Fairview Baptist Church
Sunday School Archives
To send an email regarding the Lesson Study Guide follow the link below:
Email Link: email@example.com
This Sunday School Study Guide is provided
free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.
It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for
sale, without permission from the copyright holders.
Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Winter, 2018-19
Study Theme: The
Full Picture of Christmas
What This Lesson Is About
week’s study is focused on our need to rely on God to help us understand
the vital aspect of trust in Mary’s story and how trust in Him impacts
Prophecy (Isaiah 7:10-14,9—6:7; 11:1-5)
Obedience (Matt. 1:18-25)
Mary’s Trust (Luke 1:26-38)
The Angels’ Announcement (Luke 2:1-14)
Simeon’s Proclamation (Luke 2:25-35)
The Wise Men’s Worship (Matt. 2:1-11)
Embrace God’s call on your
Rely On The Presence & Grace of God (Luke
The Plan of God (Luke 1-31-34)
The Power of God (Luke 1:35-38)
Matthew was a disciple of Jesus who wrote to
explain the gospel to non-Christian Jews. He focused upon those aspects of
Jesus’ ministry that would speak to his own people. In typical Jewish
fashion, he began his Gospel with a genealogy that spanned the distance
from Abraham to Jesus (Matt. 1:1-16). Matthew then located the birth of
Christ in the context of a Jewish family and began to tell the story of
Jesus’ parents, beginning with Jesus’ father.
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Whether or not you are a detailed planner,
you likely have goals and an idea of where you’d like to go in life. We
can be resistant when someone else’s plans collide with ours, and our
plans are disrupted. But changes can also be welcome, especially if they
come from God. Joseph had a plan for his life with Mary, but God stepped
in and changed that plan. All of us benefit from the plan God gave to
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
On The Presence & Grace of God (Luke 1:26-30)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God
to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27
to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The
virgin’s name was Mary. 28
And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord
is with you.” 29
But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of
greeting this could be. 30
Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found
favor with God.
The Plan of God (Luke 1-31-34)
Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name
him Jesus. 32 He
will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord
God will give him the throne of his father David. 33
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have
no end.” 34 Mary
asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations
with a man?”
Lessons in Luke 1:31-34:
God had a plan for bringing salvation into the world through Jesus.
The kingdom of God stands now and forever through Christ.
God is able to suspend the laws of nature to fulfill His plans and
purposes. >We must trust that God is in control and has a plan for our
The Power of God (Luke 1:35-38)
The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the
power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be
born will be called the Son of God. 36
And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her
old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37
For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38
“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it be done to me
according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
can you embrace God’s call on your life with courage?
What is the most difficult part of trusting God’s power
for your life when you don’t really don’t have a firm grip on His will for
on verse 35, what does Gabriel tell Mary? (See
Adv. Comm., pg. 5, Gapriel’s response to
Mary’s . . . “ )
what does Gabriel’s reference to The
Most High mean? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “A
third reality highlighted . . . “ )
does Gabirel tell Mary in verses 36 & 37?
would you explain Elizabeth & Zacharias story and how it relates to that of
Mary and the birth of the Lord Most High?
would you explain the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the
life of the Messiah? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, The role of the . . . “
& “However, the Spirit’s . . . “
would you explain Elizabeth’s story and the reason Gabriel mentioned it? (see
Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Mary
never asked . . . “ )
you have some examples in your life when you trusted God when things seemed
impossible? How did they turn out?
do you think is the role of humility in our seeking God’s power in our life?
should our response to God’s power always be in humble submission?
Lessons in Luke 1:35-38:
God is powerful and nothing is impossible with Him.
If we look carefully, we will see examples of God’s work in the world.
Our response to God’s power should always be humble submission.
has a plan for each of us. He
calls out to us to do His will. We
le to God or satisfying to us. The
greatest pleasure comes in embracing God call.
When we trust and obey Him, He makes us able to face the challenges
that amy accompany His call. And
in the end, we can share in His glory.
As you consider what God may be calling you to do,
consider these questions for this study:
What call of God continues to shape your life?
How did you initially respond to His call?
What or who helped you to step our in trust to embrace His call?
In what ways have you
experienced god’s presence, grace, and power as you have acted with
trust to His claim on your life?
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
James Version (KJV)
in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee,
named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was
Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said,
Hail, thou that art highly
favoured, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women. 29
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what
manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her,
Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold,
thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name
JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the
Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom
there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall
this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said
unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest
shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of
thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin
Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth
month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall
be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be
it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
King James Version
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.
the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of
David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said,
"Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting
this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid,
Mary, you have found favor with God. 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." 34 "How
will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 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. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to
have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth
month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I
am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have
said." Then the angel left her.
(NOTE: Commentary for the
focal passage comes from three sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,”
“Bible Studies For Life Commentary,” and “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Mary’s Trust” —Luke 1:26-38
Rely On The Presence & Grace of God (Luke
The Plan of God (Luke 1-31-34)
The Power of God (Luke 1:35-38)
Advanced Bible Study Commentary: Nehemiah
Rely On The Presence & Grace
of God (Luke 1:26-30)
This is the second appearance of Gabriel in
Luke’s account of events leading up to Jesus’ birth. He had previously
appeared to Zechariah to announce the impending birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25).
While the angel that appeared to Zechariah initially went unnamed, he later
identified himself as “Gabriel”—and added that he served “in the
presence of God” (1:19).
Luke dated the time of Gabriel’s arrival in
Nazareth to the sixth month. Rather than the sixth month of the Jewish year, it
is better to understand this as the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. This
connects the angel’s announcement to Zechariah with his announcement to Mary.
It also fits with the angel’s “sixth month” comment in verse 36.
Luke likely mentioned Nazareth and Galilee as
a way to help his non-Jewish readers get their geographic bearings. In the first
century, Nazareth was little more than a sparse village of little reputation.
The apostle John underscored this truth in his record of Nathanael’s initial
response to Jesus’ hometown: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
(John 1:45-46). Apparently, Mary and Joseph both lived in Nazareth before
Jesus was born, and they returned there when they left Egypt after Herod’s
death (Matt. 2:19-23).
Like Matthew, Luke emphasized both Mary’s virginity and Jesus’
connection to David’s royal line. Matthew had used these truths to affirm
Jesus’ fulfillment of Messianic prophecies for his Jewish readers. Luke’s
audience was more likely made up of Gentiles who would not have been as
interested in Jewish prophecies. However, they would have recognized the
credibility of Luke’s account based on the miracle of the virgin birth and His
association with David’s family line.
It is best to simply take the truth of the virgin birth at face
value. The idea of God coming to earth in the form of a human baby violates the
laws of nature in a way that is beyond dispute. But, if one can accept that
truth, it should not be a difficult leap to believe that God brought the
Messiah’s arrival about through the miraculous pregnancy of a virgin.
Gabriel’s greeting included two blessings. First, he called Mary
a favored woman. The idea of “favor” is closely associated to the
concept of grace. In a sense, God was showering His grace on Mary. Luke never
indicated that she had a special degree of spirituality or devout passion. In
the true spirit of His undeserved grace, God sovereignly chose her for a
monumental task even though she was essentially unworthy.
The angel also told Mary, “The Lord is with you.”
In one sense, this part of the greeting highlighted Mary’s ongoing
relationship with God. It ultimately set the stage for the real purpose of the
angel’s visit. Mary was about to experience the presence of God in a very
personal and intimate way. And because of that, the entire world would
understand that Jesus was Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23; also see Isa.
Understandably, Mary’s response included more than a small dose of
alarm. Luke described her as being deeply troubled, which translates a
Greek term that means “confused” or “puzzled.” This is the only time the
word is used in the New Testament. Again, these kinds of greetings were unusual
for a woman of her social position. And to have them delivered by an angel would
have multiplied her concern.
Gabriel’s response to Mary was designed to calm her troubled heart
and mind. By telling her not to be afraid, he was sharing the same message
Joseph later would receive (Matt. 1:20). The angel also repeated that
God’s favor—His unmerited grace—rested on Mary. The news she was about to
receive would shake her world to its core. But through it all, God would be with
her and would protect her.
