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The Christmas Puzzle: The Surprise - Luke 1:26-38

Posted on December 2, 2018

The Christmas Puzzle

Our Lives Woven into God’s Beautiful Tapestry

The Surprise- Luke 1:26 - 38

Scripture Reading

Luke 1:26 – 38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from 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. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to 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.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Introduction:

Theme of this sermon series: God takes us through life to experience His sustaining power with us to fulfill His plan for our lives and His kingdom goals.

Illustration: Mom and her daughter observing a piece of cross stitch. We only see the underside of the cross stitch in this life but God is weaving a beautiful piece of tapestry that we will not see in full until we get to heaven.

God is weaving our individual lives into beautiful pieces of tapestry as He takes our brokenness, our sin, our failures as well as our joys, successes, and accomplishments and is making us to be a wonderful piece of art work made in His image.

Then, as a community of believers, He puts us all together like squares of a quilt to come together and be a beautiful example of Christ to those who we live and interact with on a daily basis.

We will hopefully see how God engineered the lives of many to bring about the amazing birth of His Son. Many people were used, willing or unwillingly, purposefully or without knowledge to reveal and welcome the Messiah to our world.

Illustration: Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Genesis 50:20. Joseph is speaking to his brothers who threw him in a pit, they thought he might die there, and then finally they ended up selling him as slave traders. They thought one way or the other that was the end of him. Now he is the Assistant Pharaoh of Egypt, saving his family's lives with the food program he's developed. And he says, "You intended to harm me. But God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Joseph had a lot of garbage in his life. There were broken family relationships, he was falsely accused, he spent time in prison for something he did not do, and then he went through the disappointment of false hope. Eventually, the great plan of God did lead him to become Assistant Pharaoh of Egypt, which gave him authority over all of Egypt, even though he was a Jew. Then he was able to save thousands of lives, including the lives of his own family, who were the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel ultimately. Up close, this all looked like tragedy. When you look at the big picture, it was this wonderful tapestry of God.

Purpose: Every Christian must learn how to adapt in the Spirit to the surprises God will bring into our lives. It is a matter of trusting His heart that He has what is best for us in mind.

Transition: What can we learn from the announcement to Mary that came as a shock and surprise to her I am sure to apply to our own lives as we face surprises almost daily to each one of us?

Background

  • Let’s get the context of this passage
  • The people of Judah disdained the people of Galilee. The Jews of Galilee had contact and business dealings with Gentiles.
  • The town of Nazareth was even more despised for some reason
  • Mary was chosen of all people on earth at that time to be Jesus mom and she was from Nazareth.
    • She would be considered highly favored to give birth to the Messiah
    • When it comes to Mary, Christians tend to go to two extremes
      • One, they ignore Jesus and exalt Mary. They pray to her, they claim she was a virgin her whole life and that she ascended to heaven at the end of her life. They worship and pray to her and her statues
      • Or two, they ignore Mary altogether. Remember that Elizabeth calls her “Mother of My Lord.” In Luke 1:43. She also said that Mary was “Blessed are you among women”. – Luke 1:42
      • Who was Mary?
        • She was just a person like you and I
        • She was a handmaiden which is the lowest form of a servant you could be
        • She was a Jew, of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of King David, a virgin who was engaged to marry Joseph.
        • Joseph and Mary were dirt poor.
        • Mary was most likely a teenager
        • One thing very important thing to note is that Mary was fully submissive to God. She was all in with Him. Body (Luke 1:38); Soul (Luke 1:46); Spirit (Luke 1:47). Let her life before this event and after set an example for us!!

Transition: Let’s look at this miraculous revelation given to Mary.

