THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO MARY

LUKE 1:26-56

 

In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. (Isaiah 4:2).

It seems fitting that the first announcement of the coming of Messiah should have been made in the temple. It was there that the sacrifices were made, their blood running red in the temple basins. It was there that the morning and evening offerings were made, along with prayers for the redemption of Jerusalem. And it was there that the high priest would go in once a year to atone for the sins of the people.

And yet, when the time comes for the announcement to be made to that one who shall bear the Divine Son, it is not to Jerusalem that we look, but to Galilee. There was a saying among the Jews that if you wanted to become spiritual, you went to Jerusalem; but if you wanted to become rich, go to Galilee.

It was a rich, fertile land with rolling hills and sun splashed meadows; a land of sparkling streams and peaceful villages. It was truly a land flowing with milk and honey. But more than that, it was in the days of Jesus a land of wealthy industry. The main roads of the Middle East ran through the hills of Galilee and a hundred cities and towns grew rich by trading with the merchants who traveled along these roads.

Traveling north from Jerusalem, you follow a high ridge of mountains which winds its way northward through the land of the Samaritans. Finally, you come to the wide plain of Jezreel. In the center of the plain lies the ancient city of Megiddo, a city that was already old in Solomon s day.

This is the Valley of Jezreel, the battlefield of the ancient world and known popularly today as Armageddon. It was here that Deborah and Barach defeated the Canaanites. This was the place where Gideonís 300 had vanquished the Midianites. The chariots of Thutmoses 3rd and Amenhotep 2nd of Egypt fought the Canaanites here. It was here that Saul had been slain and it was here that the kings Ahaziah and Josiah of Judah each met their deaths.

As you look across this lush, fertile valley, you would be hard-pressed to visualize all of the bloodshed that has taken place here. No longer can you hear the tramp of soldierís boots. Instead there is the singing of birds, the grazing of sheep, and the clank of a carpenterís simple tools.

Far to the north, you can barely make out the snow-tipped peak of Mount Hermon. To the west, the plain is dotted with cities and villages, beyond which rises the purple slopes of Mount Carmel, and beyond that the sea. To the east rises Mount Tabor, around which curves the bustling highway. Nestled in the low hills to the north of the plain is a tiny village. Nazareth. From this village will come the one who will give birth to the Savior of the world.

 

THE ANGELíS APPEARANCE TO MARY

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin s name was Mary.

And coming in, he said to her, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." (Luke 1:26-28).

With these words our scene changes from Jerusalem and the temple to Nazareth. The name "Nazareth" has two possible meanings in the Hebrew language:

Nazarethís claim to fame was the fact that it was one of the cities of gathering for the priests. In our last chapter, we stated that each of the 24 courses of priests would gather at a city prior to their week of service in the temple. Those who were able to would travel to Jerusalem. Those who could not would remain in the city for a week of prayer. Nazareth was one of those gathering-places.

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God (1:26).

This refers to the sixth month of Elizabethís pregnancy. She had kept herself in seclusion for the first five months. Now she has revealed herself and her condition to everyone. There is no doubt in anyone s mind that that one who was once barren is now with child. It is only after this that Gabriel comes to Mary.

To a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph (1:27).

The word engaged is translated from the perfect passive participle of emnesteuo. It means "to betroth." The betrothal was much stronger than an engagement. It was a legally binding promise of marriage. The woman who was betrothed was regarded as though she were already married. The only way to be released from a betrothal was to go through divorce proceedings.

The betrothal usually lasted for an entire year. Unfaithfulness on the part of the bride was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:23-29).

And the virginís name was Mary (1:27).

The name Mary is an English rendition of the Hebrew name "Miriam." It was a common name among the Jews. It was reminiscent of the sister of Moses. There are at least four other women in the New Testament with this same name.

"Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." (1:28).

We could translate this opening salutation literally as "Grace to you who have been graced..." The angel opens with a double reference to GRACE. This is the basis on which God is dealing with Mary.

Many people have looked at Mary and thought that she is something special. It has even been taught that she was without sin. But this is not what we see here. She is the object of GRACE!

What is grace? Grace is undeserved mercy. It is God giving us blessing when we deserve cursing. This is the way God deals with us. And this is how He was dealing with Mary.

 

MARYíS FIRST REACTION

But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be.

