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TEXT: Luke 1:26-38
SUBJECT: Luke #3: The Annunciation
Today, with the help of God's Spirit, we'll continue our study of Luke's Gospel. The man wrote his book-he tells us-to a friend named "Theophilus". He was an official in the Roman government. Luke sent it to him-not to convert him to Christ-but to better inform him of the Lord's story and to confirm his faith in Jesus Christ.
What was good for him long ago is also good for us. We believe in the Lord Jesus. Yet our faith is weak; it needs strengthening. And there's no better way to achieve that than to read the Bible, especially the Gospels. They present the Lord from four different angles, different but harmonious. And the more we read them, the more we love our Savior. Some stories get old by one telling. Others can be told over and over. But this one-the story of the Lord Jesus Christ-is so big and precious that all eternity will not be long enough to make us tired of hearing it!
"Sing them over again to me- wonderful words of life".
Last time, we heard the surprising news that God was going to give a special son to an old couple-a man and wife way past the age of child-bearing. The couple were Zacharias and Elisabeth. The boy they'd be given was John the Baptist who would become the greatest man the world had ever seen to that time. What God did for Abraham and Sarah long ago, He would do again-only better this time!
John would be sent on an errand from God. He would introduce the King of Israel to His People. For centuries, they had looked for their King-but He hadn't come. Others came bearing the title, but they weren't worthy of it-wicked men like Herod the Great. But now-"in the fullness of time"-God was acting decisively! He was breaking into history and bringing John the Baptist into the world against the laws of nature and the expectations of men.
John's story is a gigantic one. But it's dwarfed by the one that follows it. That's the story for today. And may God give us the grace to hear it with love and thanksgiving.
THE TIME AND PLACE
The story begins "in the sixth month.in the city of Galilee called Nazareth". This refers to the pregnancy of Elisabeth, of course. In other words, about half-a-year after the angel came to Zacharias with Good News from God, he came back to the world with News Even Better. He came to Nazareth.
The details are easy to miss or to think lightly of. But we mustn't do that. Because they are characteristic of Luke's Gospel. He's always giving dates and places and other details that don't seem all that important. But they are because they remind us that his story is no fairy tale. Myths are always fuzzy about their time and place. Things happened "Once upon a time" or "Long ago" in "Middle Earth" or "Narnia" and so on. But Luke won't have any of that! He names the place and time so that we will know that his story is true-not just true in a moral or poetic sense, but factual. That it really happened-and just as he said it did.
The angel came to a young woman named Mary. I use the term "young woman" advisedly because most women at the time married by the age of 13 or 14! So, when you think of Mary, don't think of the Queen of Heaven you've seen in paintings and statues, and so on. Think Junior High!
Luke doesn't tell us much about Mary, but what he says is significant. He says:
That she is a "virgin". The word was used somewhat flexibly at the time to refer to any young, unmarried woman. Some have said it means nothing more than maiden or teenaged girl. That could be true, of course, except for one thing. Mary explicitly tells the angel that she "Has not known a man".
But though she has not been with a man in that way, she is "bethrothed to a man whose name is Joseph, of the house of David".
The thing to notice here is not the symbolism of the man's name or even his character, but his descent. Joseph is a poor carpenter who lives in a hick town. But he's also a direct descendant of King David. Had the throne of Israel continued, he would have been the king! This is important because he will be the legal father of Mary's Son. And the crown, of course, passes from father to first born son. That means even though Israel was no kingdom at all, but an outpost of the Roman Empire-Jesus Christ had a legal right to its Throne!
When Pontius Pilate mocked the people saying, "Behold your King".
He had it right. The Lord Jesus is the King of Israel. And not just Israel.
The angel has come with a message from God. The Lord wants her to know that something incredible is going to happen, "You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and call His name `Jesus'".
Mary will soon have a child. That's no so amazing, of course. But what is amazing is that she'll conceive and bear the Child without knowing a man! Billions of babies have been born to women, some under the most unlikely circumstances. Think of Elisabeth bearing a son at fifty-after 35 years of marriage without a single pregnancy. Think of Sarah, having her baby at 90 years old!
We've all read of "miracle babies" born to couples who seemed fated to have none. But we've inflated the word "miracle". They're surprising, unlikely, even incredible. But they're nothing compared to this birth.
