Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Annunciation to St. Mary

Sermon / Homily on Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation - Gospel Analysis

by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, WA

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

Only Luke tells this story.

The Gospel of Luke is often called the Gospel of womanhood because Luke has many positive stories about women. In fact, there are eight positive stories about women in this gospel, and the story for today is one of them. The birth stories are told from Mary’s point of view. We will later hear stories about Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, and the woman who anoints Jesus’ body for burial. In the book of Acts, we also hear positive stories about business women such as Lydia, the maker of purple.

-In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, Angels are important in Luke’s gospel.

“Gabriel - ga'-bri-el (gabhri'-el, "Man of God"; Gabriel): Gabriel is the name of the angel commissioned to explain to Daniel the vision of the ram and the he-goat, and to give the prediction of the 70 weeks (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). In the New Testament he is the angel of the annunciation to Zacharias of the birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary of the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:19,26). Though commonly spoken of as an archangel, he is not so called in Scripture. He appears in the Book of Enoch (chapters 9, 20, 40) as one of 4 (or 6) chief angels.”

When a person reads about angels such as in this Bible verse, the reader often quickly assumes that this angel was a historical reality. In the previous story in the Gospel of Luke, it is only later in the story that we heard that the angel was part of a vision. When Zechariah came out of the temple, the people finally realized that he “he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.” (See Luke 1:22.)

We will find the same process during the first resurrection story in the Gospel of Luke where the women saw two angels in the empty tomb. The reader thinks that those two angels were part of historical reality, that the angels were really there in the empty tomb. Later in the same story, we will hear that these two angels were part of a vision. Luke 24:23 “They/the women came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.”

Sometimes, we Christians hold onto our concept of angels as part of the historicity of the Biblical narrative when the Biblical story is clear that these particular angels were part of a vision.

Angels were part of Luke’s theology and mindset, and today we too need “angels” who speak to us. We also need to be angels and be messengers of God.

There are numerous references to angels here in the Prologue e.g. Luke 1:11, 13, 18, 19, 26, 30, 34, 35; 2:9, 10, 13. We also find a reference to an angel in the resurrection story (22:43, 24:23).

Consistent with Luke 1 and 2, there are numerous references to angels in the book of Acts: 8:26; 10:3, 7, 22; 11:13; 12:7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 23; 23:8, 9 and 27:23.

The Greek word for “angel” is “angelos” and an angel is simply a messenger.

Many of us have played the role of angels. That is, we are often messengers from God. God repeatedly speaks through messengers today. We are to be open and receptive to God’s many messengers in our lives.

Today, most people do not literally believe in the artistic rendition of angels from the Middle Ages where angels literally have wings, fly, wear haloes, are chubby and Caucasian.

It is always important to translate Biblical categories into contemporary realities. The word, “angel,” is a good example of the need to translate this word into our contemporary culture and thought pattern. It could be a fascinating class experience to have each person recount to their neighbor how he or she was “an angel” or tell a story about how “an angel” came to them to speak God’s message. The room would buzz with conversation because this is an easy question. That is, people know today that we are visited by messengers from God or are messengers from God. We all can share those stories.

-To a virgin betrothed/engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

Circle the word, “virgin.” Let us pause for a moment and focus on the word, “virgin,” in both the Hebrew and Greek language.

Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27 refer to the "virgin" Mary. Matthew 1:23 specifically quotes Isaiah 7:14 which says “A young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” The Hebrew word for virgin is “almah” which means “young woman.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew clearly says that a “young woman” shall conceive and bear a child.

The Hebrew Bible was translated from Hebrew into Greek in about 300 BCE. (The Greek Old Testament was called the Septuagint, the Seventy, in honor of the 70 scholars who translated the Hebrew into Greek.) The Greek word for the Hebraic word, “almah,” is “apathone.” “Apathone” referred to a person who never had sexual intercourse; that is, that person was a virgin, as we think of a virgin today as never having had sexual intercourse. .

The Greek Old Testament was THE version that ALL the New Testament authors read and quoted in the New Testament.

In the New Testament, the word, “virgin,” no longer referred to a young woman as in the Hebrew text, but to a young woman who had never had sexual intercourse as in the Greek text.

All New Testament books quote from the Greek version of the Old Testament and not the Hebrew version of the Old Testament. In the Greek New Testament, the word, “virgin,” occurs fifteen times and consistently means that the person has not had sexual intercourse.

In these passages in the infancy narrative of the Greek New Testament, it is clear that Jesus is the Son of God and that the Spirit of God impregnated Mary. Mary was a virgin; that is, someone who did not have sexual intercourse with her human husband, Joseph.

The life of Jesus Christ begins and ends with a miracle. The authors of the New Testament concluded that Jesus Christ was/is the Son of God. His life began with the miracle of his virgin birth; it ended with the miracle of his resurrection. In between, we clearly hear in both his baptism and transfiguration that Jesus Christ was/is the “Son of God.”

So in the birth, baptism, transfiguration, and resurrection stories, we hear in various ways that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God. The message of the virgin birth is consistent with the other primary stories in the gospels.

Jesus’ lineage was traced through Joseph, even if Joseph was not the biological father.

-And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." That is God’s attitude towards us. We are the “favored ones” of the Lord and the Lord is with us.

-But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. But like us, Mary didn’t really “get it” that she was favored by God.

-The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. These words were directed towards Mary, but these words also speak to us today. We can hear these words being addressed to our own lives: “Do not be afraid, ________, for you have found favor with God.” Fill in the blank space with your own name. This is a Bible verse that needs to be memorized and written into the spiritual diary at the end of the SYNOPSIS on page 362. Again, this reveals God’s attitude towards us. Write your own name near the word, “Mary.”

-And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. What a miracle. Mary was to become pregnant. But what did this mean? Mary knew what she was to name her son. Jesus. The name Jesus means “savior” and Jesus is the one who can save us from our sins and from ourselves.

-He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High (God), and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." The message to Mary was astounding: that her child was to be called the Son of God, that he would sit on the throne of David and that his kingdom would last forever. This message would have been incomprehensible for young Mary.

All through the Bible, we hear that the reign of David, the Messiah, and the Kingdom of God will have no end but will be forever. This belief that God will reign forever leads us to the belief that Christ conquered death and that we, too, shall live eternally with God.

-Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" Mary is rightfully perplexed at the message of Gabriel.

-The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High (God) will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit himself would overshadow her and she would become pregnant because of the Holy Spirit within her. This is a clear reference that the Holy Spirit created the birth of Jesus.

Similarly, when we are born again or born anew, it is because the Holy Spirit has overshadowed us and hovered over our hearts and in our hearts and therefore the Holy Spirit is the “father” of our faith. We are only born again when the Holy Spirit penetrates our lives and creates new life in us. In other words, there is a definite parallel between Jesus’ birth and our rebirth.

Clearly, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God.

-And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

-For nothing will be impossible with God." That Mary would give birth to the Messiah was impossible for her mind to fathom. “Me Mary? The mother of the Messiah? Impossible!” That is true for Jesus and for our lives as well. Tuck these words into your memory bank. This is a verse to be imprinted deep into your soul. That is, Christ can be born in our hearts as well. All things are possible with God.

-Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Mary is a willing servant of the Lord, and we are called to be willing servants of the Lord as well. Mary believes.

Both Luke and Matthew emphasize the virgin birth of Jesus. Whereas, for the Gospels of Mark and John and the letters of Paul, these particular authors believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God but do not include teachings about the virgin birth of Jesus.

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries, Bible Analyses on Annunciation to St. Mary

Malankara World Special on St. Mary

Malankara World Special on Shunoyo of St. Mary

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