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He Will Be Great

Date: Dec. 1, 2013

Author: Michael Mark

Luke 1:26-28

Key Verse: Luke 1:32

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High”

Today is officially the first day of Advent for 2013! This will be the second year we will be observing the season of Advent. Advent begins every year on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. The word “Advent” means coming, or arrival. Christmas is about the first advent of Christ, when he first came from heaven to earth as a baby born in a manger. The second advent of Christ has yet to come, when Christ will come again – this time not as a baby, but as the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Advent is a time of preparation, anticipation and expectation. We prepare our hearts so that when Christmas comes, we praise God and rejoice from the bottom of our hearts that he sent his Son into the world to save the world. We also prepare our hearts by repentance and faith, cultivating a hope to be taken up to heaven when Christ comes again as king and judge. Jesus’ second coming will be great indeed, and the whole world will witness his awesome power. In today’s passage, perhaps familiar to many of us, the angel Gabriel came to Mary and foretold the birth of Jesus, saying, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.” Even before his first coming, the angel foretold that Jesus will be great.

What makes a person great? Who do you consider to be great? Someone who is great is usually the best at what they do. I consider Michael Jordan to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Someone who is great has the ability to overcome trials and challenges. I’ve heard that the fictional character MacGyver can build anything out of a paper clip and some duct tape. Someone who is great always saves the day, gets people out of trouble, and comes to the rescue. That’s one of the reasons I loved to watch the cartoon series Dragon Ball Z, because the heroes always come in just at the right time to save their friends. One more example, someone who is great leaves behind a lasting legacy that impacts generations. Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite heroes of all time. More than 100 years ago, he preached to 5 to 10 thousand people every Sunday. During his lifetime, he is estimated to have preached to 10,000,000 people. Today, his sermons and books are still read, used, and studied, and I wouldn’t be surprised today if his influence has reached numbers in the billions throughout history.

           Consider now a man possibly greater than any of the greatest men to walk the earth: John the Baptist. Don’t just take my word for it – Jesus himself, the Son of God, said this about him: “Among those born of women there is no one greater than John.” That is quite a statement. Who here was born of a woman? Well then, don’t even try for the greatest man award, because John the Baptist is already greater than you J Joking aside, John had a special mission given to him before he was born. He was to be the forerunner to the Messiah. He was tasked to turn the people’s hearts back to God and make ready a people prepared for the Lord. He was so good at his task that people began to wonder in their hearts, is he the Messiah? He must have spoken with such passion and fire, with such conviction that the people’s hearts were stirred to repentance. He never took the glory, but instead, always pointed people to Jesus. John even said about Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30).”

If the greatest man out of every man born of a woman says about Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less,” then who really is the greatest? Jesus is the greatest one of all. In this passage, it is possible that Luke may have interviewed the mother of Jesus herself. In the account of the foretelling of Jesus birth, we will see why Jesus is so great. Look at v.26, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee.” Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. She’s the woman with the greatest son in the world. In the previous chapter, Luke gives an account of the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth. John’s birth was a miraculous birth, because he was conceived when his mother was well past child-bearing age, at least 50 or 60 years old. She was unable to have children all her life, until this same angel, Gabriel, came to visit her husband Zechariah. When Luke wrote these accounts, many people may have already been familiar with John the Baptist, and Jesus. These accounts verify that John the Baptist was prophesied to be great by an angel of God, and without minimizing John’s greatness, the foretelling of Jesus’ birth shows that Jesus is the greatest of all.

