It is wonderful the way in which the Gospel writers unfold the details of this story. A quiet village called Nazareth, sixty miles north of Jerusalem, and a young Jewish maiden are the focus.
The scene we are introduced to in Luke 1 is called “The Annunciation,” the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel Gabriel to Mary. In every way, the virgin birth is unique, for Jesus Himself is unique. He came to us through the womb of a virgin. To this day, no one can fully explain this dynamic mystery.
We are told nothing of her birth, parentage or upbringing. She may have only been as young at 15, for many Jewish girls were teenage brides. Her response to the angel shows that Mary knew the Word of God, for her answers are filled with Scriptural overtones with numerous allusions to Old Testament passages. Although she may have read the passage in Isaiah 7:14, “a virgin shall conceive,” we cannot imagine that she suspected that she would be chosen. A close study of her communication with Gabriel reveals that many of the passages she alludes to are Messianic.
In verse 27, Mary is described as “betrothed” to Joseph. In the Jewish society of that era, Mary was considered almost married already, for the commitment to marry had been made public. It is at some point during this initial betrothal stage that Gabriel comes to visit her.
Mary was a good and godly girl. A study of this passage reveals several things about her:
1. She took God at His Word – vv. 37-38
2. She was favored by God – v. 30
3. She was a deep thinker – v. 29
4. She was obedient – v. 38
5. She was a woman of faith – v. 45
6. She was a worshipper – v. 46
7. She prepared for the miracle by her quiet, noble and simple faith in God.
Was Mary sinless?
God never intended Mary to become a goddess. Despite the claims of a major denomination in 1854, the immaculate concepta, which declares Mary to be without fault, Mary was not sinless. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23). There is no Bible passage that claims that Mary never sinned. We do know that she was highly favored by God (vv. 28-30), but that does not mean without sin. Gabriel informs Mary that she has received grace from God, not that she will be a source of God’s grace. She was called “blessed among” women by the angel—not superior to all other women. She refers to herself here only as “the handmaiden of the Lord.”
Mary was a wonderful person, but she was only the ark which carried the precious cargo into our world. We must place Mary alongside other great women of the Bible, but she holds no throne in heaven. Gabriel did not address Mary as being “full of grace” as if she could bestow grace on others. Mary did not earn the grace given to her any more than you or I can earn grace from God. She is never seen as being a source of grace for other human beings. Gabriel told Mary that she was filled with the grace she had received from God—the grace to become the mother of Jesus.
The Greek terms in verse 29 show that Mary was surprised and perplexed when Gabriel appeared. But although his appearance was sudden, Mary was ready to do God’s will. Perhaps this humble young lady wondered why an angel would address her, especially in such exalted terms. “How can this be?” asks Mary. She inquired as to the method and the manner to be employed. She did not express doubt that God could do it.
In verse 31, Gabriel tells Mary that the child’s name will be Jesus, meaning “the Lord is salvation.” Note that His name is not Buddha, Vishnu or Mohammed. Jesus is His holy name and He was named by God Himself. We worship Jesus today, not as a baby in a manger, but as the Savior of the world.