agreed. She knew in her heart that being called by God, and identified with Jesus Christ, outweighed any earthly cost. Jesus will seldom make our lives easier or simpler, but will always makes them deeper and more meaningful. He may cost us everything, but will make us unspeakably rich.
Reflection and Review
Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of Christ?
Why was it important for Jesus to be conceived by the Holy Spirit?
Did Jesus make Mary’s life better or worse?