26 March 2012

Luke 1:26-38

"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." (v. 38)


Today's passage has been selected because the 25th March (Lady Day) is traditionally the day to commemorate the Annunciation, Gabriel's message to Mary promising the birth of Jesus. But when the 25th falls on a Sunday, the commemoration is transferred to the next day.

In the first chapter of his Gospel Luke sets the scene for the story he goes on to tell. Both John the Baptist and Jesus come onto the scene by divine initiative. In the case of John, his mother Elizabeth is thought to be too old for pregnancy (Luke 1:7). In the case of Jesus his mother Mary is a virgin. Although the Greek word Luke uses can mean simply a young woman, it is clear from the way he tells the story that virginity is what is intended. So the beginning of the good news is not due to any human initiative but is God's intervention.

This is emphasised by Gabriel's greeting in verses 28 and 30. That Mary has been selected to be the mother of Jesus is entirely God's choice, God's "favour" (the older translation, "full of grace" could be misleading in hinting that in some sense Mary deserved to be selected - the grace is God's, not hers).

As Luke's Gospel progresses we will learn that Jesus has been sent to bring salvation to all nations, but at this point the stress is on continuity. Jesus comes for the Jewish people in the first instance, and is the fulfilment of the promises God has made to them in the past (verses 32-33).

Mary's response (verse 38) is one of total acceptance: a model for every believer.

To Ponder

The idea of a virgin birth is hard for some to accept in a scientific age. How important is it to insist on it as an article of faith?

Think of Mary's words in verse 38 in relation to your own life. What application might they have?

What if Mary had said 'no'?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..