Notice that God had sent an angel to foretell of Jesus’ birth. Usually, if a big celebrity or powerful politician is going to go to some restaurant or store, a messenger will be sent to give that business a heads up. They might want to clean up around the store, or set a special table aside – in any case the angel Gabriel was sent, by God to deliver the word. Gabriel is the angel who appeared to Daniel (Dan 9:20-25) almost 500 years earlier, and prophesied about the Messiah’s coming. Sixth months earlier, Gabriel appears to Zechariah, and now, he appears to Mary. What’s going on here? Things are starting to get interesting…we’re seeing an increase in angel sightings. Now connect the dots. 1 angel – Gabriel. 1 basic message – to Daniel: a Messiah was coming; to Zechariah: a son to prepare the way for the Lord; to Mary: the Son of the Most High was coming. 500 years apart between Daniel to Zechariah, and 6 months between Zechariah and Mary. When you put it all together, this is what it means: there is a Lord in heaven (outside of earth and time) who has been planning to come to earth for more than 500 years, and he is about to come, and soon! Who is this Lord? (Jesus!)

The messenger, the angel Gabriel went to Mary and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Look at Mary’s response in v.29, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” We don’t see angels every day, and usually in the Bible, when people saw angels, they were terrified. Usually the first thing an angel would need to say is, “Don’t be afraid.” That looks to be the case here. But this verse indicates Mary was troubled, not at the sight, but at the words of the angel, and she was trying to figure out what he was trying to say. Imagine if someone walked up to you with a bag full of money, and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” Your reactions might be…”Wait a minute…what’s this about? Is this a scam? Is there a catch? Is this for real?” Mary might not have been so cynical, angels of God might be more trustworthy than men – but still, she was confused at his words. It is also probably likely that she was somewhere between 13-15 years old, as girls in those times engaged and married early. Was she mature enough to understand? Perhaps these questions might have gone through her mind: “What does he mean, highly favored?” “Why did he call me that?” “Who am I, that he should call me that?” “I don’t think I did anything to deserve that honor.”

Look at how the angel responds in v.30-31, “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’” The angel reassured her, he even called her by name. Even though she did not know the angel, the angel knew who she was. She was reassured again, “you have found favor with God.” What was that favor? That she would conceive and give birth to a son, and name him Jesus, which means, “the Lord saves.” This was truly an honor, this was truly a great favor given by God to Mary – to be the mother of the Lord, the Messiah, the King. What did Mary do to receive such a blessing? The truth is, that there was nothing she did to receive this favor from God. God in his choice, his own sovereignty and free will, at his own pleasure, decided to choose Mary to be the mother of the Savior of the world. There was nothing noteworthy of the town she lived in. Even a disciple of Jesus said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” But it was God’s will and pleasure to choose a seemingly obscure person from a village no one would expect to send his Son.

The angel continues to describe Jesus in v.32-33, and here’s where we can learn more about the greatness of God. Can we all please read v.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 Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” First, the angel says Jesus will be great. To understand what this means, look at Luke 1:15, where the angel speaks about John the Baptist, “for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” John is “great in the sight of the Lord.” Jesus is “great.” Do you see the difference? John’s greatness has a qualification – he is great in the sight of the Lord. That means the Lord made John great. It was the Lord that made Charles Spurgeon great, and Spurgeon himself was aware that apart from the Lord, he was nothing. Likewise, without the Lord, we cannot be great – we cannot be anything apart from the Lord. But Jesus is different. Jesus is “great.” There is no qualifier there – Jesus is simply great. The Lord did not have to make Jesus that way, Jesus, by nature is great. Nobody here can say, “I’m just naturally great,” but Jesus is in essence, great, because he is God.

Look again at v.32a, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Whenever the words “Most High” is used in the Bible, it refers to God. Abraham said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth (Gen 14:22).” Most High means just that – there is none higher – no man, no god, no angel or spirit, no power or authority greater or higher than God. He is the Most High in everything. He is the Most High in all the earth. He is above all of the rulers of this world – he is above President Obama or Vladimir Putin. He is the Most High in the heavenly realms. Even Satan requires his permission to do anything. He is the Most High over all of his creation. He can measure the waters in the hollow of his hand, he has held the dust of the earth in a basket, and he can weigh mountains on his scales. The nations are like a drop in a bucket to him. He sits on a throne over the earth, and people are like grasshoppers to God (Isaiah 40:14-31). He is the Most High, and Most Holy, set apart in the highest place in the universe. He is the Holiest of all things, so much so that even his creation, the highest angels which serve him, must cover their heads and their feet to serve him. Who are we to question God, who are we to mock God? Who are we to try to give him counsel? He is the Most High God. Even Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king of one of the greatest empires in the world, testified, “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High, I honored and glorified him who lives forever. (Dan 4:34).” This Jesus is the Son of the Most High – declaring himself as one and equal to the Most High God. This Jesus, Son of the Most High, Lord of the heavens and the earth, commander of all the Lord’s armies, was coming to make his dwelling among us.