The improbable news

 Luke 1:26 – 30

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from 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. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

  • What does “betrothed” mean? Explain
  • In verse 28 we see the phrase “Greetings, O Favored One” by Gabriel the angel
    • Mary was about to be the recipient of a special measure of God’s grace
    • In verse 30, we see Mary found favor or grace with God
    • God bestows this very important blessing on her because she is rightly related to God and has exhibited a life of obedience toward Him
    • Then we see Gabriel the angel describes to Mary, who her son will be.
    • Five Descriptions of who this baby Jesus is

 Luke 1:31b - 33

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to 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. He will be great

Persons, eminent for ability, virtue, authority, power

  • Things esteemed highly for their importance: of great moment, of great weight, importance
  • A thing to be highly esteemed for its excellence: excellent
  1. He will be called The Son of the Most High
  • Show His Deity and equality with God. The Hebrew Word used here for most high “Elyon”, a descriptive phrase for Jehovah / Yahweh and Mary would have immediately understood from the teachings she had received growing up.
  • In Jewish teaching at the time, the use of this word meant that the Son possessed all of the qualities of the Father. They are exact copies of one another.
  • In verse 31, we see that Jesus will be called Savior because of His name – Joshua in Hebrew – Jehovah saves
  • The term “Son of the Most High” shows His humanity, that He was 100% man
  • So, in the same phrase, Gabriel is saying Jesus is 100% man and 100% God.
  1. He will be given the throne of His father David – this goes back to the Davidic covenant in the OT

2 Samuel 7:16

 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

  1. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever
  2. His kingdom will never end
  • With this phrase, Mary certainly would have known that Gabriel was speaking of the Messiah

2 Samuel 7:13 – 19

13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant's house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!

  • Jesus would not ONLY be the Savior of the world but would become the King of Glory (Psalm 27) and set up His rule and reign in all of His majesty and glory in Jerusalem during the Millennium and eventually the eternal state in the new heavens and new earth.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

  • Put yourself in Mary’s shoes
  • She must have been quaking in her sandals at the revelation that this was an angel sent to reveal the good news of Jesus coming to earth.
  • As she listened, I am sure it was a shock and surprise that was coming to change her entire life
  • This would be like Moses’ and the burning bush or when Jacob wrestled the angel all night long. Unforgettable moments of encountering God.        
    • Haven’t we had plenty of small and major surprises in our lives?
    • A letter of acceptance for the college you wanted to get into
    • A response letting us know we got the job we applied for or a promotion with a raise on our current job.
    • How about negative surprises
      • The word cancer
      • The word divorce
      • The loss of your job
      • A life changing car accident
      • Some have called these abrupt changes in life “serendipity” which means making desirable discoveries by accident.
      • It is how you react and what you do with these so called “surprises” that shows how much we trust God to take care of the details of our life.

Illustration: Dave Dravecky – “Comeback” and “When You Can’t Comeback” / Joni Eareckson Toda – their surprise in life became a ministry.

Application: What is your first response to unexpected news?

Transition: Some of us do not like anything that will upset the apple cart or cause us to move out of our comfort zone but sometimes that is what God does to get our attention to His will.

The incredulous response

 Luke 1:34

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

  • Notice that Mary is NOT surprised with the fact that the Messiah is coming. Jews worldwide were anxiously expecting His coming.
  • Notice also that Mary was not rebuked like Zechariah was previously in chapter one for his disbelief that Elizabeth, his wife who was older and had been barren would give birth to John the Baptist. She wasn’t rebuked because she did not struggle with unbelief, with believing what Gabriel was telling her.
  • As we get older and hopefully grow wiser, we can see how God has been faithful and sustained us through many of life’s challenges. We should become more trusting and more understanding of how God is weaving the circumstances of life in good and bad ways to ultimately make us into the likeness of His Son
  • As He is making us into His Son’s image, we are to reflect the greatness of God in our attitudes, in our obedience to Him despite, despite the circumstances and what others around us say.

Illustration:

Psalm 69:30

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving

There are two kinds of magnifying: microscope magnifying and telescope magnifying. The one makes a small thing look bigger than it is. The other makes a big thing begin to look as big as it really is.

When David says, “I will magnify God with thanksgiving,” he does not mean, “I will make a small God look bigger than he is.” He means, “I will make a big God begin to look as big as he really is.”