Likewise, we don’t always know or understand
what God is doing in our lives. Sometimes, we experience just a tip of His
greater plan, and that might leave us confused and anxious. But we can still
rest assured that He is in control and that He will walk with us through any
Trust The Plan of God (Luke
After assuring Mary of God’s blessing and
grace, Gabriel turned to the heart of his message. God’s favor would result in
a baby. She would conceive and give birth to a son. The wording might
remind readers of Isaiah’s prophecy that a virgin would conceive and bear a
son who would be called Immanuel (Isa. 7:14).
Like Joseph, Mary was
given the command to name her child Jesus, though Luke does not record
Gabriel explaining the meaning of the name as he does in Matthew’s Gospel.
Instead, Luke recorded other phrases from Gabriel that would characterize Jesus.
Gabriel said the child would be great. Jesus never had much from a
material perspective, but His power and authority were undisputed.
Jesus came into a world where many powerful
people believed they were great. However, none could compare with the greatness
of Christ. Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest person born of
a woman (Matt. 11:11; Luke 7:28), didn’t hold a candle to the Messiah.
Jesus’ greatness is absolute by His very nature.
He would also be called the Son of the Most
High. This title would have carried Messianic implications, but it also
equated Jesus with God Himself. Luke, through Gabriel, made it clear that Jesus
is the Son of God. Again, Luke contrasted Jesus with John the Baptist. While
John was “called a prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76, emphasis added),
Jesus was one with the Most High.2
Jesus’ claim of
divinity would be the primary reason His enemies would eventually try to destroy
Him. But it also represented the primary reason He was the only One capable of
living a sinless life and providing the perfect sacrifice necessary to secure
Gabriel also referred to Jesus’ right to the
throne of his father David. Christ would be more than a Savior. He also would be
a King. Luke had already referred to His connection to “the house of David”
through Joseph (v. 27). Luke was likely indicating that Jesus’ birth would
finally fulfill the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7:16. The
line of Davidic kings lasted until the exile in Babylon, but that was more than
500 years before the birth of Christ. Jesus would be the descendant whose reign
would last forever.
Jesus often referred to the kingdom of God as
a present— though essentially unseen—reality. The Scriptures make it clear,
however, that one day Jesus will return as a conquering King. The world will see
Him as He is and every knee will bow to Him.
Christ’s reign over the house of Jacob
provides another affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah. The phrase the house of
Jacob was often used to refer to the entire nation of Israel. As an eternal
King, His reign will never end.
Mary’s confusion finally moved from her
heart to her words. Following the announcement of her impending pregnancy, she
asked a question that likely seemed natural at the time: “How can this
be?” Mary understood that babies require a man and a woman coming together
Mary’s pregnancy was a different matter altogether. She had never
known a man sexually. And, as Matthew pointed out, Joseph would not be intimate
with her until after Jesus’ birth. While her virginity would end some day,
that day would not come until after this baby was born (Matt. 1:25).
It is important to remember that while miracles like the
virgin birth are important anchors in evangelical theology, they are not the
source of our hope. Just as Jesus’ miracles during His time on earth testified
to His Deity and power, the virgin birth reminds readers that God is the author
of our salvation. The foundation of our faith, though, is found in the death and
resurrection of Christ. All four of the Gospel writers present those events as
the climax of their stories, while only two of them even mention the virgin
It also should be emphasized that Mary was not expressing doubt
or reservations with this question. Earlier in Luke’s story, Zechariah had
asked Gabriel essentially the same question. The only difference was that
Zechariah questioned the advanced ages of Elizabeth and himself, not their
sexual history. In response to the priest’s doubt, the angel caused him to be
mute for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
The difference between the two was a matter of the motivation behind
the question. Where Zechariah’s question expressed doubt, Mary’s question
was rooted in curiosity.
Some commentators have suggested that Mary’s question
actually demonstrates the depth of her faith—in contrast to Zechariah’s
skepticism. By asking how it would happen, she was acknowledging that a virgin
birth was humanly impossible and that it would take God’s intervention to
occur. For her, it was not a matter of if Gabriel’s announcement would occur.
Rather, it was a question of how God was going to make the miraculous happen.
Once again, Mary understood that God had a plan and purpose for her life and was
committed to following that plan for His glory.
Trust The Power of God (Luke
Gabriel’s response to Mary’s question can be summarized in a simple
sentence: God will make it happen. Her pregnancy would be the work of the
Holy Spirit through the power of the Most High. And her baby would be no
ordinary boy; He would be the Son of God.
The role of the Spirit to this point in Scripture is
different from how we understand His work today. In the Old Testament, the Holy
Spirit did not indwell people on a permanent basis as He does with believers.
Instead, He empowered them for specific tasks at specific times. For example,
ancient judges like Othniel (Judg. 3:10), Gideon (6:34), and Samson (13:25;
14:6) experienced the temporary power and presence of the Spirit to help the
However, the Spirit’s work in the life of the Messiah would be
something completely different. In his prophecy related to the Lord’s Servant,
Isaiah mentioned He would be empowered by the Spirit to accomplish God’s
mission among the people (Isa. 42:1ff). Luke hinted at this by contrasting John
and Jesus again. John was filled by the Spirit in the womb (Luke 1:15), but
Christ was conceived by the Spirit. In addition, His ministry reflected this
dependence early when the Spirit descended on Him at the baptism and then drove
Him in the wilderness for a season of testing (see Mark 1:9-13).
third reality highlighted Most High takes readers back to Gabriel’s
description of Jesus as “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). Luke was
reminding his readers that though Jesus was the Son of God, He was no less
divine. In the prologue to his Gospel, John made it clear that Jesus was God’s
Son from eternity, not just when He entered Mary’s womb (John 1:1-5).
Likewise, readers should not assume Jesus’
sinless life was based on the absence of a human father. Such an argument
mistakenly assumes Mary was without sin as well. This was not the case. Jesus
was perfect because He was God incarnate, not because He had missed out on some
kind of “sin gene” during conception.
Christ was (and is) equal to God in every way.
And, yet, His relationship with Mary also meant that He was completely human.
This mystical reality of Jesus’ full Deity and full humanity took centuries of
debate to resolve, but it also serves as a key component of the Christian faith
through the ages.
Luke also referred to Jesus’ being holy.
Throughout the Bible, holiness is associated with people or objects who are set
apart for certain tasks. In Jesus’ case, He was set apart to provide the
sacrifice that would make salvation possible.
Mary never asked the angel for a sign, but God demonstrated
His grace again by providing one anyway. In this case, the sign was actually a
person—Mary’s relative Elizabeth. As a skilled historian, Luke likely
had shared the details of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation to set the stage
for this point in Mary’s story. If readers did not have the background he
provided, the lack of context would be confusing.
Elizabeth’s story apparently had not made
its way to Nazareth. From all indications, Mary was hearing about Elizabeth for
the first time from Gabriel, but the story still had the same impact. Mary could
connect the dots and see how God’s work in the life of her relative related to
His work in her own life. While the miracles were different, God had the power
to fulfill them both—and that was something Mary could count on despite
To emphasize the point,
the angel reminded Mary that nothing will be impossible with God. The
news she had heard—about her own pregnancy and Elizabeth’s pregnancy—stood
beyond the realm of human logic or explanation. But God specializes in turning
the impossible on its head. He would do what He promised to do because He had
the power and authority to make it happen.
Mary demonstrated amazing faith by
surrendering herself to God’s power and plan. The idea of the Lord’s
servant conveys a total submission to Him. While she probably didn’t
understand all the details or the implications, she was content to let God work
out His will through her life.
Through her response, Mary accepted a huge
responsibility. Elizabeth’s pregnancy had erased the disgrace of being barren,
but Mary’s pregnancy out of wedlock exposed her to more devastating disgrace.
However, she was confident in the power of the God she served. She knew what He
had done for Elizabeth, and she knew what He had promised to do through her. She
understood that nothing really is impossible when God is involved; so, while her
circumstances might not have made sense to her, trusting God did.