Why did he come to dwell among us? Remember what his name means: the Lord saves. Look around you and what do you see today? Read the headlines in Google News and you will see something tragic every single day. It grieves me to see what is going on in the Middle East, and in Africa with the persecuted church – how blood is spilled and how anger reigns. It grieves me to think about North Korea, how the people are oppressed, tortured for no logical reasons, starving, while the leaders erect 60 foot tall statues of their own images to be worshipped. Close to home, we read how materialism has taken over a time of Thanksgiving with family, how people trample one another and fist fight to catch a deal on a flat screen TV. Our own hands are stained with blood, because we have all turned away from God. Then there are some things that are out of our control – disease, cancer, diabetes. Darkness has overtaken this world. The world is ruled by death, and there is no one on earth who could stop it.

Who will save us? Who will rescue us? Who has the power to conquer death, to give life, and to bring light into this world? We need nothing short of the power of the Most High, so he sent his son into the world to save his people. The Son of the Most High was chosen by God to deliver his people – he is the chosen one. In the Bible he is also called the Anointed one, the Messiah, or Christ. Look again at v.32b-33: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” The Son of the Most High will destroy the dominion of sin and death sooo powerfully, and with finality, that it will never come to reign again. He will establish his own kingdom, a kingdom of peace and righteousness that will last forever. Who is the Messiah? The Messiah is the Son of David, in other words, he will be a descendant of David. David was the greatest king to rule over Israel, and he was a type, a shadow, an image of the eternal king. Mary was descended from the line of David. Joseph is also a descendant of the line of David. So this child of Mary’s, this baby to be born in a manger, is the eternal king.

After hearing all this, Mary’s response is interesting. Please look at v.34, “’How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” There doesn’t seem to be any hint of fear, or doubt in her response. She believed that the Lord would be able to fulfill his promises to her, so she had faith. But she wondered how this would take place, and it seems at first, she might not have understood the spiritual side of things. As a virgin, and even under God’s law, it would be physically impossible to conceive. Even Popular Science Magazine knows this. In an article posted Nov 18, 2013 an article came out from a recent study concluding that: “no mammalian species is capable of giving birth without a father.” Congratulations on stating the obvious. Coincidentally, the article comes out very close to the Advent/ Christmas season, but I’m not saying they were trying to attack the virgin birth.

The angel answers her question in v.35, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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 Holy Spirit will be the one who will perform the work of conception. We have studied a lot about the Holy Spirit, and we have learned a lot about the Spirit how He works – but remember at this time, Jesus hasn’t come yet, and the Holy Spirit was only revealed to some in small measure. But here the angel says the Holy Spirit will come on you – the Holy Spirit will descend on Mary, just as he descended on the apostles at Pentecost. It looks like Mary gets a preview of the Spirit’s power. Also, the angel says the power of the Holy Spirit will overshadow you. Basically, this means you will not be able to see the Holy Spirit’s operation. The conception of the child in Mary’s womb is not done naturally, but supernaturally, or spiritually, by the Holy Spirit. There may be perverse interpretations, similar to the way fallen angels came to impregnate the world before the Flood, or the stories of pagan gods coming down to impregnate worldly woman – but this was not the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not work in such base ways. Instead the idea is that the Holy Spirit is performing a direct act of creation within Mary’s womb. The Holy Spirit is knitting together a body for the Son of the Most High, and will unite the divine nature with the human nature.

