A Study on the Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke Chapter 1, Verses 35-38

Please return to the main page of this study for the introduction and other verses.

By Mary Stephens
Oct. 2014

Luke 1:35-37 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Picking up from our last study you may recall that Mary did not ask a particularly demanding question, neither did she ask for a sign as Zacharias did. Here we see that for her simple, straightforward question she received a straightforward explanation, with no rebuking and no difficult sign. But, though it was a fairly simple answer, it is still an answer that is difficult to explain and, quite frankly, takes a lot of faith to believe. The answer Mary received to her question didn't make it easier on her. It made in necessary for her to simply trust the Lord in what He was doing.

How often we experience this in our own lives! The Lord doesn't always give us answers that make everything clear and easy. Often enough He expects us to exercise our faith in Him and just trust Him. 

But, also notice that Gabriel gave Mary the news about her cousin, Elisabeth, at the same time. He asked her to believe something "impossible" and then told her another "impossible" thing that she could verify for herself. That is interesting in itself. Sometimes God does expect us to just believe what He says, as with Zacharias, but I wonder how often when the Lord asks us to believe something "impossible" He also provides for us, through His word or life in general, an example that we can verify for ourselves that would increase and encourage our faith. I wonder how often we miss the point because of a lack of faith in the first place, or because of heedlessness of the confirmation He has provided. It's something to contemplate, and to take notice of in our own lives.

The miracle of the birth of Christ through a virgin is something that many stumble over. They did even in Jesus' day. It is hard to imagine Mary's experience because, as humans, we simply can't understand being with child without the sexual aspect of it. This is probably why so many sinners have suggested, taught or implied ugly and disgusting things about this event. Dirty minded men can't understand the beautiful purity of the simple truth given here. It eludes them, and so they invent their own perverted explanations that are not only obscene, but actually blasphemous toward God. It brings to mind something that God says in Psalms:

Psalms 50:21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

The difficulty that many humans have is that they think God is like them. They actually don't believe that God is bigger, wiser, and mightier than a man, and that He is not limited by His own laws of nature. He can overrule them at any time and do a miracle completely outside the limitations of man. This is why Gabriel concluded with "For with God nothing shall be impossible." The Lord doesn't have to do things within the confines of what man can easily understand and explain. Which brings us back to the subject of faith. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Mary also received the account of Elisabeth's pregnancy from the angel. Her cousin had conceived "in her old age". Here were two miracles of birth for two women who both were godly and were related to each other. (Which was curious since Mary was of Judah and Elisabeth was of Levi. This shows that the tribes were mingling.)  One was old and one was young, but for both it was a miracle. I find it interesting that God chose these two cousins to experience these miracles together at the same time. I don't entirely understand it, but in an interesting way we can see that they were a moral support for each other through the following visit, and also perhaps this made it possible for John to know the history of his cousin more specifically. 

In Matthew 3:13-14, when Jesus comes to John for baptism we read, Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? This testimony of John to Jesus indicates that he knew that Jesus was much more righteous than he was himself, even though His full identity had not yet been revealed. The fact that Mary and Elisabeth were cousins would have made this possible perhaps in a degree that might not have existed had John been born to some family that was not connected to Mary in any way.

I have thought also about how kind it was to the parents of John that God chose an elderly couple. If Zacharias and Elisabeth had been as young as Mary was they likely would have lived long enough to see John's execution. God is kind and compassionate even in things that we sometimes take as disadvantages. This couple might have lamented in their own hearts at times that they would not be a part of John's life for very long. We don't know when they died, but it's clear that they likely did not live for his entire life - something over 30 years. But, I believe God did this for them. It was a mercy and a blessing. 

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I also like the fact that the angel assured Mary that the power of the Highest would overshadow her. She surely needed that power to protect her! As we know, the devil was determined to see that Child killed. Undoubtedly he would have killed Mary before Jesus was born had he been able. Mary was protected in a very special way during that time.

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Her sweet and graceful submission to the will of God for her life is an inspiration for us all. Her humility in viewing herself as a handmaid - a servant - is humbling. If the mother of the Lord Jesus viewed herself as such, what attitude ought we to have? She didn't start yelling and whooping it up. She did not have a "shouting time" or "run the bases." We aren't even told whether or not she told her parents or whoever else she may have been with in close living quarters. I'm inclined to say that she had the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. 

1 Peter 3:3-4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

She also didn't take it as a horrible burden and bother. Here she was told that she would conceive and have a baby without the help of the man to whom she was betrothed. No information was given as to how he would deal with this. Obviously it was going to produce complications, which we'll talk more about later on. Yet she didn't complain or ask for more specific details to "ease her mind." Her faith and acceptance of God's will here is a bit mindboggling to me from a human standpoint. Of course, there are people in church history of whom we read this kind of humble faith, but this particular scenario has only ever happened to one person in all of history, and she only had one chance to "get it right."

I think her response gives us another glimpse into her character and the reason why the Lord chose Mary. She was humble. She was full of faith - faithful. She trusted God with the details. She was also courageous.

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.


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