The Announcement From Gabriel To Mary And Joseph


In this study, we’re going to look at the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary and another angel’s visit to Joseph. The angel Gabriel has just announced to Zechariah that He and His wife Elizabeth were going to give birth to a son and they were to call him John.

Elizabeth is now six months pregnant with John and the angel Gabriel was sent by God to deliver a message to Mary. Luke 1:26. Now there are only two angels actually named in the Scriptures, Gabriel being one and the archangel Michael being the other.

But have you ever wondered why God sent Gabriel to Nazareth? Why didn’t He send him to Jerusalem or Capernaum? Well, I believe that Luke mentions Nazareth was a city of Galilee because most of his readers were Gentiles and the Jews would already know where Nazareth was.

And when you think about it, no one would ever imagine that an angel would be commissioned by the God of all creation to visit a village like Nazareth. A village which was situated in a district, the very name of which announced it as a place of the despised Gentiles. The name Galilee means ‘the district of the pagans’.

So why did God choose Nazareth? Well not only to fulfil the prophecy that Jesus would be a Nazarene but because as we all should know by now, God doesn’t do things the way we would do things. He chooses people we would never choose, He chooses places we would never choose and Nazareth is one of those places.

In fact, when Philip was speaking to Nathanael concerning Jesus, Nathanael asks t Philip, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” John 1:46. So Nazareth might not be our choice for the announcement of a King to be born but it certainly was God’s choice. And so God sent Gabriel to Nazareth.

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

The pledging or the betrothal as the King James Version says, of one person to another for marriage was common practice amongst the Jews at this time. The Jewish engagement was not as binding as marriage, but it was more than a promise of marriage.

The engagement took place about one year before the couple actually lived together after a formal marriage. But it was a binding relationship in terms of it was established before the marriage vows were made and the union consummated.

And Luke tells us that both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David of Israel. But twice in one verse he’s quick to point out that the woman chosen was a virgin.

In today’s society, a virgin is seen as someone who hasn’t had sexual relations but in Bible times a virgin was seen as someone who had never been married. But because they had never been married, this usually meant that they had never had sex with anyone anyway.

But why would Luke mention that Mary which was a common name in those days, was a virgin? Why would he mention it twice in one verse?

Luke is emphasising that Mary would be the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Isaiah 7:14, he’s reminding his readers that the virgin would conceive a son in order to bring forth the Messiah.

In other words what God said to Satan a way back in Genesis was about to be fulfilled in Mary, Genesis 3:15. The long-awaited Messiah is coming and God is going to use Mary to bring Him into the world.

“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Luke 1:28-29

I don’t know about you but this would have scared the life out of me. You can imagine Mary going about her daily business, doing the same old things, being all excited and preparing for her upcoming marriage to Joseph.

When all of a sudden an angel appears in front of her but not just any angel this is Gabriel. I can imagine Mary being stunned and in awe, as Gabriel basically says to her, ‘Mary, God has chosen you to give birth to the incarnate Son of God’.

And so it’s no wonder at this point in time Mary didn’t understand all that was happening, and she didn’t understand why she was being selected by God to bring the Messiah, the Son of God into the world.

No wonder she’s troubled by this whole experience. The awesome presence of the mighty Gabriel would be more than enough to strike terror into the heart of anyone, never mind this young maiden in the village of Nazareth.

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

Whatever an angel looks like, he’s not a cute being who looks like a baby with a halo and wings. Angels were mighty beings and remember whenever an angel appeared to anyone, the Jews believed that that was a sign that they were about to die. And so Gabriel had to reassure her first by telling her ‘not to be afraid’.

And let me say this, Mary wasn’t chosen because she was holier than any other woman who was around at that time. She wasn’t chosen because she was especially good, she didn’t earn the right to be chosen for this unique work of God to bring the Redeemer into the world.

She was chosen purely because of the grace of God, that’s what Luke means when he writes that she has ‘found favour with God’. The word ‘favour’ is actually the Greek word ‘Charis’ which means grace. In other words, there was nothing special about Mary, she was simply chosen because of the grace of God.

And if Gabriel appearing and talking to her wasn’t scary enough, imagine how she feels when he tells her that she’s going to have a child?

I can imagine her saying to herself, ‘Hey Gabriel, your telling me I’m about to become pregnant, I’m not even married yet, I’m about to get married to Joseph and I dread to think what kind of explanation I’m going to have to give him, my whole life is about to be ruined’.

And so Gabriel continues and tells her that she was to name the child Jesus. Now we know that the name Jesus is the New Testament form of the Old Testament name Joshua, which means ‘The Lord is salvation.’

