Chapter 1 – The Birth of Jesus
Act 2 – The Annunciation to Mary
Scene 1 – Gabriel Tells Mary that She Will Birth A Son
Nazareth, Galilee late December / 7 BCE
1 Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,
2 to a virgin engaged to a man of the house of David whose name was Joseph; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
3 Coming in, Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
4 But Mary was very perplexed at this statement, and pondered what kind of salutation this was.
5 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God!
6 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son; and you shall name Him Jesus.
7 He will be great; and will be called the Son of the Most High!
8 And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end.”
9 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
10 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 that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
11 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.”
12 Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word!”
13 And the angel departed from her.
This Scene begins a new Act – The Annunciation to Mary, which details the events surrounding the conception and pregnancy of a woman named Mary, who is about to become the mother of Jesus, the Messiah (Christ). This Scene continues the story from the Gospel of Luke, which some have called “The Birth Narrative”.
The Scene begins with the statement, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God…” (Luke 1:25~) The word “angel” means “messenger”, and throughout the Bible these beings have brought messages from God to certain people. It seems that Gabriel was quite a busy angelic messenger, and was connected with the announcement of important births – first to Zacharias about John, and now to Mary about Jesus.
It is noted that this same being identified as Gabriel, meaning “God is my strength”, delivered the message to a Jewish prophet named Daniel some seven hundred years before, while Daniel was a captive looking for redemption during the deportation of the Jews to Babylon. Coincidentally, Gabriel’s message to Daniel at that time was about the future birth of a Messiah (Christ = anointed one) (Daniel 9:25-26) who would save the Jewish peoples, this very son that is now being announced by Gabriel to Mary.
The “sixth month” mentioned here is generally taken to indicate the sixth month since Gabriel spoke with Zacharias in the Temple (Scene 111 – The Birth of John is Foretold to Zacharias) as Gabriel will say later in this Scene, that Elizabeth is now “in her sixth month” of pregnancy. So the date for this scene is six months after Zacharias was told by an angel in The Temple that his wife Elizabeth would conceive John, which would make the likely timing of this event in late December of 7 BCE.
The angel was sent to a woman named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. Joseph was of “the house of David” as he was a descendant from the royal lineage of the great king. This information is important when considering that the ancestral lineage of a man determined which Israelite tribe he was a member of. For the Messiah, as with any king, this was doubly important, and for Jesus there are two different genealogies given, one in the Gospel of Matthew (1:1-17) (Scene and Commentary 021) and the other in Luke (3:23-28) (Scene and Commentary 022). It is believed that one is the ancestral lineage through the mother of the Jesus, Mary; and the other through his father, Joseph, although as we will see, Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit of God, and His “father” and not Joseph.
It is stated here that Mary was a virgin, in that she had not yet had sexual relations with anyone, and she herself will confirm this in verse 9. This is related to Isaiah 7:14, which states in part, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” It is noted that where most translations of the Old Testament render the word “virgin” for the Hebrew word almah which can also mean merely a “young woman (or maiden)”.
Note that these words of Isaiah, are also addressed to “the house of David” (Isaiah 7:13), as a sign to Israel from “the Lord Himself”, which the Joseph is identified as being a member of, in Matthew’s genealogy.
“Coming in” is not a clear statement about how the angel Gabriel manifested or appeared to Mary. While this seems to imply that Gabriel entered a house or dwelling, it is also possible that this encounter with Gabriel was in a dream or a waking vision that Mary had. Either way, after greeting her, Gabriel addresses Mary by calling her “favored one”, and then telling her that “the Lord is with you,” (Luke 1:28), and that she has “found favor with God” (verse 5 – Luke 1:30).
Verse 4 – 5
Mary is “perplexed at this statement” meaning that she did not understand it. She might have been unable to think and process the appearance of the angel, as Gabriel tells her “do not be afraid”. Fear is a normal reaction when humans meet angels. Recall that the angel, likely this same Gabriel, also said “Do not be afraid” to Zacharias six months ago, in the Temple in Jerusalem (Scene 111 – The Birth of John is Foretold to Zacharias).
Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that she should not fear because she has “found favor with God.” What this means is that Mary will be blessed, but why Mary has been so chosen is not mentioned.
Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a son, whom she is to name, “Jesus”. Why “Jesus”? As we know, all names in the Bible have a meaning, and the name Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Joshua” (Yehosua or Yeshua), which means, “God delivers (or saves or rescues)”. It is later conformed in xx ( ) that Jesus will save His people, which equates with one of the understanding of the role or function of the Messiah.
It is significant to note that the angel named Mary’s child before he was even born. This is in contrast to “Immanuel” (God with us) mentioned by Isaiah as being the name of the child that would be born to a young woman (Isaiah 7:14).
Why was Mary singled out for so wonderful an honor – and so great a responsibility? God only knows. How great it must be to be favored by God!
Gabriel goes on to tell Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father, David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
As an aside – this description would seem to indicate that “the house of Jacob” will endure forever and have no end. The house of Jacob is the people or nation of Israel, which is strange, as there was a period of many, many centuries where the people of Israel were scattered through captivity to first Assyria and then Babylon, and there were many periods of time when there was officially no nation of Israel, until it became recognized again in the middle of the twentieth century (1948). But that is another topic…
What must have gone through Mary’s head as she was being told this amazing news – that her son would be called the “Son of the Most High”? And how could this child receive the throne of David, and have a kingdom that would have “no end”, when there had not been a king on the throne of Israel for 700 years, and Israel was currently controlled by the Romans? How could any earthly kingdom “have no end”? And how is David His “father”, when the Holy Spirit of God would be His father (verse 10)?
