Summary: Only Mary was there to hear the greatest of announcements.
The Great Announcement
There have been some great announcements in history. I can remember being at Yankees stadium as a child enjoying my birthday present when the game was interrupted. The loudspeaker rang out that the first men had safely landed on the moon. I can remember when I was watching cartoon one November afternoon when the broadcast was interrupted by an announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. I can remember listening to Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA. The next thing I heard was that a plane had flown into the world Trade Center. These announcements break into time, and one remembers where they were and what they were doing when they happened.
These are some of the announcements I remember. Some remember the announcement on Sunday afternoon in December that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Important announcements have been made throughout the centuries. But no announcement is greater than the one that God was about to become personally involved in our history. God the Son became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Let us look into the text further to see the implications of this announcement.
Exposition of the Text
Verse 26 begins with a marker of time. It was the sixth month. The context tells us that it was the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The previous verse had said that Elizabeth had hid herself five months. The timing of this announcement then was one month later.
At first, the mention of the sixth month appears as detail used to narrate a story, that it is not important of itself. However Luke is not one to record detail for detail’s sake. The sixth month is repeated at the end of this passage. This frames the announcement with the time marker. This means that it is significant. In chapter 2, Luke uses a time marker to announce the birth of Jesus, dating it during the reign of Caesar Augustus and one Quirinius who was Roman governor of Syria. One should notice that the six months’ time marker comes first in Luke. What Luke is telling us is that while the world was ignorantly going about its own business that God had declared a new epoch of time. A new calendar is declared in the world. Until recently, this division of time was celebrated by BC and AD. The world is trying to stamp out the significance of the change of calendar by changing this to Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE) without any note of why it is common.
This division of time is slightly off the timing of God. Besides the mistake in calculating the birth of Christ by at least four years as Herod died in 4BC, the timing of God divides time by the conception of John the Baptist, not Jesus. For four hundred years, the voice of God had been silent. But when the angel Gabriel announces the birth of John the Baptist, this silence had been loudly broken, even while Zachariah remained mute. With this announcement, a new epoch had begun.
In this sixth month, the angel Gabriel came with the sequel announcement to a home in Nazareth. Inside this house was a young virgin named Mary who had been promised to a man from another village named Joseph. As virginity was essential for the marriage to take place, the family would have taken every precaution to keep Mary from knowing a man. Women in society in that day tended to be shut in anyway, and this would have been jealously guarded. Her mother would have guarded the room she was in.
So Mary would have been deeply troubled by an Angel in the form of a man appear suddenly in her sequestered room. In the world of that day, this would have been dangerous. Roman soldiers were known to break in and rape young girls amongst others. It’s hard to say exactly what went through Mary’s mind when Gabriel came, but in the very least, she would have been startled and frightened, even if she recognized that it was an angel and not a man.
She would have been even more startled when this stranger greets her: “Rejoice, you who have been given grace by God. The Lord is with you!” The word “grace” in Greek here is in the perfect passive tense. The passive is often used as a divine passive and this gives the idea of “God-Graced” one. It his God who favored her. The perfect tens of the word indicated that this favoring had ongoing implications. The Greek verb also is a causative form. So what Gabriel is emphasizing is that God had caused his favor to rest upon Mary, a favor which would have enormous and permanent consequences. The emphasis then is not on Mary, but what God was going to perform through her.