IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Date: Nov. 30, 2008

Author: Bob Henkins

Luke 1:1-38

Key Verse: Luke 1:32-33

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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.

There is a cable channel dedicated to the biographies of many people in the hope that their achievements, good or bad, famous or infamous, might be remembered. While their lives may impress us we can not put our hope in them because as hard as they tried to survive all of them died. But Jesus' story about his life marks a new era in human history, a light shining in the darkness. Many have undertaken the task to draw up an account of Jesus' life and work and today all that remain is Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. After Jesus’ death, there was no written Bible. Some had Old Testament scrolls. But mostly, Jesus' life story was handed down by word of mouth, mainly by his disciples, who were actual eyewitnesses. Luke realized that this life giving word of God must be remembered and spread to the whole world. So around 59 A.D. he assumed the task of compiling a detailed, orderly report of Jesus' life, work, and words. In doing so, he carefully investigated everything from the beginning and dedicated it to Theophilus, which means, “those who love God.”

  1. Gabriel visits a godly couple. (1-25)

Things were buzzing in the Kingdom of God. It was a special time and all the angels knew it. For the Lord had determined that the time came for the Savior to arrive on earth. And how the world needed him, for everyone was selfish and unhappy. No one was pleasing to God, for all people were sinners just like Adam and Eve. The first part of the Lord’s plan was to send someone ahead of the Savior, “the fore runner” he would be known as. And his job would be to tell the people to get ready for the Savior’s arrival by turning away from their sin. So the Lord called upon the angel Gabriel, His messenger, to go to the parents of John, the one whom the Lord chose for this special mission. This is how it happened….

When Gabriel arrived on earth, it was the time when King Herod ruled Judea.(5) It was a period of terror and tragedy for the people of Israel. For Herod was a Roman puppet and the instrument of Satan. Oh how Gabriel distrusted Satan for his influence upon others was evil. Herod was so ruthless, that he even strangled his two sons, suspecting that they would try to take his throne and he once ordered all the baby boys around Jesus’ age to be killed because he thought they too were coming for his crown. Sure enough, the times were dark and it seemed as if the people who sincerely loved God were slowly disappearing. But they weren’t. There were still many devout people who were longing for the coming of the Messiah. As Gabriel flew above them he spotted Zechariah and Elizabeth. What a contrast they were compared to Satan. Luke said they were upright before God, unlike Satan who was rebellious and vile. Zechariah and Elizabeth observed all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly, while Satan disobeyed whenever he could. Oh how Gabriel loved the godly old couple and he was happy to be on his this mission.

When Gabriel saw them, he knew the Lord made the right choice because they studied the God’s word with all their hearts longing to know God and to obey Him. They were a good example in their dark generation. The townspeople may have thought that there was something wrong with them, some hidden sin, because their family was barren and they had no children. Outwardly one might say Zechariah and Elizabeth were fatalistic because they had no children but they did not get caught up in this way of thinking. Instead they studied the Bible and lived according to it. The Bible says they observed ALL the Lord’s commandments & regulations blamelessly. The only way they could do that was if they truly loved God, and they did.

In our generation, some think the Bible is outdated, a relic, and irrelevant. And those who live by it are living in the past. “Why be governed by an antiquated set of commands and regulations? Get enlightened,” our peers say. It must have been similar in their time. Compared with the great military power of the Roman Empire, these two retirees seemed to be unimportant. But to God, their life of faith was more powerful than the Roman army, for they were the lamp of God, and the hope of God.

One day Zechariah was chosen by God’s providence to carry out the priestly duty in the temple (8,9). It was a great privilege for him to pray for Israel. When Zechariah was alone in the temple burning incense, Gabriel saw his opportunity and appeared to him. (11) When he saw the angel of the Lord, Zech was freaked out and terrified. (12) Look at verse 13&14. "But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Gabriel said that their son John would bring great joy to his parents and to all the neighbors for he would be great in the sight of God. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth and he would turn the people’s hearts back to God. What a blessing John would be, for he was born in the providence of God and chosen as the forerunner of the promised MESSIAH.

Without thinking, Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."(18) He was a man of prayer and faith but when his prayer was answered; he momentarily fell into human thinking. So the Gabriel rebuked him: "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God...And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words..." (19,20). God gave Zechariah a time out and trained him not to speak unbelieving words for nine months. When Zechariah came out everyone thought he was playing a game of charades. The people did not know what had happened inside the temple and assumed he had seen a vision. After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and her joy was restored for she experienced God’s love personally for her when she confessed, "The Lord has done this for me."

What we learn through this is the life of prayer. Even though they were “well along in years” Zech never gave up his prayer and hope for a son. Some may have lost hope or cursed God, but Zechariah never gave up this one prayer topic all his life. The Lord USED this man of prayer as the father of John the Baptist. It is important to know that God USES people who pray. To the eyes of the world, Zechariah & Elizabeth looked like a pile of outdated PCs- useless. But in God's sight, these praying people were the main members in God's history. Sometimes when we look at the dark world around us, we may wonder if what we are doing, living to serve God is worth it. But no matter how dark it may be, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we must NEVER stop praying! We must NEVER give up hope. We must trust in the Lord always.

