Prior to Jesus’ conception, Dr. Luke tells us that the virgin Mary was overshadowed by the Most High God.  When the Most High overshadowed her, His presence and power, working in unison with the Holy Spirit, produced a miracle: the virgin conceived.

The angel answered and said to her [the virgin Mary],

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:35, NAS

I, too, desire to be periodically overshadowed by God Most High.  Don’t you?


Definition:  To overshadow, episkiazw[i]

  1. To cast a shadow upon someone.
  2. To cover.

When the Most High God overshadows us, two results occur:

  1. We are touched by His shadow.

When the Heavenly Father worked through Peter’s shadow to overshadow the sick and needy, miracles occurred.

All the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.  Acts 5:14-15, NAS. 

 Acts 5:15, Young’s Literal Translation:  … that at the coming of Peter, even [his] shadow [skia, shade, shadow] might overshadow [episkiazw, cast a shadow over] some one of them;

On the Mount of Transfiguration, the overshadowing presence of the Most High God resulted in a profound affirmation and prophetic exhortation:

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleasedlisten to Him!”  Mt. 17:5, NAS.  Cf. Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34

Commentator David Guzik captured this aspect of overshadowed:

The word overshadow means to cover with a cloud, as in the cloud of Shekinah glory (Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 24:16, 34:5, 40:34) or the cloud of transfiguration (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:34).

This cloud was a visible manifestation of the glory and presence of God; this means that the same power of God that was with Moses and others in the Old Testament was now going to do a unique work in the life of Mary.  David Guzik @ Luke 1:35

  1. God Most High dominates; He takes center stage.

When He increases and we decrease (John 3:30), prophetic words and/or miraculous works may result.  Our Heavenly Father controls the timing, process, and outcome of these words and works.


The Trinity at Work

The Angel Gabriel declared that both the Holy Spirit and the Most High God would contribute to the miracle of Mary’s conception of the Christ Child.

  1. The Holy Spirit’s Contribution to Mary’s Conception

In Luke 1:35, Dr. Luke included the Bible’s language for the empowering work of the Holy Spirit when He declared to Mary,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you …

For a comparison of Luke 1:35 and Acts 1:8, see my notes below.

2.  The Most High God’s Contribution to Mary’s Conception

Mary’s encounter with God went a step beyond the experience of the believers in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost.  In addition to being empowered by the Holy Spirit, she was also overshadowed by the Most High God.

  1. The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
  2. and the power of the Most High will overshadow you …. Luke 1:35, NAS


1.  How I pray for myself.

Before I step into ministry situations, I may pray:

A.  For a fresh anointing with the Holy Spirit.

Example: “Lord Jesus, send Your Holy Spirit upon me. Activate and release all the gifts that are needed to do what You want done in this situation.”

B.  For the Most High God to overshadow me.

Example: “God Most High, overshadow me and release Your power in and through me to benefit this person.”

The Apostle Paul cried out, “Who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16, NAS).

Answer: The Father is adequate and His “shadow” signifies His presence to help us during our time of need.

2. How I pray for others.

Example: “God Most High, draw near and overshadow Alex, working powerfully in him to bring healing.”


Summary Prayer

“Heavenly Father, God Most High, overshadow me! Overshadow us!”


Story Time …

Testimonies build faith.  Tell us about a time when you sensed that God Most High overshadowed you.


For Further Study


  1. Word Study: Overshadowed, episkiazw.

Shall overshadow thee (επισκιασει — episkiasei). A figure of a cloud coming upon her. Common in ancient Greek in the sense of obscuring and with accusative as of Peter‘s shadow in Acts 5:15. But we have seen it used of the shining bright cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). Here it is like the Shekinah glory which suggests it (Exodus 40:38) where the cloud of glory represents the presence and power of God. Robertson @ Luke 1:35


This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a mating of the Holy Spirit with Mary. Morris, quoted in Guzik @ Luke 1:35.


“Denoting the mildest and most gentle operation of divine power, that the divine fire should not consume Mary, but make her fruitful” (Bengel). Compare Exodus 33:22; Mark 9:7.

Compare [and contrast] the classical legend of Semele, who, being beloved of Jove, besought him to appear to her as he appeared in heaven, in all the terrors of the thunderer, and was consumed by his lightning.

The metaphor in the word is taken from a cloud, in which God had appeared (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10).  Vincent @ Luke 1:35

34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Ex. 40:34-35, NAS

A metaphor for the presence, power, and glory of God.  See DNTT, Vol. 3, page 555.


2.  Comparison: Luke 1:35 and Acts 1:8


Luke 1:35, NAS Acts 1:8, NAS
The angel answered and said to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

and for that reason the holy Child [Lit., the holy thing begotten] shall be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:35, NAS


… but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;

and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.  Acts 1:8, NAS



  1. Both verses state that the Holy Spirit will “come upon” a person. This is the language of empowerment.  In both the Old and New Testaments, when the Holy Spirit came “upon” a person, that person spoke anointed words or did might works.  Examples include Gideon, Saul, and David.[ii]
  2. Both verses use a form of the verb “eperxomai,” to come upon.[iii]  Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich note that the meaning of eperxomai in this context is “come over or upon … from above.”[iv]
  3. Both verses use the same preposition, “epi.” “The Holy Spirit will come ‘upon’ (epi) you.”  According to Dana and Mantey, the root meaning of “epi” is “upon”[v]  and the emphasis is on motion or direction, in these instances, from above.
  4. Both verses use the word dunamis, power.
    1. In Luke 1:35, the power that will act on Mary belongs to the Most High God.
    2. In Acts 1:8, the power belongs to the Holy Spirit and is promised to Jesus’ disciples.
  5. Both verses promise a miraculous result.
    1. In Luke 1:35, the virgin Mary will conceive the Son of God,
    2. In Acts 1:8, the believers will receive power to witness to the world.


© 2016 Philip J. Noordmans


[i] (Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, Thirteenth Impression, 1971), 298.

[ii] For an elaboration of this dynamic, see FireStarter: The Holy Spirit Empowers, by Philip Noordmans.

[iii]  (Rienecker and Rogers, 1980), 140.

[iv]  (Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, Thirteenth Impression, 1971), 284.

[v]  (Dana and Mantey, 1955), 106.