“And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:35–38 ESV
As we once again enter the advent season and begin to reflect on the miraculous birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, I would like to offer a few reflections on Luke 1:35–38 that I’m praying will help us set our eyes in faith on our triune God, who is able to accomplish all that he says.
Before Luke writes the paragraph above, he recounts John the Baptist’s miraculous conception where God promises a blameless, elderly man that his elderly, barren wife is going to conceive a child in answer to his prayers. This barrenness was “a reproach” among the people (Luke 1:25) and due to it (and their age), the elderly man does not immediately believe the angel that God had sent, but rather asks for a sign. The story is remarkably, and intentionally, a reflection of the story of Abraham and Sarah.
In the passage above, the angel of the Lord invokes the Abrahamic story in his explanation to Mary, regarding her role to play in the Messiah’s birth. God’s Spirit is going to work again, and this time, the one being born will not be the one making ready a people for the Lord but the Lord himself, the Son of God. Mary, a virgin, is called to bear this child, and to alleviate any unbelief on Mary’s part, the angel recalls Elizabeth’s barrenness and how God was able to help her to conceive a son. If God is able to give the elderly Elizabeth a child in her barren womb, so too will he be able to give one to Mary. The angel then quotes from Genesis 18:14 that nothing is impossible with God. Just as God was faithful to help Sarah conceive, so too he has helped Elizabeth.
Notice that the quotation is slightly different. Instead of stating that “nothing is impossible with God,” the angel shifts the wording slightly and says “nothing will be impossible with God.” By making this shift, Luke intends for us to see that the conception of John the Baptist served something greater than just the faith of Zachariah and Elizabeth. God planned for Elizabeth’s barrenness and subsequent conceiving of a son to fortify Mary’s faith in the God who will fulfill to her what he promises. Over and over again throughout Old Testament history, God has promised sons to be born to women who could not conceive and has brought those children of promise into being. Mary’s response of obedience then, is not from blind faith, but from faith rooted deeply in the Scriptures which point her to God Almighty, who gives life to empty wombs.
That is the God we serve. He is the God who promises the impossible and fulfills his promises. Paul recognizes this also when he calls us to have justifying faith like Abraham, who was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” despite that promise’s impossible nature (Rom 4:21). Like Abraham, and like Mary, the Bible calls for us to depend on and entrust ourselves to this all-powerful, all-knowing, all-gracious, promise-fulfilling, sovereign God. As you reflect on the birth of our savior this advent season, lift up your eyes in faith to him, pray with us for God’s grace and mercy to our students, staff, faculty, families, and friends, and with Mary declare, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
- Pray that God would help our students to depend on God’s strength as they study for finals this next week.
- Pray that our staff and faculty would finish the semester strong, pointing ourselves and our students to the promise-fulfilling God of the Bible.
- Pray for new donors to rise up and give generously to Bethlehem College & Seminary and to put their hope not in their wealth, but in our all-powerful God.
- Pray for the President and his cabinet who are meeting on retreat—that they would depend wholly on God for leading our school.