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Gabriel & Mary

Luke’s Nativity

Nov 8, 2020


by: Jack Lash Series: Luke’s Nativity | Category: Advent | Scripture: Luke 1:26–1:38

I. Luke 1:26–38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
II. Explanation
A. 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
1. “In the sixth month” We ended last week with Elizabeth going into seclusion for five months.
2. Galilee was a farming community: The majority of the population was lower class, working class, Gentile (“Galilee of the Gentiles” Matt.4:15). Later Mary’s poverty is seen: Lk.2:24 w/ Lev.12:8.
3. Folks from Galilee were looked down at by the Jews of Judea as backward. E.g. at Pentecost, when all the Christians were speaking in other tongues, the observers “were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?’” (Acts 2:7)
a. They even had a distinct Galilean accent: The bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” (Matt.26:73)
4. Nazareth: Nathanael said to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
5. So, right away we’re told a lot about Mary, just by where she came from. She grew up as a victim of cultural prejudice and disdain. She was not just a nobody, she was a lowlife, a “hick.”
6. Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph, presumably a fellow Nazarene.
B. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
1. It’s pretty startling when an angel appears to you. But it was more than this. Even if she knew the stories of angels appearing to men in the OT, there was no story of an angel addressing a teenaged girls, much less with a greeting like this.
2. So, she was perplexed at what the angel said, trying to figure out what this greeting might mean.
3. But what the angel then told her was much more shocking than his appearance or greeting.
C. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
1. Talk about mind-blowing! There were a number of astonishing things the angel said to Mary here.
a. It was finally the time for the Messiah to come.
(1) This was basically the same news that in Luke 2:29-32 led Simeon to say, “OK. Now I’m ready to die. My whole life I’ve been waiting for this moment, and now it has come.”
(2) Simeon and Mary were part of a community of folks who were eagerly waiting for the promised redemption/consolation of Israel (Is.40:1; Luke 2:38).
(3) They had been waiting a long time, of course, but the expectation had reached fever pitch, on account of the prophecies of Dan.2:36-45.
(4) The day of fulfillment had finally arrived. That was a big deal itself – to every faithful Jew.
b. The messiah would be born from her womb, and be her son.
(1) It was common among the young women of Judea to dream of being the mother of the messiah
(2) But surely Mary was too humble and poor to think this way. But now, it’s bestowed upon her.
c. The child would be the son of the most high God.
(1) What she thought this meant, it’s hard to say. But it clearly meant something beyond anything she had ever known or heard of.
2. But the thing she wondered about most at the moment was how she would get pregnant.
a. Now Mary had been taught about where babies come from. She had been informed of the facts of life. She knew girls didn’t just get pregnant on their own.
D. 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
1. How can I have a baby while being a virgin? (See Appendix below.)
E. 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
1. I don’t even know what to say about this. These are perhaps the most mind-boggling words ever spoken on earth. We’ve had 2000 years to get used to them, and still they are stunning.
2. Have you ever seen something or heard something so important, so impactful, that you felt it was trivializing what you just saw or heard to just go back to normal life? You sort of feel like you just need to stop and take it in and think about it and mull it over?
a. That’s the way life is after the words of Luke 1:35. They are so astonishing, so enormous, so revolutionary, that you feel like you trivialize them injustice to move on with normal life.
3. How will she get pregnant? “The Holy Spirit will come upon [her], and the power of the Most High will overshadow [her.]” That’s why the child will be called “the Son of God.”
F. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
1. This announcement that barren Elizabeth would have a baby in her old age couldn’t be heard by a Bible-loving Jew without provoking the memory of Abraham and Sarah. This reinforced the fact that this was a pivotal moment not only in Mary’s life but in human history. God was bringing out the heavy artillery, pulling out all the stops, doing something as big as He did 2000 years earlier when He brought a great nation out of the barren womb of a very old woman.
a. Of course, we know that this event was far greater than the miraculous birth of Isaac, but I’m not sure Mary had to capacity to think anything COULD be bigger than that.
2. But God, in His great kindness, helped Mary in three ways with this announcement re: Elizabeth.
a. First, even though she didn’t ask for a sign, God gave her one anyway. That was a blessing.
b. Second, by this God gave Mary something to do with all her youthful energy after hearing such an announcement. This statement begged her to go see Elizabeth, as she did in Luke 1:39-40.
c. But this statement did something else, something even more important perhaps. It gave Mary a companion, someone who was going to go through this adventure with her. She had been called to walk down a road no one had ever walked before, but now she wasn’t going to walk it alone. That’s what makes her visit with Elizabeth, which we’ll talk about next week, so powerful and so precious.
G. 37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
1. What a fitting way to sum up what Gabriel had just announced to Mary!
2. What Gabriel told Mary was the epitome of what looks impossible.
3. If God can do THIS, there’s nothing He can’t do!
4. Have you noticed how much God love to say this in the Bible?
5. But there’s something He loves even more. He loves to hear us say it! This is the thing God wants us to remember, no matter what impossibilities we face. “Nothing is impossible with God!”
H. 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
1. Think of what she was being asked to do. It wasn't just a matter of an unmarried woman getting pregnant. There was certainly that. But she was also being thrust onto center stage of world history, and bearing the burden of being the bearer/mother of the messiah, the Son of God.
2. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
3. She didn’t have to understand it all. She trusted God that He knew what He was doing.
III. Application
A. Some have elevated Mary as someone who could handle these things because of her extraordinary character and virtue, even deeming her sinless.
B. But the story of Mary is not a story of human virtue but a story of God’s grace.
C. The lesson to learn from this story isn’t that Mary is so high above us that we should venerate her, but that God calls little nobodies like Mary and like us to do things which are way beyond us, things we can only do by trusting that the God of Mary can accomplish what He wants through us no matter how weak and overmatched we are.