For Life Commentary:
Rely On The Presence & Grace
of God (Luke 1:26-30)
Luke told the story of Jesus’ birth from Mary’s perspective. He started with
a barren woman named Elizabeth, who miraculously conceived a child with her
husband, Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25). Their child would prove to be the forerunner
of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist. Luke located the announcement that Mary
would have a child as the sixth month.
This is not a reference to the sixth month of the year but the sixth month of
Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John. This is further clarified in verse 36, which
specifies the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
At that time, Mary
had a heavenly visitor, the angel Gabriel, who had also announced Elizabeth’s
upcoming pregnancy to Zechariah (v. 19). There Gabriel is described as one who
“stands in the presence of God.” God’s presence was coming to Mary through
one of His messengers, an angel sent by God,
who made two big announcements in Luke 1.
The angel found Mary
in Galilee, the territory north of
Samaria that contained the city of Nazareth. Nazareth
was a small village, not located on most of the trade routes, and was about 70
miles northeast of Jerusalem. It was not a major city like Jerusalem, where
Zechariah and Elizabeth received the announcement from Gabriel they would have a
child. Rather, it was into this small, seemingly insignificant area that God
announced He was sending His Son.
Gabriel came to deliver a message to a virgin,
the word for a woman who had not engaged in sexual relations. Elizabeth had been
too old for a child, but she now was pregnant with John. Mary had never tried to
have a baby, but she would soon be pregnant with Jesus. Two miraculous births in
one extended family and from different ends of the country—this was the way
God accomplished His purposes.
Mary was only engaged
to be married. This referred to a Jewish process that was more legally binding
than modern engagement because it required a formal divorce to be broken.
However, the couple did not participate in sexual relations during this process
until the marriage was finalized.
text identified Joseph as being of the house of
David. This was important because when Joseph “adopted” Jesus into
his family, it meant He also was legally from the lineage of David. This allowed
Jesus the opportunity to fulfill all of the prophecies God had made to David
about an eternal place on the throne for his descendants (2 Sam. 7:16).
Gabriel approached Mary and delivered greetings. This was a typical form to
begin a conversation, and it was based on the same root as the next word, favored
woman. People have often wondered how God chose Mary. Was it some quality
she possessed others did not? Was she the winner of some contest of obedience?
By calling her favored woman, the angel
identified her as the recipient of grace. She had done nothing to gain God’s
favor and give birth to the Messiah. Rather, God had poured His grace upon her
by giving her that opportunity.
addition to highlighting God’s grace, the angel also emphasized the presence
of God. He said, “the Lord is with you.”
This reality was highlighted to Gideon before God called him (Judg. 6:12) and to
those harvesting in Boaz’s field before they began to work (Ruth 2:4). Before
God ever called Mary to be part of His plan, He assured her His presence was
The angel called Mary a favored woman, but she felt deeply
troubled by that statement. She saw in herself no divine qualities or
reasons the angel would greet her in such a manner. Why would the angel greet
her in this way? This is the only appearance in the New Testament of the word
translated deeply troubled. It described
something that was stirred up, confusing, or perplexing. Seeing an angel was
enough to stir one up, but hearing the angel pronounce you as favored by God is
even more perplexing.
wondered what kind of greeting the angel had given to her. Perhaps she felt such
a greeting was not suited to her. Everyone can see his or her own unworthiness
far better than anyone else. Today, people feel unworthy to preach, teach, or
share the gospel with others, so imagine how Mary felt when Gabriel came
greeting her and telling her of a special calling God had for her—to carry the
Messiah in her womb.
Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. These
words calmed Mary from her unworthiness to be a vessel of God’s grace. Gabriel
reminded her she had found favor with
God. The word favor is the
usual word for grace.
Nothing is said before or after the announcement to Mary
about her piety or ability to curry favor from God. She was God’s sovereign
choice to bring the Messiah into the world. Her job was to rely on the presence
of the Lord and receive His grace in her life. We too must receive His grace in
Trust The Plan of God (Luke
This verse has distinct echoes of Isaiah 7:14, a prophecy of Jesus’ birth. She
would conceive and give birth to a son.
This is what Isaiah had said. The words of the angel Gabriel were consistent
with the words of God to the prophet Isaiah. Though the word virgin
was not mentioned in this verse, it had already been established that Mary was
pure sexually (Luke 1:27) and did not need to be repeated.
Gabriel’s conversation with Zechariah, the angel had given the name John to
the elderly parents (v. 13). The angel was also the one to tell Mary her
baby’s name would be Jesus. Isaiah had said the child would be named Immanuel,
meaning “God is with us.” Jesus means “the Lord is salvation” or “the
Lord saves.” Both names are fitting of Jesus’ role in the plan of God.
Gabriel revealed four realities about Jesus. First, the angel revealed Jesus
would be great. Zechariah was told the
same thing about John the Baptist (v. 15). John’s greatness centered upon his
calling to be separate from the world and set apart for the Holy Spirit, but
Jesus’ greatness would be unfolded in the other three realities mentioned in
Second, Jesus’ greatness came from the fact that He was the
Son of the Most High. Most High is
a typical reference to the God of Israel (1:35,76; 6:35; Acts 7:48). As the
child of a virgin, Jesus had Mary as His mother and God as His Father.
Zechariah’s prophecy over John referred to his son as a prophet
of the Most High (Luke 1:76), but the angel referred to Jesus as the Son
of the Most High. Jesus was uniquely
different than John or any other being ever born on the earth.
A third reality highlighted by Gabriel was that the Lord
God would give Jesus the throne of his father
David. God had promised David an eternal reign (2 Sam. 7:12-16), and
Jesus stepped in as the Messiah who would fulfill that role. It would have been
impossible for an earthly ruler to fulfill this destiny, but Jesus, being both
human and divine, could establish a kingdom that would last forever. As the Son
of God and the Messiah from the line of David, Jesus would establish a kingdom
that would be both spiritual and everlasting.
33 identifies the final reality about Jesus in this passage. The angel announced
Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob
forever. This was a typical way of referring to the kingdom of Israel
(Ex. 19:3; Isa. 2:5-6; 8:17; 48:1). Expectation of Messiah preceded the time of
David. He was following in the line of the great Patriarchs of the Jewish faith.
But unlike other earthly rulers, Jesus’ kingdom would have no end. Saints in
the Old Testament had longed for such a kingdom (Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:14; Mic. 4:7),
and now that would become a reality in Jesus.
Mary moved from being perplexed at being called a favored woman (Luke 1:28) to
being curious about how she could have a child. She asked, “How
can this be?” It would be enough to wonder how her child could be the
Messiah and the initiator of an eternal kingdom. These were indeed lofty
aspirations. Surely one might wonder how her child could be a Son of the Most
High (v. 32). These grand visions of what her child would be could have caused
anyone to question. But that was not what had her questioning.
The part that perplexed her was that she was a virgin who
had not had sexual relations with a man. She was engaged to Joseph, but they had
not completed the marriage ceremony, much less consummated the marriage. Unlike
Zechariah, who received the announcement of John’s birth, Mary didn’t doubt
the angel or ask for a sign to prove its veracity. She accepted the
pronouncement but asked for more information of how it could happen. She trusted
in the plan of God, even when it was difficult to understand how it could
Trust The Power of God (Luke
In response to Mary’s request for more information, Gabriel encouraged her to
trust in the power of God. First, he explained that the Holy Spirit would come
upon her. This was similar wording to the filling of the Holy Spirit in
Acts 1:8. Though John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15),
Jesus was actually conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. The language
avoided the connotation of mating with God or sexual relations. Rather it
reflected the creative power and work of the Holy Spirit.
the angel announced that the Most High
would overshadow Mary. The word carried
the idea of the holy, mighty presence of the Lord. The idea describes the way
the cloud covered the tabernacle when it was filled with God’s glory (Ex.
40:35). It also describes the cloud of God’s glory that covered the mount of
transfiguration when God revealed He was pleased with His Son (Matt. 17:5; Mark
9:7; Luke 9:34).
of the Spirit’s activity in Mary’s life would be a child who would be born.
