The first believer
THE FIRST BELIEVER (Lk 1:26-38)
Who is the first person to believe that Jesus is the messiah? Mary. Mary not only has the unique privilege of bearing Jesus, but she is the first to receive the revelation that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God and to believe.
Salvation is available to all who believe that Jesus is God’s saviour.
The origin of salvation: God’s sovereign grace (26-30)
The means of salvation: Jesus the Son of God (31-33)
The response of salvation: Willing submission (34-38)
The result of salvation: Overflowing blessing (39-45)
The confession of salvation: Praise be to God (46-56)
· What are we celebrating today? Christmas
· What is that about? Jesus birth
· What are some things we normally do when a baby is born? Celebrate, buy them gifts, visit the baby….name the baby.
· Why do we give people names?
We give people names because they are special to us and their names often have a special meaning, or we name them after a famous person, or sometimes just because we like the sound of the name.
· Who knows what their name means?
o Joshua – Yashua, or Yawheh or God saves
o David – beloved
o Phumelele – meaning achieved, succeeded or prevailed
o Olwhetu – queen, or love for royalty, love for God.
o Christopher – to bear or carry Christ
o Sarah – lady or princess or noblewomen
o Luthando – meaning love in Xhosa
o Joseph – He will add.
o Mika – is a shortened form of Michael meaning “Who is like God”
o Bailee – derived from Baliff which referred to a court official – one who could post bail….
o Malachi – God’s messenger
o Hannah – meaning favour or grace
Often when we give someone a name it means something to us, but doesn’t say anything about the person, beause they are a baby, we don’t know if they will grow up to be or do anything that is reflected by their name. But when God assigns a name, He knows exactly how He created that person to be and what He has planned for them to do, so when God gives someone a name it tells us a lot about that person.
We are going to be looking at the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. In the sermon I will explain the meaning of two names. If you can come tell me the two names and what they mean – this chocolate is yours.
Last week we looked at the first half of Luke 1 the announcement of John the Baptist to Elizabeth. The second half of chapter 1 deals with Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. These two events must be viewed in parallel:
· In both the angel Gabriel appears bringing a message.
· In both we have a miraculous conception
· In both we have a description of the child to be born
· In both we have a sign that verifies the truthfulness of God’s Word.
· In both we have the mothers saying – look at what the Lord has done for me
Yet there is a progression
· From John the Baptist, the forerunner – to Jesus the messiah
· From a barren woman giving birth to a virgin birth
· From a prophet of God to the Son of God
· From Zecharaiah’s great faithlessness to Mary’s great faith.
Question: Who is the first person to believe that Jesus is the messiah? Mary. Mary not only has the unique privilege of bearing Jesus, but she is the first to receive the revelation that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God and to believe. While many before her believed that God would send a messiah one day – she is the first one to find out that Jesus is that messiah and she believes, even before He is born. Many after her would hear the same message and believe, but she holds that privileged position and I think in many ways Luke includes this detail here because she becomes a picture, a model of all who believe.
Luke’s gospel emphasizes that Jesus is the saviour. The root for “save” occurs more times in Luke’s gospel than any of the others. Salvation is available to all who believe that Jesus is God’s saviour.
· The origin of salvation: God’s sovereign grace (26-30)
· The means of salvation: Jesus the Son of God (31-33)
· The response of salvation: Willing submission (34-38)
· The result of salvation: Overflowing blessing (39-45)
· The confession of salvation: Praise be to God (46-56)
1: The origin of salvation: God’s sovereign grace (26-30)
A Significant messenger:
· The name Gabriel is made up of two Hebrew words “Gabor-el”. “Gabor” means strong/mighty and “el” means God. So his name means strong man or warrior of God. Lk 1:19 Gabriel stands in the presence of God and he seems to hold a prominent position among the angels. He is only mentioned 4 times in Scripture: twice here in Luke 1 and in Daniel 8-9 where Daniel is pleading to God to restore Israel and God sends a message via Gabriel to give him insight into what must happen from his time until the end of time.
· So the name of the messenger alone should tell us something about how important this message is. This is a very significant messenger.
An insignificant recipient:
· The significance of the messenger is contrasted with the insignificance of the recipient.
· He is sent to Nazareth, a city in Galilee.
· Galilee was the most northern of the three Roman provinces of Palestine. Galilee was known as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Is 9:1; Mat 4:15) and was the backyard province where most of the pagans lived.
· Nazareth was an insignificant farming town nestled in the mountains. Nazareth was Poffader which is why Nathaniel could say, “Nazareth, can anything good come out of Nazareth.”
· To a young woman betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. The text says very little about Mary and Joseph because there is very little to say. They were of Davidic lineage. Beyond that we know Joseph worked as a carpenter so they were of the common class of people, they offered a pair of doves instead of a lamb, at the Temple in chapter 2, which was the poor-man’s offering so they were of insignificant social, political or economic standing.
