************ Sermon on Luke 1:45 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 13, 2015

Luke 1:38-56
Luke 1:45
"Mary's Faith"

A letter was written to the editor of the paper. The author warns about the danger of Christian education. He writes:
I maintain that the outcome of church-school education is hatred, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.
[He adds] I know this from my own educational background. I was educated for many years in the schools of a Protestant, fundamentalist denomination which has an extensive school system. Some of the [narrow-minded] things I was taught were:
-The Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God in all matters ...
-There was a talking snake in the place called Eden.
-A man made a boat large enough to hold all species of animals, birds, reptiles, etc., in the world, besides holding food to feed these creatures for a 40-day voyage (he has even his Bible fact wrong because Noah was in the ark for 378 days).
-Gays and lesbians are an abomination unto the Lord.
[He goes on to say] I am sure that more than 99% of the religious groups wanting to get our tax money for their private schools teach these erroneous doctrines as Bible truths.
Do you hear what this writer is saying? He is saying that anyone who takes God at His Word is guilty of hatred, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. So I have to make a confession: I am guilty of hatred, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Because I take God at His Word.

Oh, one last thing: the author of the letter is a pastor; even worse, he is a pastor I know.

What happened? How can a pastor be so wrong? Maybe this pastor got the wrong kind of training. Maybe he went to the wrong seminary. But I know he does not stand alone. Many other pastors agree with him. I told you before the survey results of American seminaries:
Of the ministers in training, 56 percent reject the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. 71 percent reject that there is life after death. 54 percent reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. 98 percent reject that there will be a personal return of Jesus Christ to this earth.

Many pastors today -- and many of those in the pew today -- no longer take God at His Word. They no longer believe. According to Q & A 21 of the Catechism, they don't have true faith because true faith is a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His Word is true.

In contrast to this, we want to look at Mary's faith. Our text says,
(Lk 1:45) Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!
Remember why Luke wrote his gospel? So that Theophilus could be "certain" about the Gospel and the Christmas story. Or, to put it another way, so that Theophilus -- like Mary -- could be a person of faith.

I Mary's Faith
A Our Scripture reading tells us about Mary's faith.

An angel of the Lord tells Mary that she has been chosen of God to give birth to the Messiah. From childhood on, every Jewish girl back then was brought up to hope she will someday give birth to the Messiah. Truly, as the angel puts it, Mary is "highly favored" and "the Lord is with" her.

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin." You know the angel's response:
(Lk 1:35) "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."
The angel told Mary about the conception by the Spirit and the virgin birth.

B How does Mary respond to this? We read Mary's first response in verse 38. We looked at this response last week:
(Lk 1:38) "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Our text today tells us a further response:
(Lk 1:45) Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

Mary believes what has been said to her. She believes not only that God can do what He said but will do what He said. Here is someone who takes God at His Word and believes it.

We have to ask what is it that Mary believed? The word which Mary accepted and believed out of faith was Gabriel's declaration about the conception by the Spirit and the virgin birth. Imagine -- without any physical participation by a man Mary was going to conceive and give birth. Mary believed God could and would accomplish this. Mary believed the Creator Spirit was going to do this amazing work in her life. What amazing faith!

But we can say more about the content of Mary's faith. In the last verses of her song, the Magnificat, Mary sings about the promises of God.
(Lk 1:54-55) He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful (55) to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.
Mary has the faith to believe that in the conception and birth of her son, God is remembering to be merciful as He said He would be. To see this, let me remind you of the promises of the Messiah that we find in the Old Testament:
-The Messiah will be the offspring of a woman and will crush the head of Satan (Gen 3:15).
-He will come from the offspring of Abraham and will bless all the nations on earth (Gen 12:3).
-He will be a "prophet like Moses" to whom we must listen (Deut 18:15).
-He will be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
-He will be born of a virgin (Is 7:14).
-He will have a throne, a kingdom, and a house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Sam 7:16).
-He will be called "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Everlasting Father," "Prince of Peace," and will possess an everlasting kingdom (Is 9:6-7).
-He will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, righteous and having salvation, coming with gentleness (Zech 9:9-10).
-He will be pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities (Is 53:5).
-He will die among the wicked ones but be buried with the rich (Is 53:9).
-He will be resurrected from the grave, for God will not allow His Holy One to suffer decay (Ps 16:10).
-He will come again from the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man (Dan 7:13-14).
-He will be the "Sun of Righteousness" for all who revere Him and look for His coming (Mal 4:2).
-He is the One whom Israel will one day recognize as the One they pierced, causing bitter grief (Zech 12:10).
Mary has the faith to believe that in her son God is remembering all these promises.

C Mary is pronounced "blessed" for this faith. What does that mean? That word "blessed" is somewhat bland in our English language. In the Greek the term is much more descriptive. A better translation would be, "Oh, the happiness, many, many times over ..." This happiness is the joy of the person who has a share in God's salvation.

There are two verbs in the Greek meaning "to bless." The first word for "blessed" is always used by God; it is something God does; it is God Who pronounces a person to be "blessed"; it is a benediction, an act of grace. The other word for "blessed" is always used of and for a person; the person who is said to be this kind of "blessed" has done something to deserve the word being applied to him or her; it is a kind of congratulation for doing something wholesome or positive. Luke uses this second word.