This child would come as a normal child because He was human. But He would also
be the Son of God. Jesus would be fully
human and fully God. He was also called the holy
one, because He was set apart and different than any other child born
into the world. Only God’s power could produce such a miracle in Mary, and it
was difficult for her to comprehend.
As an example of the power of God, Gabriel cited the miracle that God had done
in Mary’s relative Elizabeth. God had opened her womb even though she was
barren and advanced beyond the age of childbearing. She was childless because
she could not have children. Doubtless she and Zechariah had tried
unsuccessfully through the prime years of her youth, but now she was old and
probably had long ago given up hope that she would have a child.
everything that was working against Elizabeth, she was now in her sixth
month of pregnancy. Who could deny the power of God at work in her? If
God could open the womb of a barren woman, then should Mary dare to believe He
could fill the womb of a virgin woman? If God did the impossible with
Elizabeth’s womb, who was Mary to question whether God could do so with hers?
God was calling upon Mary to trust in His power.
The angel of the Lord made an incredible pronouncement to Mary: For
nothing will be impossible with God. This was not the first time an
expression like this was spoken. Abraham and Sarah had longed for a baby and had
even been promised by God that they would have more descendants than sand on the
seashore and stars in the sky. Yet, they had no baby. They were well advanced in
age, and still they tried to hold to the promises of God. After they had passed
the age of childbearing (Gen. 18:11), God announced they would have a child.
Sarah laughed, but God asked, “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” (v.
14). A year later, they named their child Laughter or Isaac (21:3).
Lord called Jeremiah to buy a field even as the Chaldeans laid siege to the city
and were about to capture it (Jer. 32:24-25). The foolishness of buying a field
in a country that was about to fall to a foreign power was great. But the Lord
reminded Jeremiah, “I am the Lord,
the God over every creature” (v. 27). He asked, “Is anything too difficult
for me?” He encouraged Jeremiah not to discount the power of God.
confronted Job with His words, Job admitted he knew God could do anything (Job
42:2). The prophet Zechariah dreamed of the rebirth of Jerusalem, but others
doubted whether it could ever rise again in prominence. God reminded His people
that nothing was impossible to Him (Zech. 8:6). Jesus had taught His disciples
that it was difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24).
In fact, He said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
This startled the disciples who deduced that nobody could ever be saved. Jesus
responded that with man it was indeed impossible, but “with God all things are
possible” (v. 26). These examples of the power of God encourage us to believe
in the power of God more than our own senses. We must trust in the power of God.
Relying on the presence and grace of God and trusting in the plan and power of
God, Mary responded favorably to the angel’s pronouncement that she would have
a child. She said, “I am the Lord’s
servant.” She served the Lord and she surrendered to His plan and
purpose for her life. Who was she to question the God who was present and so
full of grace? Who was she to question the God who had such power and wisdom?
She took her proper place as a servant of the Lord. Her quality of piety might
not have been the reason she was chosen, but her simple surrender to the Lord
despite the consequences was impressive.
responded simply, “May it be done to me.”
A thousand questions of how and why would have flooded her mind. But she calmed
herself and willingly submitted to the will of God for her life. Her service to
the Lord was not a begrudging obedience to the will of God but a joyous
surrender. Mary’s attitude mirrored Hannah’s in the Old Testament when the
barren woman surrendered her will to God’s will (1 Sam. 1:18). Both women were
committed to what God wanted to do in their lives regardless of their own will
said God could do with her “according to your
word.” The word of the angel was the Word of God, and she joyfully
submitted to God’s Word in her life. Her joyful submission was followed by the
words, the angel left her. Gabriel’s
purpose was done. He had announced the birth of Jesus and prepared Mary for the
changes that were about to take place in her body and in her life. She would
have to trust God. His presence was with her through the Holy Spirit.
SOURCE: Bible Studies For
Life Commentary; Leader Guide; Senior Adults; One LifeWay Plaza; Nashville, TN
Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament
I. Rely On The Presence & Grace of God (Luke 1:26-30)
The birth of Jesus foretold (1:26-38)
Continuing in the same style in which he has
described Zechariah’s encounter with the angel of the Lord, Luke now weaves
deep theological meaning into his simple and delicate narrative. This section is
the highest of several summits of revelation in chapters 1 and 2. The account of
Jesus’ nativity, beautiful and essential as it is, rests theologically on the
angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. Luke presents the theology of the
Incarnation in a way so holy and congruent with OT sacred history that any
comparisons with pagan mythology seem utterly incongruous. Instead of the carnal
union of a pagan god with a woman, producing some kind of semi-divine offspring,
Luke speaks of a spiritual overshadowing by God himself that will produce the
“holy one” within Mary.
Several themes are intertwined in this
passage: (1) the divine sonship of Jesus (vv. 32, 35); (2) his messianic role
and reign over the kingdom (vv. 32-33); (3) God as the “Most High” (vv. 32,
35; cf. v. 76); (4) the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 35); and (5) the grace of
God (vv. 29-30, 34-35, 38).
1:26. The mention of Elizabeth’s “sixth
month” (cf. v. 24) points to the pattern of alternation and establishes a link
with the prophet John the Baptist (cf. comments on vv. 5-25). The same
chronological device points in v. 36 to God’s power over human reproduction.
This theme of the direct action of God is one of the basic ones in Luke-Acts.
(See v. 19 in reference to the angel Gabriel.) Luke calls Nazareth a polis,
which can often be translated “city,” but here describes a “town” (NIV)
or “village.” It was off, though not totally inaccessible from, the main
trade routes. Its relatively insignificant size contrasts with Jerusalem, where
Gabriel’s previous appearance had taken place. John 1:46 records the
contemporary Judean opinion of Nazareth.
Likewise, the region of Galilee contrasts with
Judea. Surrounded as they were by Gentiles, the Galileans were not necessarily
irreligious. They were, however, somewhat lax respecting such things as keeping
a kosher kitchen (cf. Sean Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian
323 B.C.E. to 135 C.E. [Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier and Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1980], pp. 259-97). Though the Galileans had a
reputation for pugnacity, Galilee was not a hotbed of revolutionary activity, as
some have thought (ibid., pp. 208-55).
1:27. The young virgin Mary contrasts with the old
priest Zechariah, who was past the time for having children. The word
“virgin” refers here to one who had not yet had sexual relations (cf.
Notes). Mary’s question in v. 34 and the reference in v. 27 to her being
“pledged to be married” make this clear. Since betrothal often took place
soon after puberty, Mary may have just entered her teens. This relationship was
legally binding, but intercourse was not permitted until marriage. Only divorce
or death could sever betrothal; and in the latter event the girl, though
unmarried, would be considered a widow.
In v. 27 Luke calls Joseph “a descendant of
David.” Even though the genealogy in 3:23-37 is often taken as showing
Mary’s line, this is never stated. Neither does Luke nor any other NT writer
say that Mary was descended from David. Since
Joseph is named here and in 3:23 and is explicitly linked with the royal line,
we should probably assume that Luke considers Jesus a legitimate member of the
royal line by what we today might call the right of adoption. This has an
important bearing on the promise in v. 32b.
1:28. Here Luke establishes another contrast with
the preceding narrative—this time by relating Gabriel’s greeting (vv. 30-32)
to Mary. But Zechariah had received no such greeting.
“Highly favored” renders kecharitomene,
which has the same root as the words for “Greetings” (chaire), and
“favor” (charin, v. 30). Mary is “highly favored” because she is the
recipient of God’s grace. A similar combination of words occurs in Ephesians
1:6—“his glorious grace ... which he has freely given [same Gr. word as for
‘highly favored’] us.” Some suggest that Luke implies that a certain grace
has been found in Mary’s character. While this could be so, the parallel in
Ephesians (the only other occurrence of the verb in the NT) shows that the grace
in view here is that which is given all believers apart from any merit of
theirs. Mary has “found favor with God” (v. 30); she is a recipient of his
grace (v. 28), and she can therefore say, “My spirit rejoices in God my
Savior” (v. 47).
