God’s Obedient Servant: Mary (Luke 1:34-38)

Today’s message dated March 18, 2018 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

I acknowledge my mother as a special woman in my life.  She’s special because she’s my mother, but also, she’s a good mother.  Many people cannot make this claim about their mother.  Her determination to raise four kids as a single parent has taught me that I’m a fortunate son.  For this she is dearly loved by her children and in my eyes, she is a remarkable woman.

There are many women who will forever be remembered in history.

In Luke’s gospel and his epistle—the book of Acts, he has written about many women who will forever be acknowledged for who they were.

  • Anna: Recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah
  • Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist
  • Martha and Mary the sisters of Lazarus; friends of Jesus
  • Mary Magdalene: a woman from whom Jesus cast out demons
  • Susanna
  • Sapphira the wife of Ananias, she was killed by the Holy Spirit for lying.

However, out of all the women Luke has written about there is only one woman who will forever be remembered in human history.  Her name in Hebrew is Merriam, we know of her as Mary.

God the Father planned before time to send his Son; he planned this before the world existed (cf. Romans 8:29; Eph. 1:5) In the Old Testament, prophets foretold that God will send the Messiah to Israel.  For example, in Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah said, “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah 9:6; Mat. 1:23).  According to our text, the promised arrival of the Messiah was fulfilled through a young virgin girl named Mary.

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?  And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  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.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.

I.  Mary’s Virginity (v. 34)

Verses 34-38 is the latter part of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. Previously, we learned that Gabriel came to Mary visiting her in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  He told her that God has bestowed grace upon her; according to verse 28, saying to her, ‘O [highly] favored one” (cf. Luke 1:28).  That is say, God graciously chose her to be the mother of the Son of God.  Her Son, shall be called Jesus, which means God saves.  He is to save his people from the enslavement of sin, the penalty of death, and from God’s just wrath.  Gabriel told her that “Jesus will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest” (cf. Luke 1:32).  Jesus will be exalted above all and have an eternal kingdom, according (v. 33).

After Mary heard the angel Gabriel’s words it dawns in her mind that she was the virgin that Isaiah prophesied about.  Mary’s realization of this truth caused her to be profoundly confused. She was bewildered.  She was greatly astonished at Gabriel’s words; according to verse 29, Luke tells us she was troubled.  She had mixed feelings after hearing Gabriel’s words.  So, she asked Gabriel a question, she said, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  A logical question to ask, right?

Remember, in verse 18, Zachariah asked a similar question.  He asked, “How shall I know this?” He was an old man and his wife was barren causing him to ask for a sign.  He wanted a sign because he doubted.  And because he doubted God caused muteness and deafness to strike him as punishment his wife Elizabeth gave birth.  Mary was not like Zechariah, she didn’t doubt, but believed.  However, she did not comprehend how it was possible for a woman to conceive without the assistance from a man.   Gabriel did not say to her when you come together with Joseph you will conceive.   We know there isn’t anything miraculous between a man and woman coming together to have children.  It was unimaginable that she will conceive while a virgin.  So, she said, how can this be?  She couldn’t understand how it’s possible to be pregnant while a virgin.

Therefore, Gabriel’s explanation gave a simple answer Mary’s question.  The conception of her child would be a divine miracle.  I’ve mentioned to you that miracles are rare, as it is today.  The very fact that Zechariah and Elizabeth could conceive in their old age, despite Elizabeth barrenness, was a miracle.   There are many people who reject the notion that miracles can happen; however, there is evidence of God’s miracles through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

II. The Activity of Holy Spirit (v. 35-a)

That is, the “Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).  What does this mean?  Well, the word come has the same Greek meaning in Acts 1:8, which says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit come upon you.”  According to Acts 1:8, Jesus was foretelling that the Holy Spirit will come on the day of Pentecost to empower the apostles to perform signs and miracles.  More specifically, it means whenever the Holy Spirit arrived, Mary conceived at that very moment.  It was immediate.  There was no waiting period.   She conceived before Joseph and Mary ever consummated their marriage.

Do you remember the Holy Spirit involved in creation of the earth?  Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.”  The Spirit of God made life on earth by speaking it into existence.  He created Adam by using the dirt of the ground.  Likewise, just as much the Holy Spirit was involved in creation, he was involved in the conception of Jesus being born.  One pastor said, “The Holy Spirit, who was the original agent of creation, will again become an agent of creation, this time in the womb of this young girl” (MacArthur, gty.org).