D. The fact is, God often leads His people into places which are way outside their comfort zone.
E. Sometimes God allows us to experience things which are completely impossible for us to grasp, completely outside our ability to process, things we are completely unequipped to handle.
1. Remember Moses, when God called him to confront Pharaoh despite his inadequacies? (Ex.4:1ff)
2. Remember when the Israelites were being pursued by the chariots of Egypt and God led His people to the edge of the Red Sea? There was nowhere to turn.
3. Remember when God led His people out into the wilderness where there was no water or food?
4. Remember when the army of Israel faced the mighty Goliath?
F. And the same thing happens to us.
1. He is infinite and we are finite. He’s way up here and we’re way down here. But guess what? There’s a lot of things in between. There’s a lot of things God rules over and makes use of which are much greater than us. And sometimes He sends those things into our lives as His tools.
2. It might be an election. It might be an illness. It might be the loss of a job. It might be a difficult marriage. It might be a problem with a child or other family member. It might be a task you are asked to do which seems overwhelming and even impossible.
G. Why does God do this? Because He wants to teach us how to walk by faith, and we only learn to walk by faith if God allows us to confront things which are way beyond us.
H. We see that in this story of Mary. Her calling was so far beyond her!
1. But she knew that God was with her. If God could make a virgin pregnant, He could help her to be the messiah’s mother. If God could make an old barren woman pregnant, He could make her succeed in spite of her weakness. If God could allow a young girl to bear the Son of God, could He not help that young girl to handle the assignment?
2. All it took for Mary to say what she said and do what she did was the realization of two things:
a. that God was big enough to do whatever He wanted to do, even through someone as weak and insignificant as her, and
b. that God helps and blesses those who put their trust in Him. (Heb.11:6)
3. And that’s all you and I need to realize too.
I. “Let it be to me according to your word” was actually the most reasonable and logical response.
1. Faith is not an irrational leap in the dark, it is just doing the most reasonable thing. It is acting according to what is true.
2. When Moses didn’t want to go to Egypt to confront Pharaoh because of his speech difficulties, God tried to persuade him by reasoning with him: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)
a. Don’t you realize, Moses, that whatever weakness you have is a weakness I have given you. And if I can give you the weakness, I can overcome that weakness by My power.
b. Then He said to Moses, “I will be with you...I will be with your mouth and teach you what to speak.” (Exod.3:12, 4:12) If that is true, then it’s only logical to go for it.
3. The Israelites were all scared stiff before a ferocious enemy who is eight feet tall, and that may look like the rational response. But David knew that there was Someone else there who was even bigger & stronger than Goliath. And it wasn’t David! It was God! And David saw that and did the reasonable thing by not being afraid.
J. When God called Mary to do something, was He not big enough to help her do it? Of course He was!
K. When God calls us to do something, is He not big enough to help us do it? Of course He is!
1. When God allows us to face a problem, is He not bigger than the problem?
2. When God calls us to an important task, is He not bigger than that task?
3. Saying yes to the God who creates and sustains all things is the most logical thing anyone can do. Saying no is the height of stupidity!
L. And one of the great helps He gives us is examples to learn from, examples of those, like Mary, and Moses and David, who trusted even in the face of things which were way beyond them.
M. You see, God wants us to learn to live in the constant awareness that He is far bigger than everything else in life.
IV. There’s one more precious thing about Mary’s example I want to talk about in closing.
A. Deep down women have a yearning for a place of safety, a place of security, a place where they are loved and cherished, safely wrapped in the strong arms of love.
B. The problem is, in a fallen world, this makes women vulnerable to men who appeal to this deep yearning in order to take advantage of women — men pretending to care, but who are really interested in using women, not caring for them.
C. Because of this fact that woman have a history of being pushed around and taken advantage of.
D. As a result, many women are understandably leery, on the watch for people who have malicious motives. And they should be – even in the church, which is heartbreaking to admit.
1. (I don’t mean to imply that men are inherently less trustworthy than women. We’re all sinners, and both men and women are equally capable of sin. It’s just that the more power we have, the more tempting it is to take advantage of that power by mistreating others.)
E. But sadly, some women have transferred this distrust to the Bible itself and to the God it reveals.
1. And honestly, we all sometimes sinfully feel like we need to defend ourselves against God, like a woman pushing away some unwelcome advance.
F. But not Mary. She abandoned herself to the Lord.
1. She didn't know what it was going to be like, but she knew that whatever God wanted to do to her was good. That’s the beauty of "May it be done to me according to your word."
G. And here Mary teaches us such an important lesson. Her "May it be done to me according to your word" reflects a beautiful abandon, a wholehearted trust, an unconditional surrender which is an inspiration and example to us all.
H. People often mistreat and even abuse, but this is not at all the case with the Lord.
I. We don’t have to be careful with Him. We can trust Him implicitly. Ultimately He is the only One you can completely and utterly trust. Mary knew this and Mary demonstrates this.
J. I believe that this is the “quiet and gentle spirit” which Peter talks about in 1Pet.3:4.
K. And that’s the great point of this. It is a precious thing when men and women yield their lives to the almighty God because they know He is wiser than they are, that He knows more than they know, that He is more powerful than they are, that His love and faithfulness are rock solid.
1. Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Well, yes, even this is possible. But even so, I will not forget you.”
2. “And if God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Rom.8:31)
L. A spirit willing and ready to say yes to God is not the only thing precious to Him. It is also precious to the Lord when someone happily surrenders to Him and therefore becomes a vessel of His love for others, acting out of love for others instead of acting in self-interest. And blessed is the person who has a friend or a wife or a husband or a parent or a sibling who is like that!

