9 Months Ago…

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Luke

Luke 1:26-38, “9 Months Ago…”

Some of you are saying: “Come on, you got this backward!  It’s supposed to be Luke chapter TWO; not Luke 1.  Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth & you’re looking back 9 months.”  Technically, Christmas celebrates Jesus’ incarnation; and that’s exactly what Gabriel was announcing to Mary.  She was one of the very 1st to hear of the good news of God’s miraculous plan to clothe His Son in flesh & be our Messiah King.

Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a minute.  You’ve just been told that you’re going to be the vessel God will use for the most momentous miracle that’s taken place since the dawn of Creation.  You’re going to be the one God uses to personally dwell among men as a Man.  The Creator will live among His creation, and He’s going to start as all of us do: as a mere baby.  At that moment, your mind must be reeling!  It’s mind-blowing enough for us to think upon the Incarnation of God, and we’re looking back through 2000 years of Church history with the full revelation of God’s word through the Bible.  Imagine what it would have been like for Mary!  Surely she was familiar with the OT Scriptures, but there’s no indication that she would have been a theological scholar…she may have known of some of the prophecies of the coming Messiah, but it’s doubtful she would have had any idea at all what to expect.  What would it mean for God to dwell among us & put on flesh?

Of course, that’s exactly what the angel Gabriel spoke of.  In this brief account from Luke 1, he tells Mary exactly what to expect.  He tells Mary of the Man – the mission – and the method by which God Himself would dwell among us.

Luke 1:26-38 (NKJV)
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

  1. 6th month = referring to Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist.  [Context]  Also a miraculous pregnancy as Elizabeth was well beyond the years of child bearing.
  2. Gabriel: Gabriel is one of just a small handful of angels that are actually mentioned by name in the Scripture (Michael & Lucifer being 2 others).  This actually isn’t Gabriel’s 1st mention – the prophet Daniel met him centuries before when Gabriel spoke then of the coming Messiah.  [Dan 9…]
  3. Mary: We don’t know much about Mary’s immediate family (other than her genealogy in Luke 3), or the circumstances in which she was raised (though it seems she came from a poor family).  What we do know about her is that she was highly favored by the Lord (vs. 28), and that she was a virgin at the time of this announcement.  This was actually in fulfillment of 2 OT prophecies:
    1. Immanuel: Isaiah 7:14-15 (14) Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (15) Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. []  Immediate sign for King Ahaz – ultimate fulfillment in the coming Messiah.  That a young virgin would bear a Child is unmistakably fulfilled in Mary.
    2. The Garden of Eden: Genesis 3:15  And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” []  “Seed” is normally a reference to a male’s reproductive function…men have “seed” & women have “eggs.”  The only way a woman could have “seed” is if a man wasn’t involved – through a virgin birth.
    3. The point?  From the very get-go, we understand that what Gabriel is about to announce to Mary is something that is truly miraculous.  This is coming from the hand of God – the simple circumstances surrounding His very conception ought to be enough for us to realize this is God’s own Son in the flesh.
  4. Joseph: Although Joseph is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, his perspective isn’t actually given here (it’s seen in the Gospel of Matthew).  We know Joseph was a carpenter (Mt 13:55) who lived in the town of Nazareth & that he was a just man in God’s sight who desired to live righteously (Mt 1:19).  Joseph is often neglected in the Christmas story, but he actually played an essential role: serving as the main provider for the family – protecting the family from the threats of King Herod (by moving to Egypt for a time) – and simply by being used by God to help fulfill prophecy.  The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and because of Joseph’s family tree, he had to travel there in order to be counted properly during the Roman census.  At the same time, the Messiah was to be despised & rejected (Isa 53:3), to which the thought of His hometown of Nazareth contributed.  (Even one of Jesus’ disciples questioned if anything good could come out of Nazareth – John 1:46.)  God used Joseph in ways that he likely never realized until he went to Heaven.
    1. No doubt we’re all going to have a similar experience when we see Jesus face-to-face.  We’ll find that God used us in ways we never expected.  Gifts we gave for missions were used to bring someone to Christ – people we demonstrated the love of Christ to were impacted by our compassion & they eventually went to church & heard the gospel – people we shared the gospel with over & over & never saw any fruit eventually came to Christ through someone else’s harvest, though we planted the seed…and the list could go on.  Just to be available to be used by God is a wonderful invitation for us all!  Both Mary & Joseph were available – how about you & me?