  1. Gabriel Announces the Birth of the Messiah (26-38

Six months later, God sent Gabriel on his next mission, his most important, to visit a young country girl. Look at verse 26-29. “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Gabriel was sorry that Mary was afraid. He really didn’t know how to appear to humans without scaring them. Yet his mission must go on for the Lord was counting on him because this was the most special mission of all, this was the birth of the Lord’s one and only son. Look at verse 30. "But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.'" What could this mean? Generally, favor means to get some help from someone else. Most people think that to be favored by God means to receive many material blessings. But the Biblical concept of "favor" is different.Our God is the holy God. Our God is Almighty God. This great God gives not only his amazing grace to each person through his Son's blood, but also his work to do for his glory. What the angel meant was that God found Mary special and that he had graciously chosen her for a special privilege, his mission. However, to carry out God's mission is not easy. To be blunt, God's mission requires all our hearts, souls, and even our lives. People want to be great, yet they don’t want to have to do much to get it. But to truly accept God’s mission, we have to give our life. When we do, we are happy when we find the meaning of life through God's mission. (Eph 2:10)

What was God's favor for Mary? Look at verse 31. "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." God's favor for Mary was to bear the baby Jesus and deliver him before her marriage. What a difficult mission it was for her! She was a woman pledged to be married to Joseph. At that time, in the Jewish world, engagement was the same as marriage. Mary's beautiful wedding dreams were about to be fulfilled, but before marriage, she would have to conceive and bear the baby Jesus. Oh my! How could she explain to Joseph what had happened to her? If she accepted this mission who would believe her story? “Yeah, right, an angel made you pregnant?” they might say. Her love relationship with Joseph would be smashed to pieces. Worse than that, she lived in a rigid, traditional Jewish society. And those who became pregnant before marriage were supposed to be stoned to death. No sooner would God's grace come upon her, and then she would become the object of scorn and disgrace to her family. She was caught between a rock and a hard place. It was impossible for Mary to accept God’s mission. God's mission, to be mother of Jesus, was too painful for Mary to bear.

In order to help her, Gabriel gives Mary deeper insight into her mission so that she may know who her son would be. In his message, the angel introduces who Jesus is, for Mary needed this knowledge of Jesus in order to carry out God's grace and mission. Let’s read verse 32-33. "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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Gabriel said that Jesus would be great and it was true. Throughout history, many have said a lot about the greatness of Jesus as a philanthropist, poet, teacher, carpenter, loving shepherd, and so on. There is no one in the world who as great as Jesus. But the greatness of Jesus does not rest on his human qualities, but on the fact that he is the Son of the Most High God.

God promised David that from his root the Messiah would come (2Sa 7:12). David was the shadow of Jesus, the King of love and peace. Kings of the world live for a brief time and die. But Jesus became the eternal King. Our eternal King Jesus destroyed the power of sin and death. Our eternal King gives eternal salvation from sin, eternal life and the kingdom of God to those who believe in him. And our eternal King’s kingdom will never end. The kings and kingdoms of the world are temporal, for they crumble like iron eaten by rust. There is nothing eternal in this world. Only the kingdom of Jesus is forever.

What was Mary's response to all this? After being convinced, she had a question. Look at verse 34. "'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'" Mary was not negative like Zechariah; she only wanted to know how. So Gabriel taught her in verse 35, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." When the angel expounded that Mary's pregnancy was not an accident, but was precisely the work of the Holy Spirit, Mary accepted the Gabriel's message. To give further proof, the angel continued: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God" (36,37). The angel convinced Mary that nothing is impossible with God.

Mary realized that her destiny was absolutely in the hand of God. Even if she had rejected God's plan, God would carry it out anyway. She could have been very rebellious and rejected the angel's message, but Mary decided to obey. Look at verse 38. "'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered.’May it be to me as you have said.' Then the angel left her." When Mary said this, she was not speaking from her emotions, or with blind resignation to fate; she said this on the basis of God's promise. After this, Gabriel was happy on his flight home back to the Lord.

How does all this apply to us? In order to send Jesus into the world, God had to choose a woman to be his mother. Of all women, God chose Mary--a woman pledged to be married. Why? Simply because she loved God and was happy to obey God and accept his mission for her. So Mary was the right person to be the mother of Jesus. One woman's obedience to God is truly great. When we accept Jesus into our heart, we are expected to hear God’s call and accept his mission, but how can we be used by God? After all we can’t give birth to the Messiah, that’s been done already, and besides some of us are men. So how can we be used by God? We can learn from Zechariah, Elizabeth, & Mary to be people of prayer and really study God’s word and sincerely love God. In our time, it seems irrelevant to obey what the Bible teaches. Maybe were tempted to thing that it’s outdated and meant for another time or place. But God is not irrelevant, he is ruling history. So we should give our time to study his word and give our heart to love him. We should be humble and obey and be open to however God wants to use us. Who knows the Lord may even send Gabriel to visit you. I pray that just like Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary, we may keep the lamp of God burning in our generation. May we prepare our hearts for Christmas, to receive the birth of our Lord Jesus through obedience and living according to his word.

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Key Verse: 9:62

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