Luke 1:26–38 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
The Birth of Jesus Foretold — Nothing Is Impossible with God
No sooner does Luke tell us the wonderful story about the upcoming birth of John the Baptist, he previews the more amazing birth of Jesus who successfully integrates the form and content of his work. Introducing Mary: She was an unlikely girl from an unlikely town who was, in the same measure, extraordinary in her godly focus and acceptance of God's plan for her life. The angel, Gabriel, God's messenger first to Zechariah and now to Mary, is observed bringing an announcement of another baby to be born, one who'd not merely be a very great child (as John was prophesied to be) but one who'd come as "Son of the Most High" who would "reign over the house of Jacob forever." Having received such a message, Mary faithfully accepted the news. She showed herself to be one who thought through such startling news in both a theological and humble manner. She would, like us, be challenged to experience in a deeper way the reality that nothing is impossible with God.
The angel's two announcements have contrasts that ought to be evaluated right from the start. Zechariah (a.k.a. Zacharias in other versions) was a man; Mary was a woman. Zechariah and his wife were elderly; Mary was young. Zechariah and Elizabeth were married; Mary was a virgin, only engaged to be married. Zechariah doubted the angel's message; Mary believed.
The name of Zechariah and Elizabeth's son, who'd be filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother's womb, and who'd cause many Israelites to repent in preparation for Messiah's arrival, was to be John. The angel's words make it clear: John was to be the fulfillment of Malachi's final prophecy; he'd be great in the Lord's sight, and he wasn't to drink wine or liquor (v. 15), possibly to assure those who beheld his ministry that his "inspiration" was truly from the Spirit of God and not from the "spirits" of strong drink (a familiar charge in those days). For the son of Joseph and Mary, the story takes on a unique light with another but very different birth announcement.
The Virgin's First Visitor (vv. 26–38)
In Elizabeth's sixth month, Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing to her that she'd miraculously bear a child who'd become Israel's Messiah. Her child would be great in the sight of God, called the "Son of the Most High" (v. 32). He'd reign forever on the throne of his father David (vv. 32–33).
Mary and Zechariah both made requests to Angel Gabriel. While Zechariah's request was for a "sign," Mary's request was for "clarification." Zechariah wanted some kind of proof that he and his wife could and would have a child in their old age. Mary wanted clarification as to what she was to do, in order to cooperate with the purposes of God, as announced to her by Gabriel. Since she was a virgin, she wanted to learn how her conception would be achieved. She was asking for clarification, not confirmation, as Zechariah had asked. There's a world of difference between her request and that of Zechariah's. Her request stemmed from her faith; his question stemmed from his lack of faith. Mary's response is a marvelous testimony to her faith in God and her submission to God's will, as Luke demonstrates here in v. 38a.
Gabriel explained to Mary that she didn't need to do anything, that the conception in her womb would be the result of God's intervention; it was to be a miraculous virgin conception. Therefore, the child will be called the "Son of God" (v. 35). As a further word of encouragement to Mary, Gabriel informed her that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, was already in her sixth month of pregnancy, which bore testimony to the fact that nothing is impossible with God (vv. 36–37).
When Mary said to Gabriel, "I am the Lord's servant . . . May your word to me be fulfilled," no one could have asked for a better response. What a marvelous testimony to the magnificence of Mary, a topic that we'll take up in detail during our next study.
Two Angelic Announcements Tell Us Who God Is
1- God Is Obviously Just
God sends John the Baptist to prepare for Jesus. God warns before he punishes, as he did with Noah, Jonah, and others.
Luke begins his story in v. 5. Zechariah means "Yahweh has remembered." Humanly speaking, the two (Zechariah and Elizabeth) seem unimportant. Zechariah was chosen by lot to offer incense in the temple. Angel Gabriel appears to him (v. 12); Zechariah is startled and frightened. God is awesome; his messengers are powerful. Gabriel tells him to name the baby "John" who'd be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. He was never to take wine so that his unique enthusiasm wouldn't be mistaken for drunkenness (v. 15).
Zechariah was mute when he came out of the temple (v. 22). It was the task of the priest to announce a benediction after an incense offering, but Zechariah couldn't speak. It was a public sign of silence that would end in a few months. Soon Elizabeth became pregnant (v. 25); Zechariah, we'll soon see, would eventually be restored. God indeed acts justly.
2- God Is Personally Involved
Virgin Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, living with her parents, and still waiting for Joseph to prepare for their marriage. She was highly favored (v. 28), not because of anything she'd done, but because God chose her. Gabriel tells Mary who Jesus will be: God's son and Mary's son (v. 32–33). This was prophesied in v. 35: "the power of the Most High will overshadow you," or as Gabriel says in v. 37, "For no word from God will ever fail." Nothing is impossible with God.
The point: God is omnipotent! The eternal Creator came down to live among his creation in the form of man. The cost for Mary was high. She was pregnant and Joseph knew he wasn't the father. Mary responded humbly to Gabriel, saying, "I am the Lord's servant." Joseph could have believed Mary's unique story; but he could have considered her to be an adulteress. Mary's faith was strong. She accepted the challenging role that God wanted her to play (v. 38); under Old Testament law, she could have been stoned for being an adulteress. God became a man personally involved with us; because he suffered, we can trust him with our lives here on earth.
- Q. 1 If you had been Mary, what would have been hardest to comprehend? Being favored by God? Becoming pregnant while a virgin? Who her child would become? How to explain the pregnancy to others, including Joseph?
- Q. 2 In what area of your life do you need to believe that nothing is impossible with God? What keeps you from believing this?
New International Version (NIV) [View it in a different version by clicking here; also listen to this chapter.]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "The Birth of Jesus."
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."
34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail."
38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." Then the angel left her.