Good morning and welcome to worship. We are in a sermon series on the four messages brought by the angels concerning the birth of Jesus. Today we look at the angel’s message to Mary. Let’s open our Bibles to Luke 1:26.
“In the sixth month, 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.” Luke 1:26-27
First, a little background. The man who wrote these words was not one of the 12 disciples. He was a Gentile. He was also a medical doctor, a scholar, and a historian. He was first attracted to the Christian community by the way they cared for the poor. As a result of being with them, he too was converted and became a believer.
About 15 years after Jesus’ resurrection, Luke was commissioned by a wealthy Roman to investigate the story of Jesus. Scholars believe he went to Israel and interviewed the people who were involved. Mary would have been in her late 60’s if she was still alive. If not, Luke would have interviewed many people who had known her. This is what Luke found out.
“In the sixth month” The Sunday before last, Pastor Ralph told us the story of the angel coming to Zechariah and announcing the coming birth of John the Baptist. Remember Luke is a physician and a historian. These details grabbed his attention. So six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel comes to Mary.
Mary lived in a dusty little town called Nazareth in the hills southwest of the Lake of Galilee. It’s was pretty humble place. Why would God choose a place like Nazareth to be the hometown of the Savior of the world?
The prophet Isaiah said that when the Messiah came he would be despised and rejected by men because he was too ordinary, not classy enough. In Jesus’ day, to be a Nazarene was to be scorned as worthless. That’s why when Phillip told Nathaniel that they’d found the Messiah and he was from Nazareth, Phillip said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
If you’ve been despised or rejected because of where you’ve come from or who your parents were, you’ve got a friend in Jesus. Back to Luke’s account… “Gabriel was sent to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.”
For centuries Satan has tried to promote the idea that the language here simply means young woman, that it doesn’t mean “virgin” as in “virgin”. But that can’t be done. The best scholarship affirms what Doctor Luke records. Mary was a virgin.
Marriages in Jesus’ day were arranged, often when the bride-to-be was still a child. When a girl came of age she was formally betrothed or engaged. Once the contract was made, even though the actual wedding had not taken place and they were not yet living together, the girl was assumed to be married, her fiancé was spoken of as her husband. This engagement could only be broken by divorce.
Mary was probably in her early teens when Gabriel came to see her. Joseph was probably in his mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Before a man could marry he was expected to have an established career and even a house for his bride.
Although Mary and Joseph were probably well loved and respected in their little town of 200 people, neither of them were seen by their community as anything out of the ordinary.
Note that Joseph was a descendant of King David, as was Mary for that matter. Luke the Gentile records this because as a result of his research, he learned that this Jesus fulfilled all the OT prophesies that the Messiah would be a descendent of David.
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Luke 1:28
Luke doesn’t tell us what time of day Gabriel showed up. Was it daytime or nighttime? We don’t know. What we do know is; the angel frightened her. It would scare me too! Was the angel’s message good news or bad news? Remember Mary is probably 14 or 15 years old.
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”
Remember, Mary is getting ready for a wedding. She’s been planning, preparing, dreaming. So have her parents, so has Joseph, so has the whole town. An unplanned pregnancy? What a shock! But there’s more. This baby will be unlike any other baby.
“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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32-33
Note that Gabriel did not say, “a son of the Most High”, he said, “the Son of the Most High”. Mary’s promised son will be the fully divine Son of God and the fully human Promised Messiah.
Mary could not have clearly understood all the implications of what Gabriel told her. She was not a Bible scholar or a theologian, she was a young girl. But she did love the Lord and the desire of her heart was to serve him. So Mary asks, “How can this be since I’m a virgin?”
Great question! “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.” Lk 1:35
Bear with me here! For centuries Satan has tried to compromise the reality of the virgin birth by creating stories about the gods coming down and having sex with mortal women. Some scholars have asked the question, “If Mary was truly a virgin and didn’t have any of Joseph’s DNA, then Jesus must have only had one set of chromosomes from his mother Mary.”
The incarnation was not like that. Jesus’ life did not begin with human conception. Remember, He existed with his Father from eternity. It was in Mary’s womb that the One and Only Sone of God, who existed with God from eternity was incarnated or embodied in human flesh and became a human being. His physical body was called into being in the same way God called creation into being.
He was the new Adam. He didn’t inherit original sin in his genes from a human mother or father like you and I did. But at the same time, he was truly absolutely human in every way just like us. Like us he began his life on earth from a single cell in his mother’s womb.
Now that’s good and fine for theologians to unpack, but what about 15 year old Mary whose whole life has been suddenly turned upside down? Is this really for real or just a bad joke?
When he Uncle Zechariah asked Gabriel “How can this be” that he was going to have a son, the Lord gave his a sign. Remember what it was? He was mute until John was born. Pastor Ralph reminded us that this was actually a gift of grace. He didn’t have to argue with anybody, he just had to wait for the Lord to keep his promise. That’s a good place to be!
So now Gabriel tells young Mary, her old Aunt Elizabeth, who was supposedly barren is in reality six months into a surprise pregnancy. You’re kidding, right! What a miracle! Gabe reminds Mary “Nothing is impossible with God!” Luke 1:37 Let’s say those words together!
Are those words going to become important to Mary? How is she going to tell her parents, how is she going to tell Joseph? What’s going to happen when the town finds out? Mary’s only refuge will be in what the angel told her, “Nothing is impossible with God!” Luke 1:37
Mary’s response is amazing, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38
Mary had no idea what “May it be to me as you have said” would involve. A whole bunch of stuff was coming that could only be done in the strength of the Lord. Things like a trip to Bethlehem at full term, fleeing to Egypt, a terrible crucifixion – the suffering Mary endured was incredible. Each step along the way when she ran out of strength and didn’t think she could go on, I believe she remembered Gabriel’s words. “Nothing is impossible with God.”
What was special about Mary? Probably not physical beauty. The Lord looks at the heart, not physical appearance. Certainly not sinlessness, she was a sinner like the rest of us.
What was special about Mary was her humility and her trust that God would provide all she needed as she did her best to obey and submit to him. Like her son, she emptied herself and become a servant. She gave up everything this world holds dear to serve God and he gave her an honor we dare not underestimate.
Mary wasn’t enamored by the world. She willingly laid aside her dreams to do what the Lord called her to do. She never asked “What’s in it for me?” or “What’s it going to cost me?”
Mary refused to be intimidated by the world. She faced incredible obstacles with a courage she never could have generated on her own. It came from her connection with the Lord.
There are some great lessons we could learn from a girl like this. In all the challenges and changes of my life, I want to respond like Mary. I want to have her kind of faith, her kind of courage, her kind of humble obedience. I want Mary’s prayer to be mine as well. Will you pray it with me? “Lord, may it be to me, as you have said.”