8 April 2013

Luke 1:26-38

She was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.’ (vv. 29-30)


You've probably heard this Bible passage more than any other part of the Bible as you've attended nativity plays over the years. You may even have been asked to play the part of Gabriel or Mary!

Today, the Church in the west celebrates the 'Annunciation' - God announcing to Mary through Gabriel that she is to give birth to Jesus. (It's normally celebrated on 25 March - nine months exactly before Christmas Day - but when this occurs in Lent we wait until after Easter to celebrate.).

Luke relates the results of his investigations (Luke 1:3-4) so that we can understand exactly who Jesus is and how Mary fits into God's plan. Gabriel appears in only one other book in the Bible - in Daniel chapters 8 and 9 (we'll be looking at Daniel in these notes, beginning tomorrow) - when Gabriel appears to Daniel to tell him God's plans for the end of the world. The next time Gabriel is mentioned is when he tells Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth is to give birth to John (the Baptist) (Luke 1:5-19) - who will prepare God's people for the Lord (Jesus) (Luke 1:17). What is the significance of Mary being related to Elizabeth (v.36)? Elizabeth was descended from Aaron (Luke 1:5) the high priest - and so, presumably, Mary was also a descendant of Aaron. In this way Jesus can be shown - through Mary - to have the right to be himself anointed as high priest.

And so, "in the sixth month" (of Elizabeth's pregnancy) (v. 26) Mary too is told that she is going to be used to fulfil God's plan and that she will herself become pregnant. Notice that she is not asked what she herself thinks of this. Presumably God would only have sent Gabriel to Mary if God was sure that she would agree to the plan.

Note that in Daniel 9:25-26 the anointed one (Messiah) of God announced by Gabriel will only have a kingdom for a limited time; this time, the anointed one of God announced by Gabriel will have a kingdom which will never end (v.33).

To Ponder

  • To what extent do you agree that God would only have sent Gabriel if God knew that Mary would agree to the plan? Was it possible for Mary to say 'No thanks'?
  • Do you think God would ever ask someone to do something that it was impossible for them to do? Why, or why not?
  • Have there been times in your life when you have been frightened to step out in faith to do something you felt God was asking you to do? What helped you, or would have helped you, to say "yes"?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.