28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

  1. Mary may not have yet realized why, but she had reason to rejoice!  The Greek word is the normal word used for a greeting, but the technical meaning was “rejoice” & again, Mary had every reason to do so:
    1. She was “highly favored”: the Greek root for this word is the same word from that which is used for “grace.”  Mary was the recipient of great grace from the Lord.  She had done nothing to earn God’s favor, but God gave it to her in great abundance, accepting her to Himself unreservedly.
    2. The Lord was “with” her: This in itself is reason for Mary to praise the Lord.  God was not against her – He was not opposed to her.  The appearance of Gabriel was not one of judgment; it was one of blessing.  God was WITH her & FOR her.  If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)  Obviously God was not just with Mary in an emotional way; He’d also be with her in a very spiritual way (with physical results) as God would take up residence in her womb for 9 months.  He would be literally “with” Mary.
    3. The same description could be said of every believer in Christ Jesus!  To those who have confessed Christ as Lord & received Him as their Savior, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit & God is “with” us.  As a result, we are also “highly favored” of the Lord, as Paul uses the exact same word to describe us in Eph 1:6 – we are “accepted in the Beloved.”
  2. As a result, she was “blessed”!  There’s been a lot of confusion with people about this – we ought to take it for that the Bible says: no more, no less.  Mary was truly blessed among women.  It’s more difficult to imagine a higher privilege for a mother than to give birth to & care for God Himself.  Truly that is a blessed privilege… [] At the same time, Mary is blessed “among women,” because at the end of the day she’s just another woman like everyone else.  She’s just as human as you & I – she was just as much in need of salvation as you & I – she’s just as much in need of a Mediator before God as you & I.  She does not fulfill those roles; she’s a beneficiary of those roles of Jesus Christ just like any other believer in Jesus Christ.  HE alone fulfills them.
  3. Note Mary was declared to be blessed, but Gabriel says nothing about an easy life.  ‘Blessing’ does not always equal ‘ease.’   Indeed, things would be very tough for this young couple as they raised the Lord Jesus: the circumstances of Jesus’ birth would be questioned as illegitimate – Mary had the danger of being cast out of her family & stoned – the time of His birth would be one of hardship (no room at the inn – travelling cross-country while 9 months pregnant) – they would live a life of poverty (2 turtledoves offered at His circumcision), etc.  Yet in spite of all of her hardships, Mary was still truly “blessed!”
    1. Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that blessing = ease.  Too many people have this idea (and it’s taught incessantly on TV), and it’s nothing short of a lie.  Those who are in Christ Jesus are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3), but few of us live a life of ease.  We’re actually promised that we will face trials & tribulation (Jn 16:33); the good news is that we serve the One who has overcome the world, so we find our strength in Christ & our eternal victory rests in Him.

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

  1. The language in the Bible sounds somewhat “official” here – but it’s pretty easy to understand Mary’s reaction.  After all, if you just saw an angel standing before you & speaking the greetings of Almighty God to you, you might be somewhat “troubled” too!  Instead, Mary receives the reassurance: “Do not be afraid.” She didn’t need to fear the angel.  Gabriel wasn’t bringing tidings of judgment; he was bringing tidings of wonderful news: a Savior would be born!
  2. Why could Mary be assured that everything was ok?  Because she had “found favor with God.”  She was under the protection & blessing of God, thus she didn’t need to run in terror from Him.  Those who are favored need not fear unreasonably. 
    1. Keep in mind we’re supposed to have a proper fear of the Lord.  Fear = respect/reverence.  That’s never something we’re supposed to lose; if anything that aspect of God ought to only increase in our lives.  Yet those who are a child of God through Christ never need run in terror from God.  We have been given access to come boldly before the throne of God to find grace in our time of need (Heb 4:16) – we’ve been given the spirit of adoption by which we can call God “Abba Father” (~Daddy) (Rom 8:15).
    2. At the same time, these are assurances to those who belong to Christ Jesus by faith.  If you cannot truly call Jesus your “Lord,” then you have every reason to truly fear God.  It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (); He is an all-consuming fire in His holiness (Hb 12:29).  The good news is that you don’t HAVE to face God in His wrath; you can know Him in His love & forgiveness & grace – but you MUST come through Christ.

