One of a Kind
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ–Luke 1:34–38
Have you found any one-of-a-kind gifts this year? This Christmas I went on a hunt to find truly some of the most outlandish one-of-a-kind gifts. Have you heard of the Custom Needle Felted Dog? For $275, you can immortalize your beloved pet with a unique stuffed animal that fits in the palm of your hand that looks exactly like your pet. Quite possibly the surest sign of idolatry.
Maybe you have heard of the long distance touch bracelet. For about $100, you can buy a pair of bracelets–keep one and give one to your boyfriend or mate and each time you think of the other, just touch your bracelet. No matter where they are in the world, their bracelet will vibrate and glow. Honestly, I think this is overtly needy, and would harm a relationship more than help.
I have never heard of banana-saving hats, but they exist. These are tiny little hats that actually slow down the absorption of ethylene gas, meaning bananas stay yellow and fresh for longer. Just eat your bananas, skip the hat. In my hunt to find the perfect one-of-a-kind gift was the shower beer holder–you have to shower and don’t know what to do with your beer, big problem. So now you have a cup holder in your shower for your beer. If you think you want this, we have counseling available at FBC.
Along with one-of-a-kind gifts, there are one-of-a-kind paintings, one-of-a-kind events, one-of-a-kind relationships, one-of-a-kind announcements. Last Sunday, we exposited the greatest one-of-a-kind announcement ever given, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she would give birth to a son who would be the Messiah of Israel. What did he proclaim? Luke 1:31, “’And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.’”
This Christmas Eve, let’s finish the paragraph with Mary’s one-of-a-kind response, highlighting the one-of-a-kind person of Jesus Christ, God who was born man, found in Luke chapter 1:34 to 38. Turn there and follow in your outline. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin? 35The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
This passage pointedly affirms the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. This is foundational to Christianity, since it is the only way to explain how Christ could be both God and man. Jesus had to be God in order for his sacrifice to be acceptable to a perfect God and Christ had to be man in order to be our substitute. This was accomplished through the perfect plan of God to be born a man through the virgin birth of Mary, described in these five verses of Luke chapter 1. This outline is similar to others, beginning with . . .
#1 Mary’s Sincerity of Heart Verse 34
Mary is shaken and a bit confused, since she just heard the great angel Gabriel announce that she is to become the mother of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Overwhelmed by the implications, she asked Gabriel in verse 34, “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’” Mary is not doubting here. She is uncertain about how could this possibly happen? Miracles are rare throughout history and God has not spoken for 400 years. So sincerely, Mary asks how can this possibly happen?
Mary knew Gabriel was not describing how she would become pregnant naturally after her marriage to Joseph. Mary understood that the mighty angel was saying she would become pregnant while still being a virgin, before she was intimate with her husband. So Mary’s question was not doubting what God said to her through Gabriel, but her question was a request for an explanation of how this impossible event could occur?
#2 God’s Strategy for Christ Verse 35
In response to Mary’s request for clarification, Gabriel told her this in verse 35a, “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you.’” The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, the very God who was involved in the creation of the world. He made everything. Remember Genesis 1:2, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” It is not surprising then, that the Holy Spirit, who was the original agent of creation, would again become the agent of creation–but this time in Mary’s womb.
Luke is careful to record the angel’s exact words. You notice there is not the slightest suggestion in this text or any other, of any human sexual activity involved in the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is all God, all miracle, all supernatural. Gabriel continues speaking to Mary in verse 35b, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Gabriel uses the title, God Most High, honoring him as the all-powerful ruler of Heaven and Earth–omnipotent Most High. The God who made and upholds the universe through His Spirit–He alone would create life in Mary’s womb.
The very verb translated “will overshadow” is also used in the accounts of the transfiguration, when the glory cloud descended on Peter, James, and John. It means to surround, to encompass, and in a metaphorical sense, to influence. The powerful creative influence of the Spirit of God would overshadow Mary to produce a child in her womb.
Then in verse 35c, “and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Don’t miss the obvious here. The angel is declaring to Mary, and Luke is reminding us that Jesus is one-of-a-kind–not like any other infant who is born in sin. No, Jesus would be holy child, unlike every other infant ever born. Everyone who has ever lived, with the single sole exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, has been born a sinner–a sinner in character, a sinner in nature.
Every baby born is a cute bundle of defiance, a sinnerling. Yes, babies are awesome, but they are disobedient in nature. To prove it—help in the two-year-old class. David made this clear in Psalm 51:5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” David was not stating that he was an illegitimate child, but that from the time of his conception he was a sinner.
But Christ was, is, and has always been one-of-a-kind, the sinless Son of God. Second Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” First Peter 2:22, “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” First John 3:5, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.”
Every single person here–every human ever born was born a sinner because, as a race of people, 1 Corinthians 15:22, “in Adam all die”, since Romans 5:19, “through the one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners.” We are separated from God because of our sin. As a race of people, we chose to go our own way, do our own thing, ignore God, defy His will for our lives. We dissed our creator and like sheep we have wandered away from the Shepherd of our souls. All of us have lied, stolen, lusted, been angry, murdered in our hearts, and all of us deserve eternal punishment–separated from God forever in Hell because of our sin. The wages of our sin is death–physical death and everlasting death. Our sinfulness is so bad, and has saturated our hearts so completely, we destroy ourselves and harm even the people we love. We are so sinful, we can’t repair ourselves.