“The Lord is with you” recalls the way the
angel of the Lord addressed Gideon to assure him of God’s help in the
assignment he was about to receive (Judg 6:12).
1:29-30. Zechariah had been “gripped with fear”
(v. 12) at the very appearance of the angel, but it was the angel’s
words—viz., his greeting (v. 28)—that “greatly troubled” Mary (v. 29).
He responded first by assuring her that she had indeed “found favor” with
God (v. 30; cf. Gen 6:8, where Noah is spoken of as having found favor with
God). God’s grace, like his love, banishes fear of judgment (1 John 4:17-18).
Trust The Plan of God (Luke
1:31. Gabriel now explains why his preliminary
assurance of Mary’s having found grace with God is so significant for her. The
wording here is virtually identical to the “virgin” passage in Isaiah 7:14 (LXX)
and to the assurance the angel of the Lord gave the fugitive Hagar (Gen 16:11
LXX). The word “virgin” is not, however, mentioned in the allusion to
Isaiah, though Mary’s question (v. 34) shows she was a virgin, a fact Luke has
mentioned in v. 27.
The name Jesus (Joshua) had been common in OT
times and continued to be a popular name through the first century A.D. (TDNT,
3:284-93). Matthew 1:21 provides an explanation for giving the child a name that
contains, in its Hebrew form, the word “saves” (yasa(): “because he will
save his people from their sins.”
1:32-33. Some scholars consider it significant that
whereas in v. 15 Gabriel had qualified his prophecy of the greatness of John
(“he will be great in the sight of the Lord”), here his statement of the
greatness of Mary’s Son has no qualification whatever. The striking term
“Son of the Most High” (v. 33; cf. vv. 35, 76) leads to a clear messianic
affirmation—the reference to the “throne of his father David.” Jesus’
divine sonship is thus linked to his messiahship in accord with 2 Samuel 7:12-14
and Psalm 2:79 (cf. Ps 89:26-29). The description of Jesus’ messianic destiny
follows the statement of his sonship, and that sonship is related in v. 35 to
his divine origin. Clearly Luke sees the messianic vocation as a function of
God’s Son, rather than seeing sonship as just an aspect of messiahship.
The OT concepts of “throne,” Davidic line,
“reign” (v. 33), and “kingdom” are spoken of as eternal—i.e., “will
never end.” Though this idea is found in Micah 4:7, it is not common in Jewish
1:34. Unlike Zechariah, Mary does not ask for a
confirmatory sign (cf. comments on v. 18) but only for light on how God will
accomplish this wonder. As Luke has it, the question does not relate to the
remarkable person and work of her promised Son but arises from the fact that she
“does not know [ou ginosko, i.e., has not had sexual relations with] a man”
(NIV, “I am a virgin”). “While the tense is present, it describes a state
resultant from a past pattern of behavior—Mary has not known any man and so is
a virgin” (R.E. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, p. 289; emphasis his).
Because she was betrothed, we may assume that
Mary fully expected to have normal marital relations later. It is difficult,
therefore, to know why she saw a problem in Gabriel’s prediction. The text
does not say that Mary had Isaiah 7:14 in mind and wondered how she, still a
virgin, could conceive. Perhaps Luke’s condensed account is intended to
suggest (1) that Mary assumed an immediate fulfillment before marriage and (2)
that the informed reader should understand the issue in terms of Isaiah 7:14,
already hinted at in v. 31. Marshall (Luke: Historian and Theologian, pp. 69-70)
lists several alternative explanations, none of which is satisfactory by itself
(cf. also R.E. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, pp. 303-9).
Trust The Power of God (Luke
again (cf. v. 15) Luke mentions the Holy Spirit, as he does six more times in
his first two chapters (1:41, 67, 80; 2:25, 26, 27). The word for
“overshadow” (episkiazo) carries the sense of the holy, powerful presence of
God, as in the description of the cloud that “covered” (Heb. sakan; NIV,
“settled upon”) the tabernacle when the tent was filled with the glory of
God (Exod 40:35; cf. Ps 91:4). The word is used in all three accounts of the
Transfiguration to describe the overshadowing of the cloud (Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7;
Luke 9:34). Likewise, in each account the voice comes out of the cloud
identifying Jesus as God’s Son, a striking reminder of Luke 1:35 where the
life that results from the enveloping cloud is identified as the Son of God.
The child whose life is thus engendered by the
power of God, which power is identified as the Holy Spirit, is himself called by
Gabriel “the holy one.” Because of this connection with the Holy Spirit, and
because of the ethical meaning of “holy” in v. 49, that word probably
relates here to the purity of Jesus instead of relating to separation for a
36-37. The angel cites the pregnancy of Elizabeth
(v. 36) as further evidence of God’s marvelous power and concludes with the
grand affirmation of v. 37—surely one of the most reassuring statements in all
1:38. Mary’s exemplary attitude of servanthood
recalls that of Hannah, when she was praying for a son (1Sam 1:11, where the LXX
also has doule, “servant”). Nothing is said about the relation of Mary’s
submission to her consciousness of the shame a premarital pregnancy could bring
her. Her servanthood is not a cringing slavery but a submission to God that in
OT times characterized genuine believers and that should characterize believers
today (cf. v. 48). Understandably Mary doubtless felt an empathy with Hannah’s
sense of being at the Lord’s disposal in part of life a woman before modern
times had little or no control over. Mary’s trusting submission at this point
in her life may be compared with her attitude toward her Son later on (cf. John
: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
E. Gaebelein; General
Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
on the Greek word for grace, it describes a recipient of great grace rather than
a person who has earned standing of her own.
intense concern based upon perplexing or troubling circumstances.
(v. 35)—Conveys the idea of the holy presence of God, such as the cloud
that covered the tabernacle (Ex. 40:35) and the mount of transfiguration (Matt.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
By Roberta Jones
Jones is professor of biology and environmental science, retired, at
Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, Kentucky.
ODERN DAY BIBLE READERS may ask
several questions. Before the angel
appeared to them, what hopes and fears crossed Mary’s and Joseph’s minds as
they planned their wedding? Did they
consider cultural norms and religious traditions?
How old were they when they became engaged?
Investigation early marriages helps us understand Joseph and Mary and her
unique pregnancy (Matt. 1—2).1
Certainly, Old Testament Scriptures and centuries of Jewish history
influenced the engaged couple. Yet,
many questions remain unanswered.
Old Testament Influence
Old Testament offers scattered tidbits about the accepted age of marriage.
Jacob traveled, apparently as an adult, to Laban’s household.
He admired Rachel and worked seven years to be her husband.
Laban tricked Jacob and caused him to marry first the older sister, Leah.
Laban’s scheme highlights the stigma society placed on unmarried women.
Considering these factors, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel likely married several
years past puberty. Rachel and Leah
each bore children, which indicates relative youthfulness (Gen. 29—30).
In another example, a 60-year-old man married a woman who bore their son
(1 Chron. 2:21). Esau married at age
40 and dismayed his parents when he took two Hittite women as wives (Gen.
26:34-35). Moses fled from Egypt at
about age 40 and later married a Midianite woman (Ex. 2:15-21; Acts 7:23-29).
civilizations held virgins in high esteem. Abraham’s
servant searched for Isaac’s bride; when he found Rebekah, he admired her for
her beauty, hard work, and virginity (Gen. 24).
King David’s servants sought a young virgin to comfort the dying king
(1 Kings 1:2). King Ahasuerus ruled
from Susa and searched for “beautiful young virgins” (Est. 2:2, NIV).
Isaiah 7:14 promised, “The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name
him Immanuel.” Matthew (1:23)
borrowed Isaiah’s prophecy to highlight the virgin conception.
With Joseph’s Jewish background, he naturally valued Mary’s
arranged a betrothal for their son or daughter.
In the betrothal period, which was a legal and binding engagement, the
man and woman lived separately. They
waited until after marriage for intimate relations.