We do not want to spiritualize the meaning of verse 35 and add additional meaning to it.  It is always best to read this verse plainly.  Many people have sexualized verse 35.  However, there is nothing, absolutely nothing in the text that mentions the Holy Spirit had sexual relations with Mary.  God does not have carnal pleasure.  He is not like mythological Greek gods like Zeus having relations with women and producing demigods like Hercules

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. “The Highest will overshadow you.”  And this is exactly what the Holy Spirit did without touching her physically.  The word overshadow means to cover.  It is like a cloud covering an area with shade.  The word used in the same manner where the New Testament describes Jesus’ transfiguration.  For example, Jesus was transfigured, which showed his deity. Matthew 17:5 says, [Jesus] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Another way of describing the meaning of overshadow is found in Exodus 40:35. Ex. 40:35 says, “And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

God covered Mary’s womb and filled it up with his glorious Son.  This is exactly what Gabriel was saying to her.  God superseded the normal process of procreation and produce in her womb a child.  Just as much it was a divine act when Jesus produced enough food to feed five people with three loaves of bread and two fish, it was a divine act for the Holy Spirit to overshadow Mary’s womb to produce the God-man.

According to verse 35, the angel Gabriel went on to say, “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Let us not we read this passively.  This is very important.  When John the Baptist was born he was born filled with Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb which was a future conformation of his salvation (cf. Luke 1:15).  Everyone who is born is born unholy.  They are born with a depraved heart.  And they are born into sin.  David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  David wasn’t saying he was born out-of-wedlock.  He was saying, in reference to his conception, that he was born as a sinner (McArthur gty.org)

Although Adam wasn’t birth into the world, he was created from the dust of earth, he was created holy, but good.  Adam was created with innocence, not holiness.  Angels are not holy beings they are subjected to sin just as much as humans.  This is fallen demonic angels like Satan exist. Nonetheless, When Jesus was born he was born holy.  If Jesus was not born holy, not born in this fashion, how could he be free from original sin?  How was it possible for him to deliver us from the power of sin, if he was born by natural procreation?  Therefore, holiness is the précises attribute of Jesus nature.  Therefore, he does not have the ability to sin.  Furthermore, now of Jesus conception he was sinless.  God the Holy Spirit used Mary’s womb as a holy temple filling her womb with God the Son to dwell in for nine months. 

III.  Jesus’ Title—the Son of God (v. 35-b)

Furthermore, Jesus is not only describing as holy, but also the Son of God.  This isn’t just a title. Jesus has many titles.  Throughout the gospel Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man.  He is also titled Lord which is same title that is use describing God in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is titled as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting, Father, [and] Prince of Peace.”  Nonetheless, the phrase “Son of God,” has specific meaning.

The phrase “Son of God,” is found in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  It is found in the books of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Hebrews, and 1 John.  To add a footnote,

Yes, He is the Son of Mary, born from her.  Yes [he was adopted by Joseph which made Jesus legally the Son of David, since Joseph was from the Davidic line].  So [Jesus] inherited David’s royal line from [Joseph], [and] royal blood from His mother.  He was son of Mary, son of Joseph in the legal sense, but He was Son of God in the sense of His nature, in the sense of His essence.  He was Son of God in human form (McArthur, The Virgin Birth: A Divine Miracle. gty.org).

And the reason why therefore it is important know that the phrase “Son of God,” simply because it identifies Jesus’ deity.

Peter used similar phases by confession Jesus’ identify.  In John 6:68-69, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  In Matthew 16:15-16, Jesus asked his disciples saying, “But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’”

The point is this:  Either Luke is communicating lies about the deity of Christ, or he is telling the truth.  There are only two options: 1 Jesus is God.  Or 2. Jesus is not God but only human.  But we know the truth.  There is a Christian doctrine which is the doctrine of hypostatic union.  You and I hold this doctrine as true because it expresses the belief that Jesus is one-hundred percent God and one-hundred percent man.  He is fully God and fully man possessing one body but two natures.  The writer of Hebrews says it best.  He said, “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”  Many of you have children and they were born in your likeness.   Crystal tells me all the time at I look just like my mother.  When Jesus was born, he was not born in the likeness of God, but the exact imprint of God.’  Jesus is God’s Son.  He is God.  He is the second person of the Trinity.