Obviously King David is the father of Jesus in a spiritual or royal way through Mary’s own ancestral lineage. It is a very ancient way of looking at things to say that any previous genetic ancestor was your “father”, or “mother”.
Perhaps this statement by Gabriel indicates a position or relationship of favoritism, as David was highly favored by God (1 Samuel 18:14; Acts 7:46, 13:22). Or perhaps this is saying that as the greatest king of Israel, Jesus would once more, like David, rule over the kingdom.
King David is listed in both of the genealogies of Jesus that are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which some see as representing a maternal, and a paternal genealogy, meaning that Jesus is descended from king David through both His mother (see Scene 022) and also His father’s (Joseph’s) lineage (Scene 021).
Mary’s response to these words of the angel is to ask, “How can this be…?” Mary is not questioning any of the specific details about the child, or what she has been told – rather she asks how this will happen, since as mentioned, she is an unmarried virgin, and she has not yet slept with Joseph, the man to whom she is betrothed.
The angel Gabriel tells Mary that, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:~35)
Now Gabriel has called the child “the Son of God”, as well as or of “the Son of the Most High”. But here he explains that the special and unique child shall be called the “Son of God” because “the power of the Most High will overshadow” her. This clearly says that Mary would become pregnant with child, but without giving any biological details of how this would happen, so that her conception could only be viewed as a miracle from God.
A distinction is noted by the explanation of the angel that Jesus is the “Son” of God because of His unique (miraculous) birth, which is through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and it does not mean that Jesus is physically “begotten” of or by God in some way. God is Spirit (xx) and “son” is a term used for human relationships. It is used here to show a relationship between Jesus as the human Messiah (The Anointed One), and the God that made everything and sent the Messiah.
The term and concept of “Son of God” is describing a relationship that a human mind can understand. The Spirit of Jesus, put into Mary by the Holy Spirit, was Divine or of God, but it was not of the essence of the exalted Creator God Himself.
Consider that Adam, the first “man”, is also called the “Son of God” (Luke 3:38), and so are “…all who are led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14-17) called “son of God”. The point is that it is the relationship of the spirit that is important, and not that of the flesh, and that this term “Son of God”, as applied to Jesus, whatever He represents of Divinity, is in fundamental (essential = essence) ways a separate and distinct being from the God of Spirits Who is His Father. God generates and sends the Holy Spirit.
This question of Mary wasn’t exactly doubt on her part, and Gabriel tells her that her ‘relative’ Elizabeth is now in her sixth month of pregnancy, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Many believe that Mary and Elizabeth as “relatives” were likely cousins, although it appears that Elizabeth is old enough to have been Mary’s mother or older aunt.
It is interesting to note that these two related women – one a barren, elderly woman married to a priest, and the other a young virgin betrothed to a carpenter, should be selected together for this service of bringing forth both the Messiah and also His forerunner from the same family. Perhaps this was arranged in this way so that Jesus would be aware of, or support the baptism ministry of John. Perhaps God had chosen the righteous Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, and then decided to honor the prayers of an elderly priest who happened to be related to her, thereby solving two issues at once. Or maybe these were simply the two most righteous women in the kingdom who were descended from the ancestral lineage of King David, who could fulfill the ancient prophecies that the throne of David would endure forever (1 Chronicles 17:12; Isaiah 9:7; +). Either way, there is a profound wisdom and lesson for us if we knew the full reason behind the selection of these two particular women.
Mary then says, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord.” (Luke 1:~38 – NASB Edition) “Bondslave” means slave or something very close to “slave” – one who is indentured or indebted to another person, or simply one who is subjected to the authority of another. Originally the term may have meant one who is indebted or enslaved until there is a fulfillment or some pledge or bond, after which they would be released. Various translations of the New Testament render this Greek word as ‘slave’, and a few as ‘servant’. Either way, Mary here clearly acknowledges her servitude, or indebtedness, to her Master, God. And this is always the correct attitude before God. As Jesus Himself would later say in the Garden of Gethsemane, “what You will be done!” (Scene 811.7 – Matthew 26:39 + Mark 14:36 + Luke 22:42 ), and also “Your will be done” (812.4 – Matthew 26:42).
It can be assumed from the fact that Mary was chosen and “favored” with so great an honor as to be the human mother of the “Son of God” that she was a very righteous and pious person, and it is likely that she spent a lot of time in prayer to God (along with Zacharias and Elizabeth) – again, a lesson for us all.
With a demonstration of pure and perfect faith, Mary’s final words to the angel Gabriel are, “…may it be done to me according to your word.” By this Mary indicates her complete trust in God by believing the Word of His messenger, the angel Gabriel who now stands before her.
Gabriel, having fulfilled his commission as an angel (messenger) of God to deliver the message, then departs or disappears, presumably by simply vanishing before her eyes, or maybe by walking out the door, or by leaving her dream or vision.
No doubt Mary would be very happy at this amazing announcement, that she would birth a son by Divine decree, and we will see what she does, in the next scene.