And the angel said to her, "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 name Him Jesus.

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 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:29-33).

Maryís first reaction was one of fear and wonderment. This is not surprising. She had never seen an angel before. Up to this point, she had been a very normal person living a very normal life in a very normal town.

And yet, I donít think that it was the angelís appearance which troubled Mary as much as what the angel said to her. Mary is told that she has been picked out by God for some special purpose.

Now, Mary had no illusions about herself. She knew that she was not worthy of any special honor from God.

1. A Greeting of Grace: "You have found favor with God" (1:30).

The angel does not say, "God has picked you out because you are so wonderful. He does not say, "We held a heavenly popularity contest and you won."

He says, "You have found FAVOR." This word "favor" is the Greek word charis. "You have found GRACE."

Grace is being given that which you do not deserve. If you have come to God, then it is only on the basis of grace.

2. Promise of a Son: "You will conceive in your womb, and bear a son" (1:31).

The angel does not mention at this point HOW Mary is going to conceive. Up to now, there has been no mention of a virgin birth. Naturally, Mary is going to assume that the angel is referring to natural childbirth.

3. His Name: "And you shall name Him Jesus" (1:31).

The name Jesus is a Greek rendition of the Hebrew name "Joshua." It means "Jehovah saves." Names don t carry that much meaning these days. We give our children names because we like the way they sound. But in those days, the meaning behind the name often held a special significance. Your name told something about you.

This is the case with Jesus. His name is a special name. It indicates the special purpose that God had for Him. He came to be the Savior.

4. His Inheritance: "The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David" (1:32).

The birth of Jesus marks the return of the Davidic Dynasty. Israel had been without a king from the line of David for over 500 years. The last king from the line of David had been Zedekiah. He had been deposed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Now a foreigner is on the throne. His name is Herod the Great. He is not even Jewish. He is Idumean. But Herodís kingdom is going to end. And the kingdom of Jesus will never end.

 

MARYíS SECOND REACTION

And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for this reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.

"And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.

"For nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:34-37).

Mary reacts to the angelís announcement with a question. Notice the question. "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

Mary is not questioning Godís ability. She is not doubting the truthfulness of this prophecy. She is merely asking how it will be accomplished in light of the fact that she has never joined in sexual contact with a man.

Zacharias

Mary

"How can I be sure?"

"I am sure that it is going to happen, but how?"

 

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (1:35).

This is going to be the work of God. He is going to supercede the laws of nature in order to produce a child in the womb of Mary.

Just as the Holy Spirit brings about the new birth in the life of a believer, so the Holy Spirit will bring about a physical life within the womb of Mary.

This came as a complete surprise to Mary. There was absolutely nothing in Jewish theology to make one think that the Messiah would ever be born of a virgin.

There is not the slightest direct evidence... in support of the view t.hat there was in the pre-Christian Judaism of the time subsequent to the Old Testament any expectation of a virgin birth of the Messiah." (J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ, Pg 297).

Thus, the Jews were not expecting a virgin birth. This was something that the Jews did not understand.

Now I want to ask you a question. Is the virgin birth really all that important? It certainly is.

"Your relative Elizabeth has also conceived" (1:36).

It is not clear exactly what relation Elizabeth was to Mary. They are spoken of as being from different tribes, so they may have been cousins.

The important point is that Mary is being given a sign. Her sign is Elizabethís pregnancy.

Zacharias had asked for & sign and was given one. Mary did not ask, but she also received a sign.

"For nothing will be impossible with God" (1:37).

This is a promise. We have a God who is the master of the impossible situation. Notice the tense. It is a future tense. There will never be a time in the future when there will be anything that will be impossible for God.

Now Mary has a decision to make. Will she believe that God is in control? Is God more real to her than any problems that may arise?

 

MARYíS THIRD REACTION

And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her." (Luke 1:38).

This is fantastic! Donít miss the implications of Maryís statement. She is going to become pregnant. She will have a child. But she will have a child without the benefit of a husband. What is wrong with that? These days it happens so often that one would hardly notice such a thing.

Mary is betrothed. She has entered into a legal contract with Joseph to become his wife at the end of this betrothal period. The Law is very explicit as to what is to be done in the event that she is found to be unfaithful (Deuteronomy 22: 13-29). The penalty for unfaithfulness is death by stoning.