IV.  God’s Sign to Mary (v. 36-37)

How many times God has given you signs in your life?  There are three times God has given me neon signs in my life.  Those three signs altered my life forever.  1.) Marrying my wife was a clear sign from God.  2.) God calling me into ministry.  And 3.) God’s affirmation of my pastoral ministry.  Signs are given to help us understand the will of God.  Gideon asked for a sign from God, according to Judges 6:36-40.  Do you remember the story when God rained ten plagues on Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery?   On the third plague, God sent gnats on man and beast.  “All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt” (Ex. 8:18). That is when Pharaoh magicians said, “This is the finger of God.”  That is, it was a sign from God.  God was in the midst.

Mary received a sign and the sign was Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  The angel said to Mary, “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” (Luke 1:36).   God gracious gave Mary a sign, although, she never asked for one.   She was not like Zechariah saying, “How shall I know this?” (Luke 1:18) Zechariah asked for a sign and he received on in the form of a punishment.

Before, in verse 24, Elizabeth probably in her 70s or early 80s five months pregnant, carrying a child for eighteen to twenty-one weeks.  So, she hid while she was in her second trimester.  In her sixth month, her baby bump would have been showing underneath her long robe.

And it is apparent that Mary did not know that Elizabeth was pregnant, so when she heard the news that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant, how do you think Mary felt?  That is like my mom calling me to tell me that my 80-year grandmother is pregnant.  It would have been hard for me to believe unless I received confirmation.  I would have been like Zechariah, “How shall I know this?”  Mary wasn’t in doubt but God strengthen her faith and comforted her.   I do believe Mary was shocked.  It is like the angel said, Mary, do you think conceiving a child without knowing a man is something, well, you gonna be shock when I tell you that your cousin Elizabeth is pregnant too.  By the way, “for nothing will be impossible with God.”

Luke was knowledgeable in Scripture.  So, verse 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” is a reminder of what God has done before.  Luke is grabbing our attention to remind us of Genesis 18:9-14.  Turn to Genesis 18:9-14.  Genesis 18:9-14 is when The Lord visited Abraham and Sarah reminding them that they will bear a son.  The is the promised he made to them.

They said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’  And he said, ‘She is in the tent.  The Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’  And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years.  They way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.  So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?  The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.  But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ For she was afraid.  He said, ‘No, but you did laugh.”

Jesus used the same verbiage concerning the issue of salvation in Matthew 19:16-26.  A rich young man came to Jesus asking what must he do to have eternal life? Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and follow him.  The rich young man went away sorrowful because he had accumulated great wealth.  Then the disciples asked him, who then can be saved.  Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Therefore, the question at hand: is anything too hard for God?  Is anything impossible for God?  The answer is nothing will be impossible for God.  Nothing.

If you are not already there, turn back to Luke 1:37.  The literal meaning of the word impossible is being incapable of accomplishing something.  That is not the God of the Bible.  I would hate to worship a God who is not all-powerful.  Amen.

V.  Mary’s Obedience (v. 38)

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

After visiting a Catholic church, I noticed parishioners standing and praying in front of a statue of Mary.  I knew Catholics worshiped Mary, but I was surprised seeing it in person.  In the state of Ohio and around the world there is Catholic churches named Queen of Heaven which is an elevation of Mary.  You search on the internet to find this information.  In fact, I own a Catholic commentary on the gospel of Luke.  The author describes with several titles.  He said, Mary: “Admirably befitting her who is the glorious Queen of Heaven and Earth, and our Star to guide us amidst the storms and darkness of this world to the haven of eternal security and rest.”

There is no biblical support that Mary is the queen of heaven; however, there is a connection in the Old Testament of this concept of the “queen of heaven” which is in Jeremiah 7, 44.  Turn to Jeremiah 7:16-18.  Jeremiah writes,

As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me for I will not hear you.  Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?  The children gather wood, the father kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven.  And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger?

Basically, the queen of heaven was a Babylonian goddess of fertility. It is believing that she had the ability to help women to bear children.   And in Jeremiah 44:17-25, he warns Israel that God will punished Israel if they continued to worship the queen of heaven.  But they replied to Jeremiah saying, they had no intentions to stop worshipping the queen of heaven.