So why was a virgin birth necessary? It definitely does not mean virgins are more pure than non-virgins, because we all are born of sinful flesh, but three other answers make sense. One, it would prove that the child is the Son of God, and not the son of some other father. Two, it would give the child the rights and privileges of a first born son. Last, but not least, God would be glorified in performing such a miraculous act.

If Jesus was made out of the flesh, than how could he be sinless? Ah, this is a good question. The work of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify, to set apart and to make holy. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit in us. As the Holy Spirit created a body for the Son of God, He is able to make it holy, sinless and pure. The Holy Spirit is able to preserve it and keep it pure. It seems like this might also be a good reason for the necessity of the virgin birth – because the Holy Spirit created the body out of Mary’s flesh only, and joined the Son of God to it. Therefore the child, Jesus, has 2 natures: he is fully God, and he is also fully human. Jesus did not have human flesh before the incarnation (his birth from Mary). He was given a body when the Holy Spirit began working when Mary believed (in v.38).

So why did Jesus have to be both fully God, and fully human, and holy? Another great question. This was the way in which he would save us. Because of our sinful natures, and sin in the world, we all deserve the wrath of God. Please admit this to yourselves – there were things you have done years ago, or recently that have hurt somebody. There are thoughts you’re thinking, probably even know, which are evil thoughts, and probably because I brought it up, you’re thinking them. This is the root of all of the world’s problems: it’s the sin in our hearts, our minds and our bodies. Because of this we all deserve punishment, because not only have we sinned against each other, we have sinned against a holy, righteous God. If even the angels need to cover their heads and feet when flying around God, how will we stand before God? We will necessarily burn up because of our wickedness. So the Son of the Most High took on human flesh and offered himself up as a sacrifice to take the punishment we deserve. If we had no sin, God would not have to punish his Son. If God did not punish his Son, we would have no escape from sin. Jesus took on flesh so he could feel the pain we feel, be tempted just as we were, but he lived without sin. Jesus laid down his life for us, and he died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again, the price for our sins has been paid in full, and he defeated death through his resurrection, and today he sits at the right hand of God, praying for his people. Through Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins and are reconciled with God. And what about his holiness? That is a gift he would give to us, to those who believe in his name, the name that is above very other name – Christ Jesus our Lord. Repent, and believe in the name of Jesus, and you will be saved, and brought into his everlasting kingdom of peace.

The angel then goes on to give Mary a sign, as a confirmation of the things that he said. Mary did not ask for a sign, but she was given one, in v.36 – Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, is going to have a child. This was a miracle, and a token of the promise that Mary received from Gabriel. Finally, look at Mary’s response in v.38, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. I believe it was at this moment, the Holy Spirit began to work and form the body of Christ. Think of what this would cost her – she would conceive and become pregnant miraculously. It could cost her her marriage, and possibly even her life on charges of adultery. But instead, she believed in God’s promises, and became a willing servant of the Lord. Christ, her son, was her Lord and king.

Think back now, to who you consider to be great. Think about how you behaved. I thought Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball hero, and Goku was the greatest Dragon Ball fighter. So what would I do? I would make up basketball moves where I would fly in the air, spin, do 4 360-degree turns, and shot a fadeaway into the basket. I wanted to be like my heroes. Is Jesus great to you? Does your life reflect that? Jesus is the Son of the Most High, the Creator God, Lord and King of the universe. He has singlehandedly destroyed the dominion of death and darkness. And how did he do it? By humbling himself, taking on a nature of a servant, like feeble man, and laying down his life to die. No one could save like Jesus. No one could love like Jesus. Think often on the greatness of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ. Then follow him, imitate him, learn from him, serve him, and obey him. He is your King also, of course. Gabriel said when Jesus came, he will be great. That’s because Jesus is great.

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Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
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    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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