Yet, as with a legal husband and wife, only death or divorce2
broke a betrothal. During their
betrothal, Joseph discovered Mary’s pregnancy.
Even though disappointed, Joseph chose kindness.
He planned to spare Mary any public humiliation (vv. 18-20).
Joseph seemingly considered his predicament in light of Old Testament
Scriptures. For example, Deuteronomy
22:20-21 suggested stoning women who were guilty of adultery.
Another choice allowed the man to write a “divorce certificate” if he
found his wife to be “displeasing” (Deut. 24:1).
Marriage Customs from History
customs in other countries also influenced Israel.
Two factors in Greece contributed to a higher ratio of men to women.
Many women died in childbirth. Further,
Grecian parents often abandoned baby girls.
This female shortage likely encouraged men to marry increasingly younger
wives. Sadly, Grecian cemetery
inscriptions indicate many extremely young girls died in childbirth.
If women survived childbirth, they expected to live about 37 years.3
Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. Emperor
Caesar Augustus strongly favored marriage. Ten-year-old
girls could be engaged and marry two years later.
Upper class women, however, usually waited until their late teens to
marry. The young ladies would not
tarry too long, for 20-year-old unmarried women might be penalized.
Roman men usually married in their twenties, or possibly older.
A male marrying younger, though, was to show physical signs of maturity
or was to have reached age 14 before he wed.4
between the ages of 13 to 16 were especially common.
Comparable to other cultures, though, some women married past 20.
Many Jewish men married at 18 to 20.
By the second century, many rabbis declared that men who were still
unmarried at the age of 20 or older were sinning against God.
Jewish culture urged early marriage for two reasons.
First, an early marriage would likely produce offspring to continue the
family name. Second, matrimony was
considered a means by which young men could control their sexual passions.5
cannot verify the ages at which Mary and Joseph married, Israelite customs
suggest they were young. Consider,
also, Jesus had at least six younger half-siblings (Mark 6:3).
Jewish historian and author, wrote less than a century after Christ.
He explained typical customs of those times.
As a betrothed couple, both Mary and Joseph likely expected that Joseph
would oversee their family. For,
Josephus declared, a woman was “inferior to her husband in all things.”
This early writer also warned abusive husbands and encouraged obedient,
Josephus suggested a woman could be stoned if convicted of not preserving
her virginity. Men should marry,
“at the age fit for it, virgins that are free, and born of good parents.”
In face, “no one ought to marry a harlot.”7
Josephus also wrote of royalty. King
Herod betrothed his grandchildren until they came “to the proper age of
Mary and Joseph as Positive Role Models
Mary and Joseph pleased God (Matt. 1:19; Luke 1:38).
As devout Jews they longed for the coming Messiah.
Religious beliefs influenced their daily activities.
They addressed fears in the context of actions that honored God.
The couple clearly exchanged personal plans for God’s far greater plan
(Matt. 1:24-25; Luke 1:38). Their
purity stood in stark contrast to the moral environment around Nazareth, their
hometown (Matt. 2:23). As a Roman
military post, Nazareth had earned a bawdy reputation (John 1:46).9
Mary and Joseph’s godly focus offers hope to modern people, surrounded
by immoral enticements.
How do events
just prior to Jesus’ birth apply today? First,
the virgin conception made Christ unique, unlike children with earthly fathers.
With Christ’s deity fully acknowledged, let’s compare Christ’s
birth to other births. Second, God
cherishes all infants. We must
affirm, therefore, any couple struggling with an unexpected pregnancy.
Third, the strong possibility that Mary and Joseph were reasonably young
should encourage other young parents. They,
too, can protect their children, both born and unborn.
Just as King Herod planned evil toward baby Jesus (Matt. 2), many modern
people will harm our innocent boys and girls.
Fourth, God had a special plan for His Son.
God guided Joseph to take Mary and young Jesus to Egypt.
Later, the family left Egypt and settled in Nazareth (Matt.
2:13-15,19-23). Today, God still
guides mothers and fathers.
the age and fears of modern parents, Mary and Joseph serve as positive role
models of love for children and love for God.
Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from the Holman
Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
Two rabbinic schools differed, regarding divorce.
The school of Shammai condoned divorce only for adultery.
The school of Hillel allowed divorce for many reasons, including
“spinning in the street, talking with a stranger, a spoiled dinner, a dog bite
that did not heal or finding another woman who was more attractive.”
Catherine C. Kroeger, “Women in Greco-Roman World and Judaism” in Dictionary
of New Testament Backgroundi (DNTB),
ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,
C. S. Keener, “Marriage” in DNTB, 683-84.
Josephus, Against Apion
2.25 in The Life and Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans.
William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 806.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews
4.8.23 (pp. 119-20).
Ibid., 17.1.2 (p. 452).
Stuart K. Weber, Matthew,
vol. 1 in Holman
New Testament Commentary (Nashville:
Holman Reference, 2000), 22.
Mary, A Woman With God’s Favor
By Hal Lane
Hal Lane is
pastor of West Side Baptist Church, Greenwood, South Carolina.
HE LORD SENT
THE ANGEL GABRIEL to Nazareth to tell a young girl named
Mary that God had chosen her to play the central role in fulfilling the
Bible’s oldest Messianic prophecy. God
spoke the protevangelium (first announcement of the gospel) to the serpent in
the garden: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between you
seed and her seed. He will strike
your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).1
God promised to bring salvation to the fallen human race through the seed
or offspring of a woman. Old
Testament prophecies repeated the promise to individuals such as Abraham
(12:2-3), David (2 Sam. 7:12-13), and Isaiah (Isa. 7:14; 9:6).
Gabriel appeared to Mary to explain that God had chosen her to bring His
Son into the world in fulfillment of these prophecies.
Mary? What did Gabriel mean when he
referred to her as “favored” (Luke 1:28)?
To address those questions, we will focus on the significance of the
Greek verb translated “favor” (vv. 28,30).
A correct understanding of the meaning of these words provides insight
into God’s selecting Mary to be the mother of Jesus.
Greek noun charis (translated
“favor,” “grace”) shares a common root with the Greek verb chairo (“rejoice”).2
Secular Greek writers used charis
when referring to that which brought pleasure or good fortune.
Charis sometimes referred to a
benefit that the gods or people extended to others.
The word could also mean “thanks” when referring to a blessing
In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old
Testament) charis most often
translates the Hebrew word chen
(“favor,” “mercy”). Because
the Hebrew word is the basis of the proper name “Hannah,”
some scholars believe the use of charis
with reference to Mary was intended to suggest parallels to the prophet
Samuel’s birth. The average Greek
reader, however, would likely have missed the subtlety of the Hebrew word behind
charis in the Septuagint, which means
this parallel probably was not intended.4
phrase “to find favor” is a Hebrew idiom in the Old Testament.
It describes relationships between people, as when Joseph “found
favor” in the eyes of the Egyptian Potiphar and was rewarded with authority in
his house (Gen. 39:1-4). Writers
also used the phrase to describe relationships between God and people.
The first person the Old Testament describes as having
found favor with God is Noah (6:8). Noah,
in contrast to the wicked majority of his time, was “a righteous man,
blameless among his contemporaries” and a man who “walked with God” (v.
must be careful not to interpret Noah’s call to build the ark as a wage earned
on the basis of good works. Noah
found favor with God through faith alone (Heb. 11:7).
God looked favorable
upon Noah because of Noah’s faith; his works demonstrated the reality of that
Mary, like Noah, was not rewarded with a great privilege
because of good works or merit. The
greeting of Gabriel to Mary as a “favored woman” used the Greek verb charitoo
meaning “highly favored.” When
Jerome translated this Greek verb in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the
Bible around AD 400), he used the phrase gratia
plena, meaning “full of grace.” This
unfortunate translation led to the development of unbiblical doctrines such as
Mary’s immaculate conception, perpetual virginity, and the concept of Mary as
a repository of grace for others.5
Mary herself revealed the fact that she considered herself a sinner in
need of salvation in her song when she referred to “God my Savior” (Luke 1:47, emphasis added).
The Savior whom God chose her to bear would be her Savior too.
