Last week, we learned about the angel Gabriel visiting Zechariah. The angel foretold of a son to be born by his elderly, previously barren wife, Elizabeth, and that this child would be the one to prepare the way for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Zechariah was dubious and his unbelief was literally silenced.
Fast forward 6 months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, when Luke continues his historical narrative in the next verses (Lk 1: 26-38) with the angel Gabriel being sent to the city of Nazareth in Galilee to appear before Mary who was probably 14-16 years old and a virgin betrothed to Joseph. Both were descendants of King David of Israel, but at this time were in the poorest state this family had ever been. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!….Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” This passage assumes and builds upon the previous one. The mighty work God has done in John the Baptist’s conception would be surpassed by an even greater miracle in the virginal conception of Jesus, God’s Son. The mighty work God foretold he would do through John the Baptist’s ministry would be surpassed by an even greater work through his Son’s ministry. Whereas John would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (1:15), Jesus would be great without qualification (1:32) and would be called the Son of God (1:35). The angel Gabriel, coming from God’s presence (1:19), informs Mary & us of what should be known about Jesus of Nazareth. John’s conception, like that of Isaac, Samson, and Samuel, was miraculous; but Jesus’ conception was absolutely unique. It was not just quantitatively greater; it was qualitatively different. Whereas John’s task was to prepare for the Coming One (1:17), Jesus is the Coming One who will reign forever (1:33); and whereas John was filled with the Spirit while still in the womb (1:15), Jesus’ very conception would be due to the Spirit’s miraculous activity in a virgin (1:35–37).
Imagine your response to this news! Think back to Zechariah’s response. He asked for proof, he doubted. Contrast this to Mary’s response: “How will this be, since I am a virgin? The angel answered….For nothing is impossible with God. And Mary said, Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The entire passage (v. 26-38) tells us four things about Mary: The facts of Mary's life, the fear in Mary's heart, the wonder in Mary's mind, and the submission in Mary's spirit. Was Mary afraid? Whenever we meet something new and strange, we get confused. When we study our passage, we see that Mary accepted the angel's "Fear not" at face value, she didn’t panic or become gripped with fear. What the Angel announced was supernatural. A miracle. The response can be either (1) miracles just don't happen, so prove it to me (1:18), the response of unbelief, or (2) Wow! That's amazing! How will it happen? the response of wonder and faith. Mary affirms the bedrock truth that undergirds our discipleship: "I am the Lord's servant." Mary demonstrates a model for Christian obedience with her submission to the divine will of God (v.38). If you think about it, Mary was Jesus’ first disciple. What motivated her response to God? What is our response as disciples when God asks something difficult of us?
Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 81-82,87). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.