The Virgin Mary

Yesterday, we began a study about a Jewish virgin named Mary. She lived in a little town in the northern region of Israel named Nazareth. We don’t know a lot about her personal history as a child, but we do know she found favor with God.

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Luke 1:26-33

God sent the mighty angel Gabriel to speak to Mary. Gabriel is mentioned by name four times in the Bible: Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, and Luke 1:19 and 26. Gabriel met with the great Hebrew prophet Daniel twice. The first time was when Gabriel interpreted Daniel’s vision about the ram and goat. The second time was when Gabriel explained the meaning of Daniel’s vision about the 70 weeks that included the Messiah being cut off for His people. God sent Gabriel to bring the news about the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias. Gabriel also brought the news about the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary.

It’s important to note that every reference of Gabriel in the Bible is connected to the promised Messiah of Israel.

Gabriel gave Daniel, Zacharias and Mary prophetic knowledge about the Messiah. Here’s what Gabriel told Mary:

  1. The Messiah will be great
  2. He will be called the Son of the Highest
  3. He will receive the throne of David
  4. He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever
  5. There will be no end to His kingdom

We know from what Gabriel told Daniel and Zacharias and the other prophecies of the Old Testament that this was exactly what would happen in the future. Mary, who would become the mother of the Messiah, was hearing straight from the angel Gabriel that the Son she would soon birth and raise would be the One Israel had waited for for so long.

We all might wonder what our response would be if an angel of God spoke to us. Each of us would probably respond according to our own personality and circumstances. Notice how Mary responded to this amazing prophecy from Gabriel.

“Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

Mary was focused on the one thing that affected her immediately: how could she be pregnant with the Messiah since she had never had sexual relations with a man. I don’t know if Mary was able to immediately comprehend the magnitude of her future Son’s impact on the world, but she certainly understood the impact on her. How could a virgin have a baby?

Gabriel explained how this was going to happen in terms that may have been difficult for Mary to understand at first, but he also gave her a human example she could grasp.

“And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Notice how the Triune God is involved in a virgin girl becoming pregnant with the Son of God. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

First, the Holy Spirit would “come upon” the virgin Mary. The Greek word is epeleusetai and it is used only this one time in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit did something for Mary that He would never do again. He came upon her for the express purpose of Mary becoming the virgin mother of the Messiah.

Second, the power of the Highest (God the Father) “will overshadow” you. The Greek word is episkiasei. It means “to throw a shadow upon” and was used here for what God the Father did for Mary, for the bright cloud that covered the disciples at the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:34), and for Peter’s shadow covering many people as they were healed of their illness (Acts 5:15).

Third, the Son of God became flesh inside the womb of Mary: “that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” All members of the Godhead were intimately involved in the pregnancy of the virgin Mary.

The angel Gabriel is ancient in his wisdom and understanding. God created him to be at the top of the angelic host and to play a vital role in the mission of the Messiah to save Israel from their sins. Gabriel knew the heart and mind of human beings well. He had been present when God created Adam and Eve and when they fell into the temptation of Satan. Gabriel knew and understood the human heart. He knew how to help Mary understand the reality of the gift God was giving her even if she couldn’t grasp the depth of all its spiritual and supernatural meaning.

“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Gabriel gave Mary an example she could understand. Mary knew Elizabeth and how much she and her husband Zacharias wanted a child. Mary would have understood the physical impossibility of a woman Elizabeth’s age becoming pregnant and giving birth. Elizabeth had always been barren, so there was no physical clue that she could become a mother, especially at her advanced age. The fact that Elizabeth was pregnant and in her sixth month would have shown Mary that this was the special work of Almighty God. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Even though Mary may have first thought the angel’s prophecy couldn’t be true, she could see through the example of her relative Elizabeth that nothing was impossible for God. God could give an elderly, barren woman the ability to become pregnant and He could overshadow a virgin so she could give birth to the Son of God.

“Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”

Mary received God’s Word into her heart and agreed to become the willing vessel for God’s will!

Tomorrow, what Mary did next and the amazing effect it had on Elizabeth and her unborn child.

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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