Responding to Godís Leadership

Explore the Bible Series

December 19, 2004


Background Passage: Luke 1:26-56

Lesson Passage: Luke 1:26-38, 41-45





I.                   The Setting of the Announcement of the Conception of Jesus (Luke 1:26-27)

A.     ďÖin the sixth monthÖĒ: This time reference marks six months from the angelís appearance to Zachariah in the Temple (See 1:8-20); thus, Jesus was approximately six months younger than his kinsman John the Baptist.

B.     The angel Gabriel: His name means ďstrong man of GodĒ, and he appears, by name, four times in the Scriptures (Daniel 8:15-27; Daniel 9:20-27; Luke 1:8-20; Luke 1:26-38).

C.     Nazareth: This town did not enjoy a good reputation during the earthly life of Jesus (See John 1:46) and did not play a particularly important economic or social role in first-century, Galilean culture.Apparently, Jesus was conceived in Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, and, after a sojourn in Egypt, the Lordís family returned to Nazareth.

D.     The Virgin Mary: The Bible tells us very little about the background of this young woman.She, no doubt, possessed a godly, gracious disposition, and readily submitted to the startling revelation of the angel that she would conceive a son.

††††††††††††††††† Note: I have given considerable time, over the last few years, to study the

††††††††††††††††† Roman Catholic assertions about Mary: her immaculate conception, perpetual

††††††††††††††††† virginity, bodily assumption into heaven, and intermediary work between believers and Jesus. I mean no unnecessary offence to our Roman Catholic friends, but I find no compelling, biblical evidence for these teachings.In my studies, I have read carefully (and, I trust, sympathetically) read the personal testimonies of Catholic converts like Thomas Howard, Scott Hahn, and Donald Currie.Their arguments on this topic do not convince me of the prominence that Mary plays in Catholic theology.However, their criticism that Protestant churches do not give enough attention to Mary, in my judgment, deserves fair consideration and correction.


II.                Gabrielís Announcement of the Saviorís Birth(Luke 1:26-38)

A.     The angelís blessing (v.28-30): The appearance of the angel troubled Mary; therefore, Gabriel began his announcement to her with a tender blessing. The words he chose indicate that Mary was the recipient of great and unique mercies from the Lord.She does not appear here as one who bestows the graces of God (as our Catholic friends claim); rather, she receives these mercies from the gracious hand of the Lord.

B.     The conception of a son (v. 31): The angel came to the heart of his mission.Mary, he announced, would conceive and bear a son named Jesus.Note that the angel does not seek her approval or agreement with this situation; he simply announced a statement of fact.She will conceive and bear a son.

C.     The nature and mission of Jesus (vv. 32-33): Gabriel summarized the Saviorís character and ministry with profound and simple assertions.

1.      ďHe will be great and the Son of the HighestĒ

2.      ďThe Lord God will give him the throne of his father DavidĒ

3.      ďHe will reign over the House of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom their will be no end.Ē

Note: At this point, Mary seemed overwhelmed by the information she had received.She paused for a moment to ďgain her breathĒ and asked how these things could happen.Apparently, her question did not betray a heart of unbelief (like that of Zachariah); rather, she simply sought information about how these things would occur.

D.     The nature of the conception of Jesus (v. 35): In a patient and modest manner, the angel told Mary that the Holy Sprit would overshadow her, and she would bear a son.The angel told her that the wondrous conception would occur in a holy and mysterious way that even Jesusí mother would not be told. An account of the ďmechanicsĒ of this precious and holy thing did not sully the glorious mystery of the birth of the Son of the Most High.

E.      The announcement of Elizabethís pregnancy (v.36-37):Verse 37 seems to indicate that the angel told Mary of Elizabethís pregnancy to assure the young woman that God was sovereign and powerful, and would accomplish his good purpose despite the seeming impossibility of the circumstances.Mary, according to the angel, would find confirmation and encouragement in the miraculous work of God in the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth.


