35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Luke's Record:Gabriel answers her "how?" question.
1. The word that is translated "shall come upon" is a word that is used in the New Testament (mostly by Luke) to mean "to move through either time or space from one time/place to another and have an impact upon the people of that time/place". Luke uses the same term in Acts 1:8 to communicate Jesus' words to His disciples regarding how they will receive power when "the Holy Spirit comes upon them". He also wrote of "prophecies" that "came upon a given set of people". There is no escape from (why would we want to 'escape'?) the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is going to do something Himself that is an action of His own that makes an impact upon another. In these days of significant opposition to "the charismatic movement", I wonder how much of our behavior that we want to call "of the Spirit" is really just "us" making sure that He doesn't "do" anything we refuse to countenance. It seems that Gabriel is telling Mary that the Holy Spirit is actually going to do something that is completely beyond her ability, but not contrary to her willingness to be acted upon by Him. However, it is clear from the record of Zacharias' being smitten with muteness that he was not particularly "willing" to be mute for months on end. Something "spiritual" occurred in his body that shut down his vocal cords and kept them from functioning for the duration of the time of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Even if it was the placement of a blockage in the synapses of His brain, someone, quite apart from himself and quite beyond his own control over his brain, had to have created that blockage and then removed it when John was named.
2. The word translated "overshadow" is used by the New Testament authors in several contexts which imply the "Cloud" of the glory of God (Shekinah). The best we can do, here, is to assume that the immanent and localized presence of the Spirit of God was going to put the genetic material of Jesus' physical body together by mixing Mary's "egg" with what would have normally been the male "contribution" to the process of conception. This record is far too brief to generate any details of explanation beyond the bare fact that, once "overshadowed", Mary was pregnant in the normal sense of that term.
a. There is mystery here: the mystery of why God chooses to act as He does. Why not just "speak the word across time and space" as the Centurion, in great faith, "believed" was a legitimate model of divine action?
b. The divine action is ever edificational...He condescends to create experiences for us for our growth in conviction that He is acting on our behalf. It seems likely that the more confident we become, the less likely we shall experience "unnecessary" experiences. For Mary's sake, the power of the Most High "overshadowed" her.
3. The "Holy One" that is "being begotten/born" [this word is used across the entire spectrum from the conception event to the actual birthing event -- and it is a present, passive, participle: is being ... ] is going to be called "Son of God" by reason of these transactions by the Holy Spirit and the Power of the Most High.
a. There is no indication, whatsoever, that anyone besides Mary would be witness to this "event".
b. This means that the entire concept of a manless birth rests upon the testimony of one young woman of Israel.
c. This is not as "risky" as it sounds in that the "proof" of her claim is manifold: words, works, and, ultimately, resurrection from the dead [Jesus was identified as the Son of God by the power of resurrection according to Romans 1:4].
d. We can conclude, then, that, for the most part, the "coming of the Holy Spirit" and the "overshadowing by the Power of the Most High" were for Mary's sake...more than likely to tide her over the humps of all that she was going to suffer for being pregnant out of wedlock and making the claims she was going to make. This is no small thing if we understand Peter correctly in 2 Peter 1:18 where his "overshadowing" made him "adamant" that he was correct in his faith and all that opposed him were simply wrong. This is not a "self-exalting" thing; it is a "faith-solidifying" thing.
1) This continues to raise this issue: our participation in the reality of the life of God is by faith.
2) The issue is this: what does "faith" accomplish "in" us? When the Holy Spirit "comes upon" us, so that He "indwells" our very bodies, what is it that He actually does? How is it that "faith" releases Him to actually do, and then accomplish downline (seed/harvest) results?
3) It is interesting that in the New Testament, whenever someone is "filled" with the Spirit, that which is mostly affected is his "mouth" because the text almost invariably says "...were filled with the Holy Spirit and spake...". [Perhaps this is why James says that one whose tongue is unbridled is practicing a "worthless religion".]
e. That JESUS was to be called "Son of God" by reason of this process is evidence that His sonship was, in part, tied inextricably to the provision by the Spirit of that which would normally be provided by the man. There is no "spiritualization" of this "sonship": He is "Son" because His genetic makeup was determined by the Most High. His humanity is absolutely genuine as humanity is identified in terms of the mixing of chromosomes and the physical processes that eventuate in that final movement down the birth canal to physical existence in the world of sensory reality as we know it. He is a liar that says that Jesus Christ has not come "in the flesh" [I John 4:2-3] (actually, John says that such "spiritualization" as to deny this "fleshliness" is of the antichrist).