Meanwhile in Nazareth
God’s plan continues to unfold. Now He sends His angel to a pure and holy maiden betrothed to a righteous man living in Nazareth, a city of no reputation lying north of Samaria in Galilee. We may surmise that Mary was of teen years. She is not naïve; she has grown up in the local synagogue and knows the Scriptures. She knows that Messiah is coming; she, of course, has no idea that he is coming to her, and in so personal a way. Women of ancient times thought that bearing children was that most wonderful gift which God had especially bestowed upon them; I like to think that despite a century of corrosive feminism, women today still instinctually feel this way.
Let us focus our attention on the angel’s description of this baby she shall conceive: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” What a description! The only problem is that Mary and Joseph were not royalty and Jesus never sat upon David’s throne—which didn’t even exist in that day as the Jews were under Roman domination. Did the angel have the wrong address? No. Jesus is the Messiah, he is the king, he is the Son of the Most High and the son of David. His first coming was in humility (Isaiah 53) and he now reigns in the hearts of those who believe during this wonderful age of grace. But he shall one day come again in glory, and then every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Philippians 2:9-11).
But Mary is confused and responds (literally): “How is this to be since I do not know a man?” Is it not obvious to all that the Son of God should become a son of man through a virgin? If not, I can’t explain it to you. And the words of the angel then express one of the most profound and beautiful mysteries of the Christian faith: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” You do not know a man? You will not need one, at least as the conception of the child is concerned. This child is different, this child is without Adam’s sinful taint, this child is the Holy One.
And Mary’s response is immortal: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (I appreciate the gender-specificity of the KJV’s rendering of the Greek, δουλη, which is the feminine form of the word “servant,” and thus rightly translated, “handmaid.”) As a pregnant teen without a husband, Mary was accepting a life of shame and reproach. But she trusted God and willingly went to “him outside the camp [to] bear the reproach he endured” (Hebrews 13:13). Mary was no ordinary girl. May we be as ready to answer the call, to obey, to bear the reproach for the one who bore the reproach for us. Thank you, Mary. Even as a man, I wish I were more like you.