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Miraculous Conception-Luke 1_26-38

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The Miraculous Conception: Lessons from Mary

Luke 1:26-38


Cicero once wrote:

What was incapable of happening never happened, and what was capable of happening is not a miracle…consequently, there are no miracles.

Marc Brettler a prominent Jewish scholar in his book titled How to read the Bible states regarding the miracles of the book of Daniel:

 …the stories of Daniel are so exaggerated and implausible that we must wonder whether readers in antiquity believed them.

A group called the Jesus Seminar organized by Robert Funk gets together and decides through mainly reason if what happened in the Bible is actually true.  In regards to the virgin conception they found in 1994 by a vote that 96% of them agreed that it never happened.

  • Many would claim that miracles are impossible but I have found that there is no other way to explain some of the things I see.
  • A friend with a nut allergy prays for healing and now can eat nuts without a single side effect.
  • A premature baby who after 2 months hooked up to machines only weighs 3 pounds goes through pneumonia and is given no hope baffles doctors as to her ability to stay alive.
  • My own daughter being anemic and getting sicker and sicker looks like she should have cystic fibrosis turns out to only have a sinus infection.  The pediatrician has never seen this in 12 years of practicing medicine.
  • Miracles do they happen…you better believe it.  I bet you have your own stories of things that just cannot be explained.

Today we want to look at what may be in the running for the greatest miracle of them all.  In Luke 1:26-38 we have recorded the declaration of the immaculate conception.  We do not want to so much try to prove that God could perform the miracle of the virgin birth but we want to focus on something equally important…the stellar example that Mary the mother of Jesus is for us.
Mary has found favor in the sight of God (vs. 26-29)

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel  was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,  27 to a virgin engaged  to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

  • In the sixth month is a reference back to the previous story of the miraculous conception of Elizabeth but not just as an announcement but a call.
  • Gabriel is associated with significant pronouncements in the Bible.  The Fact that Gabriel is sent signifies the importance of this event.
  • Traditionally a girl was engaged at the age of 13.  After a year of engagement the girl would then go to live with her husband.  It is during this engagement time that Mary is approached by Gabriel.
  • The reference to Joseph being from the house of David is here because the messiah is foretold to come from David.  Because Mary is betrothed to Joseph it makes it so the prophesy is maintained.
  • It is significant that it is mentioned twice that Mary was a virgin.  Luke is clarifying that the conception of Jesus was not a normal event.
  • To be favored by God was not unusual.  People like Moses, Jacob and Esther were favored.  Mary was considered by God to be the one that would bear his son.  This was a special honor.
  • To have God’s favor meant that his grace was upon her, she was pleasing to God.  God saw in her a person of faith and integrity.
  • Mary was troubled by this more than likely because in the culture of that day a 13 year old unmarried women would be considered the most insignificant person.  She would have no social status and the last person to be visited by a person of importance.

  • So we have the greatest of all angelic messengers commissioned by God to visit a 13 year old engaged, socially insignificant young girl with a task that would bring the son of God into the world.
  • God considered Mary important.  He saw in her a person that was faithful to him, willing to serve, and one that would be a great mother, standing by him through all his life and death.

A rather pompous, self-righteous Sunday School teacher was trying to make the point that good Christians don’t keep their faith a secret. With her head held high and her chest thrust out, the teacher strutted impressively back and forth across the room. She asked, “Now, class, why do you think people call me a Christian?”  The room was silent for a moment. Then one of the boys slowly raised his hand and said, “Probably because they don’t know you.”

God new Mary and he knew that she was the best choice to bear his son.  She would hold within her womb the hope of the world and God knew she was the one.

Would God consider you highly favored?  Have you dedicated yourself to God in such a way that he would use you for a great task?  If you cannot there is a problem.

Mary is given a commission by God for a great task. (vs. 30-33)

Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will 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 Him the throne of His father David.  33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. 

  • Gabriel again announces that Mary is favored by God.  He is trying to reassure her that what he is about to say is not a mistake, but is given to her because she has been chosen.
  • It is interesting that the Angel does not ask Mary, he tells her that this will happen.  It makes me wonder at how many times we take Gods call and see it as optional?
  • Verses 31 and 32 follow the typical OT structure for divine birth announcements.  It is very similar to 2 Samuel 7:12-16 where God announces the birth and reign of David.  This announcement is echoed in Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

·        In verse 33 the angel expands his commission by declaring a confirmation of the covenant as one that is new and never ending.  Jeremiah describes this new covenant and Mary has the privilege of being critical for it coming to pass.

·        We see this again echoed in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders.  He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.  He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

  • It should be noted that more than likely Mary would have understood as any good Jew would have that this child that would be the son of God and be on the throne of David would bring a physical kingdom not a spiritual one.
  • So here is Mary woken from her dreams in the middle of the night by an angel with a message that makes her the center of God’s entire plan for the redemption of the whole World.
  • What would we say?  If God revealed that he wanted us to be at the center of a grand plan that would require us to take great risks how would we respond?  We would suffer and see little results, would we go?
  • The fact is that he has called us all to a great task.

