As Christianity has expanded—Luke provides an “orderly account” of the life and death of Christ. His expressed purpose is to provide Theophilus, and those like him, with “certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (1:4). He seeks to inform those interested in understanding more about Jesus.
In the previous section, the birth of John the Baptist was foretold. The promise was that he would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (v.15). At this point Elizabeth—who had been barren—was now six months pregnant. Her miraculous pregnancy prepares us for an even greater pregnancy to come.
This is the fulfillment of every Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. The appointed time has arrived. God would dwell among his people, not in a tabernacle, but in flesh!
Before we read this passage let us look to the Lord in prayer for his help in understanding it.
In the early stages of Christianity—when Luke wrote this account—there would have been much confusion regarding Jesus. On top of the Jewish misunderstanding about the Messiah, there were rumors and lies that had been circulating since the time of Christ’s ministry.
This passage calls us to learn about this unique child and to understand that he was more than a sweet baby with Santa Claus hovering over him (or any other beloved Christmas trinket). He grew up to be more than a good person, he was—and is!—the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
The first step in getting to know someone is discovering where they came from. Luke wants his readers to know that Jesus was entirely unique. This child was like everyone who was born before him, yet he was like none who were born before him.
The news of the text is this: A humble servant will conceive a holy Son who will reign over an eternal kingdom. The birth of the King of Kings demands your attention and calls for your allegiance. What might sound like a harsh command is actually filled with grace. To those who take the call lightly it should serve as a warning. But to those who repent and believe, this is an invitation to enter true rest.
First, we will look at The Humility of the Servant. Second, we’ll see The Holiness of the Son. And third, we will note The Reign of the King.
The Humility of the Servant
vv.26-27 Jewish betrothal had two stages:
- Formal engagement (contract, bridal price).
- Wedding 1 year later.
Engagement could only be broken by divorce and the parties were considered husband/wife during their engagement (Matt. 1:19-20, 24). It was culturally common for girls to become betrothed between 12-15 years old.
v.28 Mary was the recipient of favor because of the Son that would be in her womb, not because she earned it with her faith or humility. She is told “the Lord is with you,” reiterating an important phrase in salvation history as Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, and Jeremiah can testify.
v.34 Mary’s virginity doesn’t emphasize her purity, but the uniqueness of Christ’s conception. Some scholars have pointed out that “virgin” can mean young woman. But Mary’s question clarifies what Luke means in this context.
v.37 Nothing will be impossible with God. Jesus’ birth must be greater than the birth of John the Baptist. John was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb, but Jesus was conceived by the Spirit. Stein writes, “John’s conception, like that of Isaac, Samson, and Samuel, was miraculous; but Jesus’ conception was absolutely unique.”1
The popular atheist, Christopher Hitchens, before dying of cancer argued,
“If we lost all our hard-won knowledge and all our archives, and all our ethics and all our morals…and had to reconstruct everything essential from scratch, it is difficult to imagine at that point we would need to remind or reassure ourselves that Jesus was born of a virgin.”
If you lose this doctrine you lose the authority of Scripture and you lose the holiness of the Savior. The PCA formed by separating from the PCUS—in part—because of the compromise of this very doctrine. The denomination had determined that its ministers were no longer required to believe in the virgin birth (among other critical doctrines that were being denied).
In Miracles, C.S. Lewis writes:
The idea that the progress of science has somehow altered this question is closely bound up with the idea that people ‘in olden times’ believed in [miracles] ‘because they didn’t know the laws of Nature.’ Thus you will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.’ Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the cause of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it.
A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point– that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And Joseph obviously knew that.
Mary’s humility increases because of…
The Holiness of the Son
Those who want the scientific explanation for everything might reject the virgin birth and deny the perfection of Christ. But how do they explain sin and evil? If it is merely a religious construct, what determines whether anything is right or wrong?
Why would anyone ever sacrifice? There is something fulfilling about showing love and compassion. Why? And if there is something in our chemical make up that finds pleasure through showing love, why do we find it so opposed to our nature at times?
It is true that there is something deeply fulfilling about being morally good, but our inability to consistently do the right thing is proof that we have a problem that goes beyond the physical and emotional. We have a spiritual problem. Therefore, we need a spiritual solution.