Supporting this interpretation is the only other use of charitoo
in the New Testament: “to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us
with in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). This
verse includes both the noun charis,
“grace,” and verb charitoo,
Charis became a key word for Paul in describing salvation by
faith apart from works (Rom. 3:24; 4:4; 5:15, Eph. 2:8).
New Testament theology emphasizes that believers can never regard God’s
grace or favor to be a wage or right to be earned.
To attribute the favor Mary found with God as earned is contrary to all
we know from God’s revelation about the nature and origin of salvation.
information about Mary in the New Testament is limited.
We can glean from the few references available that Mary was a humble,
godly young woman of faith. She was
humbled and thrilled that God chose her to be the mother of His Son Jesus
Christ. Her response to Gabriel’s
announcement that she would bear a Child was met with puzzlement based on her
purity before marriage (Luke 1:34). Later,
visiting Elizabeth, Mary showed that she knew the Old Testament Scripture.
Her exaltation of praise, commonly called “The Magnificat” (vv.
46-55), was comprised of proclamations and thoughts from the three major parts
of the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
These flowed from her memory.
was a woman of faith. The New
Testament records only one sentence of instruction from Mary concerning Jesus;
at Cana she said, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
In spite of being a person of faith, Mary was far from perfect.
She failed to understand the full implication of Jesus’ Person and
calling when He was a young boy (Luke 2:50) and even during His public ministry
as an adult (Matt. 12:46-50). Nevertheless
she believed and was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25).
The last mention of Mary is with those praying and waiting for the Holy
Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
belongs among the great women of biblical history who found favor with God.
Her contribution to the story of salvation should not be diminished or
embellished. Based upon His
sovereign will, God chose Mary to give birth to His only begotten Son—who
reversed the curse and opened paradise to all who through faith receive Him as
Savior and Lord, including Mary.
All Scripture quotations are from the
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
Conzelmann, (charis, favor) in Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittel, ed. & trans. Bromiley, vol.
9 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 373.
Stein, Luke, vol. 24 in The New
American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992), 83.
Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 72.
As Heralds of God
By Roy E. Lucas, Jr.
Roy E. Lucas, Jr. is professor of Bible, Clear
Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville, Kentucky and pastor of First Baptist
Church, Loyall, Kentucky.
OMPARED TO MODERN LIFE where
messages instantaneously speed around the world by telephone or by e-mail,
communications in the first century AD was extremely slow and inefficient.
Messengers crossed paths on the dusty trails and paved Roman roads as
they purposely searched for the people for whom their superiors had sent them.
Following the dictates of their superiors, these messengers carried a
word related to matters of diplomacy in times of both war and peace.1
classical Greek literature, a messenger (Greek, aggelos ) served as a substitute for the superior who sent him and
who the mythological gods protected. Two
or more messengers served to authenticate the message and provide mutual
protection. The superior expected
the messenger to faithfully communicate his intentions and his words.
To deliver the message exactly demonstrated the highest integrity of a
messenger’s role. Changing the
message could constitute a serious crime. Thus,
memorizing or even reading the announcement aided in ensuring the truthfulness
and authenticity of the message. This background of
human messengers in classical Greek culture illuminates the role of angels in
both the Old and New Testament as God’s faithful messengers.2
The Revealing Role of Angels
four Gospels, Acts, and the Book of Revelation present most of the angelic
encounters in the New Testament. The
Epistles contain only a few, short references to angelic activity, while several
New Testament books do not mention angels at all.
When a text does mention an angel, the writer usually focuses more on the
angel’s message than his appearance (see Luke 1—2; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
activities in the Bible revolve around three basic, yet interrelated
relationships. First, angels are
God’s messengers and servants. They
worship and praise Him (Isa. 6:1-3; Luke 2:13-14).
All of their activities are done in God’s service.
Second, angels serve to reveal God’s truth to humans and to guide and
protect those who follow God’s will (2 Kings 6:15-17; Dan. 9:20-27; Matt.
1:20-21; 2:13). Finally, angelic
activity often is specifically connected to Jesus.
Angels are involved at four critical moments in Jesus’ life and
ministry: His birth (Luke 1:26-38; 2:8-15); temptations (Matt. 4:11);
resurrection (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:4-7; Luke 24:4-7); and second coming (1
Thess. 4:16). Their role as
messengers of God’s revelation is most prominent in the Gospel narratives that
describe Jesus’ birth and resurrection.
The Messenger Role of Angels
1—2—Luke highlights one of angels’ major roles in the New Testament: as
messengers of God who announced the coming of the Christ.
Gabriel is the only angel the Gospels identify by name (Luke 1:19,26).
He announced to Zechariah that his wife would bear a son (John the
Baptist) and that this son would prepare the way for the Messiah (vv. 11-20).
When Zechariah doubted the message, the angel’s words, “I am Gabriel,
who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you
this good news” (v. 19, HCSB), revealed both his function and the source of
his authority. The angel stands in
God’s presence as His personal servant and he carries out that service with
angel was also sent to announce to Mary that she would be the mother of God’s
Son by the power of the Holy Spirit (1:26-38).
Luke specifically stated that this angelic messenger “was sent by
God” (1:26, HCSB), again emphasizing that Gabriel was acting as God’s herald
and with God’s authority. An angel
also revealed to Mary’s husband Joseph in a vision that her child had been
conceived by the Holy Spirit and was the promised Messiah (Matt. 1:20-21).
Messiah was born, angels again served as God’s heralds in announcing the
birth. An angel appeared to
shepherds in the field and “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke
2:9; HCSB). The angel told of the
Messiah’s birth and emphasized that His coming was the work of God.
Suddenly, a heavenly host appeared, offering praise to God and telling of
the Messiah who had come to bring peace (vv. 13-14).
The angels shared this message not with the social elite but with the
group of common shepherds. The
message was clear: the good news of salvation is offered to all people.
For such important news, angels proved to be the appropriate messengers.
will fulfill many roles as they accompany Christ at His second coming.
The significant phrase “with the voice of the archangel” (v. 16, NASB)
reveals that a part of God’s angelic host will announce Christ’s return.
The three sounds mentioned (a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the
trumpet of God) may be one sound which belongs to the archangel.
Other New Testament passages connect a voice with a trumpet (Rev.
1:10,12; 4:1), and a “mighty angel” serves as God’s herald (5:2; 7:2).
Overall, the biblical texts reveal two future functions of archangels: to
proclaim the great news of the return of the Christ and to lead God’s angelic
army into battle against those spiritual forces who oppose His will and purposes
Titles for Angels
Luke referred specifically to Gabriel or to another individual angel bearing a
message from God, he used the Greek term aggelos,
meaning “messenger” (1:11-19; 2:9). But
Luke used another term for the group of angels that appear to the shepherds: stratia
or “host” (2:13). This
angelic “host” appeared to declare God’s majesty at Christ’s birth.
A comparable Hebrew term is tsaba,
which can also be translated as “host” (Ps. 103:20-21).
This Psalm also uses the terms malakim
to refer to angels. These
make up the tsaba. Both the Hebrew
and Greek terms for “host” generally refer to God’s heavenly army of
angels, who move at His command to fulfill His purposes.
In this role, the heavenly host serve God as an extension of His care for
and supremacy over all creation.3
extra-canonical literature commonly mentions archangels,4
the New Testament uses the term “archangel” only in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
and Jude 9. Paul refers to an
unnamed archangel who will sound the trumpet (1 Thess. 4:16).
Jude 9 mentions Michael as “the archangel.”
This may mean Michael is better known than others rather than his being
the top or only archangel. Michael
serves God by doing battle with Satan (Rev. 12:7).
If Gabriel is an archangel like Michael, then, in contrast to Michael, he
serves as God’s special messenger to reveal God’s plan and kingdom to
humanity. The Book of Daniel, while
not labeling Michael with the title archangel, does refer to him as a chief
prince among the angels (Dan. 10:13, HCSB; see 10:21; 12:1).