And this is exactly what Catholicism have done with Mary.  Catholics have elevated Mary from being the mother of Jesus to the Mother of God; and instead of commending her for being faithful, they worship her as the queen of heaven.  Beloved, there will never be a queen of heaven.  There is only one person who rules in heaven and that is the Lord of Host, the Highest—Yahweh.

Mary deserves recognition, but she doesn’t deserve to be worship.  We ought to recognize her for this reason: her obedience.   Her first responds to the angel’s announcement was, “How can this be?”  But her questioning turn into submission.  Read Luke 1:38, she said, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Again, she said, “I am the servant of the Lord.”  Pause here.

The Greek word doule is rendered servant in English.  Doula is a feminine noun that literally means a female slave.  The difference between a servant and a slave is: a servant is paid for their services a slave does not get paid for their labor.  Mary used the same Greek word in verse 48 saying, “He has looked on the humble estate of his doulē—slave.  Many of you may not like the word slave because of its negative connotations.  However, Mary is using the word in the positive sense.  So, does Paul when he says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).  What is important here is not the word slave but concept it conveys when a Christian totally surrender their rights to obey the will of the Lord.

This is exactly what Mary did.  She humbled herself to obey the word of the Lord; she was a submissive slave to God’s will for her life.  “I am a bondslave of the Lord.”  “Mary is saying I will completely submit my life to the Lord’s will.  This is what true obedience looks like.

Remember, she was a young teenager when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she will bear a son while a virgin.  She never asks God to be the mother of the messiah, but, she was willing to do whatever God wanted her to be despite the reality that he could have cost her very life.  This is, you remember, Mary was legally married to Joseph, as it says in verse 27.  She was not engaged to Joseph, but married.  And, the very fact Mary was pregnant, before Joseph and she consummated their marriage, would have been considered as adultery.

In many cultures adultery is considered as a crime.  Under certain circumstances, in Roman culture women were punished for committing adultery.  In our culture, we do not criminally punished people for committing adultery, but they are shamed.  We all remembered the sexual scandal between former President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

In Jewish culture, under Jewish Laws, men and women were criminally punished by being stoned to death if they were caught in adultery.  Listen to the reading of Leviticus 20:10, it says, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”  Do you remember the story in John 8:1-11 when the Pharisees caught a woman in the act of adultery and they brought her to Jesus to test him?  They said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.”

Matthew 1:18-22

Joseph Understood that Mary’s life was in danger Joseph understood the danger Mary faced.  If he would have went public about Mary’s pregnancy, it would have costed her life.  Being a just man, he decided to divorce her quietly not willing to put her to shame.

She never asked God to be is a remarkable I admit that I struggle to be obedient to the Lord.  So, learning about Mary’s obedience

Has God ever redirected your footsteps?  Has God ever changed your life plans?  At what cost to you are you willing to be obedient to the Lord?   In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus said, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  Picking up your cross is acting in obedience daily.


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2 thoughts on “God’s Obedient Servant: Mary (Luke 1:34-38)

  1. Greetings, I as a Roman Catholic man, read your post.
    I have to disagree with you on certain points.
    First, The reason The Blessed Virgin Mary questioned the Angel Gabriel as to how she would conceive, is noted in her statement that she “knows not man”, in other words she has consecrated her virginity onto the Lord God.
    Second Joseph must have been aware of this, because when he finds out her pregnancy, he was confused, knowing full well that Mary had consecrated herself to the Lord. But still not know what had happened.
    Thirdly, Joseph after being told by the Angel of the circumstances around the Virgin Mary, he stepped up and followed through with what the Angel told him to do. Also Joseph now sees The Virgin Mary as a Tabernacle of the Lord. Since Almighty God dwelt within her womb. Making her a Sacred soul and not to be handled as ordinary. So they never had sexual relationship. Those brothers and sisters mentioned in the Gospels are what we in our day and age to be first cousins and in Middle Eastern culture cousins and people from same clans are usually called brothers and sisters. Because when you read of Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister, known as Mary, it makes no sense to have a biological sister with the same name.
    Please look further into Catholic Answers. They will better explain than I can.
    Respectfully in Christ Jesus,

    1. Thank you, Rick, for your comment. For the record, Mr. Jackson is no longer affiliated with Akron Alliance Fellowship, but we are keeping his message texts online for now.

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