Luke 1:26-38


This passage is rightly called "The Annunciation."  The angel Gabriel announces and prophecies the conception and incarnation of Jesus. He is God's messenger. The Word which the Angel announces will come true.

Arndt: One cannot marvel enough at the chaste simplicity and tender delicacy with which the subject, belonging to the holy of holies of our religion, is presented.

The Benedictus, Luke 1:68-79, has been called the last prophecy of the Old Testament. The Annunciation could be called the second-last prophecy of the Old Testament. A wonderful prophecy!

Luke 1-2 comprise a couplet on the prediction and birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. The angel Gabriel announced both. One was in the Temple in Jerusalem. The other was in Nazareth, likely in Mary's home. There are similarities and differences between the two announcements. We shall point them out as we go along.

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,

"In the sixth month" a temporal phrase, denoting the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy.

Fahling: The town Nazareth is not mentioned in Josephus and in the Old Testament; but the New Testament Scriptures not only mention it, but give it due prominence.

It can be identified to this day.

Luke 1:27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

Note that "virgin" occurs twice in this verse. Its second occurrence has the anaphoric article "the" with it, a specific virgin. It reminds one immediately of Isaiah 7:14.  "Pledged to be married." At that time the vows, which we now take at marriage, were taken at the time of engagement, but not consummated. "Descendent of David" has caused much discussion. Since these verses speak primarily of Mary. Arndt, Ylvisaker and Lenski say that this adjectival prepositional phrase modifies Mary, not Joseph. On the other hand, Stoeckhardt, Fahling, Bengel, Plummer and Geldenhuys take it to modify Joseph, though all agree, more or less, that verses 32 and 69 clearly state the Davidic descent of Mary.

Fahling: Luke 1:27 and 69 prove her Davidic descent beyond the shadow of a doubt. And besides, there are the inescapable inferences in Acts 2:30; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 7:14.

Note the exact language, clearly identifying the town, the man, and the virgin.

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

The text clearly suggests that Mary was in a house or building.

Bengel: She is so greeted, not as the MOTHER of grace, but as the DAUGHTER of grace, especially at that early time. Look at Ephesians 1:6.
Geldenhuys: The well-known hymn 'Ave Maria' was written under the inspiration of these words in verse 28. The first two parts of the hymn date from the earliest times and are purely Biblical. But the third portion, in which the words 'Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners' occur, was added only in the fifteenth century and in 1568 declared by Pope Pius V to be authoritative.

As Elizabeth, in verse 42, calls Mary "the most blessed among women" because she conceived and bore the God-man, nonetheless in verse 47 Mary calls God her Savior, implying that she was a sinner. "The Lord is with you" is not a wish but a statement.

Lenski: In becoming the virgin mother of God's Son, Mary would most certainly need the fullest protection from God. How could she defend herself against slander, and how could she protect her babe from murderous hands? So in advance, before Mary is enlightened further, the assurance of the Lord's present help and protection is given to her.

The Lord protected her even against the suspicions of her husband, Matthew 1:18-25.

Luke 1:29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

Thusfar, verses 26-28, we've been told of the situation, the greeting and the assurance of God's gracious protection. Now we have Mary's reaction. It is a simple sentence with compound predicate. AAT changes the construction but gets the meaning: "Startled by what he said, she tried to figure out what such a greeting might mean."  (Note that AV and NKJV add a variant participle here).

Bengel: Her being troubled arose from the apparition itself. All things befell her without her expecting them. In all the recorded apparitions of angels there is no other instance of the occurrence of such a salutation.

But it must be stated that no unbelief is even hinted at. Zacharias, Luke 1:18, reacted in unbelief. Not Mary. Compare what Elizabeth, under the Holy Spirit, says of her at 1:45. The use of the optative in an indirect question is found only in Luke. It is a mark of good, literary Greek.

Luke 1:30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

Just as at 1:13, Gabriel begins with "Do not be afraid," and then the direct, vocative address. It is personal assurance. In both cases, 1:13 and here, the reason is given. For Zacharias the reason was that prayers had been answered. For Mary it was that God had showed her unmerited favor. This is synonymous with verse 28.

Lenski: As in verse 13, so here the bidding to stop being afraid is at once fortified with the strongest kind of reason for dismissing all fear.

Look also at Matthew 1:20-23. Joseph, Zacharias and Mary had to be told: "Fear not" lest their sinful minds, left to themselves, would be caught up in groundless fears, thoughts or actions.

