************ Sermon on Luke 1:30-33 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 12, 1999
"The Messiah is Coming"
I The Messiah is Coming
A Last time we learned that God sent the angel Gabriel to the temple in Jerusalem. There Gabriel announced to the priest Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son, John the Baptist, who would "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:17).
Six months into Elizabeth's pregnancy the angel Gabriel was again sent by God to announce an impending birth. This time he was sent to the Galilean village of Nazareth, to a virgin called Mary:
(Lk 1:28-29) The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." (29) Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.Most people, like Zechariah, are frightened by the appearance of an angel. But notice, it is not the visitation of the angel that troubles Mary; rather, it is the form of his greeting. To Mary's mind it is a strange and perplexing way for an angel to greet a young woman.
Undoubtedly, many of you are aware that among Roman Catholic expositors the angel's greeting is interpreted to mean that Mary is full of grace and thus is in a position to dispense grace. It is clear from the context, however, that Mary is merely the recipient of God's favor. Mary is not the mother of grace, but a daughter of grace; not the dispenser of grace, but a receiver of grace.
What does Mary find so troubling about the angel's greeting? Mary is a humble woman, not thinking over-highly of herself. Yet, the angel addresses her in such exalted terms! And, in saying, "The Lord is with you," he implies that she, like the great men of Old Testament times, is chosen to serve God and to be empowered by Him. Too often, as someone told me this past week, Protestant pastors and churches have downplayed the significance of Mary and her role. While avoiding the excesses of Roman Catholic theology we do have to acknowledge what Scripture says: Mary is "highly favored." She has been granted special status before God.
B How has Mary been chosen to serve God? In what way is she "highly favored"? What the angel says to Mary, more than 100,000 Jewish women were hoping to hear:
(Lk 1:31-33) You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. (32) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, (33) and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
For centuries, every Jewish child of God has been waiting and praying and hoping for the Messiah's birth. To Zechariah has been given the joyful news that the Messiah is finally coming and that his son, John the Baptist, will "go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah ... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:17). Now to Mary the angel announces that she has been "highly favored" by God; God has chosen her out of all the Jewish women to be the Messiah's mother. Mary is "highly favored."
C The Messiah. The Old Testament Scriptures give us three different pictures of the Messiah. First, He is presented as a Man of Sorrows Who will save His people from their sins (Is 53). Second, He is presented as part of the triune Godhead: the Immanuel, the God with us, the Son of God, Almighty God (Is 7:14; Is 9:7). Third, He is presented as the almighty King Who will sit on the throne of David and rule forever (2 Sam 7:14; Is 9:6-7; Ps 2; Ps 89:26-27; Ps 110).
In his message to Mary, the angel Gabriel touches on all three pictures of the Messiah. "You are to give him the name Jesus." "Jesus," as you all know, means Savior. The child to be born to Mary is the Messiah, the Savior, Who saves His people from their sins. And, as the Lord's Supper reminds us this morning, we know Jesus saves us from our sins through His sacrifice upon the cross.
"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." Here Gabriel announces that the child to be born to Mary will be "great." Gabriel said the said thing about John the Baptist. John's greatness, however, stems from the ever-present power of the indwelling Spirit. But the Child to be born to Mary, His greatness rests in His divine Sonship; He is great because He is "the Son of the Most High"; He is part of the triune Godhead. As such, His greatness is beyond all imagining and all thought.
"The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "Throne" here means place of highest dominion and supreme power. His will be an ever-lasting rule. He is the almighty King and Lord of every-thing.
II Our Response to the Coming of the Messiah
A In narrating the story of the angel and his message that the Messiah is coming, the Gospel writer Luke wants his audience to answer a most basic question: Is He my Savior, do I acknowledge Him as God, do I submit to His rule?
What a loaded question this had to be for Luke's Gentile audience! Within the Roman Empire everyone knew that Caesar claimed for himself the title, "Savior of the World." He also maintained his divinity, declaring himself to be a son of the gods; along this line, he called himself "Augustus," meaning "Exalted One." And, he demanded that all acknowledge him as king and ruler. Yet, the angel announces that Mary's Son is Savior, Son of God, and King. Luke's audience has to make a decision: who is savior, Caesar or Jesus? who is the divine son of God, Caesar or Jesus? who is king, Caesar or Jesus?
B We too, my brothers and sisters, are being called upon to make a choice: between Jesus and the Caesars of today's world. Let me ask you, who is your savior, your god, and your king? Or, to put it more bluntly, whom do you serve? of whose kingdom are you a part? Those who professed their faith this morning, they have publicly stated where they stand. They said that Jesus is their Savior, their God, and their King.
Every person here, in fact ever person on earth, has someone or something that he serves. Every person, none excepted, gives priority to something or someone in his or her life. What this something is becomes evident in the things each person looks for, lives for, and labors for.
There is a great deal of difference in what it is that people serve. There are some people, for example, who live for pleasure. And so they seek it above everything else. They give it the highest priority in their life. They enter each and every situation with only one objective in mind: what pleasure will I derive from this? Of course, over time their senses become dulled and they end up on a treadmill of seeking out ever more thrilling experiences – regardless of how corrupt or perverted those experiences may be.
Some people live for wealth, the accumulation of goods and money. These people bend every effort into making a dollar. In their blind pursuit of things they are willing to sacrifice health, family, friendship, the church.
Many live only for their appetites. These people's creed is "buy, buy, buy." They practice conspicuous consumption. They need the latest gadget, the newest toy, and go from fad to fad. They need to be seen in the right places, in the right clothes, and in the right car.
Some people live for the fine arts: theater, art, music, concerts, fine literature. If they can afford it, their homes are filled with gorgeous antiques, priceless paintings hang on their walls, and they think nothing of spending $60,000,000 on an old masterpiece (like one Japanese collector).
Finally, there are people who believe that such noble things as home, spouse, and children are the only thing to live for. They live for these, serve these, and constantly look for opportunities to improve family life. Happy, content, and satisfactory relationships are what they pursue. Surely this is much more worthy than pleasure, wealth, or conspicuous consumption, yet this too is sadly lacking.
This morning, in telling us that the Messiah is coming, the Gospel writer Luke is calling us to submit to and acknowledge Him as Savior, God, and King. Jesus says to us, "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Mt 6:33).
Again, let me ask you: who is your savior, your god, and your king? Or, to put it more bluntly, whom do you serve? of whose kingdom are you a part? Like those who professed their faith, do you acknowledge Jesus as Savior, God, and King?
This morning we have the privilege of celebrating the Lord's Supper. In taking the Lord's Supper this morning, do you know what you are saying? You are saying that Christ is your Savior, your God, and your King.
How I pray that you mean this confession!
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