Week commencing 10 February 2019

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Luke 1:26-38 – that Jesus was miraculously conceived.

With a PDF found here

Next Sunday will be the third in our Term 1 series: “Luke – you can be certain…”

Here is the outline:

03 Feb How? Luke 1:1-4
10 Feb …that John the Baptist was a gift from God Luke 1:5-25
17 Feb …that Jesus was miraculously conceived Luke 1:26-38
24 Feb …that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part I Luke 1:39-56
03 Mar …that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part II Luke 1:57-80
10 Mar …that a Saviour was born who is both Messiah and Lord Luke 2:1-21
17 Mar …that Jesus brought God’s salvation Luke 2:22-40
24 Mar …that Jesus grew in wisdom and favour Luke 2:41-52
31 Mar …that John preached a baptism of repentance Luke 3:1-20
07 Apr …that Jesus was God’s Son whom he loved Luke 3:31-37
14 Apr …that Jesus was tempted as we are, yet was without sin Luke 4:1-13

DAY 1: Read Luke 1:25-38 for the overview – but today we’ll concentrate just on vv26-28.

v26 – in the sixth month – refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy which Luke had just told us about. An angel by the name of Gabriel is sent to Mary who is described as pledged or betrothed to a man named Joseph.

Note that it is clearly stated that Joseph was a descendant of David. Why that special mention? Because the promised Messiah was always going to be “David’s son”, which I’m sure you will recall that from our 1 and 2 Samuel studies over the last two years. You may well comment, “Yes, but Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father”. You’ll have to await for the full answer to that dilemma until we get to Luke 3:21-38, but suffice at this point to say that as legal guardian of Jesus, Joseph’ lineage counted in those days, and in addition, Mary herself is demonstrated to be a descendent of David.

This state of being betrothed was much more binding among the Jews of that day than is engagement today. Being pledged to be married was a solemn undertaking to marry and if you wanted to break it, a divorce was necessary.

Gabriel greeted Mary as highly favoured but we are not told at this point how or why this is so. Nor are we told why Mary is greatly troubled though we would quickly assume that this was her natural reaction to seeing an angel! However, her being greatly troubled could just as readily be a result of what the angel had said to her. She would have had no comprehension as to why a heavenly visitor would call her ‘highly favoured’.

An angel last week appearing to Zechariah and now this week to Mary. What do you make of that? How much do you know about angels? Of course, we can only know what the Bible tells us but when you believe in a magnificent God who created the universe, then you are open to him communicating his plans and purposes in unusual and supernatural means. Why doesn’t he do this today? Because these were momentous days in the history of mankind in preparing for the Son of God to enter our world. And, because we have God’s all sufficient Word in the Bible where – so long as we read it – God speaks to us every day! Pray today that you would always be ready to hear when God speaks!

DAY 2: Read Luke 1:29-33

Gabriel reassures her (as he had done with Zechariah back in 1:13). He tells Mary not to be afraid, for she had found favour with God. It is, of course, a complete misunderstanding which translates the words ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’ and assumes that Mary was to be a source of grace to other people. Gabriel is simply saying that God’s favour rests on her. He goes on to explain that she will conceive and bear a son who Mary is to name Jesus. This is from the Hebrew for Joshua which means “the Lord saves”.

Imagine for now, what it must have meant for Mary to hear the news that as a virgin, she will soon be pregnant and bear a son who will save mankind!

Having announced the name of the Son Mary is to bear, the angel goes on (v32) to speak of Jesus in amazing terms. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. This sets him apart from all others and makes him Son of God in a special sense. Gabriel goes on to speak of him as the recipient of the throne of his servant David. The Messiah was expected to be of David’s line and it is clear that this is in mind. This is further brought out in the reference to his kingdom being never-ending: just as God’s final kingdom would have no end. This kingdom is not to be understood as a temporal kingdom in an earthly realm; rather as God’s kingly rule, as Jesus would in due time make clear. We’ve thought a lot about that future kingdom recently – both in our Advent series at the end of last year and in our final two Psalm 23 sermons in January. To what aspect of God’s final kingdom do you most look forward to?

DAY 3: Read Luke 1:34-38

Mary’s question indicates that she understood Gabriel to be saying that she would be with child prior to her marriage. Gabriel replies in v35 by saying that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

This delicate expression rules out any sort of sexual activity. Rather, Gabriel makes it clear that Mary’s conception will be the result of divine intervention. Because of this, the child to be born would be the holy one and be called the Son of God.

As Mary continues to wonder how this may be possible, Gabriel informs her that her relative Elizabeth is pregnant, as we saw in last week’s passage. Her response is one of quiet submission. She describes herself as a servant – a slave girl – an expression of complete obedience. She could not but do the will of her Master.

This is reinforced when she proclaims: may your word to me be fulfilled, or as older versions put it, may it be to me as you have said. Consider: she was not yet married to Joseph. His reaction to her pregnancy might have been expected to be a strong one and Matthew tells us that he did in fact, think of divorcing her (Matthew 1:19). Mary could have been in serious trouble if it was thought she had committed adultery! But she recognised the will of God and accepted it.

Mary’s tender submission to God’s will is a lesson for us. No, we have not had these magnificent promises made to us, but he does ask us to believe him, to trust him, to surrender to him and we need to ask ourselves every day, to what extent are we doing just that. Is our response, “I am the Lord’s servant”?

DAY 4: Read Matthew 1:18-25

As we observed when commentating on Luke passage, a pledge to be married was legally binding. Only a divorce could break it and infidelity when betrothed was considered adultery. While Luke’s account focuses on Mary, Matthew tells us Joseph’s story. Only once the groom had taken the wife home in formal marriage, was sexual intercourse considered appropriate. So before they come together refers to the fact that Joseph had not yet taken her home and that they had not had sexual relations. Mary’s pregnancy would become obvious but Matthew tells us that this pregnancy was through the Holy Spirit: that is, it was a miracle of God.

Joseph tried to solve his dilemma in what seemed to him the best way possible, but God intervened with a dream. He was to take Mary home as his wife because Mary’s pregnancy was the direct action of the Holy Spirit. Here Joseph is drawn into the reality which is the Incarnation – that God steps into our world as one of us. Again we are told his name – Jesus – ‘the Lord saves’, but the angel tells Joseph the reason for the name: Because he will save his people from their sins. Salvation from sins is absolutely central to Jesus’ role. In the Bible’s presentation, sin is the basic (if not always the immediate) cause of all other calamities. Verse 21 therefore, orients the reader to the fundamental purpose of Jesus’ coming and the essential nature of the reign he inaugurates as King Messiah, seated on David’s throne!

“Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary” – as told simply and clearly by both Luke and Matthew. What do you believe? We should ponder and wonder at the amazing way God has reached out to us in the person of Jesus – entering into our world as a human being. 100% man. 100% God. And the humbling reason he undertook that mission? To save his people from their sin! Praise God!

Resources: Luke, Leon Morris in the Tyndale series, and reading notes from our 2016 Apostles Creed series