If there are a thousand steps between us and God, he will take all but one. He will leave the final one for us. The choice is ours.    -- Max Lucado

Mary is reassured how God will carry out his Plan (vs. 34-37)

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied to her:  The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.  36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

  • Mary begins in v. 34 with asking how something like this can happen.  She understands the biological function of having children-she is not ignorant.
  • Moses when called to a great task responded by questioning God is such a way that said he didn’t want the job.
  • Mary’s questioning is not like Moses but is more of an inquiry as to how something that is humanly impossible was going to be possible.
  • Gabriel responds by explaining how this will happen.  The idea of God overshadowing is a familiar OT concept.  This overshadowing is the same idea as found in Exodus 40:38:

For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.

  • The Holy Spirit will bring about this work, just as he has done through the guidance provided to the Israelites.  It is the same power that is given to every believer.
  • This is impossible for us to understand.  It is distinctive from Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.  Elizabeth conceives because of God enabling the natural biological process.  Plenty of women (Sarah, Rachel) have had God enable them to have children but Mary’s conception is a miracle of a different kind.
  • This direct contact of God is done for the specific reason so that the child to be born would be God’s own Son.  The incarnation depended on this level of interaction. For Jesus to be fully God and fully human God performed this extraordinary miracle.
  • Gabriel continues to provide Mary with a real life example in her relative Elizabeth.  She could not have children because she was barren and also because she was old but God performed a miracle. If God could do that, he could obviously do what he said would happen in Mary
  • God is good in that he often shores up our ability to obey in faith by providing things in our life that confirm his abilities.

There is an enormous gap between what we think we can do and what God calls us to do. Our ideas of what we can do or want to do are trivial; God's ideas for us are grand.    -- Eugene H. Peterson

We need to see the possibilities that come when we think less humanly and more Godly.  Like Mary, God has plans that seem impossible but are able to happen because of the overshadowing of God.

Mary responds to God’s plan (v. 38)

“I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

  • Mary makes some remarkable statements of faith coming from a 13 year old girl.
  • Some translations have Mary saying that she is the Lord’s servant or even bond servant or hand maiden.  The actual word used is better translated slave.
  • To use the word ‘servant’ gives the idea of a free person doing work for another, but that is not the point being made here.  It is more the idea of giving herself to what is being asked without ever expecting to be released from the responsibility.
  • Mary’s willing to humble herself and be obedient to God is echoed in Psalm 116:16: Yes, Lord! I am indeed your servant; I am your lowest slave. You saved me from death.

  • Mary’s expression that all this should happen according to the angel’s word is an expression of her total submission.  She does not agree with conditions but accepts it the way God wants.
  • This is a bigger statement than we may think.  She is making herself open to ridicule because she will be an unwed mother.  She faces rejection from Joseph.  She faces the possibility that her family with disown her.
  • If we were to compare Mary’s response to someone like Moses we can see that while Moses was considered a great patriarch and a key figure in God’s plans he was a spiritual lightweight compared with Mary.
  • Moses questioned and refuted God’s call.  He tried his best to get out of God’s commission.  Mary is in fact a better biblical example of immediate submission than most other characters in the Bible.
  • Mary accepted the task of bringing the savior into the world.  She was going to be at the center of a crucial event that would bring God to earth.  Max Lucado writes:

Fleshly divinity. Skin layered on Spirit. Omnipotence with hair. Toenails. Knuckles. Molars. Kneecaps. Once again God walks with man.

  • Can we say that we come close to Mary’s devotion.  A young girl of insignificance visited in the middle of the night with a mission that would change the world.  Being asked to give up her reputation and face ridicule.
  • I fear we have rejected God’s prompting to serve him for much less.

Gethsemane teaches us that the kingdom of God is entered only through the denial of one's own will and the affirmation of the will of God.  Therefore, the cross must stand central to an understanding of the kingdom.  Since the essence of the kingdom is our obedience to the absolute will of God, we understand it only as we bring our own will to the foot of the cross.  No self-will can live unchallenged in God's kingdom. Dennis Corrigan

Mary gave herself to the will of God without the benefit of being able to look back at the cross as we have.  I am not sure which is more startling: the fact that she so quickly submitted to the will of God or our ability to so quickly question the will of God.


Mary has demonstrated that she stands out as one of the great people of faith in the Bible.  She was selected by God and demonstrated faith that even put Moses to shame.

Mary shows us several things:

  • Christians should want to find favor in the eyes of God.  This favor comes when we are open to his guidance.  It is not a matter of worldly significance but by God’s discretion.  Do we cry out for God’s favor?

  • Christians should be called to great things even if those great things appear insignificant by the world’s standards.  Do we cry out for God to give us incredible tasks?

  • Christians should be overshadowed by the presence of the Holy Spirit is such a way that it is evident to everyone.  Do we cry out for God to come upon us so that all can witness his power?

  • Christians should be willing to be slaves of God without reservation and without qualifications.  Do we cry out to God to be his slaves without question?
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