Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen


Title: Responding to God’s Leadership


Text: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38)


Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-38, 41-45


Sunday School Lesson for: December 19, 2004




Our lesson is found in the first chapter of Luke. 


Of course it’s the Christmas story that we are all familiar with. 


But within the story there are five human traits that can be seen in the interaction between the angel Gabriel and Mary. 


They will help us to really understand what it means to respond to God’s leadership; they are listening, learning, questioning, submitting and affirming. 


Let’s begin by reading verses 26-29. 


It’s here that Mary is given the message from Gabriel that she is going to have a child.




26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.


God sent the angel Gabriel to appear to Mary. 


Notice in verse 27 that Luke emphasizes that she is a virgin by repeating the word. 


It’s important, so God emphasizes her sexual purity. 


Furthermore, we know that Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph. 


Mary would have been alive when Luke wrote this, and she may have been the source of the information in these passages.


We are told that Mary was in the engagement period which followed a formal agreement to marry. 


Joseph had paid the brides price to her family and had accepted legal responsibility for her.


Although Joseph and Mary did not live together during this period, they were legally married. 


Only divorce could break the engagement, which usually lasted about one year, and during this time Mary would have lived with her parents. 


It is thought that Mary was 12-14 years old, since that was the usual age for marriage. 


Joseph would have been much older than Mary. 


The angel tells Mary she is a favored woman, because God has chosen her to bear God’s Son. 


The emphasis is on what God’s going to do rather than Mary’s godliness or worthiness. 


Gabriel said, “The Lord is with thee”, signifying that God’s mighty power is present with and on Mary.


Gabriel’s message was puzzling to Mary and caused her to become deeply troubled. 


Throughout the angel’s greeting, Mary listened carefully, though she was uncertain about all she heard. 


Listening is the first step for anyone who wants to do God’s will. 


Christians need to listen to God in whatever ways He speaks and to whatever He says to us.




God does speak to us, but the question is, “How well do you listen to God?




In verses 30-33, Mary is learning from the angel what he meant when he said she was highly favored.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.


Gabriel could see that Mary was disturbed by his sudden appearance, so he sought to calm Mary by telling her not to be afraid. 


Jesus frequently used the words “do not be afraid” to reassure various individuals. 


The angel then gave a specific reason for why Mary did not need to be afraid—she had found favor with God. 


The angel stresses the point that God’s choice of her was not due to the type of person she was. 


No reference is made to Mary’s goodness. 


In fact, the word favor carries the meaning of “unmerited, undeserved grace.”


The angel continued the announcement by declaring Mary would become pregnant and bear a son. 


He didn’t tell her precisely when she would conceive, only that she would bear a son. 


Then Gabriel told her what name to give the child—Jesus. 


Giving the name for the child to Mary first, instead of to the father, may indicate the child would have no earthly father. 





However over in Matthew 1:21 Joseph was also instructed to name the baby Jesus: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” 


The name Jesus corresponds to Joshua or Jeshua and was a common Jewish name at that time.


At this point, there is a fivefold description of Jesus given by Gabriel:


First, the angel declared, He will be great. 


Jesus would occupy an exalted place of honor and He would rule over all. 


The word great is not given as a name, but as a description of His nature.


Second, Jesus would be referred to as the Son of the Most High. 


This term is equivalent to calling Jesus the Son of God. 


The words Most High was a popular title or name for God. 


Third, God Himself would give to Jesus the throne of David. 


The phrase “throne of God” reconfirms that king David was an ancestor of Jesus, and that was first established in verse 27: “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 


Jesus would be the new David, the King of Israel.


Forth, Jesus’ reign over the house of Jacob would last forever. 


This prophesy confirms the child’s Messianic rule. 


The house of David means the same as Israel. 


Fifth, the Messiah’s kingdom would never end. 


The Kingdom of God was accomplished by Jesus coming and it will last forever. 


For that reason, Jesus’ rule would be different from all those kings who had ruled previously.


The angel explained that Mary was going to have a baby and that her Son would be the Messiah. 


God wants people to know what He desires for them, and He will make that clear to those who listen to Him.


Next, we find that Mary was the first to question the virgin birth.




Let’s read verses 34-37:

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.


The angel explained that Mary would give birth to the long-awaited and promised Messiah. 


No wonder Mary replied with the question, “How can this be?”  