· Mary was betrothed or engaged to Joseph. Young girls would be enaged somewhere between the ages of 12-13. Think about some of the youth in our church, the young girls as they go from SOS to youth at age 13…
· So this mighty angelic messenger comes with an incredibly important message to this unknown 12-16 year old girl living in the middle of nowhere.
· Even Mary is shocked, not just by the appearance of the angel but by his greeting. “Greetings favoured one, the Lord is with you.” Twice she is told in vs 28 and 30 that she is the recipient of God’s favour. Nothing about Mary would warrant any particular attention or favour from God.
This is exactly the point. The chosen place, the chosen person, the chosen manner of His coming tells us that God’s saviour is not only coming to the high and mighty and the rich and powerful and important. God doesn’t chose the things that are exalted in the eyes of man. God’s saviour is coming even to the lowly, even for the Gentiles of Galilee, to those who are nothing in the eyes of the world.
The contrast between the two announcements is striking:
· The prelude to Gabriel appearing to Zechariah (5-6) speaks of how they were righteous, walking blamelessly, that he was a priest and their lineage and what he was doing.
· When Gabriel comes to Mary we are told next to nothing because the most significant thing about Mary is that she has found favour in God’s sight and its surprising that she of all people should be given this incredible privilege of carrying the messiah.
· This is what she picks up in her song of praise – vs 48 He has looked upon the humble state of his servant. 52 he has brought down the mighty but exalted the weak, he has filled the hungry and yet the rich are sent away empty
· God’s sovereignty in exalting and humbling, in showing favour and bringing justice.
If she is the first believer and this is her salvation testimony then it is clear that salvation is by grace alone, not because of anything we have done or deserve – God shows us favour despite who we are not because of who we are. When Mary does get to praising God – read 1:46-49, she has nothing to boast in, but to boast in what the Lord has done for her
1: The origin of salvation: God’s sovereign grace.
2: The MEANS OF salvation: JESUS THE SON OF GOD (31-34)
The angel tells her what will happen, she will conceive and give birth to a very special son.
Again the two accounts are parallel;
· In both accounts we have a description of the child to be born
· In both accounts the child is specifically named by God with a name reflective of his person and work.
Description of the messiah
· He will be called Jesus. The name means salvation, or Yahweh saves but Luke doesn’t explain the meaning.
· He will be great. John will be great before God, Jesus will be great without qualification.
· He will be son of the most High, or later on in vs 35 son of God. Instead of Joseph, the almighty God himself will be His Father. As a son, He will share the same nature and characteristics as God.
· He will be a king, not just any king, but the promised Davidic King of 2 Sam 7:10-17.
· Christ comes as the last in a line of kings to fulfil this covenant promise to David.
· 1:35 He will be called holy – set apart, distinguished, righteous in the absolute sense. This is what qualifies Jesus to be the saviour of the world – He is the only one who is truly holy and perfectly holy in and of himself. All others sin and fall short of the glory of God – Jesus alone could be the spotless, sinless sacrifice for sin.
The other announcements describe mainly what Jesus will do – this is the most comprehensive description of who He will be. That forms the content of Christian faith. Our faith is in who Jesus is and what he accomplished. His person and His work.
This Son is not just a great man or a great moral teacher or an amazing prophet. This is God’s unique son, the holy one, the only saviour, the promised David King.
The origin of faith = God’s sovereign grace, the means of grace = Jesus God’s son.
3: The response of salvation: willing submission (34-38)
How will this be?
· Notice the two slightly different responses between Zecharaiah. Vs 18 Zecharaiah says how will I know. In other words, give me a sign so that I will know that what you have said will come to pass. The angel rebukes him for his unbelief and then makes him mute as a sign that these things will come to pass.
· Mary doesn’t ask how will I know. She believes what the angel has said will come to pass, but she doesn’t understand how it will be accomplished..
· That is why the angel’s explanation emphasizes the “how.” By the power of God, through the working of the Spirit.
· The angel doesn’t offer a technical biological description of how this will be accomplished, but enough of a description to help Mary understand that it will be accomplished by God’s power.
· The Holy Spirit will come upon you. This is the same word used in Acts 1:8 – you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the world. So this refers to a supernatural infilling, enabling of the Spirit.
· The power of the most High will overshadow you. The word here is used of the casting of a shadow. The shadow of God’s glory will shine upon you, may be an allusion to the Shekinah glory of God that was a visible manifestation of His presence in the Old Testament.
· 1:37 : humanly speaking Mary understands that what Gabriel has promised is impossible. But the angel reminds her that nothing is impossible with God. God will accomplish this not man.
· Mary doesn’t need all the details, it is enough for her to know that God will accomplish this supernaturally, directly, by His power.