Mary is going to become pregnant. It will look as though she has been unfaithful. Nobody is expecting a virgin birth and nobody is going to believe that she is still a virgin. In spite of all this, Mary still submits herself to the will of the Lord.

In conclusion, I want you to notice a distinct contrast between Mary and Zacharias.

Zacharias

Mary

Old man

Young girl

Lived in Judea

Lived in Galilee

Son of Levi (priest)

Daughter of Judah

Married to one who is barren

Betrothed, but still a virgin

Birth announced in the temple: An official announcement

Birth accounced in the city of Nazareth: A personal announcement

Unbelief

Belief

Asked for a sign to be given

Submitted to the will of God

The birth of John

The birth of Jesus

Zacharias had all of the education of one of the priesthood, yet he still did not believe the promise of God. Mary was simply a young girl with no formal training that we know of, yet she readily believed and submitted herself.

 

MARY VISITS ELIZABETH

Now at this time Mary arose arid went with hast to the hill country, to a city of Judah,

And entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Maryís greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:39-41).

Why did Mary leave Nazareth and go to visit Elizabeth? Undoubtedly, it was to see for herself the sign of Elizabethís pregnancy and to share her own good fortune with her relative. After all, no one would be able to identify with her situation as much as Elizabeth would.

When Elizabeth heard Maryís greeting, the baby leaped in her womb (1:41).

Elizabeth was at least in her sixth month by now (Luke 1:26). By this time, it would have been normal to have the fetus moving within her womb. However, Elizabeth is going to interpret this movement as something quite out of the ordinary.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (1:41).

The filling of the Holy Spirit is a familiar concept within the Bible. It is rooted in the Old Testament (Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:17-29; 24:2; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 14:6; 1 Samuel 10:6; 10:10; 11:6).

    1. The filling of the Holy Spirit is described as a special and uncommon occurrence.
    2. It was only on special occasions that a believer was described as being filled with the Holy Spirit.

    3. The filling of the Holy Spirit is a temporary phenomenon. This seems to he evidenced in Davidís request in the Psalms.
    4. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51:11).

      Apparently, the Holy Spirit would come upon a believer to perform a particular task and then would leave him.

    5. We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,. (Ephesians 5:13).

This command is in the present tense. It indicates a continuing action in the present time. We are to continually be filled with the Spirit.

This was a special moment in Elizabethís life. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon her in order to perform a special task - to compose a song.

 

ELIZABETHíS SONG

And she cried out with a loud voice, and said, "Blessed among women are you, arid blessed is the fruit of your womb!

"And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

"For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." (Luke 1:42-45).

Elizabeth breaks forth in praise to the Lord. In the way of Hebrew poetry, this praise contains a threefold parallelism.

"Blessed among women are you" (1:42).

The word blessed is the Greek perfect passive participle of eulogeo, meaning "to speak well of, to bless." This is different from makarios, the word that is translated "blessed" in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 and Luke 6.

I think that there may be a principle here. Mary is not blessed because of anything special that she has done. She is blessed because God has done something for her.

"The mother of my Lord" (1:43).

Elizabeth looks at Mary and she sees more than just a young girl. She sees the one who will give birth to the Messiah ó the One who is her Lord. This is reminiscent of David when he spoke of One who was his Lord.

The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet." (Psalm 110:1).

Elizabeth seem to realize that the One to whom Mary will give birth is to the the same One of whom David spoke.

"The baby leaped in my womb for joy" (1:44).

Does this mean that the child within Elizabethís womb had knowledge of the fact that the mother of the Messiah was in his presence? Although we do not want to read too much into this passage, this appears to be the case.

"Blessed is she who believed" (1:45).

This time the word "blessed" is makaria, meaning "happy." This time, it refers to Mary s attitude. Now she is blessed because of something that. she has done. What is it that she has done? She has BELIEVED. Notice the progression.

First, God gave His grace to Mary

®

Then Mary believed

®

Finally she possessed an inner happiness

We could sum it up as an equation: Grace + Faith = Inner Happiness.

Faith is the key that unlocks the gift of God on our behalf.

 

MARYíS SONG

And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord,

"And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bonidslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.

"For His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.

"He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones and has exalted those who were humble.

"He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed.

