The Grace of God, not the Angel, Is What Scared Her
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
So often we see pictures of Mary shielding her eyes and being afraid of the angel. That’s not what it says. When Gabriel showed up, he could have looked a lot like the angels that visited Abraham on their way to Sodom and Gomorra.
They looked like normal men traveling along the road.
The text says that it was the greeting that troubled her, not the angel.
“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.”
There are two big deals in that statement that weren’t common, especially after 400 years with no prophets. (There were some miracles around 160 B.C. with Judas Maccabeus, though.)
- O Favored One: this phrase means that God’s grace has been shown in its fullness. Mary has been shown so much grace by the Lord that she’s stuffed. It also has a connotation that God and all creation are cheering for her.So imagine being greeted by a stranger that you are filled with the mercy and grace of God and that all of Heaven is cheering for you! Whoop!
- The Lord is with you: This was, of course, believed by any good Jewish person in 0 B.C./A.D.but it moves beyond the shallow “God is always with me.” This is the “with” which means He is actually right here, right now. Sure, your college kid is always “with” you in a Hallmark movie way, but the Lord is with you like that college kid is now home and sitting by you on the couch.
To Mary, a simple Nazarene going about her business, this was a strange greeting.
The explanation from Gabriel isn’t complicated. He just says “Don’t worry, you’ve received the grace of God.” Just like Abraham was counted as righteous from the moment he believed, Mary is shown grace and is blessed by God just by the proclamation of that grace.
Also just like Abraham, the grace is counted to her before she does anything. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:3) After that is when Abraham acted on his righteousness.
Mary believes the words of Gabriel and obeys God. He says what is going to happen, and what her son is going to be like, and then she says a phrase that we’d all be better to repeat:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”