Mary will be the one and only woman to ever have a child with no human father.
Naturally, she wonders "How can this be?"
The angel tells her in some of the most moving words ever spoken,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you; and the power of the Most High will overshadow you".
This is Divine modesty at its best. There's nothing hear to amuse dirty minds or to answer clinical questions. The angel tells her everything she needs to know. God is going to do something supremely wonderful for Mary.and for the whole world.
Mary will have a Son "Conceived by the Holy Spirit".
But that's not the angel's big idea. He wants her to know-not only that she will have a Son, but what kind of Son she will have. Gabriel describes Him in four overlapping ways.
"He shall be great".
This-I think-refers to His human nature. Though He will be born in poverty, live in obscurity, and die in shame, Mary's Son will be Great--the greatest king, the greatest prophet, the greatest priest, the greatest Man.
He would be great in the womb, great in the manger, great in the carpenter's shop, great on the cross, great in the tomb, great in the resurrection, great in heaven, great in His return to judge the living and the dead!
John will become the greatest man in the world, but there's no comparison between the servant and his Master! Abraham is the father of Israel, but the Lord is "The Everlasting Father"; David is king", but the Lord is "The king of kings"; Moses is the Law-giver, but the Lord is the Law Keeper! Joshua gives them a rest, but the Lord gives them their True Rest.
On and on it goes. Later in his book, Luke tells the story of the Transfiguation. That night, Israel's greatest heroes appear to Peter, James, and John. Peter wants to put up a booth for each of them-Moses, Elijah, and Christ. But God wants no part of that-He says, "This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!"
Without disrespecting the great men of the past, God singles out His Son for the honor that no one else deserves. "He shall be great". "He shall be called the Son of God".
The "Son of God" can mean "the king". And, of course, that's true of the Lord Jesus. But here it means much more than that. It means just that-"Son of God". And, therefore, One sharing His divine nature.
As the book moves along, this is a theme will develop. When bawled out by his dear mother, the Lord is shocked by her ignorance, "Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"
Later, He makes knowing Him identical to knowing the Father. He tells Pilate Who He is. God the Father directly affirms it at His baptism and in the transfiguration. And, indirectly, throughout His life.
Jesus Christ is a Man, the greatest Man, the greatest Man there could be. But He's more than Man. He's also God.
King-"The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David". The Throne is His by right. Both legally and biologically, He is David's Son and Heir.
Did He get the throne He was born for? Some say He didn't, but one day He will. This is emphatically not what the Bible teaches. It says He got that throne-but it wasn't on earth. It was in heaven. When He ascended to God's Right Hand, the Royal Psalm was fulfilled,
"The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies your footstool".
"The Holy One". This might refer to His character (which is sinless), but I don't think that's what the angel is getting at here. This is a technical term, mostly lost on us, but understood by Mary and every Jew of that time. "The Holy One" was the first-born son. He would be dedicated to God from his birth. And that's exactly what our Lord was-and still is. Not just formally, as millions were, but fully and forever.
"I do always those things that please Him".
That's who Mary's Son will be. And now is.
Here's the guarantee,
"For with God nothing will be impossible".
Virgins don't have babies! Carpenters don't grow up to be kings. Dead men don't come back to life. Unless God wants them to!
And that's exactly what He wants for the Lord Jesus Christ! And what He gets!
Unlike the old priest six months before, the young lady believes the angel. She will be the "most favored" woman who ever lived. But with the favor goes a heavy responsibility and many pains. But Mary's glad to have them!
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord".
She wants to serve God in any place He puts her. "Handmaid" was nothing like a Queen, but was the lowest servant, the girl who carried out the chamber pots, for example. Not glamorous, no money in it-but so what? It's God's service! Like the Psalmist long before, Mary would "Rather be a doorkeeper in the House of her God than to dwell in the luxurious tents of the wicked".
Her crown was service. But what would you expect?
"Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for the many".
We would do well to imitate Mary. The highest office God offers is Servant. If it's not too low for Mary, Or too low for her Son. Then it's not too low for you and me.
Why should we serve the Lord so eagerly? Because of Who He is! That's Luke Message. The Man we serve is "The Holy One who is called the Son of God".
The value of any service is in the One it's done for. If Jesus Christ is worthy of your service, then it's your highest privilege to serve Him.
Now go do it.
And the love of God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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