–          Jesus the Man

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; …

  1. Jesus is a “Son.”  He is the child that was to be given…  He was conceived within a womb & thus fully & absolutely human.  Jesus did not walk on earth as a demi-god or ghostly-spirit; He walked among us as a man.  THAT (in a nutshell) is the miracle of the Incarnation! 1 John 1:1-2 (1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— (2) the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us, []
  2. His name is “Jesus”: Gk Ἰησοῦς, the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Yeshua” (Joshua) = “Yahweh is salvation.”  This is simply who Jesus is!  Obviously this is part of His mission – there has been no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12), but this is an integral part of who Jesus is.  His salvation is seen in His very name.  We cannot look at Jesus as just a mere teacher – we are denied looking at Him as a wonderful prophet…to look at Jesus is to look at the Savior & Salvation of Almighty God.  It is seen in His name.
  3. Jesus is “great.” Understand that Gabriel isn’t simply speaking of the joy of having a child. (“Your boy/girl is so cool…he’ll be awesome!”)  This is a statement referring to Jesus’ majesty & Jesus’ power & Jesus’ person.
    1. Jesus is great in majesty: He is the King of kings & Lord of lords.  All authority in heaven & on earth has been given to Him.  At the mention of His name, every knee will bow & tongue confess that He is Lord.  He is ultimately supreme over all of the universe, because He is God & He is great in majesty.
    2. Jesus is great in power: There is nothing impossible for an all-powerful God.  Gabriel will affirm this of God the Father in vs. 37, but it is just as true for God the Son.
    3. Jesus is simply great!  (Spurgeon) “While my Brother was praying for me, I was wishing that I had the tongues of men and of angels with which to set forth my theme tonight, and yet I shall retract my wish, for the subject is such that if my words were the most common that could be found—yes, if they were ungrammatical and if they were put together in a most uncouth manner, it would little matter—for failure awaits me in any case! The subject far transcends all utterance! Jesus is such a One that no oratory can ever reach the height of His Glory and the simplest words are best suited to a Subject so sublime. Fine words would be but tawdry things to hang beside the unspeakably glorious Lord! I can say no more than that He is great! If I could tell forth His greatness with choral symphonies of cherubim, yet would I fail to reach the height of this great argument!”
  4. Jesus is “the Son of the Highest.”  This is a direct statement that Jesus is the Son of God. (Walvoord & Zuck) “The Septuagint often used the term “Most High” (hypsistou) to translate the Hebrew ‘elyôn (cf. v. 76). Mary could not have missed the significance of that terminology.”  There is no one “higher” than God in power & might – He is the highest & Jesus is His Son.  Understand that culturally speaking, to be someone’s son was to be equal in rank & likeness.  A son had the full authority of his father when it came to the workers in the field & places of business.  Likewise, Jesus has the authority of God because He is the Son of God; He IS God.  (100% man, 100% God – no diminishment of either, thus Jesus is fully capable of saving us…)

 

–          Jesus’ mission

…and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

  1. Jesus is King.  God gives “Him the throne of His father David.”  He is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.  God had promised that David’s kingdom would be established forever (2 Sam 7:16), but at the time of this announcement, there was no heir of David on the throne.  A king of the line of David had not sat on the throne since the time of the Babylonian captivity…but God had not forgotten nor neglected His promise.  There was One still yet to sit on the throne, and that is whom He was announcing to Mary.
    1. Jesus reigns in Heaven today, but we still await the day that He will physically sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem.  Those days are to be fulfilled in the Millennial kingdom.
    2. Just because God’s promises are delayed do not mean His promises are denied.  What seems like “delay” to us is actually God’s perfect timing.  We know that Jesus came in the fullness of time – even though it was hundreds of years after the promises made to David.  God is not slack or lazy in filling His promises; they are filled exactly when God wants them filled – but be assured…His promises will ALWAYS be kept.
  2. Jesus is Messiah.  Not only does Jesus fulfill the promises made to David; He fulfills the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The promised anointed one of God had been foretold to come of the tribe of Judah, and the other children of Jacob would bow down to serve Him (Gen 49:8-10).  He is the promised one of whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, as God told Abraham (Gen 12:3).  Jesus is not just the Messiah of the Jews – He is given to the entire world…all of us find our blessing & salvation in Him alone.
  3. Jesus is everlasting.  If it hadn’t been made clear by this point, it ought to be clear now: this is no ordinary Child.  Jesus’ kingdom will never end – it stretches into eon after eon into eternity. What a promise!  THIS is our Jesus! 

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

  1. Sometimes people wonder if it’s ok to ask questions of God, as if it shows a lack of faith.  Understand it’s not the question that indicates a lack of faith; it’s the state of a person’s heart.  Mary asked a legitimate question: as a virgin, there’s no natural physical way possible for her to bear a child – so she asked how it was to be done.  Yet her relative Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband) had asked a similar question…only he had betrayed doubt in his heart that the Lord was capable of doing such a thing.  []  We need to understand that God is able; but it’s perfectly natural to ask how He might do certain things.
  2. Question: so what do you do if you do have doubt?  Simple: take it to the Lord.  Be honest with God & don’t attempt to hide it – just take it to Him. [Help my unbelief… Mk 9:24]

–          The method.