Application: Luke notes the sweet compliance of Mary to the Lordís directive for her life.As noted earlier, the Lord did not seek her approval of the divine plan. He simply announced to her, through the message of the angel, that Mary would conceive and bear a son.The plan did not hinge on her consent.These providences brought great blessing to Mary, but they brought serious difficulty as well.In her cultural setting, of course, illegitimacy carried serious social consequences.This dear young woman, no doubt, carried the stigma of apparent illegitimacy for the rest of her life.The whispered conversations of the townís people must have wounded the heart of this tender and holy girl. Godís providential dealings with his children often come to us in similar ways.His greatest blessings are often attended by grievous trial.



III.             Maryís Visit with Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)

A.     Maryís journey to the Judean hill country (vv. 39-40):Gabriel informed Mary of the pregnancy of Elizabeth (See v. 36), and, in the days following the angelís visit, Mary traveled to Judea to see her aged kinswoman.The trip would have taken several days, and Mary remained with Zachariah and Elizabeth for three months.

B.     Elizabethís response to Maryís arrival (vv. 41-45): Godly Elizabeth humbly rejoiced with Mary concerning the promised birth of the Messiah.This elderly saint manifested several qualities that should characterize all of Godís people.

1.      Humility: Readers find no trace of envy or jealousy in Elizabethís character. She genuinely rejoiced with her younger kinswoman upon hearing of her good news.

2.      Joy: This scene reflects Elizabethís great joy in Maryís good report.Joy, of course, is an internal disposition, but, in this story, it irresistibly broke forth in spontaneous song, provoked by contemplation of the gracious work of God.

3.      Submission: Clearly, Mary, the younger woman in this account, had been given the greater privilege; yet, Elizabeth graciously and thankfully rejoiced at the prospect of Godís bountiful blessing upon her life and the life of Mary.This dear woman sweetly bowed to the gracious apportionment of the Lordís bounty.

C.     The baby leaped in Elizabethís womb (vv. 41 and 44):Perhaps we should avoid speculations about this event.The baby leaped at the sound of Maryís greeting, and, in this, a profoundly mysterious and glorious thing occurred.Like Elizabeth, we should note the remarkable occurrence and rejoice in the great and glorious mystery of it.


IV. Maryís Hymn of Praise (Luke 1: 46-56): Hendriksen divides the hymn into four strophes (poetic sections).

A.     (vv. 46-48): Mary marveled at the Lordís great favor in using her as the means of sending his incarnate Son into the world. She expressed her amazement that Godís kindness had smiled upon a humble maiden.This is an intensely personal section; that is, she understood her own unworthiness and the bountiful blessing of God toward her. The Lordís gracious providence had rescued her from the darkness of historical obscurity, and generations would know of Godís goodness to her.

B.     (vv. 49-50): Mary expanded her circle of praise.This section focuses on Godís mercy to all who fear him in all generations.Mary realized that God had shown favor to believers in all generations through the kindness he had bestowed upon her.

C.     (vv. 51-53): This strophe centers on Godís displeasure with the ungodly.The proud, the mighty, and exalted, and the rich, he will send away empty.

D.     (vv. 54-55): Mary displayed an impressive awareness of the Lordís great plan of redemption.The Father sent the Son into the world in fulfillment of the divine promise made to Israel through the patriarch Abraham.God had not forgotten his covenant with the great Old Testament man of faith.Jesus came to accomplish the pledge made hundreds of years before to Abraham and his seed.



Let us learn from this holy womanís example, to lay firm hold on Bible promises.It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so.Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat, and the water that we should daily drink, as we travel through the wilderness of this world.We see not yet all things put under us.We see not Christ, and heaven, and the book of life, and the mansions prepared for us.We walk by faith, and this faith leans on promises.But on those promises we may lean confidently. They will bear all the weight we can lay on them.We shall find one day, like the Virgin Mary, that God keeps his word, and that what he has spoken, so he will always in due time perform.

††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††J.C. Ryle