Let It Be: Faith, Surrender, and Praise - Luke 1:26-56 (Sermon)

 

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WELCOME

Hi, I am pastor Rob. It is great to worship with you today. 

INTRO

Imagine a young teenager from our church wakes up and meets an angel. She is frightened. The angel says, “Don’t worry.” The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will get pregnant and have a baby. That baby will become a king, save the world, and live forever. She asks the angel, “How?” he replies, “It is going to be a miracle.” Later that day, she finds you and shares this story with you. 

RESPONSE? 

What would you say? What would you think? What would you feel? Knowing this is the basic narrative of Mary, the mother of Jesus, you may suspect this young lady is having a mental breakdown and is delusional if not sacrilegious or profane. If any of us heard a contemporary claim like this, we would know something is amiss. The Bible says Jesus is coming back; however, he is not coming back as a baby, but in the clouds as a man. He will come not to save as he did two thousand years ago but to judge the world. Perhaps Mary and those around her had to wrestle with a similar sense of uncertainty. What would she tell her parents? What would she tell her fiancĂ©, Joseph? Was she dreaming? 

ORTHODOXY

If we believe Jesus is the Savior and Lord, then we are saying we believe in a miraculous Virgin Birth, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible. If we do not hold to the Virgin Birth because of a miraculous event, we can’t trust any of the Bible. If we don’t trust the Bible, then we trust in something else to explain our world, our origins, life’s meaning, and our hope beyond this one. The reality is, Christmas exists because the Virgin Birth happened. It is a fact and a glorious one.

BIG IDEA 

Today, we can be sure God keeps his promises and follow Mary’s response to those promises as we live out our days. 

TEXT 

Let’s read the text. I have three readers. It is a long passage of scripture, so we won’t stand. You can follow along in your Bibles. We are in Luke, chapter 1. We start at verse 26. We will be reading to verse 56. 

Reader 1 (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. 

Reader 2 (1:39–45)

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” 

Reader 3 (1:46–56)

46 And Mary said, 

                  “My soul magnifies the Lord, 

            47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 

            48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. 

      For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 

            49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, 

      and holy is his name. 

            50 And his mercy is for those who fear him 

      from generation to generation. 

            51 He has shown strength with his arm; 

      he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 

            52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones 

      and exalted those of humble estate; 

            53 he has filled the hungry with good things, 

      and the rich he has sent away empty. 

            54 He has helped his servant Israel, 

      in remembrance of his mercy, 

            55 as he spoke to our fathers, 

      to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” 

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. 

PRAYER 

Let’s pray. God, help us. May we respond to Jesus as Mary did. Thank you for giving us a new day and new mercy. We love you. Amen. 

CONTEXT / SUMMARY / REVIEW

Next week Joe Koehler, our Youth Minister, taught / will teach us about the surrounding passages. In Luke chapter 1, starting at verse 5 going to verse 80, we hear of John the Baptist's origin. The story features a righteous man named Zechariah, his wife, Elizabeth, and an angel Gabriel. These stories connect with our text by mystery, miracles, angelic encounters, faith, hope, birth, time, space, and blood. Mary’s response was similar and different from Zechariah’s. Joe and I spent several hours talking about this chapter and Luke's book over the last few weeks to understand what is going on. 

PASSAGE OVERVIEW 

What is going on? Our verses today, 26 to 56, have three parts. 

An encounter with Gabriel and Mary (Verses 26–38)

An encounter between Elizabeth and Mary (Verses 39–45), 

And Mary’s response in song (Verses 46–56). 

Why did Luke include these details? That question helps us get at what is the point of these thirty verses. We have three other biographies concerning Jesus, Matthew, Mark, and John, yet none of them include all of these details. What was Luke’s purpose? Sometimes, we can piece together an author’s purpose through repetition, structure, what is missing, or what others say about the writing. Sometimes an author comes right out and tells us. That is what happens in Luke. Look at chapter 1, verses 3 and 4. 

ULTIMATE PURPOSE 

That is Luke chapter 1, verses 3 and 4. 

“It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”

Luke wrote his book as an accurate, organized account for Theophilus. He wanted to instill confidence. The book of Luke was an apologetic and defense about teaching. What was the teaching he was defending? We can find an answer at the end of the book. If we travel through time thirty-some years, Jesus appeared to his disciples after his crucifixion and spoke, highlighting what Luke was teaching. Look at chapter 24, starting at verse 45. The words will be on the screen. 