Luke 1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

There follow eight future verbs, verses 31-33, all of them prophetic. The angel merely announces to Mary what she will do (three verbs), and what the Messiah will be and do (five verbs). Verse 31 dwells especially on Jesus' human nature, but not to the exclusion of the divine. On calling the individual by name, compare Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:13. The sex and even the name are a matter of prophecy.

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,

At 1:15 Zacharias is told "He shall be great before the Lord." A distinction is made between John and the Lord. But of Jesus it is said: "This One shall be great" and then follow four epexegetical "ands" in verses 32-33, giving the explanation of "great." 

Geldenhuys: To Him shall be given the royal might and sovereignty promised in the Old Testament to the Messiah-king of the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; 89:26.27).
Plummer: The title 'Son of David' was publicly given to Jesus and never disputed, Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30.31; Mark 10:47.48; Luke 18:38.39.
Fahling: If Jesus is to be HER son and David is called HIS father, then surely Christ's Davidic descent through Mary is granted at the outset. See verse 69.

Luke 1:33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 

This verse speaks both about

The angel used words from Old Testament prophecy with which Mary was acquainted. Some comments on "the House of Jacob." 

Lenski: It denotes all his descendants, not merely the Jewish nation as such, but the spiritual descendants on through the ages (Romans 9:6-8).
Ylvisaker: He shall be a King over the house of Jacob, which is not Israel after the flesh, as several of the later exegetes have declared, but the spiritual Israel assembled from all the nations of the world.

The King, His rule, the members of the Kingdom, the Kingdom itself, all are eternal. The Kingdom of grace becomes the eternal Kingdom of glory, the great comfort for the believer. Purest Gospel.

Luke 1:34  "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

Arndt: She correctly understood the angel to state that she was to become a mother. AT ONCE. An absolute mystery confronted her.
Ylvisaker: There is not in her heart the doubt and misgiving which characterized Zacharias. ...In the consciousness of her virgin estate, she inquires how this may come to pass, as she knows no man, that is, no conjugal relation with any man.
Fahling: Her humble inquiry for additional enlightenment is not at all a word of trembling doubt, the requirement of a sign on which to lean, but rather the request for guidance in obedient self­surrender.
Augustine: She speaks by way of inquiry, not because of despair.
Bengel: This 'how' is not inconsistent with faith, as verse 45 proves. The difference between her and Zacharias, verse 18, lay not in the words but in the spirit.
Bengel: Mary understood that this promise is being now given to here as one immediately to be fulfilled, without respect to the consummation of her espousal.

Luke 1:35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Compare the angel's answer at 1:19-20 with the answer in verse 35. In the former, Gabriel clearly announces the affliction of dumbness because Zacharias would not believe. Nothing like that in verse 35. The anarthrous (without an article) nouns in verse 32 and in this verse do not denote indefiniteness, but stress is laid on the qualities and uniqueness of the nouns.

The first two lines of what the angel says are Hebrew parallelism, one explaining the other. "The Holy Spirit" and "The Power of the Highest" are identical. One explains the other."Highest," as in verse 32, is superlative, for there is none higher. These two lines do not picture the Holy Spirit as a male (having sex). We mention it only because it has been suggested. But that is awful.

These two lines are the sedes doctrinae on the virgin conception of Mary. We can't even understand an ordinary conception. How much less this miraculous one! Jesus was born of the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) but the conception was caused by the Power of the Highest. An incomprehensible miracle.

"Holy one" gives the reason why Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. It reads literally:  "The holy thing which is being generated shall be called the Son of God." Several remarks are in place.  "One" is the subject. Thus AAT AV NKJV NIV, not NASB LB RSV TEV and JB. We agree with Arndt.

Arndt: The conception which the angel announces as taking place at the very time when he spoke to her.
Ylvisaker: We should believe that it is at this very moment, as she humbly submits to the words and the will of the angel, that Jesus is conceived; for when she shortly after this pays a visit to Elizabeth she bears 'the fruit of her womb', verse 42.

In other words,  "the Holy One to be born" is speaking about Jesus' conception, not His birth.

By the way, this verse and verses 43-45 are the strongest argument for calling an embryo, right from its inception, a living person. Jesus was the very Son of God from conception. Elizabeth, under the Holy Spirit (verses 43­45), calls Mary's embryo "The Lord." How awful to call it lifeless or not yet a person! The microscopic embryo is a person, a living person. If it be argued that Jesus' conception was unique, we answer that the uniqueness lies in the fact that he was conceived not of human father but by the Holy Ghost or otherwise He would have been a sinner. His conception was sinless but He was alive from the moment of conception as are all other human beings. Those who maintain that life does not begin until a later time or that the embryo is not yet a person must deal with Luke 1:34; 43-45.