Interestingly, Gabriel says that Jesus is called ‘the Son of the Most High.’ And I say that’s interesting because in Mark 5 when Jesus went into the region of Gerasenes, he’s met by a demon-possessed man who calls Jesus this exact Name, Mark 5:7.

You see, a lot of people don’t recognise Jesus for who He really is but the demons know who He is. This suggests to me that this is one of the titles given to the Son of God throughout the unseen world of angels and demons.

When Luke says, “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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  What he’s actually doing here is reminding us of another prophecy in which Jesus would be the fulfilment.

Notice in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, the writer isn’t talking about an earthly reign but a heavenly one. After the ascension, Jesus began His reign and He is now reigning and will reign at the right hand of God until He comes again according to 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

And so Gabriel isn’t talking about a physical reign of Jesus on this earth, he’s talking about a spiritual reign in the hearts of men and women. After all Jesus, Himself said to Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36.

But what does Gabriel mean when he says that Jesus will ‘reign over Jacob’s descendants forever’? Well, this is the house of Israel, the spiritual Israel of God as Paul describes in Galatians 3:7 and Galatians 6:16. In other words, among all things over which Jesus now reigns, He reigns over all those who have submitted to His word.

And according to Gabriel this reign in this new kingdom wouldn’t end until Jesus returned that reign back to the Father, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:28.

We can only imagine Mary trying to digest all these words in her mind and so it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that Mary has a question for Gabriel.

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

Remember when God promised Abraham and Sarah a child, they were going to have to wait a few years. But here with Mary, she’s just been told she is going to become pregnant straight away.

And so what’s she’s basically asking is, ‘Gabriel, how can I become pregnant now when I’m not even married yet?’ Mary is astonished that she is to have a son before her marriage. And so Gabriel has to explain how this is going to work.

“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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.” Luke 1:35

This is not your everyday event, the Holy Spirit Himself would be the One who would make Mary pregnant. And I love this idea of the ‘Most High overshadowing Mary’ because it takes our minds back to the time when the cloud overshadowed the tabernacle during the wilderness wandering. In other words, this whole scene is talking about the conception of Jesus which was the miraculous work of God.

Jesus would be the ‘only begotten’ Son of God. You see there are many people who don’t believe in the miraculous conception of Jesus.

But if Jesus was to be the Son of God, then we shouldn’t expect any other kind of conception than the miraculous. It’s impossible to accept Jesus as the Son of God without accepting His miraculous conception.

And so it’s almost as if Gabriel wanted to settle the matter in Mary’s mind and give her some kind of proof that this is going to happen.

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1:36-37

Even though Mary hadn’t requested a sign, Gabriel gave her one. The sign was that her relatives Zacharias and Elizabeth are going to have a child in their old age, in fact by this time Elizabeth was actually already six months pregnant.

And if you remember back in Luke 1:5-25 God also miraculously opened the womb of Elizabeth in order that she conceives through her husband Zacharias. But with Mary, it was going to be different because the Holy Spirit Himself would miraculously make it possible for Mary to conceive by the power of God.

And Gabriel quickly points out to Mary that God never breaks His promises. In other words, what man can’t do, God can do and it’s only God who can bring the Saviour of the world into the world, by miraculous conception. No wonder Mary showed humility.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38

Mary accepted God at His word and declared herself a servant. But how is she going to explain her being pregnant to Joseph? What are the neighbours going to say?

She’s facing the real possibility of being stoned to death which was the punishment for having sex outside of marriage in Biblical times. She’s going to have to demonstrate in her life what every single Christian has to demonstrate in their lives and that is faith.

Let’s fast forward a little and look at what happened to Joseph.

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18

As I mentioned earlier, being pledged in marriage was a legal agreement that was as binding as a contract. If either one broke the agreement they would be considered an adulterer.

And like we read a few moments ago Mary was pregnant with Jesus before Joseph and Mary had sexual relations. At the time Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, despite her not being married yet.

And we could argue all day long about what was the greatest miracle recorded in the New Testament. We could argue that the virgin birth was the greatest or Jesus walking on water or His resurrection. But surely the greatest recorded miracle in the New Testament has to be Jesus Christ Himself.

Remember that Jesus, as we know Him today, didn’t exist as Jesus before the New Testament.

He was known as the Word, John 1:1, and according to John 1:14, it wasn’t until “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” that He became known as Jesus. In other words, the Word has existed for all eternity, but the miracle is that He was willing to become one of us.