The birth of Jesus emphasizes two significant points:
- Jesus was Man—He was born of woman.
- Jesus was God—Conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Called holy (v.35). Christ must be holy—without blemish—in order to cleanse others (Psalm 51:1) and cause the Church to bear fruit (Isa. 32:15). He was the Son of God.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is a Mediator who is like us in every way, but separate from us because he is without sin (cf. Heb. 7:26). We find no trace of original sin within him.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.16) asks: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression? Answer: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Descendants of ordinary generation—sinned in Adam and fell with Adam. There was only one exception, descending from extraordinary generation. Jesus is the only man who did not inherit a sin nature.
We are eternal, but not holy which means all of us are fitted for everlasting destruction. We are not worthy to become servants in Christ’s kingdom.
We need a Savior who is both human and holy. God sent his Son because of the desperate situation of His people. God’s children needed to be rescued. The only way that was going to be possible was through the perfect sacrifice of a sinless human. The Savior had to be the holy seed of a woman.
This takes us back to Gen. 3:15—the proto-euangelion (The First Gospel)—which we read earlier in the service. God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This “offspring” of woman would be wounded by the serpent, but He would crush the serpent’s head in the process of being wounded. It is a picture of what took place on a cross of wood nearly 2,000 years ago!
Do you know this Son? Have you placed your trust in Him? Do you belong to Him?
Those who belong to the people of God will be under…
The Reign of the King
As the original audience was seeking to be further convinced of the truth themselves, or even explain to others what happened, they would’ve wanted a better understanding of the facts. Where many of us are at a disadvantage is our lack of knowledge regarding the Old Testament. Messianic prophecies in Isaiah would have been commonly understood among Luke’s Jewish audience. Luke’s frequent allusions to them were natural. People didn’t have to be told “Remember what Isaiah said…” They would have picked up on the parallels.
v.32-33 This Son will be a King on David’s throne. This fulfills numerous prophecies regarding the Messiah who would rescue God’s people. His reign would be eternal and His kingdom will not end.
All of this parallels God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7:8-16: This promise would be fulfilled by a descendent of David (7:8). He would become great (7:9). He would sit on the throne of David (7:13). God says, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (7:14). And his throne and kingdom would have no end (7:13, 16).
Perhaps your greatest fear is that “there might be a king who could claim this sort of absolute allegiance.”2 You may be in current rebellion/treason against your King. Maybe you have heard the gospel a thousand times, but you simply don’t care. All of this stuff about faith, obedience, and theology can wait until you’re older. What teenagers are really thinking about this stuff anyways?
In his book, Soul Searching, Christian Smith comments on the results of a telephone survey that was conducted in 2002, of 3,370 teens (13-17 years old—basically Jr. High and High School students) across 45 states. 82% of the participants belonged to a congregation and 52% attended 2-3x per month. However, most of them had a very superficial view of religion.
He summarized their faith calling it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
- A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
If that is how you describe your faith, it is time for you to seriously consider what the Bible actually teaches. Life is too short to delay living for the King. If what is described in this passage is true, then there could be nothing more important than submitting under the reign of this King.
If it’s true that His reign is eternal, it is far more important that your loyalties are with His kingdom than any other kingdom (i.e., your own, your family, your career, your retirement, your friends, etc.). When you submit yourself to this King, His desires become your desires.
His purpose is always more satisfying than any earthly desire because His blessings are eternal!
We have considered Mary’s humility which led her to the recognition that nothing was impossible with God. In the end (v.38), Mary responded to the angel’s announcement by declaring, “I am the servant of the Lord.”
From beginning to end, this Son was holy. He always did the will of His Father in Heaven. His reign is eternal because He alone could satisfy the righteous demands of our Creator. The birth of the King of Kings demands your attention and calls for your allegiance.
Have you given your allegiance to this King? You can do so right now by acknowledging—in humility—your sinful rebellion and placing your trust in the work He accomplished on your behalf through His perfect life and death in your place.
Submit yourself to the only worthy Savior-King through repentance and faith.
1 Stein, New American Commentary.
2 N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone.