GETTING THE MESSAGE/A Savior for sinners
In Luke 1:26 we read: “The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” This is headline news to be sure. God, meaning the one, true, Almighty God, sent an angel to a small town of probably around 500 people. And he sent this angel to a young girl, Mary, who was probably between 13-18 years old. I’m sure throughout the Roman Empire men were affected by major news stories, but what can compare to this?
So, what was the celestial being’s message to Mary? That she would conceive and bear a son and he was to be named “Jesus.” Jesus is the Greek word for Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” The angel Gabriel was no doubt stunned the first time he heard the revelation from God of the next words he tells Mary: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”
Can it be that the eternal Son of God would humble himself to be born of a woman and suffer and die for people who are rebellious against God? Angels long to look into these things (1st Peter 1:12), and angels sing praises to God and good will to men at this birth (Luke 2). These things are more wondrous to angels than to men, although men are the ones saved. Angels know the holiness of God. They know that the fallen angels were left to their rebellion. Yet God shows mercy to men, and provides a great salvation for them.
We should observe how much God loves mercy. God highlights to men more his mercy than his justice upon his enemies. God appears more wonderful in saving his people than in his works of judgment. He takes no delight in the destruction of his enemies, but takes great delight in the objects of his mercy. If God has provided so great a salvation it is evident he means to save those who avail themselves of it. To be sure, none who refuse Christ can expect mercy from God, so we should listen carefully to the message Gabriel brought to Mary.
Gabriel further explains to Mary that this child is the promised descendent of David who will reign over his people forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33). Even now, angels worship Christ who sits on the throne of God (Revelation 5). So what Christ came to do, he accomplished, and will reign forever. Charles Wesley captured this is in his hymn: “Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king, born to reign in us forever, now they gracious kingdom bring.”
Mary would have been familiar with the words the angel speaks. They can be found in the prophets including Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Gabriel is pronouncing the time of these promises has come. All Christ does fulfill the Scriptures, the word of God.
We do ourselves a grave injustice if we aren’t familiar with Scripture. If we know the Old Testament, our faith will grow and be more stable as we see God’s unfolding plan coming to fruition in Christ the Lord, just as the prophets of God wrote down (see 2nd Peter 1: 19-21).
Mary has a question not of unbelief, but of biology. She is a virgin. How can she have this child (Luke 1: 34)? Gabriel replies that it will be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. It will be of God. Then he assures her further with the revelation of Elizabeth’s post-menopausal pregnancy (Luke 1: 24-25) and the words, “nothing will be impossible with God,” echoing words God said to Sarah when she doubted God’s promise of a child since she was way past child bearing years (Genesis 18).
Mary is a model of faith for us in the way she responds. She replies, “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38). Mary would have known the pregnancy would imply adultery on her part to the watching world. She was being asked to risk everything that gives stability to life for a young Jewish girl. But she believes God’s word and willingly submits to it.
Things turned out well for Mary, as they do for all who humbly submit to God. Christians have more reason to extol God than angels. Gabriel could never say what Mary will sing in her song of praise: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46). “Savior.” That is what Christmas is about.