26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall 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 to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke records that in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy an angel appeared to Mary. By now, Elizabeth had revealed her pregnancy, and no doubt the mysteriousness behind it. The company around Elizabeth and Zechariah would have been perplexed and interested about the things happening to the couple. Even as a child in his mother’s womb, John was making a path for the Kingdom to come.
We are now introduced to Mary, a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph who was of the lineage of David. We have seen the importance of his lineage in that Jesus would be rightful heir to David’s throne through his earthly father (see Matthew 1:1-17). The Jewish custom of marriage or betrothal is different than what we know today. The woman would be arranged to be given to a certain man and at the time of that arrangement a covenant would be made. This covenant was legally binding and gave the woman as rightful wife to the man. They would be separated for 12 months while the man prepared a place for them to live attached to his own father’s house. After the wait was over, they would come together. The marriage could only be annulled by divorce (similar to today).
In verse 28 the apostle records that the angel Gabriel came to visit Mary. He calls her favored, and that the Lord is with her. Luke records her reaction. When faced with an angel sent from God you are literally speaking to God’s messenger. You are standing in the presence of something that has been in the Divine presence, something unlike anything this world can offer. Knowing her sinful nature, Mary has reason to wonder if the news he brings is punishment. She deserves no special attention on the part of God, but He graciously gives it to her. She is taken aback by Gabriel’s address. She was unsure if this was a good thing or a bad thing to be receiving such news. She is an example to us to regard God’s miracles and wonders with a sound mind and reverence. God does not do things flippantly or randomly. Every action or word serves a greater purpose, and that for His glory.
Gabriel reassures her in verse 30 that she doesn’t have to be afraid, and that he has come to deliver a blessing. He says she has found favor with God, another way to say that God has shown mercy to her. Let us take note that we are not able to gain God’s mercy, but only to receive it as He wills. The angel quotes several passages from the Old Testament, as they would have been well known to those who studied the Scriptures. In so doing, Gabriel reveals the depth at which Mary will be blessed and how she will extend that blessing through her obedience to the world. Mary replies not with doubt that this could be, but with astonishment that it will come to pass and with a question as to how it might be.
She might instantly have objected, where was that throne of David? for all the rank of kingly power had been long ago set aside, and all the luster of royal descent had been extinguished. Unquestionably, if she had formed her opinion of the matter according to the judgment of the flesh, she would have treated as a fable what the angel had told her. There can be no doubt that she was fully convinced of the restoration of the church, and easily gave way to what the flesh would have pronounced to be incredible. – John Calvin
The angel explains in verse 35 the method in which Mary will conceive. God’s Spirit will ‘come upon’ her and ‘overshadow’ her. The Greek translation of this verse is that God will arrive and envelope her in shadow. The term for shadow is also used in Old Testament for the cloud of God that went before the Israelites. This is literally the presence of God wrapping Mary up in Himself to produce a miracle. No more needs to be said of the how, just that we should understand that God is the creator of it, no person had a hand in it’s creation. Because of how He was conceived, Jesus is called Holy, the Son of God. Something to note here is that Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, however He existed prior to this moment from all eternity, just not in human form (see John 1:1-18).
Now after the mystery is explained enough for Mary to understand her role and acceptance of it, the angel gives her comfort in telling about Elizabeth and her miraculous pregnancy. Gabriel reassures Mary that nothing is impossible with God, and in so doing makes her aware that this thing will certainly take place. Mary humbly accepts that God has chosen her for this task and confirms her agreeability by admitting her servant-hood to God. What an excellent reminder that it is God who decides the who and how of His plans. We can and should be grateful for the opportunities God presents to us in all areas of our lives. It is all for His glory, and for us to see that He is sovereign and holy.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10