Luke 1:35

Sermon preached on December 29, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. 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 the things I love about computers is that they give you the ability to cut and paste. When I first started out in the ministry I used to do my sermon by hand, writing it out longhand. But the trouble was that as I progressed on my sermon I'd want to change things around. I might want an illustration changed from the middle to the beginning of the sermon, I might want my third point to become my second point—so I'd be spending all this time rewriting my sermon. So in 1984 when I first saw a Macintosh computer advertising and it featured cut and paste—I knew right away that that computer could be such a time saver for me. You select the text, choose cut, click where you want the text to be moved to, and choose paste. There's even keyboard shortcuts to make it even simpler. It's perfect or at least as perfect as they can make it today. The only way that it could be better is if the computer could read your thoughts and cut and paste without you having to select the text and tell it where to paste it. But be that as it may, cut and paste is a perfect solution to disorganized thoughts. It's designed to solve a difficult problem and it does it perfectly.

Now regarding our salvation there was a great problem. For human beings the curse of sin was death. The curse had to be satisfied and it had to be paid by human beings. I suspect that when Satan got Adam to sin he thought that he had won, that there was no way for human beings to be saved. God's justice demanded that the curse for sin be satisfied and it could only be satisfied by death. All were sinners so it seemed that all had to undergo the ultimate curse—that none could escape it.

But here in our text we see God's perfect solution to the problem. Jesus came and took our nature on Himself—yet He was born without sin, holy, the Son of God. The angel said to Mary,

"The Holy Spirit will come upon 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."

If anyone was going to save humanity, the Redeemer had to be human and He had to be holy. He was made like us—yet without sin. How could this be? The answer is that God arranged for Jesus to be conceived without a human father. What we are told in our text is that the Holy Spirit worked the miracle of Mary's conception.

Our text gives us some insight into God's wonderful solution to these problems.

One of the main things we see here is the

wonderful activity of the Holy Spirit in the coming of Jesus.

Our text is amazing. It tells us that the Spirit of God was very active in the coming of Jesus. As far as the conception goes, the Holy Spirit was responsible. Jesus' conception was unlike any other. J. Gresham Machen, writing against those who deny the virgin birth of Jesus, wrote, (The Virgin Birth of Christ, p. 158)

"The truth is that in verse 35 the human father is quite out of sight; only two factors are in view—the mother, Mary, and the Spirit of God."

Lenski writes,

"The entire conception was wrought by the omnipotent operation of the Holy Spirit."

We are told here that the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her and that because of that she would have a son who would be holy and would be called the 'Son of God'. These two things are so incredible that we should be delighting in them and praising the triune God for His goodness to us. These two things together show that Jesus' conception was absolutely unique. Jesus was conceived without human agency apart from Mary. Let's look at these two things and see how incredible they are.

First, Mary was told that

the Holy Spirit would come upon her.

The Holy Spirit came upon Mary to create the human nature of Jesus in Mary's womb. John Calvin writes that this term 'come upon',

"denotes that this would be an extraordinary work, in which natural means have no place."

Jesus' conception was miraculous, supernatural, unlike anything that had ever taken place before. It was clearly the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 which says,

"Therefore the Lord himself
will give you a sign:
The virgin will be with child
and will give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel."

How could a virgin be with child? Only through a miracle. The Holy Spirit worked in Mary. Iain D. Campbell sees a reference as well to Genesis 1:2. It reads,

"Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over
the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God
was hovering over the waters."

Campbell writes, (Twitter)

"The Word became flesh in a special act of creation as the Spirit of God brooded over the dark waters of a virgin's womb."

The Holy Spirit worked a new creation—the second Adam, in the virgin's womb. Darrell L. Bock says, (Luke 1:1–9:50 BECNT, p. 121)

"The Creator God who brought life out of nothing and created humans from the dust is also able to create human life in a womb."

Jesus' conception was the result of the Spirit of God coming upon Mary. Her conception was due to His work. Darrell L. Bock writes, (Luke 1:1–9:50 BECNT, p. 121)

"Technically speaking, this verse proclaims a virgin 'conception' for Mary."

Secondly, the angel told Mary that

the power of the Most High would overshadow her.

This is another incredible statement. This word, 'overshadow' in the Old Testament sometimes referred to the Shekinah cloud that came down and rested on the tabernacle. In Exodus 40:34–35 we read,

"Then the cloud covered
the Tent of Meeting, and the glory
of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Moses could not enter
the Tent of Meeting because the cloud
had settled upon it,
and the glory of the Lord
filled the tabernacle."

It was the same when Solomon completed the temple. In 1 Kings 8:10–11 we read,

"When the priests withdrew
from the Holy Place,
the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.
And the priests could not perform
their service because of the cloud,
for the glory of the LORD
filled his temple."

We have another picture of this in Ezekiel 10:3–4, only there it's a picture of God's glory in the temple before He leaves it. We read,

"Now the cherubim were standing
on the south side of the temple
when the man went in,
and a cloud filled the inner court.
Then the glory of the LORD
rose from above the cherubim and
moved to the threshold of the temple.
The cloud filled the temple,
and the court was full of the radiance
of the glory of the LORD."