What is it that Mary did to be pronounced blessed? Why is it that Luke pronounces her happy many times over? The answer is faith. Mary believed the Lord. She took God at His Word. So she is pronounced blessed. She is pronounced happy many times over. She is pronounced to have a share in God's wonderful plan of salvation.

Do you want to be happy? Here is the way: have Mary's faith and you will be happy many many many times over.

II Two Contrasts
A In telling us about Mary's faith, Luke wants to direct our attention elsewhere, to another miraculous birth, another surprising birth.

First, Luke wants to direct our attention to Zechariah. We are to see a contrast between Mary and Zechariah. When the angel tells Zechariah that he and his wife are going to become parents his reaction is disbelief:
(Lk 1:18) Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
Zechariah cannot believe God's promise. As the angel says "you did not believe my words" (Lk 1:20). Zechariah cannot take God at His Word. In contrast, Mary believes and takes God at His Word. She believes what the angel says about her pregnancy. And, unlike Zechariah, she believes what the angel says about Elizabeth's pregnancy. So what does she do? She rushes off to visit with Elizabeth. Why? Not to prove to herself that the angel's words are true. But to rejoice and celebrate with her relative. Mary believes. Mary literally believes that nothing is impossible with God. Mary is a woman of faith.
(Lk 1:45) Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

B In telling us about Mary's faith, Luke purposely directs the attention of his audience to an Old Testament couple as well. I am talking about Abraham and Sarah. Notice the similarities between the two couples and the two situations. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Abraham and Sarah are also an aged couple. Both women are barren. Both couples have given up any hope for children. To both of them God appears and gives the promise of an impossible child. Also, God's Word to Sarah is very similar to God's Word to Mary. To Sarah, God says, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Gen 18:14). To Mary, God says, "For nothing is impossible with God" (Lk 1:37).

Luke wants us to consider the difference in reaction and faith. When Sarah hears about the humanly impossible conception of Isaac, she laughs in ridicule, since she knows she is too old to have a child. She cannot take God at His Word. So, God has to challenge and admonish her. Mary's reaction is just the opposite of Sarah's -- not a cynical laugh but a total and joyful acceptance. According to our text there was no unbelief in Mary; no, none at all.
(Lk 1:45) Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

III Faith Produces Obedience
A Mary is pronounced blessed because she takes God at His Word, because she believes God. In the Bible this kind of faith never stands by itself. In the Bible faith always produces obedience. This certainly was the case with Mary.

Did you notice how she responded to the angel? She said, "I am the Lord's servant" (Lk 1:38). We looked at this last week. As I mentioned then, the Greek word translated as "servant" means "slave." In that time and place this was quite a thing to say.

"I am the Lord's servant." Before God, out of faith, Mary adopts the status and attitude of a slave.

B "I am the Lord's servant." A slave's calling in life is to serve the master. She has no other purpose. She has to devote 100% of her time, gifts, talents, and abilities to the master's service. Together with service there must be obedience. A good slave serves the master by being obedient, fully and completely obedient at all times.

"I am the Lord's servant." Mary is stating here that she is dedicating herself to the Lord's service. She is expressing her willingness to follow the Lord's leading and to live before Him a life of obedience.

IV The Role of the Spirit
A I keep telling my students in Pastor's Class "If you are unsure of an answer just say 'the Holy Spirit.'" Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Why do you believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God and Savior? Why do you repent of your sins? Why do you live for the glory of God? Why are you part of the true church? Why are you able to grow in faith and godliness? Why do you tell others about Jesus? The answer to every one of these questions includes the Holy Spirit.

So, I want to spend a few moments looking at the role of the Holy Spirit according to our Scripture reading this morning.

B Why does Elizabeth say what she does to Mary and about Mary? And, why does baby John leap for joy while inside Elizabeth's womb? Because of the Spirit. It is the Spirit's testimony that makes Elizabeth and John react the way they do.

The Spirit does the same thing for Mary that it does for Elizabeth and John. It is the Spirit's testimony and leading that makes Mary believe. It is the Spirit's testimony and leading that makes Mary respond as a servant. It is the Spirit's testimony and leading that makes Mary break out in song in the Magnificat.

Let me say more about this last point. If you know the Bible, you know there are times when the Spirit moves people to sing. Think, for instance, of the Song of Miriam, sung when the children of God were delivered from Egypt (Ex 15). Consider also the Song of Deborah, sung after God delivered Israel from Jabin and Sisera (Judges 5). Hannah sang a song when God opened her barren womb and gave her Samuel as a son (1 Sam 2). David, as you know, composed many songs when he was delivered from the hands of King Saul and the Philistines. And now comes the story of Jesus and man's deliverance from sin. So, it should not surprise us that the Spirit again prompts God's people to sing.

Tonight, in our Sunday School program, I am speaking especially to our girls and boys. I am going to challenge them to believe God. I don't say it this way, but I am going to challenge them to have the same kind of faith as Mary. I am going to challenge them to take God at His Word. But for now let me ask this: Are you like Mary? Or, are you perhaps like Zechariah and Sara or -- even worse -- are you like the pastor I know?

If you -- by the grace and Spirit of God -- are like Mary then the words of Elizabeth apply to you: "Blessed is she who has believed ..." "Blessed is he who has believed ..." "Happy, many many many times over, are those who take God at His Word ..."
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