Advent; Virgin Conception ~ 20211212 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/12_3rd Sunday of Advent; Virgin Conception (Luke 1:26-56); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211212_advent-virgin-conception.mp3
Our hearts so easily become numb to wonder. The cares of this world grow up and choke out the word so that we fail to be amazed at what is truly amazing. Last week we looked at Zechariah and Elizabeth; Zechariah was a priest, and both were ‘old’ and ‘advanced in years’. The angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, appeared to Zechariah in God’s temple in Jerusalem as he offered incense, and promised an answer to his prayers; God would send his Redeemer to rescue his people. Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son in their old age, and this one they were to name John would prepare the way for the coming of YHWH the Lord. The angel said:
John’s role was to go before the Lord, to prepare people to meet their God.
We pick up the story in verse 26, six months later. For many of us, this is a familiar story, so before I read these verses, take a moment to prepare your heart to hear them as if you’ve never heard them before. Allow your heart to be filled with wonder.
Galilee – Nazareth - Mary
An angel sent by God to Galilee, the rural redneck backwaters of Jerusalem. To the city of Nazareth. Can anything good come out of Nazareth (Jn.1:46)? This is the perfect setting for a story about a no-name low income wrong side of the tracks going nowhere couple.
We are told nothing about who Mary is, her ancestry, her lineage, even her character. This is in stark contrast to Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were both of priestly lineage, from the house of Aaron. “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Lk.1:6). Nothing is said about Mary other than that she is a virgin, betrothed to be married to Joseph who is of the house of David.
Gabriel had been sent to Zechariah, a priest, chosen to offer incense in the temple in Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, the one place on earth where God caused his name to dwell (Deut.12:5;16:2;26:2). Six months later, Gabriel is sent to nowhere Nazareth, to nobody Mary, just a simple ordinary poor peasant girl in no special place doing nothing of significance.
Recipient of God’s Grace
Mary is greeted as one who is highly favored; she is an object of God’s grace, free and undeserved. Grace is God’s favor and kindness extended to sinners who did nothing to earn it.
We are told that Noah (Gen.6:8); Abraham (Gen.18:3); Moses (Ex.33:17); Gideon (Jud.6:17); and David (Ac7:46) found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
The Lord promised to be with Abraham (Gen.21:22), Isaac (Gen.26:24), and Jacob (Gen.28:15), Moses (Ex.3:12), Joshua (Deut.31:6, 8, 23), Gideon (Judg.6:12), and Solomon (1Chr.28:20). Ultimately God promised to be with his people in person in Immanuel, God with us (Is.7:14; Mt.1:23).
These are awesome statements. Zechariah was troubled and fear fell upon him when he saw the angel Gabriel standing in the temple. Mary was greatly troubled at the words of the angel, wondering what it could mean that she had found grace, and that the Lord would be with her.
So Gabriel says it again:
Mary, you have found grace with God. You don’t deserve this, you didn’t earn it, it is God’s free and sovereign grace that he gives to whom he will. Mary, you are a recipient of God’s amazing grace. This is all grace.
Jesus Eternal King
Now listen to the message:
You shall call his name Jesus – YHWH saves; YHWH is salvation.
He will be great. Zechariah was told that John ‘will be great’ in a qualified sense; ‘before the Lord’ (v.15). But Jesus will be great absolutely. There is no qualification, no limit to his greatness.
Jesus will be called ‘the Son of the Most High’. Zechariah was told ‘your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son’, so John would be called the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The Most High God will be Jesus’ Father.
The Lord God will give to Jesus the throne of David. This is the Messianic promise, the long hoped for anointed King, the one descended from David, yet greater than David. When David aspired to build a house (a temple) for the Lord, God responded:
God promised to build David a house, a dynasty, that would last forever. This is a staggering promise. Before we go on, let’s look at David’s response to God’s promise.
David is filled with awe and wonder at who God is and what he has promised. He sits in stunned amazement. He responds in awestruck humility; ‘who am I? ‘what is my house?’ ‘What more can David say to you?’ You are great, you are gracious, it is your good pleasure, there is no God like you, you do it all for the sake of your Name and for your own glory. These are great and gracious, unexpected, un-asked for promises, and David is filled with wonder.
