Luke provides the most detailed account of the conception and birth of Jesus in his Gospel. Starting with the conception of John the Baptist, his Gospel provides Christians with a deep understanding of the events surrounding the holiday we call Christmas.
These few verses are loaded with details so that you can trust the Gospel writer researched the facts and reported them correctly as the Holy Spirit directed. These were not idle tales, but a faithful recounting of the conception of Christ written so that you can believe. There are also several wonderful lessons to be learned, including how the Word of God and faith work together to accomplish the impossible.
Don’t just dismiss this passage as a Christmas story that you read only once a year. Study the exchange between Gabriel and Mary like you never have before, and do it often.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, (Luke 1:26 NLT)
In the previous verses, Luke provides the background story of how Gabriel had announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah, his father. He and Elizabeth had been praying for a child and when Gabriel arrived, Zechariah almost allowed doubt to rob him of his child. Now, its six months later and Elizabeth is well into her pregnancy. God sends Gabriel once again to announce another birth.
Notice the detail that Luke shares in his Gospel account – the number of months Elizabeth was with child, the angel’s name and the exact region and village that Gabriel visited. Nothing God does is random. Every little detail is carefully planned and done for your benefit. Because of Luke’s precision, we can be confident that it is an accurate account of the conception of Jesus.
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:27 NIV)
The Word is filled with details and prophecies of the birth of Jesus. One of the signs mentioned in the Old Testament was that a virgin would conceive and give birth to the Son of God. (Isaiah 7:14) Another was a promise that the Savior would sit on the throne of David and be his descendent. (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89:3-4; 110:1; 132:11; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5) All these signs are there to give us confidence that Jesus is in fact the promised Messiah.
God did not just pick any virgin. He had a specific plan for both Mary and Joseph to be the earthly parents of Jesus. You need to realize that God has a good and perfect plan for your life too. And you are just as important to the Body of Christ (the Church) as Mary and Joseph were to the birth and childhood of Jesus. Get to know Jesus by spending time with the Word. Ask him to reveal the plan and purpose he has for your life. (Psalm 139)
Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28 NLT)
Gabriel was not just spouting off idle words. He was speaking the very Word of God to Mary, declaring that she was favored and the presence of God was with her. God’s anointing and grace would be plentiful on the lives of Mary and Joseph because salvation would be delivered through the child she was about to conceive and they would be responsible for him until he was an adult. Of all the people that Jesus would meet during his time on earth, no person would spend more time with him than Mary. And we know that in his presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Jesus and the Word are one and the same. (John 1) We can experience this same joy by reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:29 NIV)
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30 NIV)
Have you ever noticed that many times when an angel appeared in the Bible their first words included a command to not be afraid? Fear is the opposite of faith. And if it is tolerated, it will contaminate your faith. Faced with a supernatural visitor, some amount of awe should be expected. But fear would have prevented Mary from fulfilling the mission that Gabriel was about to announce. The same applies to you. Fear Not! Jesus, your Lord and Savior, has conquered all the power of the enemy. God is love. And perfect love removes all fear. (Romans 8:15; 1 John 4:16-18)
It is not uncommon for people to admire Mary, but you must not attempt to read into this verse more than it says. God does not play favorites. It is your faith that pleases Him. His love and favor is available to everyone that will trust Him. In fact, if Jesus is your Lord, you can confess this verse often as a personal message from God to you: “I am not afraid. I have found favor with God!” (Job 34:19; Psalm 5:12; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:9-11)
You may not give birth to the Savior of the world. But whatever plan God has for your life is just as important to the Body of Christ and spreading the Kingdom of God. You need to start seeing yourself as a child of God, joint-heir with Christ, and an Ambassador of the Kingdom of God. (Romans 8:15-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20)
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. (Luke 1:31 NLT)
He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. (Luke 1:32 NLT)
And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:33 NLT)
From the very beginning, God had a plan to send Himself, Jesus, into the world as a man. His prized creation, man, had sinned. At that instant the close fellowship that existed before was cut off. The Glory of God (light) that surrounded Adam and Eve was removed leaving them naked and ashamed. They had walked in the wisdom of God, but now they were in darkness, dependent on their senses. They were spiritually alive, but now they were spiritually dead.
The debt had to be paid for the crime of disobedience. Jesus volunteered to set aside his glorious nature and be born a man. He would live a perfect life under the Law and then by his death and resurrection, he would pay the price of every sin ever committed. It was a perfect plan born of love from a Father for His children. All that was needed was a virgin willing to believe the Word of God.
The name Jesus is important because it means Savior. That was exactly what Jesus came to do, save people from their sinful nature and restore fellowship between God and man. Under the Old Covenant, they were servants. In the New Covenant, we are children of God. (John 1:12; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-2)
These three verses lay the groundwork for the rest of the Gospel. And while they are quite brief, they tell you quite a bit about Jesus. He will be God’s Son. He will inherit the throne of David and reign over Israel. And most importantly, his Kingdom will NEVER end. Kings come and go. Empires fade with time. Nations crumble and disappear from history books. But the Kingdom of God with Jesus on the throne, will last forever.
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34 NLT)
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35 NLT)
What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. (Luke 1:36 NLT)
A few verses earlier Zechariah had asked a similar question because he doubted God’s ability. But Mary did not doubt the power of God. She was simply curious since the only way she knew to get pregnant required a man. Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit, God’s power would create a child in her womb. God would be the Father of this child and Jesus would be free of the sinful nature of all Adam’s descendents. A better way to comprehend this is that God’s Word is seed. That seed was planted in Mary’s womb when she believed the Word of God. And that seed produced a harvest of salvation in Jesus.
And to help Mary, who was not born again yet and dependent on her senses, Gabriel gave her further evidence to build her faith. He told her that Elizabeth, a relative who had been barren, was miraculously with child. Mary would later travel to see Elizabeth and their meeting would be a tremendous blessing to both women, and strengthen each of their faith. (Luke 1:39-56)
For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NLT)
Throughout my life I have had many people, including theology professors and pastors, tell me what God can’t or would not do. I see no reason to believe in an impotent God. I believe in a God of absolutely NO limitations. He is only limited by my faith. Study God’s Word and build your faith. Believe for the impossible. Because there is nothing you could imagine that God cannot do. (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17 & 27; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27)
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38 NLT)
Contrast Mary’s response to Zechariah’s response. Zechariah demanded a sign because he did not believe Gabriel. His sign was the inability to communicate for the entire pregnancy – a preventative measure to keep his words of doubt from stopping God’s plan for the birth of John the Baptist. But Mary simply accepted God’s Word and agreed with it. There was no outward confirmation of conception. But God works from the inside out. You hear God’s promises and believe them in your heart, and then they manifest in your life. (Matthew 17:20; Mark 11:22-24; Luke 17:5-6; Romans 10:17 – See also Parables of the Sower/Growing Seed – Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-15)
Click on the links above to read each verse in 17 different versions. To read the entire passage in five popular translations – AMP, KJV, HCSB, NIV, The Message click here:
Additional Luke 1:26-38 Resources
Mary, Mother of Jesus – A version for children with links to activities
An Angel Visits Mary – Children’s lesson ideas
Mary, Gabriel & the Birth of Jesus – A Bible story on the conception of Jesus
Christ Conceived By the Holy Spirit – A sermon by John Piper
The Birth of John the Baptist – A Bible story of the birth of John to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Gabriel’s Annunciation To Mary – Luke 1 commentary
What Would God Have Done? – A poem about the faith of Mary and other Bible heroes.
Luke 1:26-38 – Additional resources
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