The existence of archangels implies that other angels exist who are of
Testament proves consistent with the Old Testament picture of angels and their
roles. The most essential role is
that of revealing God’s will and work to men.
In the New Testament the functions of the angels deal almost exclusively
with Jesus’ life and ministry. They
directly revealed God’s message at Jesus’ birth and resurrection.
After these announcements though, Jesus Himself stands alone in the New
Testament as the greatest revelation of the Father and His will (Heb. 1:1-13).
F. Noll, Angels of Light, Powers of
Darkness (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 1998), 155.
J. Davidson, “Angels” in Dictionary of
Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel
B. Green and Scot McKnight (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), 8; Noll, 155.
Fred Dickason, Angels: Elect and Evil (Chicago:
Moody Press, 1975), 59; Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, in Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains (GELNT),
2nd ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 1:144-45; in
Enoch 40:9-10 names four angels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel.
First Enoch 20 mentions three other names for archangels: Saraqa’el,
Raguel, and Suru’el. Enoch states
Gabriel supervised the garden of Eden and the cherubim.
See E. Isaac, trans., “(Ethiopic Apocalypse of ) Enoch” in The
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol.
1, Apocalyptic Liturature and Testaments, ed.
James Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 23-24, 32.
Wiles is a freelance writer living in Forth Worth, Texas.
dysfunction in a family can lead to silence between family members.
Unfortunately, such a silence can last for years or even decades.
But a silence spanning four centuries is unique to human history.
That is how long it had been since the nation of Judah—God’s chosen
people—had heard from Him. Not
since the time of the prophet Malachi had Judah heard the voice of God.
But that was about to change.
and Elizabeth seemingly made the perfect couple, seeing that they were both from
priestly families: he from the
division of Abijah, and she from the daughters of Aaron.1
Indeed, the Scriptures
tell they were believers, looking forward to the coming Messiah and were living
obediently in accord with the divine revelation.2
Yet all was not perfect
with their ideal family. For years
they longed for a child but had not had one.
The social stigma of barrenness often left couples bitter, as they were
considered unworthy to possibly be the parents of the Messiah.3
Yet Zechariah and Elizabeth remained faithful, trusting that God would
fulfill His will for their lives and somehow, some way, sometimes provide that
missing piece to their otherwise perfect lives.
They continued their normal routine, month in and month out, year after
year, and still were without a child. But
that too was about to change.
commanded Aaron to burn incense on the golden altar in the tabernacle both in
the morning and in the evening (Ex. 30:7-8) so there might be a perpetual sweet
aroma to the Lord. The Scriptures
associate burning incense with prayer (Ps. 14:12; Rev. 5:8, 8:3).
As the aroma of the incense rises into the nostrils of God, so the
prayers of the saints rise to His ears. The
coals on the golden altar were taken from the brass altar outside where the
sacrifice was burnt. The tradition
of using incense continued into this New Testament era.
3:1 indicates the ninth hour (3 p.m.) was the time of prayer in preparation for
the evening sacrifice. Probably at
this hour Zechariah entered the holy place to offer incense as the people
gathered outside to pray. “It is
no accident that the priest Zechariah sees an angel of God at the time of
regular incense offering in the temple, since incense brings about the presence
of appearance of the divine being or his messenger. (Luke 1:8-13).
In this passage, incense also brings the prayers of the people to
heaven.”I As the
incense rose, so did the prayers of the saints.
to tradition, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in the small village of Ein Karim,
just outside Jerusalem4 As
a priest from the division of Abijah, the eighth of the 24 divisions of the
Levitical priesthood (I Chron. 24:7-18), Zechariah served in the temple two
weeks a year. His duties varied
depending on three things: the number of priests on hand, the activities
scheduled for the week, and the casting of lots.
The priests cast lots to discern whom God had chosen to perform the
duties of highest honor. One such
duty was the offering of incense. Because
the number of priests was so large, this duty was assigned only once in a
priest’s lifetime. Thus it was the
summit of his priestly ministry.5
the pinnacle of Zechariah’s priestly ministry occurred at the exact time of
God’s renewed communication with His people is not coincidence.
While First-century Jewish culture often associated the barrenness of a
woman with sin, Luke 1:6 clearly indicates this was not the case for Zechariah
and Elizabeth. Just as Sarah (Gen.
11:30), Rebekah (25:21), and Rachel (29:31) before her, Elizabeth’s barrenness
was by God’s design and was ultimately to be for God’s glory.
Her son was destined to be the forerunner of the Messiah, thus the timing
of his birth had to be in harmony with the timing of the Messiah’s advent.
Elizabeth’s barrenness and the Lord’s 400-year silence were both
about to be broken simultaneously in one event, God’s announcing the coming of
the forerunner of the Messiah.6
stood at the golden altar, which was next to the veil in the temple’s holy
place, as close to the holy of holies and the ark of the covenant as any man
could get, except the high priest, who could enter once a year (Heb. 9:6-7).
Zechariah placed on the golden altar the specially prepared incense (Ex.
30:34-38), and he offered prayers of intercession.
Luke did not report the content of Zechariah’s prayers; we can safely
assume Zechariah was praying for the redemption of Israel, the fulfillment of
God’s promise to send the Messiah.7
appearance of the angel Gabriel shattered Zechariah’s thoughts.
And as so often happens when God touches our lives to answer our prayers,
Zechariah stepped back in disbelief. How
could it be that in this holy place an intruder had entered?
Could it possibly be that after 400 years of silence God would speak and
answer Zechariah’s prayers—Israel’s prayers?
Gabriel’s message answered the question with a resounding “Yes!”
The Messiah was soon to appear, and Zechariah’s son would prepare His
way. God’s plan for their son was
far more than Zechariah and Elizabeth had ever dreamed.
Since the message was wonderful—too wonderful for Zechariah to
believe—he asked for some assurance. His
lack of faith was answered with his becoming mute.
This was not a time to speak, but a time to believe.
Unable to speak, Zechariah could only communicate by making sign (Luke
1:22). When at last he stepped
outside the temple door, the people who had gathered around for prayer knew
something unusual had occurred.
the end of the week, Zechariah
returned home, and not long after, Elizabeth was pregnant.
In due course Elizabeth gave birth to a son and, in obedience to the
angel’s message, named him John. When
confronted with the unusual choice for his son’s name, Zechariah responded in
obedience and his voice was restored. Thus
ended the barrenness of Elizabeth, the silence of God with His people, and
Zechariah’s silence as well.
and Zechariah’s son, John, grew strong in body and spirit.
From his Judah once again heard “Thus says the Lord.”
can learn lessons from the experiences of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
(1) Just because we start out life full of potential does not mean we
will have a smooth ride. Zechariah and Elizabeth were considered the perfect
couple until they would up later in life with no children.
(2) When things don’t turn out the way we planned, we should continue
to trust in the Lord. Even though
their prayers for a child went unanswered, Zechariah and Elizabeth continued in
their service to God. (3) Without
our realizing it, God may be at work to provide for us a life beyond dreams.
Elizabeth and Zechariah never imagined their child would be the
forerunner of the Messiah, but God’s plan was exactly that.
(4) God has the power to bring His plans to fruition, but we have to open
our lives for Him to use us.
might say Zechariah just happened to be at the right place at the right time to
receive God’s blessing. But I
prefer to believe God blesses those who are faithfully serving him.
L. Bock, Luke, Volume: 1:1-9:50 in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New
Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 76.
Stein, Luke, vol. 24 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman
and Holman Publishers, 1992), 74-5.
L. Liefeld, “Luke” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank
E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 825.
M. Bebb, “John the Baptist” in A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James
Hastings and others (London: T.&T. Clark, 1899), 677.
B. Green, Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament,
ed. Moises Silva (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1997), 62.
R. Schreiner, Luke in Baker Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell
(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 806.
Nielsen, “Incense” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief David
Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 3:408.
Biblical Illustrator, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2007-08.
(13, 151) What
is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question
Found: What church received
epistles from two different apostles? Answer
Last Week’s Question: Who had a vision of the ancient of Days seated
upon a throne? Answer: Daniel; Daniel