"He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy,

"As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever.

And Mary stayed with her about; three months, and then returned to her home." (Luke 1:26-56).

The theme of Maryís song is the greatness of God. It is essentially a song of praise and glorification of God.

It is interesting to note the similarities between Maryís song and the song of Hannah found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

The Song of Hannah

The Song of Mary

My heart exalts the Lord

My soul exalts the Lord

There is no one holy like the Lord,

Indeed, there is no one besides Thee

For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name

Boast no more very proudly,

Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth

For the Lord is a God of knowledge And with Him actions are weighed

He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart

The bows of the mighty are shattered,

But the feeble gird on strength

He has brought down rulers from their thrones and has exalted those who were humble

The Lord makes poor and rich;

He brings low, He also exalts

He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed

He will give strength to His king,

And will exalt the horn of His anointed

He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy

The one thing that is absent from BOTH songs is any mention of the promised child. Hannah speaks of the fact that the Lord opens and closes wombs, but she makes no mention of her own situation in her song. Likewise, Mary speaks of how her hope is in the Lord, but her song contains nothing about the Son that is promised to her.

At the same time, there are several quotations from the Psalms found within this song, as well as quotations from other verses of the Old Testament Scriptures (1 Samuel 1:11; Job 12:19: Psalm 69:10; 98:1, 3; 103:1, 5, 17; 105;6-10; 107:9; 147:2, 19; Isaiah 53:1). This is not surprising when we realize that Mary was probably taught the Scriptures from the time that she was a little child.

Maryís song can be outlined in four major points:

1:46-49

God is exalted because of what He has done for Mary, His humble slave

Godís mercy is seen in that He has picked out one of humble origins to work through

1:50

Godís mercy is seen to be directed to all generations

In the first four verses, we see Godís mercy only in relation to Mary. Now, His mercy is seen in a wider framework ó directed to the world

1:51-53

The mercy of God is seen and attested to in history

This is a further expansion of the previous point. Also presented here is a contrast; between the mercy of God and the judgment of God

1:54-55

Godís mercy as seen in relation to Israel

Godís mercy is seen in the promises which He has given to Israel and in the way that He has kept those promises

With this basic outline in mind, we are now ready to examine some of the key phrases within this song.

"My soul exalts the Lord" (1:46).

This is the essence of worship. It is to lift God up and recognize His greatness and glory. It is not that we can make God any higher or more glorious than He already is. Our worship does not add anything to God. What it does is to RECOGNIZE the greatness of His position.

"My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (1:47).

Mary does not try to set herself up as one who had no need of a Savior. She was in need of salvation just as every member of the human race is in need of salvation.

What made Mary special? It was not anything on her part. It was something outside of her. It was the grace of God. There was nothing about Mary that set her apart from the rest of the human race. But God is going to set her apart for a special purpose.

"All generations will count me blessed" (1:46).

The word for "blessed" in this verse is makarios and can be translated "happy." It is the same word that is used in the Beatitudes. It describes an inner happiness.

This is a prophecy that has come true. Everywhere that the story of Christ has been preached, it has included the story of Mary. This does not mean that we are to worship Mary or pray to her. But it does it mean that we are to consider her as one who was greatly blessed by the Lord and given a high and holy privilege.

"Holy is His name" (1:49).

The Greek word for "holy" is hagios. it is quite different from our modern definition of the idea of holiness. Hagios described something that had been set apart for a special use. There were certain utensils within the temple which were reserved for a special use. It was not that they were all that different from any other utensils. It was just that they were dedicated for this special use.

Godís name is like that. It has been set apart from all other names to describe the One who is the creator of all things.

"He has done mighty deeds with His arm" (1:51).

With this phrase, Mary introduces a contrast between the humble and hungry and the rich and powerful.

He has done Mighty Deeds

Blessings

Cursings

He has exalted those who were humble

He has scattered the proud and brought down rulers

He has filled the hungry

He sent away the rich empty-handed

It should be pointed out that each of these verbs is in the aorist tense. This tense is used to describe a point in time. Mary is looking back to the points in history where God has been seen to work in a mighty way.

Mary points out that the God who worked so greatly in history is the same God whom we worship today. He has not changed. He is still at work in history as He brings His will to pass. His promises are ever true and can be believed.


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