Luke 1:28-30

Sermon preached on December 14, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is, "Mary Did You Know". Some of the lines of that carol are amazing.

"Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God."

How privileged Mary was. In Luke 1:48, in her song, Mary said,

"Surely, from now on
all generations will call me blessed,"

How right she was. But why was she blessed? Was it because she was, in herself, someone great?

One of the principles that the Bible teaches us is that God sometimes picks people for his service who have been exemplary in their service to Him. For example, at the beginning of Luke 1 we see that God blessed Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were told that they were going to be the parents of the John the Baptist. Verse 6 tells us,

"Both of them were upright
in the sight of God,
observing all the Lord's commandments
and regulations blamelessly."

God chose people who were upright.

But sometimes God works in the opposite way—He chooses people who are not upright to do great works for him. Saul of Tarsus comes to mind. He was complicit in Stephen's murder. He left Jerusalem for Damascus, (Acts 9:1)

"breathing out murderous threats
against the Lord's disciples."

Yet God had other plans for him. As God said to Ananias when he hesitated to go and lay his hands on Saul so that he might have his sight restored. God said,

"Go! This man is my chosen instrument
to carry my name
before the Gentiles and their kings
and before the people of Israel."

It was the same with the criminal on the cross. When Jesus was in the lowest degradations of humiliation, God chose the criminal to acknowledge that Jesus was Lord, King and Savior.

Of those two categories, Mary would obviously fall into the first one. Everything we know about her suggests that, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, she was devote. I don't think we're told that, in so many words, anywhere in Scripture, but the fact that Joseph, who is described in Matthew 1:19 as, "a righteous man", was engaged to her—makes it incontrovertible that Mary was righteous, like Joseph, like Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Roman Catholic teaching places Mary on a pedestal that makes her quite a bit different from us. They give three privileges to Mary that have no basis in Scripture. First they hold that Mary was conceived in her mother's womb free from original sin. Secondly, they hold that she never committed actual sin. Thirdly, they believe that she was exempted from death, that she went to heaven without dying.

However, such teachings have no basis in Scripture. In fact Scripture teaching goes against such notions. Mary was a sinner. In her song in Luke 1, verse 47 she said,

"My soul proclaims the greatness
of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced
in God my Savior,"

She acknowledged Jesus as her Savior. She wasn't sinless.

Even when God chooses someone who is righteous, it's all about God's grace to that person. That's what our text teaches. The point is that just like when God chooses someone like the criminal on the cross to do His work, when God chooses a righteous person like Mary—it's also all of grace. God doesn't choose them because they are righteous in themselves but rather because He has already given them grace.

This is what we see in our text.

God gave much grace to Mary.

God's grace is stressed twice in our text—in verses 28 and 30. In verse 28 the angel said to Mary,

"Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you."

It's interesting that the angel starts his address to Mary with the word, "Greetings". Remember last week I told you that the normal way a letter was written in New Testament times was with the sender's name, then to who it was addressed to, and then the word, "Greetings". I told you that Paul and other Christians modified that by putting 'Grace', or 'grace and peace' in its stead.

But the angel, if he spoke to Mary in Greek, said, "Greetings". Or if he spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic used a word similar enough to 'greetings' that that's how Luke translated it.

But, lest we think that this greeting is not about grace, the next word the angel speaks is 'highly favored'. In the original Greek it's one word and the root of the verb is 'charis' – grace. There's actually a play on sounds in the original Greek, the words have parts that sound the same. The verb means to, (BDAG, 1081)

"to bestow favor on" "to cause to be the recipient of a benefit… favor highly, bless," "in our lit. only w. ref. to the divine grace."

It's all about grace. This in confirmed the only other place it is used in the New Testament, in Ephesians 1:6. The context begins in verse 4. Notice that it's all about God's choosing, God's love, God's pleasure and will. It says,

"For he chose us in him
before the creation of the world
to be holy and
blameless in his sight.
In love he
predestined us to be adopted
as his sons through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with
his pleasure and will—"

Why did God do that? It continues, (verse 5)

"to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us
in the One he loves."

It's all about grace.

Notice the order here. First we have — 'to the praise of His glorious grace', and then it elaborates on this — 'which He has freely given us in the One He loves. The 'freely given' word is the same as the word that is translated 'highly favored' word in our text. The grace in Ephesians 1 was 'freely given'. Mary was highly favored— she was given grace.

This does not mean that she was worthy of grace. The very meaning of the word 'grace' means that you can't be worthy of it. Grace is unmerited favor toward those that deserve punishment. Mary is the recipient of God's grace.

I. Howard Marshall writes,

"There is no suggestion of any particular worthiness on the part of Mary herself."

Norval Geldenhuys sums it up this way, (Luke p. 75)

"God has given her His free and uncaused grace in a unique measure by choosing her as mother of His Son."

God's grace is also stressed in verse 30.

The angel said,

"Do not be afraid, Mary,
you have found favor with God."

Or, to be literal,

"Do not be afraid, Mary,
You have found grace with God."

The word is 'grace'. I. Howard Marshall points out that the phrase, 'found favor',

"is equivalent to the common OT phrase masa hen and signifies the free gracious choice of God who favors particular men and women; the stress is on God's choice rather than human acceptability."

