The Romance of Redemption
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son,
and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called
the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne
of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob
forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
I first read the term, “The Romance of Redemption,” in Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s study in the book of Ruth. It reminded me of another quote, I believe attributed to G.K. Chesterton.
“In every great story there is a hero, a maiden, and a dragon”
I would add to this quote that there is also a great battle to be fought. Both of these quotes come together in the story before us.
This single passage is one of the most theologically and prophetically densely-packed Scriptures anywhere in the Bible.
The Appearance (vv. 26–29)
Gabriel, whose name means “hero of God,” is only recorded as appearing to three people. First, to Daniel (Dan. 8–12), where he reveals the timing of the Messiah’s coming (Dan. 9:24–27). Next, he appeared to Zacharias (Luke 1:11–20). Here, he reveals the miraculous birth of John the Baptizer—the forerunner of the Messiah (Isa. 40:1–8). Finally, to Mary, who would be the virgin mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that Gabriel “stands in the presence of God” (v. 19) leads many scholars to believe that he is one of the four angels who surround the Throne of God (Rev. 4:6–8).
Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, the hometown of Mary. This is significant in that it fulfills the prophecies mentioned by Matthew.
“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’”
Many have searched in vain for these multiple prophesies. What Matthew is referring to are the six prophesies where the Messiah is called “The Branch” (Isa. 4:2; 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zec. 3:8; 6:12). The word “branch” is netzer in Hebrew, the root word from which comes “Nazareth.”
The fact that Mary was “betrothed to Joseph, of the house of David” (v. 27) is also prophetic. The significance of this will become clear in a moment. The name “Mary” is “Miriam,” which goes back to the sister of Moses, and is believed to be derived from the Egyptian, Marye, which means “Beloved.”
In verse 28, Gabriel identifies the character of Mary in three phrases: That she was “highly favored” shows that she was living in the grace of God (more on that in v. 30). “The Lord is with you” indicates that she lived in fellowship with God; she was living by faith. “Blessed are you among women” indicates that she represented the ideal woman. Note that she is blessed “among women,” not “above women.”
The word “troubled” (v. 29) is intensive, and literally means “terrified.” This is the normal, human reaction whenever the invisible, spiritual realm intersects with human existence. Her wisdom is shown in that she “considered what manner of greeting this was.” The word “considered” literally means “to add up known facts so as to reach a conclusion.” The facts available to Mary were the Scriptures, which she had stored up in her heart. That she was well-versed in the prophecies can be seen by the fact that there are at least fifteen quotes from the Old Testament in her Song (Luke 1:46–55).
The Announcement (vv. 30–33)
Gabriel comforts and assures Mary, saying, “for you have found favor with God.” The first occurrence of this phrase is found in connection with Noah (Gen. 6:8), and reminds us that those who “find grace” are those who humble themselves before God (Matt. 5:3; 1 Pet. 5:5b).
The Son that Mary would conceive was to be named “Jesus” (Yeshua), which literally means “The salvation of Jehovah,” and is first used by Jacob, after he relates the tribe of Dan to the serpent (Gen. 49: 17–18). The second appearance of this phrase is found in Exodus 14:13 by Moses, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
Where the name “Jesus” relates to His humanity, the title “the Son of the Highest” indicates His deity. The mention of “the throne of His father David … and of His kingdom,” actually goes together with “the house of David” in v. 27, perfectly matching the promise in 2 Samuel 7:13,
“He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the
throne of his kingdom forever.”
In this context, “house,” “throne”, and “kingdom” are mentioned in precisely the same order as in 2 Samuel. This all points to something Mary would have understood as referring to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.
The Accomplishment (vv. 34–38)
Mary’s question, “how can these things be?” sounds much the same as that of Zacharias (v. 18). However, his was a statement of unbelief (v. 20), while hers was simply a practical consideration of her virginity.
Gabriel reveals that the coming of the Savior into the world would be a work involving the entire Godhead. The “Holy Spirit” would come upon her in “the power of the Highest.” This is a reference to El Elyon, used often in the Old Testament and usually translated, “The Most High God” or “God Most High.” It is also interesting that the first occurrence of this title is in connection with Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18), whose priesthood is under the Lord Jesus Christ as High Priest (Heb. 5:6, 10; 7:17, 21).
Then, “that Holy One … the Son of God” completes the teamwork of the Trinity. The Father, the Spirit, and the Son, all work in harmony to provide our so-great salvation.
As further comfort, Gabriel tells Mary of Elizabeth’s miraculous conception, that “this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.” If God could give a child to Zacharias and Elizabeth, both in old age and with her being barren, He could surely fulfill this promise to Mary, for “with God nothing will be impossible” (see also, Jer. 32:27). God does just as great a work in every soul who believes in Jesus Christ. When His disciples asked Jesus who could be saved, He replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
The final verse again highlights the spiritual stature of Mary. First, she declares her availability to the plan of God, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord!” Then, she shows her willingness to receive this precious gift of God, which she knew would involve suffering, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Mary must have known that this conception would involve her in great shame, for no one would understand her pregnancy. She also would have known it would create severe questions and problems for Joseph. There is no indication that she told Joseph of Gabriel’s appearance, and we read in Matthew 1:18–21 of his great inner struggle.
Mary could not have known at this time of the point made later by Simeon, that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). Nor could she have known that 30+ years later, the question of Jesus’ birth would be thrown in His face by the Pharisees, who said, “We were not born of fornication” (John 8:41), suggesting that perhaps He was.
And so we see that the miracle of the coming of our Savior into the world, in this small snapshot of what is known as “the Christmas story,” is truly “the Romance of Redemption.” Jesus Christ is the Hero, Mary is the maiden, and the devil is the dragon. We see all of these elements encapsulated in Revelation 12:1–11.
The battle of the ages continues to rage, and we who believe are all now part of this story. We end with the final challenge to each of us to be like Mary and play our part with joy and fortitude. May we all one day stand before our Lord, with these closing words as our epitaph:
“And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb,
and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
What a glorious Savior!