Then he [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:45–48) 

So what were the “things” taught? It was the story of Jesus. He came, lived, and died for the forgiveness of sins for all who would believe. This is the Christian message. We must believe. Luke wants us to have assurance and certainty about our faith. 

NAME OF CHRIST

Luke begins his biography of Jesus telling us how Jesus got to Earth and fulfilled the predictions and promises from hundreds of years prior. Let’s dive into the details. 

MEETING GABRIEL

Verse 26 begins with the angel Gabriel. He meets Mary. Gabriel had just appeared to Zechariah some 64 miles south of Mary’s hometown in Jerusalem. In verse 27, Gabriel announced that God favored her. She was frightened by him. Her fear was a natural response to meeting the supernatural. Zechariah had that response. The shepherds tending the sheep, on the night Jesus was born, had that response. The women who were going to take care of Jesus’s body at the tomb had that response. Angels can be scary. 

FEAR 

Why? Many things in life cause fear. Heights, bugs, rodents, storms, and viruses. Fear is a normal reaction to danger. Now, superimpose that innate response to meeting something from another world or dimension. Meeting an angel can be terrifying.  

MESSENGER 

What is the angels' purpose? Angels are messengers. God sends them to communicate. What was Gabriel communicating? He told Mary God favored her. He told her not to be afraid. He told her that God was going to keep his promises of old through her future son. He specifically said,  

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31–33) 

JOSHUA 

That is astounding! Mary’s son would be called Jesus. Jesus is another name for Joshua, which means, “God is salvation.” Jesus will save the world. Parents take pains to pick names. God chose Jesus's name for Mary for a reason. Jesus saves. 

GREAT 

Not only that, the angel told Mary that her son would be great. Who doesn’t want their son or daughter to be great? We worry and work and work and work hard to provide the best for our children. We want them to be healthy, have a family, and do well in life. The angel assures Mary of something all of us long for and dream of. Jesus will be great. 

MOST HIGH

On top of saving the world and being great, Gabriel tells Mary Jesus will be called the “Son of the Most High.” That is fascinating because he would also be Mary's son by birth and son of Joseph by adoption. Who is the “Most High?” In the Old Testament, the term referred to God. Father Abram, Melchizedek, King David, and King Nebuchadnezzar all used this term. Here is what Nebuchadnezzar said of the "Most High,"

I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, 

                  for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, 

      and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 

            all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, 

      and he does according to his will among the host of heaven 

      and among the inhabitants of the earth; 

                  and none can stay his hand 

      or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35) 

"The Most High" is God. There is none like him. He is perfect and nothing can stop him. Jesus was not the Son of "a Most High" god, but the Son of "The Most High" God. Gabriel's words in Luke communicate the exclusivity and superlative nature of Jesus and God, the Father. 

KING 

The angel Gabriel went on to add to Jesus being savior, great, and "The Son of The Most High", to he will also be a king. God had promised in the Old Testament that David would have a descendant take his throne. Jesus was that descendant. 

KING FOREVER

Not only will Jesus be the savior, great, "The Son of The Most High", and King, he will reign forever. God is making good on his promises. We read about it in the 2700-year-old prophecy from Isaiah. 

      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. 

            Of the increase of his government and of peace 

      there will be no end, 

                  on the throne of David and over his kingdom, 

      to establish it and to uphold it 

                  with justice and with righteousness 

      from this time forth and forevermore. 

                  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6–7)

Jesus will be king forever and justice and righteousness will finally reign. 

VIRGIN BIRTH 

How did Mary respond to hearing these echoes of centuries-old prophecy being fulfilled in her? She raised the question, “How?” “How will this be?” She saw her reality. Who was she to be favored? Why did God choose her? How could God do this with a poor little country girl? She was not married. She was not pregnant. She was a virgin. Gabriel responded that the Holy Spirit would make it happen. The power of the Most High would accomplish that which had never happened or ever will happen again. This was undoubtedly a fulfillment of another prophecy that went, quote,  

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

PROOF - A BAREN WOMAN’S PREGNANCY

Immanuel means God with us. She was going to bear "The Son of the Most High" by the power of the Most High. Incredible. Gabriel gave her another gift of assurance; another miracle: Mary’s old, barren relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant. Mary would be able to see more proof for herself of God’s faithfulness and power to keep his promises before Jesus's birth. Indeed, “nothing is impossible with God.” He can create the world and everything in it with a word. He can send plagues and pandemics. He can heal diseases and destroy armies. He can split the seas and flood the nations. He can raise the dead and bring life out of dirt, a barren woman, and a virgin womb. 