So God devised a plan and He would make us right. If a human could pay the wages of sin and die in our place. And if that human could be perfect, holy, without sin—then His death for sin could satisfy God’s holiness. And that person was Jesus Christ. In a manner beyond human comprehension, Jesus was fully human, yet completely sinless, completely perfect–a verse 35, “holy child” from conception. The explanation of how that could be is shrouded in the unfathomable mystery of the incarnation.
I am sure you caught Luke’s second description of Christ in verse 35. Jesus also had to be the perfectly holy Son of God, because His nature is that of the Holy One Himself. God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son are one nature–three persons yet one. The term Son of God signifies here that Jesus is by nature the Son of God manifested in human flesh—God in a bod, God incarnate, God made flesh. As Hebrews 1:3 declares, Christ “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” Mary’s mouth must have dropped open ever so slightly at this point, leading to . . .
#3 God’s Sign to Mary Verse 36
Though Mary did not ask for a sign to remove her puzzlement, God graciously gave her one to strengthen her faith. That divine sign involved her older relative, Elizabeth. Verse 36, “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.” Through the genealogies given in Luke, we know Mary was related to Elizabeth through her mother. In the text of Luke, we have already met Elizabeth, who would soon be the mother of John the Baptist.
Now the sign given to Mary is shocking news. Mary’s relative Elizabeth has conceived a son in her old age. Mary was well aware that Elizabeth was barren and past childbearing age. Mary must have been amazed here and overjoyed to hear that Elizabeth, who was disrespectfully called barren, was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. The miracle for Elizabeth was one of conception in old age. The greater (if not greatest) miracle for Mary, was conception directly from God as a virgin.
But Elizabeth’s conception was a sign from God to Mary that He was still able to perform miracles. It was a sign that God can do the humanly impossible. God gave the sign, not because Mary doubted the angel’s words, but to provide an anchor for Mary’s faith while in her pregnancy, which was out of wedlock and miraculous. Gabriel, an incredible being, who stands in God’s presence, affirms . . .
#4 God’s Great Superiority Verse 37
Read verse, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Speak it with me–verse 37. It is one thing to say something will happen, but quite another to make it happen. Mary realized what she heard was humanly impossible. Gabriel reminds Mary that because of God’s unlimited power, nothing is impossible for Him. The proof Gabriel offered was Elizabeth’s old age conception of John.
Because Mary knew her Bible, she would also remember Isaac’s birth to Abraham and Sarah, who were also way beyond childbearing years. Remember Genesis 18:12 to 14, what God said to Sarah? “Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ 13And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?” 14Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’”
So this miracle of Elizabeth and Zacharias, given as a proof and encouragement to Mary, would also be miraculous. And Mary herself giving birth as a virgin would also be miraculous, yet possible, by the one true God, the Creator, the Redeemer, who is able to do the impossible. God, whose power knows no limits and who is not bound by the laws of nature that He created, can accomplish anything consistent with His holy nature and purposes. Gabriel’s reminder of what God had done in the past, reassured Mary of His power to keep His word to her. Nothing is impossible for God. So how does she respond?
#5 Mary’s Humble Submission Verse 38
Verse 38, “And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Mary also knew of Hannah, who was barren, yet gave birth to Samuel the prophet. Hannah responded to the news of her coming birth, calling herself God’s maidservant. Here in Luke, Mary calls herself the slave of the Lord–I will submit to God’s Word and I will do God’s will. She says, “May it be done to me according to your word.” Without regard for the implications and even potential risks, Mary faithfully trusted in the sovereign purpose of her Savior and God. That is truly Mary’s magnificence.
Friends, Mary is not the Catholic queen of Heaven, and she is certainly not co-redemptrix or mediatrix of saving grace–that’s heresy and a pagan distortion. Mary submits to God’s will here. She later expresses her need for a Savior and waits like all other believers in the upper room for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2. Mary, the sinner, gave birth to the sinless one. Mary, in need of a redeemer, gave birth to that Redeemer. Mary, a created being, actually gave birth to her Creator.
Mary’s dramatic encounter with the angel Gabriel is the introduction to Christmas day. Notice it ends with a simple postscript, “And the angel departed from her.” His mission accomplished, Gabriel returns to the presence of God. The God-man will be born–the only begotten Son of God, Jesus, will save His people from their sins. The divine Redeemer, the holy offspring, the sovereign King will reign over a kingdom that will endure forever. The Creator perfectly lived among His creation, then suffered and died for the sins of His chosen children, rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven and will return again.
You can try to earn salvation, you can try to work your way into Heaven, but you will fail. The Bible declares in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” Turn from your sin in repentance. Surrender your life to Christ by faith. When salvation is genuine, you’ll follow God’s will and submit to His Word just like Mary, and as a result will be forgiven, born again, made new, cleansed–but only through Christ. Why? For Christ, He is one-of-a-kind.