The reason for her question was the fact that she was a virgin. 


No sexual relationship between Mary and Joseph or any other man had occurred yet. 


Mary understood the angel as saying she would conceive a son in her virgin state, and this promise made no since to her. 


Mary’s response indicated that she desired more information, and so the angel doesn’t reprimand her for questioning God’s message. 


Instead, he directs her to the Holy Spirit’s work in her life. 


Conception would take place without any human assistance. 


God’s all-encompassing presence would come on Mary in such a way that conception would occur; the emphasis is on God’s power and presence. 


The word “overshadow” means to “cover” and it’s used other places in the Bible to indicate God’s presence. 


God’s presence would rest on Mary, so she would conceive God’s holy child. 


Here the word holy conveys the idea of perfect moral purity as well as the idea of being set apart.


Gabriel gave Mary some additional information about her cousin Elizabeth, who had also conceived by a divine miracle. 


Her conception of John the Baptist after passing child bearing age demonstrated God’s miraculous power. 


God had already done the impossible with Elizabeth, and He would do it again with Mary, except on a greater scale.


The angel concluded his announcement by boldly declaring, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” 


That means “no word of God will be powerless.” 


Either way, the emphasis is on God’s power to carry out His word and accomplish His purposes. 


Mary questioned the angel about his message since she was not married or immoral, and the angel assured he that God can do what to others is impossible. 


We need to remember, that when we have questions about what God wants us to do, or how something can take place, He will assure us, as He did Mary, concerning our part and His power.




In verse 38, Mary responds to the angel and submits to God’s will for her.


38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.


Mary’s amazing encounter with Gabriel ended by her accepting God’s leading in her life. 


Having accepted by faith the angel’s announcement and explanation, Mary replied positively. 


She declared her submission to God as His servant and her desire to obey Him. 


Her response showed she accepted the responsibility God gave her. 


The best response to God’s leadership is always submission to whatever He wants of us.


During this Christmas season think of ways you can respond obediently to God’s leading in your life. 


For example, seek His guidance concerning the amount to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. 


Or, consider making a commitment to giving your testimony to those people you may have neglected to witness to. 


In whatever ways you sense God’s leading in your life, you will find this Christmas is an excellent time to respond by submitting to Him and obediently following Him.




After the angel departed, Mary went to visit Elizabeth, and Elizabeth affirmed what the angel said.


39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.


The text doesn’t state the length of time between Gabriel’s visit to Mary and Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, but by the time Mary arrived, she evidently had conceived. 


When Mary greeted Elizabeth two things happened. 


First, John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. 


Clearly, this unusually strong movement announced the Messiah’s presence.


The second event was Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Spirit. 


By implication, John was filled also, bringing to pass the prophesy given to Zechariah and repeated by Luke in verse 15; “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” 


With the Spirit anointing her, Elizabeth broke forth in prophetic praise. 


Speaking in a loud voice, she pronounced a blessing on Mary. 


Elizabeth recognized that what God had done in Mary’s life outshone what was done in her life. 


Once again, the emphasis is on God’s work and centers on Mary’s Son and His greatness.


In verse 43, Elizabeth continued with a humble expression of wonder that she could experience the honor of a visit from the mother of her Lord. 


HOW DID ELIZABETH KNOW MARY WAS CARRYING GOD’S SON?  (Perhaps the simple answer is that the Holy Spirit revealed this truth to her.)


When she uses the word “Lord”, it may refer to Jesus’ status as the Messiah, and indicate His position over John, who was the forerunner of Jesus. 


The title “Lord” is found approximately 40 times in Luke’s Gospel and that indicates Jesus was on a different level from all other people.


In verse 44, Elizabeth explained how she knew Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah: John had leaped for joy inside of her when Mary greeted her. 


By using the word joy she shows that the prophesy found in verse 14 has been partially fulfilled: “And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.” 


Just as John rejoiced in his mother’s womb at the Messiah’s presence, his joy would become complete later in his ministry as the forerunner.


Elizabeth then concluded with a final blessing on Mary for having believed God’s word to her. 


Mary was blessed not only for her faith but also by the privilege of bearing God’s Son. 


Through her words Elizabeth had confirmed the angel’s message to Mary. 


In a similar way, our submission to what God wants us to do may lead us to submit to His leadership in our lives.


Some questions for discussion:





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