REVELATION

How do we respond to a God like that? What do we do with words too good to be true? What did Mary do? She risked ridicule and rejection from those she loved. She believed in God and surrendered to him and his promises. Not everyone would respond as she did. Not everyone would believe as she did. Yet, Mary accepted the angel’s pronouncement saying,  

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

How do you respond to God? When God asks you to believe, do you? Can you follow him where he leads? Or do you have to have control in life? Do you have to have your way? Will you surrender your life to him, your agenda to him, your schedule to him? Will you trust him?  

MEETING ELIZABETH

In verse 39, Luke transitions the story to a second encounter. This is one in Elizabeth’s hometown. Mary travels to see this miraculous pregnancy. Elizabeth is six months along. She and her baby in utero are filled with the Spirit. Elizabeth heard Mary approach and said,  

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (Luke 1:42–45) 

SONG OF PRAISE 

How does Mary respond to Elizabeth? She sings. This song begins the third section of these few verses. It parallels Zechariah's prophecy (Luke 1:67) and the prophet Simeon’s blessing (Luke 2:28). Mary began, 

                  “My soul magnifies the Lord, 

            and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior," 

She responds to all of God’s blessings with praise. In the next stanza, she tells of why.

            "for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. 

      For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 

            for he who is mighty has done great things for me, 

      and holy is his name." 

The rest of the song speaks of God’s character concerning his people. She sings, 

            "And his mercy is for those who fear him 

      from generation to generation. 

            He has shown strength with his arm; 

      he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 

            he has brought down the mighty from their thrones 

      and exalted those of humble estate; 

            he has filled the hungry with good things, 

      and the rich he has sent away empty. 

            He has helped his servant Israel, 

      in remembrance of his mercy, 

            as he spoke to our fathers, 

      to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46–55)

What do we hear? I hear in Mary’s response. 

  • God is mighty and strong vs. 4951. He helps the weak. 

  • God is holy, pure, and perfect. 

  • God is merciful to those who fear him vs. 50, 54. He is kind and gracious.

  • He brings judgment on the hearts of the proud vs. 51. He is just and good. 

  • He cares about the humble vs. 52, the hungry vs. 53, and Israel, his people. He is loving. 

  • He keeps his Word. He is faithful vs. 55. We can trust him. 

APPLICATION 

Pastor Jeff mentioned, in our last series, that how we view God affects how we give thanks. A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1978), 1.). How do we view God? I think we can prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas by reflecting on what we believe about God. We can reflect on whom God is by looking at what he has done and what his Word says. This time of year, we remember that God has sent his one and only Son, Jesus. He was born to die. Through Jesus’s death, he saves us from our guilt, shame, and sin. (That is what we proclaim in communion.) Do you believe that? The Bible teaches that Jesus rose from the dead to demonstrate his power to conqueror death. He does the impossible and will raise us with him one day. Do you believe that? The Bible says wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, Jesus, he is their midst. We gather by faith in his name. Jesus is here. Do you believe that? We must believe that in our overcast days and bright shining ones as well. Jesus is the Christ. He is God’s answered promise. We can be assured of that. He is our help, hope, and salvation. Let us bless him and believe.

FAITH 

Mary believed. She trusted. She surrendered her will to God’s. She moved from fear to faith. Will you? 

PRAISE 

Mary moved from faith to praise. Will you? What do you praise and worship? We worship what we love and sacrifice for. What do you love? What do you sacrifice for? The greatest gift, treasure, and pursuit should have the greatest attention and devotion and affection. Jesus certainly was the fulfillment of God’s promises long ago. He was and is and ever will be the reason for this season and our only hope and help in life and death. He is our greatest treasure. Let us believe, surrender, and praise our God and King forever just as Mary did so long ago. 

PRAYER 

Let’s pray.


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