These promises to David were to some extent fulfilled in Solomon his son. Solomon his son did build a house (a temple) for the Name of the Lord, and he did reign with unequaled wisdom and splendor, enjoying a glorious and peaceful rule over Israel for 40 years, but ‘when Solomon was old’ his heart turned away ‘after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father’ (1Ki.11:4,42). Because of his sin, the kingdom was divided under his son Rehoboam, and the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah spiraled into more and more disobedience to God, until God gave them over to their enemies and they were conquered and carried off into captivity.
But God had promised to David’s offspring ‘I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever’
This hope of an eternal kingdom was still alive in Isaiah’s day, who saw the fall of the Northern kingdom of Israel, who warned Judah that they too would experience the consequences of their sins. Isaiah prophesied:
This is the promise affirmed to Mary.
Her son Jesus will sit on David’s throne forever. Jesus’ kingdom will be the promised eternal kingdom. These are staggering promises to a girl from Galilee only betrothed to be married.
But Mary has a question.
She is not asking for a basic biology lesson; it is because she understands the basics of biology that she has a question. She is a virgin; literally she has not known a man. She is betrothed to be married. She understands that a father is required for conception. But the angel said:
And he also said:
In what sense will this child “be called the Son of the Most High?” How will she conceive in her womb? Who will the father be? Her question does not stem from incredulous unbelief like Zechariah’s; she seeks clarification. She is struggling to understand what this will mean.
Zechariah was told that John ‘will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb’ (v.15). But John was conceived after Zechariah returned home to his wife Elizabeth. Jesus will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you. Jesus will be greater than John in that he is conceived by the Holy Spirit.
This in no way implies inappropriate sexual activity like we hear about in Greek mythology, where demigods were produced by the illicit relationships of the gods with mortal women; in the Bible fallen angels were condemned for having relations with human women (Gen.6:1-4; Jude:6-7). The Holy Spirit is holy, and Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus. This is the creative power of God, who speaks a word, and things that do not exist come into being.
This makes sense of the somewhat cryptic promise in Genesis 3:15, where the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. The seed is normally attributed to the man, but in this case no human father is involved. Luke makes the creation connection in his genealogy in chapter 3, where he traces Jesus’ line all the way back through David, through Abraham, to Adam the son of God (3:23-38).
Because the conception in the womb of the virgin is a result of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High, the child will be called the Son of the Most High; the Son of God. The child will be called holy. To be holy is to be set apart, completely unique and distinct, in a class by himself.
John’s birth was miraculous, a result of the supernatural intervention of God, but it was not without precedent. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age (Gen.18:11-12). At the promise of the angel, Samson was born to Manoah and his barren wife (Judg.13:3). Samuel was born to Hannah in answer to her prayer (1Sam.1:2,19-20). But Jesus’ birth will be completely unique and unprecedented.
Mary asks for no sign, demands no proof, but Gabriel graciously points her to evidence to encourage her.
Mary was a humble recipient of God’s amazing grace. She believed and she received God’s grace toward her. She gladly submitted herself to God’s word. Nothing will be impossible with God.
Wonder and Worship
As we wrap up today, I will simply read the response of wonder and worship of both Mary and Elizabeth, and as I read, I invite you to enter in to their wonder at what God has done, enter in to their worship. Be amazed. Savor and celebrate this greatest of good news.
2021.12.12 Sermon Notes
3rd Sunday of Advent – Virgin Conception
Zechariah ---------------------------- Mary
Priest from Aaron ----------------?? betrothed to Joseph
Righteous before God --------------?? a virgin - given grace
Jerusalem Temple ----------------- Nazareth in Galilee
Offering Incense -----------------------??
Mary is a recipient of God’s grace;
-favor and kindness to those who don’t deserve it
Luke 1:28, 30
-The Lord is With You!
Jesus is the promised Messiah King
Luke 1:32; 2 Samuel 7:11-16; 18-24
Jesus will reign forever
Luke 1:33; Psalm 89:3-4; Isaiah 9:6-7
Jesus is the Son of the Most High; Son of God
Luke 1:32, 35
Jesus is the seed of the woman
Luke 1:31, 34-35; Genesis 3:15; Luke 3:23-38
Jesus is holy – the Son of God
-set apart, unique, in a class by himself;
Luke 1:35; Isaiah 7:14
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org