Isaiah prophesies that in the midst of turmoil a Son would be born. The first term in the first pair of titles is “Wonderful.” That term had been used by the Angel of the Lord as he a self-identifier as he promised Sampson’s birth. It refers to something bigger than we are, beyond our understanding. In Luke 1:26–38, Gabriel now comes with the news that this mysterious event is about to happen.
God has done what seems impossible. God greets you with his grace. Gabriel brings good news again. The heavenly messenger is the same, but the setting is much more humble. Instead of the temple at Jerusalem, this is a home in the town of Nazareth, far to the north, far from the center of religious life and political power. Mary is highly favored. She is the recipient of God’s grace, in that sense full of grace. She is not full of grace in the sense of being a source of grace to others. Bengal describes her “not as the mother of grace but as the daughter of grace.” By faith she looked God, and specifically to her Son as her Savior, verse 47. Worship of Mary does her no glory. She would doubtless be grieved to be the object of adoration which belongs to God alone. However, do give her the respect and honor which is appropriate. God selected her for a very special task. God’s greetings come to you as well. Gabriel’s greeting of Mary would lead to the message to the shepherds. Luke records the good news which is too great to confine to one person, or even to one nation.
“Now the entire preparation of the incarnation in the preceding centuries is concentrated, as it were, and completed in the election and favoring of Mary as mother of Jesus. Mary is the blessed one among women. She received an honor bestowed on no other creature. In the undeserved favor granted her, she far exceeds all other people and all angels.”
“Mary is held in high esteem. She was chosen and prepared by God to be the mother of his Son. She was the favored one among women. Christ himself desired her to be his mother, who conceived him by the Holy Spirit, who carried him beneath her heart, who nursed him at her breast, who instructed him in the Scriptures, in whom, in a word, the preparation of the incarnation was completed.”Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pages 281, 282
The Lord is with you—in a way that seems impossible. The Lord would be with Mary in a unique way. She was to be the mother of the Messiah. She would give birth to a Son whose name was to be Jesus. This child would be the Son of the Most High. The title reflects both his eternal deity and his Messianic sonship. Her Son, the Holy One, would be called the Son of God. He would fulfill God’s promises to the patriarchs and to David. The Lord would give him the throne of his ancestor, David, in fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah 7; 11, etc. Note the dual emphasis on peace and righteousness.
“The eternal Son of God, He through whom the universe was made, did not despise the virgin’s womb! What a wonder is there! It is not strange that it has always given offence to the natural man. But in that wonder we find God’s redeeming love, and in that babe who lay in Mary’s womb we find our Saviour who thus became man to die for our sins and bring us into peace with God.”J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ, p. 394
“Nothing is impossible with God.” Gabriel’s words to Mary are in response to her (natural) question, as to how she could have a child since she was a virgin. The heavenly message affirms what man-centered reason often denies, because it seems impossible: that Jesus could be born of Mary without the involvement of a human father. Both Matthew and Luke affirm this. But woven in with this is something even more mysterious: God has become man. Gabriel had already told Zechariah that the task of his son John was “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” verse 17. On the other side of this visit, the priest sang of John going before the Lord. Zechariah shares the perspective of the Old Testament. Deliverance involves God visiting his people. Luke, however, is preparing you to recognize that God has come to be with, not just Zechariah and Elizabeth, not just with Mary, but he has come to be with you. And this presence is not just a temporary theophanic revelation like those of the Old Testament. Rather, the Son of Mary will be Immanuel, God with us! You can look back on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as accomplished realities– saving events which took place to satisfy the righteous anger of God against your sin, to declare you righteous in God’s sight, and to draw you near to God.
Respond to God’s Word with submission. Mary submitted in faith. She did ask “how,” verse 34. Her question reflects her situation. She was engaged to Joseph, but they had not lived together. How was she to become the mother of this wonderful Son? The question reflects wonderment. It contrasts with Zechariah’s (formally similar) skepticism. The difference is reflected in Gabriel’s reply. He simply refers to the Holy Spirit coming upon her and the divine character of her Son. For Mary that is enough. The Lord did give Mary a sign. Her cousin Elizabeth, far too old to be a mother, was six months pregnant. That miracle foreshadowed the greater miracle that would take place in Mary’s life. Mary responds, “I am the Lord’s servant.” As disruptive as this would be in her life, as threatening as aspects of it might appear, this was God’s Word–and she would submit. That submission would blossom into a song, the hymn that Luke records.
Respond with obedient faith. Mary’s situation is obviously unique. What happened to her would happen to no other person in the history of the universe. She only is the mother of the Messiah. Luke’s focus is not on Mary, but rather, through her, on her Son. He is concerned, not just with Mary’s reaction to coming of the Christ, but with yours as well. While Mary is unique, part of her response is exactly what God expects of you–belief that what he says is true, trust in his Son. God calls you to believe his Word, that this child is no ordinary baby, but is indeed the Holy One, the Son of God. The purpose of the incarnation is ultimately the glory of God. But he is glorified in the incarnation taking place as a crucial step in the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Savior in our place. He calls you to believe, not only that the Son of God was born of Mary, but also that the same Son is the King of kings and Lord of lords, who, one day, will return in glory. He calls you to submit, in faith, trusting yourself, body and soul, in life and in death, to him. He commands you to live in a humble trust that brings honor and glory to him.
Mary’s setting is less spectacular than Zechariah’s but her response is one of quicker faith. The setting is humble, but the event is even more glorious. Experience the presence of your God. He is calling you to trust in the Savior he provided for you.