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

  1. The Holy Spirit would come upon her in a unique way to “overshadow” her with the power of God.  This isn’t a crude reference as some might make it out to be – the language is actually similar to that of a cloud enveloping something.  As when the cloud of God’s glory would descend upon Mt. Sinai or upon the Tabernacle & Temple, so would the power of God descend upon Mary.
    1. Note: the Holy Spirit is not “the power”; the Holy Spirit brings the power.  The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force; He’s the 3rd Person of the Godhead.  Thus we see all 3 Persons of the Trinity involved in Jesus’ birth.
  2. The result: the one to be born is truly God of true God. No matter how some groups & individuals attempt to get around this fact, there’s no denying that the Bible clearly proclaims Jesus to be God in the flesh.  To say that Jesus is the “Son of God” is to say that Jesus is “God the Son” – to try to deny this & split hairs between the two is to ignore the plain meaning of the text.
    1. Question: why is it people try to deny that Jesus is the Son of God, God in the flesh?  Because if they can deny that Jesus is God, that means they can continue to try to be their own god in their life – or make up whatever god seems best to them. Yet if Jesus truly IS God, then that means we must humble ourselves & bow our knees to Christ – to receive Him in our own lives as our Lord, Master, Sovereign, and King.
    2. Let there be no doubt today that Jesus is God!  His birth proclaims it – His sinless life portrays it – His death & resurrection prove it.

36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

  1. Our God is so compassionate upon us!  He not only tells Mary how the birth will take place according to the power of God, but God had already provided a case-study to her as an example.
  2. Is anything too hard for God?  No.  God can make the barren woman give birth – God can conceive a Child within a virgin’s womb – God can heal the sick & raise the dead – God can create everything out of nothing.  With God, ALL things are possible, because it’s GOD we’re talking about!  What’s too hard for the God who has limitless power?  Absolutely nothing.
    1. If all things are possible with God, why do we pray to Him like there are some things that are not?
    2. Beyond the physical capabilities of God’s power, we need to remember His spiritual capabilities are limitless as well. There is some wonderful news here for those who are afraid if God can forgive them: if all things are possible with God, it means that He is fully capable of forgiving all sinners.  There is no sin too great that it cannot be washed clean by the blood of Christ Jesus.

38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

  1. Mary’s response to this wonderful news?  Humble submission.  Not paralyzing fear (like Moses) – not prideful arrogance – simply humility before the Lord her King, willing to do whatever God asked her to do.
  2. What’s your response to the wonderful news of the Incarnation?  Have you submitted yourself to God as His servant/maidservant?

Conclusion:

Christmas is truly a glorious day of celebration!  But Mary learned of the reason to celebrate 9 months before it all took place.  What caused her to celebrate is the same thing that can cause us to celebrate as well.  God became flesh & dwelt among us.  What does it mean?  It means what Gabriel told Mary.

  1. Gabriel spoke of the Man: Christ would be born as a human.  The Creator would join His creation as one of us.  He’s the Son of Man – He’s the Son of God – He is truly great & He has come to save.
  2. Gabriel spoke the mission: Christ came to fulfill the promises of God as only God in the flesh could do.  He came to reign as King of the Jews – He came to reign as King of Kings – He came as the promised Messiah that will glorify God throughout the ages in all of eternity.
  3. Gabriel spoke of the method: How would it all come to pass?  Through the almighty power of God.  God is fully capable of all things because God is fully invested with all power – there is nothing too hard for Him to do. 

 

This is our great & miraculous God!  Jesus has come in the power & might of God – in the humility of man – in order that He might save & to reign.  So ask yourself today how you ought to respond to the news of the coming of Jesus Christ?  Before she even held Jesus in her arms as a baby, Mary believed God & submitted herself to His purposes.  Will you do the same?

Do you see Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Kings, with all the power of God to forgive sins?  Have you submitted your life to Him as Lord?  For some, you might intellectually understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy, but you don’t yet know Him as Lord (YOUR Lord & Savior). For others, you may have simply lost sight of the wonder of the Incarnation, that God would leave His throne in Heaven to dwell among us.

For still others, perhaps you only ever casually think about Jesus at Christmastime.  Know this: there is nothing casual about our God & Savior!  This Christmas, know Him for who He truly is: our great God in the flesh!  Humble yourself before God & receive of the great salvation He offers in Christ.

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