Appendix
V. Now at first blush Mary’s response in v.34 might remind us of Zechariah’s question in v.18.
A. Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18) And Zechariah was struck with speechlessness till the birth.
B. But when Mary asks her question, she is not rebuked or punished. Instead, her question is readily answered.
C. There are several reasons why Zechariah’s question is very different from Mary’s.
1. Zechariah was asking a question to which he already had the answer. How shall I know this?
a. You know this by the fact that I am Gabriel who has been sent from heaven to tell you this.
b. In addition to this, old barren couples being given the ability to have a child was a known reality in the Bible. Abraham & Sarah had Isaac when they were probably even older than Zechariah & Elizabeth.
2. He was treating as impossible something he knew that God was perfectly able to do – from the Scriptures.
3. Mary, on the other hand, was being told about something which had never happened before.
4. Mary also was asking for information she needed to know. She needed to know whether she was going to get pregnant directly by God or whether there was going to be some intermediate agent through which she would get pregnant. She learned that the baby would have no biological father, for God Himself would make Mary pregnant, meaning that the child would be the Son of God.
5. Basically, Zechariah was asking, ‘How do I know you’re telling me the truth?’ while Mary was asking, ‘Can you explain to me how this is going to happen?’
D. ‘How will this be?’ is different than ‘How shall I know this?’
1. ‘How can I get pregnant without being with a man?’ is different than: ‘How can I know that this is really going to happen?’
2. One was clarification, the other was unbelief.