This word 'overshadow' is also used the same way in the New Testament—to denote God's glory. The three other time it's used in the Gospels it's in the story of Jesus' transfiguration. In Matthew 17:5 we are told that when Jesus was transfigured before them,

"a bright cloud enveloped them,
and a voice from the cloud said,
'This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.
Listen to him!'"

It was a bright cloud and God spoke from within the cloud. The cloud denoted God's glorious presence.

When the power of the Most High overshadowed Mary, she was unbelievably privileged. Nothing like this ever happened to a human being before. God's Shekinah glory came upon Mary—like His glory came down on the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament—it came upon her to give her a Son.

This is incredible. How could a sinful human being survive this?

In the Old Testament we see that God's presence was overpowering, so awesome as to be terrifying and profoundly threatening. When the Law was given on Mount Sinai, there was thunder and lightning and a thick cloud covered the mountain and a sound like a very loud trumpet blast. All the people in the camp trembled. (Exodus 19:16f) God told Moses to warn the people not to come near the mountain lest they be destroyed. (verse 21) Later, when Moses wanted to see God's glory— God told him that no one could see His face and live. God had to put Moses in a cleft of a rock and cover him with His hand until He passed by—Moses could only see God's back.

It's the same way in the New Testament. Luke tells us that on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the cloud appeared, it enveloped James, Peter and John. It tells us that, (Luke 9:34)

"they were afraid
as they entered the cloud."

It was a fearful experience for them. I suspect that they survived only because Jesus was with them.

But there's a second meaning of 'overshadow' that may shed light on this.

The term 'overshadow is also used to refer to God's presence in protecting His people.

J. Reiling and J. L. Swellengrebel suggest that the sense is that the power of the Most High, (A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Luke UBS Translator's Handbooks)

'will come upon you with his shadow'

The idea being that God comes so close to protect that one is in or under His shadow. Psalm 91 speaks about this. It says, (verses 1-2)

"He who dwells in the shelter
of the Most High will rest
in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord,
He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

Verse 4 speaks of finding refuge 'under His wings'. Thus the thought of God's protection is probably to be understood here.

What grace, what mercy was in the coming of the Holy Spirit to Mary. The power of the Most High protected her, sustained her, enabled her to fulfill her duty.

So when we think of the power of the Most High overshadowing Mary—we ought to be filled with awe. Jesus was conceived in utmost glory. To think that God loved you so much that His presence came down upon a virgin in much the same way that His glory came down upon the tabernacle of old. And yet, instead of being like the Old Testament priests who could not serve because of the cloud—Mary was sustained and the baby was created in her. It's amazing, glorious—beyond our understanding.

What do these things mean for us?

First of all, it means that you should be in absolute awe when you consider the coming of Jesus in this world.

This is Jesus—the One who was conceived by the power of the Most High, on whose mother the Shekinah glory of God overshadowed. These things are so glorious we should be in absolute awe. The result was Jesus—Immanuel. God with us. It is incredible and amazing.

I believe that before the coming of Jesus, Satan thought he had won in destroying mankind. But with the conception of Jesus—everything changed. Who would have imagined that God would love human beings that much?

Secondly, this means that

you should appreciate and praise the Spirit for His work in the coming of Jesus.

We often fail to realize and take into account the activity of the Spirit in the coming of Jesus. The Spirit was greatly involved in the coming of Jesus. Jesus' conception in Mary took place through the miraculous activity of the Spirit.

Thirdly, for Christians, this means that

you should have absolute confidence in Jesus' ability to save you.

He was and remained holy. That means that He can save you.

Hebrews 7:26 says of Jesus, the priest after the order of Melchizedek,

"Such a high priest meets our need—
one who is holy, blameless,
pure, set apart from sinners,
exalted above the heavens."

Christians. Trust Jesus. He can save you. Only He is able.

He can save you because He is and was holy.

The child that would be born would be the holy one. We human beings needed a Savior. Who could save human beings? Could any ordinary human being, born from Adam—save mankind? No. Everyone who descended from Adam was a sinner. We are all under the curse of sin. (Galatians 3:10) We cannot save ourselves because we're all sinners and the wages of sin is death. We need a Savior who is holy. Only someone who is holy can save us. But until the birth of Jesus there was none found. In Revelation 5:1–4 we read,

"Then I saw in the right hand
of him who sat on the throne
a scroll with writing on both sides
and sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a mighty angel
proclaiming in a loud voice,
'Who is worthy to break the seals
and open the scroll?'
But no one in heaven or on earth
or under the earth could open the scroll
or even look inside it.
I wept and wept because no one
was found who was worthy
to open the scroll or look inside."

If we were going to have a Redeemer he had to be human and He had to be sinless. Hebrews 2:14–17 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."

The one that was born was holy. He was the seed of the woman that was spoken about in Genesis 3:15. He was born holy. He also continued that way. Hebrews 4:15 says,

"For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize
with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been
tempted in every way,
just as we are—
yet was without sin."

As also the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:22

"He committed no sin, and
no deceit was found in his mouth."

So Jesus, the Holy One that was born, was able to die in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

the birth of Jesus shows you that you need to believe in, trust in Jesus.

Why did the Holy Spirit come upon Mary, overshadow her—to conceive Jesus—and have Him come and die— if men could be saved any other way? There is no other way. Believe in Jesus. Go to Him now.