"Holy One" and "Son of God" do not mean merely that He will have names whereby He can be distinguished from others (as we do today) but that He will actually BE and BE RECOGNIZED for what the names mean. He was, was recognized as, and was called the Savior, the meaning of Jesus. Likewise with the terms "Son of the Highest" and "Son of God." 

Again we state that these anarthrous nouns are not indefinite but are unique terms, applicable to no one else. At Luke 6:35 Christians are called "the sons of the Highest" because they have a unique relationship to the Father. At Luke 20:36 Christians are called "the sons of God" because He will raise them from the dead. (Note that in both cases the nouns are anarthrous again). Many in Jesus' day had the name "Jesus." But only Jesus Christ truly was, was recognized as, and was called Jesus (Savior), the Son of the Highest and the Son of God.

Lenski: Jesus was most decidedly called God's Son by many people, by his own Father from heaven, by Gabriel here in this chapter, and by himself, every time he spoke of his Father, and finally when he was asked under oath (Matthew 26:63-65 plus 27:43).

That Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, that He was holy, and that He was the Son of God, are companion truths. They stand or fall together. "Holy" must always be interpreted in its own context. Jesus is holy because He is sinless, conceived without sin, and, secondly, He is God and man in one and the same person. Mary must have understood it this way.

Luke 1:36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.

Thusfar the angel greeted Mary, assured her of God's protection, told her what she would do, told her who her son would be, and, finally, told her how He would be conceived. Now comes another important item (cf. verse 31). Look at 1:20 where the same expression occurs. There Gabriel announces a sign amounting to affliction, because Zacharias would not believe. Here, in verse 36, we have another sign, if we may call it that, to strengthen Mary's faith. Gabriel does not reprimand but encourages.

What the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary was, we know not.

 "Even" means "even also," which implies that Mary had already conceived. The rest of the verse corresponds, in part, to the beginning of verse 26.

Note again that throughout this text "said to be" means not only "called" but also "is" and "is recognized as such." 

Lenski: What the angel thus adds is plainly intended to aid and to confirm Mary's faith. The angel silently suggests to Mary the very thing she now undertakes, namely, a visit to her aged relative.
Geldenhuys: This fact serves to strengthen her faith still more and to make her realize better the reality of the impending event.

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God."

The omnipotence of God, evident in both conceptions, that of Elizabeth and that of Mary, strengthens Mary's faith. The angel does it through the Word of God. This thought occurs first at Genesis 18:14, where it is a question put to Abraham: "Is any thing too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." It has been noted that Elizabeth's conception was very similar to that of Sarah and that Mary's conception was similar to Adam's creation. In all four cases, that which is impossible though mere human agency is possible because of the Word of God. Note that God is agent.  "Nothing" can mean either "thing" or "utterance."  The "thing" becomes possible because of the utterance of God.

Luke 1:38  "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

The first word in Greek, not translated here, indicates Mary's complete assent. AV NKJV RSV and NASB translate "Behold." LB TEV NIV and JB leave it untranslated. NEB renders it "Here am I."  Not bad. It is similar to Isaiah 6:8 "Here am I." 

"Servant" is variously rendered "handmaid, servant, maidservant, bond slave."  Then follows: "May it happen to me in keeping with your utterance." She has no will of her own but only that of the Lord and HIS messenger.

Lenski: Here is holy submission, mighty confidence, blessed readiness.
Plummer: This is neither a prayer that what has been foretold may take place, nor an expression of joy at the prospect. Rather it is an expression of submission--God's will be done.

She knew and believed that it would be done.

Bengel: Compare the assent which David expressed to God's covenant promise, 2 Samuel 7:25.
Ylvisaker: This is the language of humble faith. She places herself, so to speak, entirely in the hands, or at the disposal, of God, even the most priceless treasure of maidenhood.
Stoeckhardt: Hereby Mary brought woman back to honor. The unbelief of Eve procured for us sin and death. Blessed are all who in faith receive the promised Woman-Seed, like Mary received Him in faith.
Luther: We Christians know of no other God, whether in heaven or on earth, outside of the One in the flesh, who lies in the lap of the Virgin Mary. And we confess that this Jesus, God and Mary's Son, has redeemed us from all our sins, and as true Israelites of the New covenant we now serve our Lord and King in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B, Festival Season Sundays, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp.13-17. Used with permission.

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