The Angel Gabriel's Testimony About Mary

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros Zodhiates"Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee" (Luke 1:28).

Mary was living in the little town of Nazareth when out of a clear blue sky, apparently without previous knowledge or premonition on her part, the angel Gabriel came to her and announced that she was going to bear a son. I wish I could read Luke 1:26-38 to you in the original Greek text, for an understanding of it would lead you to some unmistakable conclusions.

First of all, the Greek word parthénos, in verse 27, tells us that Mary was a virgin when the announcement was made to her by the angel. This Greek word, also found in Mathew 25:1,7 and 11, and in 1 Corinthians 7:25,28, and 34, means a woman or a man who is chaste, who has not had relations with the opposite sex, as does the English word "virgin." The Virgin Mary herself asserted that she had not known a man (vs. 34). The angel told her that she would conceive through the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit. Even as God created the world from nothing through His Word so God the Holy Spirit could produce such a physical manifestation.

Secondly, we note that the whole event was to be supernatural, as demonstrated by the fact that the sex of the child was predicted even before He was conceived. "Thou shalt bring forth a son," he said (see Luke 1:31).

From the way the angel Gabriel addressed Mary, we can learn a great deal of what our attitude toward her should be. Certainly we should not think of her any differently or less reverently. Nor must we ascribe to her more than was asserted by the angel: "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28).

Let us look at the first word with which the angel greeted Mary: "Hail." In Greek it is charo , which means "thou rejoice." It comes from the substantive chara, meaning "joy." It is a form of greeting used in Modern Greek to this day. We use it to begin a letter or to greet someone we meet. It is used in much the same way that Americans say "Hi!" It is the same word in the plural form that the Lord used to greet His disciples after His resurrection (Matt. 28:9).

The very fact that an angel had appeared to her was sufficient reason for Mary to rejoice. This should have been a time of rejoicing for the whole world, because God was about to visit our earth, His own creation, in a very special way. This was the greatest moment in history, when the plan for man's redemption was to be launched through the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even as the angel spoke to Mary of the Savior to come, so God speaks to you and me of the salvation that we find in Christ by faith. The very fact that He has condescended to do so should cause you to rejoice. The very first word He speaks to your heart is that you are invited to rejoice in the good news that Christ's birth, death, and resurrection have procured your salvation. What if Mary had refused to listen to the angel? Think of the great blessing she would have missed. But what if you refuse to hear Him? God comes to you, not to do you harm, but to bring you salvation.

The Virgin had special need of being encouraged to rejoice. Remember, she was not yet married to Joseph but only "betrothed," that is, engaged. The Greek word for "betrothed" in Luke 1:27 ("espoused" in the King James Version) is mne steuo ), from the root word mna, "to have in mind, to remember." A betrothal was a promise to marry a woman with a simultaneous desire to win her love.

Mary, then, was promised to a man by the name of Joseph. But how would he feel when he found out that his future wife was already with child? Would he believe her story of God's supernatural intervention, or that she was still a virgin? How would others react to this? The reputations of Joseph, Mary, and her entire family were at stake.

How natural it is to become panicky when the good character of our family is threatened. Many an erring son or daughter has been sent away from home, lest they bring discredit on the family name. And many a person who has been slandered unjustly has suffered agonies in consequence. Reputation, as Shakespeare has well said, is the "jewel of our souls." Were it not for her faith in God, and the encouragement of the angel to rejoice, Mary might have continued to be quite fearful and sad over what was to happen to her.

Instead, Mary's reaction, after some initial distress, quickly became one of great joy (see Luke 1:29). She disregarded the possibility of social stigma. She believed that God, who could bring about her supernatural conception, could also take care of making her future husband, her mother and father, and all Nazareth if necessary, understand that this child had been conceived supernaturally. In this way she knew God was her Savior in all respects, as well as being her Savior from sin.

There is a parallel to this in our own lives. When we have been born again, born into the Kingdom of God, we are tempted to worry about what others will think of the radical change God's intervention has brought about in our lives. Don't draw back in fear and distrust when the voice of God speaks of what He can do in and through you. He who can make you a new man in Christ can take care of your reputation also. In the last analysis, it is far better to obey God, out of joy when He speaks, and to accept His will, than to worry about what others will think of you. To have Him is to possess a treasure greater than all the world beside.

Mary learned the lesson of joyful obedience to God's voice early in life. Later on, in other circumstances, she was to repeat that lesson to others: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5).

That is her word to you now.

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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