In Luke 1:26-33, the author, Luke, gives a historical account surrounding the virgin Mary and the conception of Jesus. Because of the historical nature of this passage, it is best to interpret it literally. Even the supernatural visit of the angel Gabriel being sent from God to Mary is to be understood exactly as Luke states. In other words, the reader should not look for any deep hidden meaning behind the text within this passage. Luke’s need to point out the cities location in 1:26, “suggests that his intended readers were not from Palestine and would therefore be unfamiliar with the city’s location.” Although this passage does communicate several meaningful points in narrative form, such as Mary’s fear and Gabriel’s encouragement to her, Luke is communicating one major point here, that is, “you [Mary] will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk. 1:31-32). The reader should understand that Luke’s intent here is not to reveal a fulfillment of messianic prophecy, like Matthew does in his gospel account, rather Luke was simply communicating the beginnings of Jesus’ incarnation as the Son of God to a gentile majority who were not steeped in the ways of Jewish tradition.
From an earthly perspective, this passage looks back to a dismal time in the history of the kingdom of God. God’s people had no official land to call their own, no king, and rather than answer to God they had to answer to the Roman authorities. In a sense, they were still in a state of theological exile, which explains their expectation for God to send the long-awaited messiah that Luke talks about in this passage. The foretelling of the birth of Jesus is the turning point in all of history not just for the Jews but for all of humanity. Of equal significance is the fact that God’s people were still to honor the Mosaic and Davidic covenants, which are both brought to complete fulfillment through Jesus Christ. Interestingly, Luke ends this passage by addressing God’s future fulfillment of the Davidic covenant where he writes, “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” (Lk. 1:32-33). Overall, this passage proclaims Jesus’ divinity by stating that this child to be born of the virgin Mary is, in fact, the promised messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures
This passage holds the same exact meaning for God’s people today as it did then. Recall that Luke wrote this account to Theophilus, “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Lk. 1:4) To state this passage any other way than it was originally communicated by Luke, with the exception of language translation, is a difficult task. However, to give a contemporary summary: An angel sent from God came to a virgin named Mary and told her that she was going to give birth to the Son of God and she was to call him Jesus. This Jesus, would not only be the savior for the Jews only, but also to anyone who believes in Him.
This passage famously introduces the account of Christ’s incarnation, which is the beginning of the gospel message. From this point forward, the Kingdom of God begins to transition from exclusivity to the nation of Israel towards an open invitation for the rest of the world to be reconciled back to God through Christ. Since this miraculous event in Luke 1:26-33 occurred, the last days have been ushered in. These last days, “are not just in the distant future but were inaugurated at Pentecost [Acts 2] and will continue until Christ’s return. Some have referred to these last days as the church age or the era of the Holy Spirit. This is significant because today, the Kingdom of God is being expanded through the work of Holy Spirit indwelling in all of those who believe in Christ, which is extremely different from the ancient world of temple worship and atonement through animal sacrifices. However, it is the same because there is still a sea of people who have yet to realize that their salvation is dependent upon the birth depicted in this passage, which is precisely the contemporary message for us today.
Although this passage doesn’t go into any great detail it does imply many things about Christ. For example, in order for Christ to, “be great [and] be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk. 1:32), He had to fulfill all that was written about Him in the Scriptures, which involves complete obedience to God. As Christians know, Christ did in fact accomplish all of these things. What does this show us? It shows us what perfect love is. Christ, in the incarnation depicted in this passage, accomplished all of these things out of His love for us. To make matters more pressing, He did this while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:6-8).
I have always been moved by the many proclamations that this passage makes, especially in light of the Old Testament Scriptures. For one, this passage calls me to think about the great love that God has for His people. Rather than outstretch his hand and part the seas one more time, He decided that is was best to become what He was not (Phil. 2:6-7). Secondly, this passage calls all Christians into a state of deep heartfelt repentance because He came while we were still sinners in order to save us from the treason we committed against Him personally. Finally, as a call to action, this passage should give Christians a revived sense of urgency to tell others that this child born of this virgin named Mary is in fact the answer to our fallen states.
. English Standard Version, Study Bible, 1944.
. Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, © 2009), 20-23.
. N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, and imprint of InterVarsity Press, ©2015), 36.
. Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Study Bible, ESV text ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011, 2014), 2084.
. Ajith Fernando, ACTS: The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, ©1998), 96-97.