We are not called to be microscopes. We are called to be telescopes. Christians are not called to be con-men who magnify their product out of all proportion to reality, when they know the competitor’s product is far superior. There is nothing and nobody superior to God. And so the calling of those who love God is to make his greatness begin to look as great as it really is.

That’s why we exist, why we were saved, as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as he really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God. – John Piper – Solid Joy Devotional Thought – November 27th, 2019

  • Can we go into each day expecting God to bring detours in our life to help us grow in His likeness but as we respond magnify Him? Can we see beyond the here and now and see God’s eternal perspective?

Application: Can you look beyond common sense and your feelings when God speaks?

Transition: Next, we see;

The implausible explanation

 Luke 1:35

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

  • This is very, very important to note the statement by the angel in verse 35.
  • Jesus HAD to be born of the Holy Spirit and not of Joseph or any other sinful man. Jesus could not have the sinful nature and go to the cross as the spotless lamb of God to be the final sacrifice.
  • You could not bring a sacrificial animal in Israel to the priest that was blemished. It was considered unacceptable to God.
  • The child will be called “Holy”
    • Jesus knew no sin according to 2 Corinthians 5:21
    • Jesus did no sin according to I Peter 2:22
    • Jesus had no sin according to I John 3:5 to atone for like the high priest had to do when He was getting ready for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when the only day of the year He would go into the Holy of Holies and make a sacrifice for the nation of Israel.
    • The power of the Most High will overshadow you – Mary
      • The power and presence of God was in the Holy of Holies and Mary’s womb would become the Holy of Holies
      • Think about the implications of that thought and the humility of God and Christ

Philippians 2: 4 - 7

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men

  • In further conversation with Gabriel, Mary was given a sign to show that this was true.

Luke 1:36-37

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

  • Like Gideon and others, God confirms what is about to happen to Mary by faith and by giving her a physical sign to hang onto.
    • Elizabeth is beyond birthing years, barren all of her life, and miraculously as earlier shown in Luke 1, gave birth to Jesus cousin – John the Baptist
    • The angel concludes his revelation from God with the verse that gives her hope and strength. Hopefully it does for us as well.

Luke 1:37

“For no Word of God shall be void of power” – ASV 1901

  • When it really comes down to the nitty gritty, do you believe and have hope that with God all things are possible?
  • It does not mean that all things we desire God to do is the will of God. He will give us what He considers the very best for us

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart

  • Can you accept that all things in our lives are working together for our good? – Romans 8:28
  • Can you accept that as we face trials and tribulations and even joys and blessings, our response publicly toward God in these events of life will reflect His goodness?
  • Can you trust God when you don’t know what is on the other side of the bend in the road?

Application: How do you handle stepping out on faith without having all of the answers?

Transition: As I studied this passage, I was overtaken with how Mary handles this surprise to her life. How calmly and trusting she was. She knew God!!

The innocent acceptance of the revelation

Luke 1:38

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

  • Mary responds with faith and trust in her Sovereign Lord
  • She receives the words from God.
  • Then notice her humility. She calls herself a servant of God and willingly submits to carry out the will of God.
  • To give birth and to be mother to the Messiah who would change the world.
  •  About nine months later, we read these insightful words from Luke 2

Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart

  • Mary made that adjustment of her life to conform to God’s desires for her and the impact it had on the rest of mankind. We now have over 2 Billion people who say they identify with Jesus Christ!!
  • Henry Blackaby talks about in Experiencing God – When we face our “burning bush” of experience and we face a crisis of belief, do we follow what we know about God and His leading or do we shrink back to common sense and comfort?? That is the challenge. Mary made the adjustment in her life not knowing exactly where the road would lead her. How about you?

Application: How do you adjust to life changing news?

Key Thought: When the surprises of life come, how you respond will show if you trust that God has your best interests at heart.

Questions to Ponder for this Week

1.    How well do you respond to life’s surprises?

2.    Can you see past the peripheral to the eternal?

3.    How well do you handle God’s wisdom revealed to you step by step?

 

Let’s Pray