In Genesis 6 that Hebrew phrase is used of Noah. We might think that God chose Noah because he was the best human being alive. Noah may indeed have been the best man alive. If he was, the reason for it being so was because God's grace made him that. God gave him grace. That's what is stressed in Genesis 6.

It's the same in our text. God showed grace to Mary. This is also clear from Mary's song in Luke 1. In that song she rejoices in God's grace. She says that her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior,

"because He has looked with favor
on the humble condition of His slave."

She's not rejoicing in how good she is in herself, or how God picked her because of her works—nothing like that is mentioned. But she rejoicing in God, in what He has done for her and for His people. She's rejoicing because, through Jesus, the proud will be scattered, the lowly exalted. In verse 54 she says,

"He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful"

Mary's song gives all praise, glory and honor to God. Yes, she acknowledges that all generations will call her blessed—but it is because, (Luke 1:49)

"the Mighty One
has done great things for me—"

Now what does this mean for us?


we should marvel at the grace that God gave Mary and rejoice in it.

Mary was a sinner. She was undeserving of any goodness. Yet God bestowed such grace on her. How privileged she was!

Why was she given grace? It was in order to bring Jesus into the world, in our nature—in order to save us. We should rejoice in the grace that God gave Mary because that grace was given to her, ultimately, so we could be saved. In all this Mary is so important. But like us, she is merely the recipient of grace. Jesus is the One who saves. Hebrews 2:14-18 says,

"Since the children
have flesh and blood,
he too shared
in their humanity
so that by his death he might destroy
him who holds the power
of death—that is, the devil— and free
those who all their lives were held
in slavery by their fear of death.
For surely it is not angels he helps,
but Abraham's descendants.
For this reason he had to be made
like his brothers in every way,
in order that he might become a merciful
and faithful high priest
in service to God,
and that he might make atonement
for the sins of the people.
Because he himself suffered
when he was tempted,
he is able to help those
who are being tempted."

On one side is God and His power in salvation—and on the other, there is Mary, and us, recipients of grace.

Secondly, Mary is a lesson to us in humility.

One of the things that is very clear from Luke 1 is that Mary was humble, unassuming, a handmaid of the Lord. How greatly God used her.

Although God is sovereign in His grace, although we can do nothing to deserve grace—one thing that the Bible makes clear is that He doesn't give grace to those who are proud. They're not the ones that He uses. As we read in 1 Peter 5:5,

"All of you, clothe yourselves
with humility toward one another,
because, 'God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."

Christians, be humble. We're sinners. We're received grace and we didn't deserve it. There is no place for pride in our lives. If Mary, the mother of our Lord wasn't proud. We have no reason to be.

Praise God. Rejoice in Jesus. Lift His name high. Serve Him with humility.

Thirdly, when things happen that confuse and perplex you remember that

even in the midst of that confusion and perplexity God's grace is with you.

Mary was perplexed when Gabriel told her that she was highly favored and that God was with her. But there was such grace there.

This is a common theme in Scripture. God's people are confused by God's ways—yet at that very time there is great grace there.

Abraham was told to sacrifice the son of promise—Isaac. He was troubled. But what was there with Abraham? Such grace. It was there, on Mount Moriah, when Isaac was bound and ready to be offered, that a substitute was supplied, a ram caught by its horns in the bushes. It was there that substitutionary atonement was taught to the church. Abraham looked forward to seeing Christ's day, and he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56) He began to see it clearly on Mount Moriah.

Joseph was sold into slavery. He was accused of attempted rape. He was troubled. Yet what grace was there. God was sending him ahead of his family in order to save them.

Moses was troubled when God sent him to Egypt to lead Israel out of slavery and he found that Pharaoh made the Israelites work harder. The Israelite foremen said to Moses, (Exodus 5:20-21)

"May the Lord look
upon you and judge you!
You have made us a stench
to Pharaoh and his officials
and have put a sword
in their hand to kill us."

Yet what grace was there. God was going to lead Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The 10 plagues on Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea showed God's omnipotent power to save His people from all enemies. There was such grace with Moses.

I could go on with examples. But the truth is clear. Christian, whenever you find yourself perplexed and troubled by God's providences—you can be absolutely sure that the grace of God is with you in abundance. Mary was troubled, but oh, she need not have been. Grace in abundance was bestowed on her. Yes, her road was going to be hard, with much danger and suffering. But God's grace was with her every step of the way. Jesus, the Savior was born, protected and enabled to do His work. There was such grace with Mary.

This means that you're confused, perplexed and troubled by how things are working out—remember that God's grace is there. Verse 29 tells us that,

"Mary was greatly troubled at his
words and wondered what kind of
greeting this might be."

She wondered, or perhaps better, 'considered', or as the ESV has it,

"tried to discern what sort
of greeting this might be."

John Calvin says that Mary had 'an attentive and composed mind', and that,

"This example reminds us… that we ought not to be careless observers of the works of God;"

When God's ways trouble, perplex and confuse you, you have a choice. You can be like Elisha's servant at Dothan, when he woke up in the morning and saw the Syrians surrounding the city—he was afraid. Or you can be like Elisha was—seeing with spiritual eyes, seeing God's grace all around you and His people. That's what you should see because that is the reality.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, what you should see from this passage is that

the grace of God in Jesus Christ is everything.

Why did Jesus come into this world? Because it was the only way for us to be saved.

You need Jesus. He's your only hope. Go to Him. Believe in Him. Ask Him to save you.