Charles Spurgeon once said, ‘Is he not rightly called Wonderful? Infinite and an infant! Eternal, yet born of a woman! Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast! Supporting the universe, yet needing to be carried on a mother’s arm! King of Angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph! Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son! Wonderful art thou, O Jesus! And that shall be thy name forever?’

We can only imagine how upset and disappointed Joseph must have been feeling when he heard about Mary being pregnant, but.

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19

Joseph didn’t want to embarrass Mary and since the pledge to be married was as binding as a marriage contract, Joseph sought to secretly divorce her in order that she is not publicly shamed. Remember the word ‘divorce’ in Greek is the word ‘apoluo’ and it means to ‘put away’.

When Jesus talks to religious leaders of His day about divorce, He’s not condemning them because they were practising divorce, He’s condemning them for the manner in which they were practising divorce. He was condemning them because they were divorcing without making it legal, they were sending their wives away without giving them a certificate of divorce.

That’s a study in itself for another day, but Joseph, his desire was to show mercy to the one who appeared, in his eyes, to be guilty of sin. But this tells us a lot about the character of Joseph himself, doesn’t it?

He is a noble character who desired to shield Mary and under those circumstances, he needs to be commended for wanting to do so in the way he wants to do it.

When you think about the media today, or some of our friends and neighbours or even some of our brethren. People are always quick to expose other people’s sins but Joseph wasn’t like that. Joseph practised what Solomon preached in Proverbs 11:13.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

We don’t know if this angel is Gabriel or not, but since Gabriel has just finished talking with Mary the chances are it probably is. But when this angel appeared in his dream, Joseph was obviously afraid and so the angel wanted to calm Joseph’s anxiety. And so he assured Joseph that God was at work in the conception, Mary wasn’t involved in an adulterous affair.

Something to keep in mind is that most people don’t name their children until they know what sex the child is. And remember that they didn’t have six-week scans etc. back then like we do today, to find out the sex of a baby before it’s born. But here both Mary and Joseph are told not only what sex the child will be but what to name Him.

The child inside of Mary was a boy and His name was to be Jesus. And remember this was not an unusual name among the Jews, in fact, it was quite common. But what was unusual was this Jesus’s mission, even before He was born.

Most parents have dreams and aspirations for their children, they want them to grow up to do great things. And Mary and Joseph are no exception, however, at this point in time they have no idea just how great this child was going to become.

Because even before Jesus was born, we are told why He was coming into the world. Not for secular reasons, not for political reasons but for redemptive reasons, He came to save the world from its sins.

Why did God plan for Jesus to be born like this? Why couldn’t He just shout from the clouds how He wanted people to be saved from their sins?

“All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22-23

Now the prophet in question is the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 7:14-15. The Son of God was to be born of a virgin, and so He would be the fulfilment of the prophecy we looked at earlier in Genesis 3:15.

The reason God came to earth in the form of Jesus is because God wanted to live with us, that’s what Immanuel means, ‘God with us’. It doesn’t mean God was with us or God will be with us, it means God is with us or to use it as Isaiah meant it to be used, God in the flesh.

This beautiful prophecy not only reveals the virgin birth but also sets forth the dual nature of Christ. His name means God with us but His diet is that of a man, ‘curds and honey’, Isaiah 7:14-15. Was Jesus fully God? Was Jesus fully man? Well yes, He was both, He was the God-man.

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:24-25

I’m sure the local gossips would have been talking about them both and telling everyone this baby boy looks nothing like his father Joseph. And I’m sure there would have been neighbours who by doing their calculations, working out how many months pregnant Mary was and the date Mary and Joseph got married.

There were no DNA tests back then but that result would have been interesting. But Joseph like Mary demonstrated great faith in doing everything God asked him to do.

The Catholic Church believe that Mary was a virgin all her life and all her children were miraculously conceived. But notice that Joseph had no sexual relations until after Jesus was born, that word ‘until’ implies that he did afterwards.

And we know he did afterwards because Matthew 13:55-56 gives us the names of four of Jesus’ brothers and even mentions his sisters.

Do you believe the accounts of Mary and Joseph or do you think they are simply nice little stories? Do you believe what Gabriel said to Mary, ‘For no word from God will ever fail’? Mary believed and took God at His word when she said, ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’. Joseph believed and took God at His word when ‘he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him’.

Even before Jesus was born, His mission was to seek and save sinners like you and me, sinners like Mary and Joseph but you need to acknowledge that you’re a sinner first.

And when you acknowledge that you’re a sinner you will see your need to be saved from your sins.