· 1:38: Look at her response. Let it be done to your maidservant according to your word. Having heard of God’s favour, of the unique son she will bear and how this will be accomplished by God’s supernatural power, Mary offers her body, her whole self to God. She puts herself willingly and freely at His disposal that His will might be accomplished in her and through her.
· This is faith = to take God at His Word and to surrender myself to His will and purposes, to place myself at His disposal.
God’s salvation requires a response on our part. To hear, to believe, to surrender – that is the right response to God’s saving work in His son.
4: The RESULT OF SALVATION: OVERFLOWING BLESSING (39-45)
Even though Mary doesn’t ask for a sign as Zechariah does, the angel offers her one. Her relative, Elizabeth, the one who is barren and beyond child bearing age is also with child by God’s miraculous intervention. She is 6 months pregnant, far enough along to be able to see that she is pregnant.
That explains why Mary went with haste, she wanted to see for herself and gain assurance concerning the things she had been told – she wanted to tell what the Lord had done to the one person who would understand and listen. When she arrives she gets even more than she bargained for. ..
Its almost like John the Baptist is already performing his ministry of pointing to Christ even while he is still in the womb. When Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the baby leaps in her womb and the Holy Spirit comes upon her and gives her insight into what is happening. Like the prophets of Old she speaks as she is carried along by the Holy Spirit and cries out – blessed are you, happy are you, rich and full are you and the fruit of your womb.
This is superlative blessing – among all the women in the world, you are uniquely blessed. Again in vs 45 blessed is she who believed.
· Salvation does bring difficulty, it does bring reproach.
· Mary would be misunderstood and disbelieved. She would carry for the rest of her life a shadow of shame as the women who fell pregnant out of wedlock. She would have to flee to a foreign country to protect her child from Herod and suffer untold pain as she witnessed the rejection of Christ and His crucifixion.
· Yet overall, despite these hardships, salvation brings Gold’s blessing, God’s fullness, God’s abundance.
· Jesus said I came that you might have life and have it in abundance, that you might experience all the fullness of God working in you despite the difficulties.
Elizabeth understands by the Holy Spirit that not only is Mary pregnant but she is pregnant with the Messiah, her Lord. Even as John the Baptist was to testify to Christ, we see that the unique role of the Holy Spirit is to testify to Christ.
· 1:15 John the Baptist
· 1:41 Elizabeth
· 1:67 Zecharaiah
· 2:25-26 Simeon
· Acts 1:8 the same Spirit will lead believers to become witnesses to Christ to the ends of the earth.
Then we have the affirmation of her faith – blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
Mary has a wonderful confirmation of her faith. She is not crazy, she has not just had some mystical emotional experience. Elizabeth is pregnant and has confessed the same thing as the angel – she is bearing the messiah. God’s saviour has come into the world. Now the blessing is beginning to overflow to Elizabeth and to others. Mary doesn’t have to convince anyone of her crazy story, the Holy Spirit does that for her.
We really see here a pattern of how God’s blessing will come not only to Mary but to the whole world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the message that God’s saviour has come will spread.
The grounds of salvation: God’s sovereign grace. The means of salvation: Jesus the son of God. The response of salvation: Willing surrender. The result of salvation: Overflowing blessing. The confession of salvation: Praise be to God.
5: The confession of SALVATION: pRAISE BE TO GOD (46-56)
Rom 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead – you will be saved.
Mary has believed and now she confesses, she praises God
· Elizabeth could say – thus the Lord has done for me in 1:25 – now Mary can say in 1:49 he who is mighty has done great things for me. That is what the believer confesses – look what the Lord has done for me.
· There is a logical flow to Mary’s praise. She begins with what the Lord has done for me (46-48), then she realizes that this blessing is not only for her personally, but for all those who fear God (49-50), God’s blessing toward us is seen more clearly against the backdrop of His justice (51-53) then she grounds God’s blessing in the covenant promise to Abraham (54-55) all this is in fuflillment of what He promised from the beginning.
· I am nobody and nothing and yet this is what God has done for me – this is grace, unearned, unmerited favour.
Me and others:
· This grace is not only for me, but for others too. God has shown he strength of His arm, His sovereign power in both justice and mercy, she draws a stark contrast – mercy toward us and justice toward others. He has scattered the proud, brought down the mighty, sent the rich away empty but in contrast shown mercy to those who fear Him, exalted the humble, fed the hungry.
· God fearing, hungry, weak – these are terms which depict people that are dependant upon God, looking to God for His salvation, His help. They are not adequate in themselves.
· Proud, the mighty, the rich – these terms depict people in their self-sufficiency. People who have made themselves their own gods, who depend on their wealth and status and abilities to gain for themselves. They don’t see their need of God.
· The world is divided into 2 kinds of people – those who recognize their own weakness and need of God’s grace and those who believe in their own strength and wisdom.
· As Christ comes into the world, He divides humanity into these two categories – those who recognize their need of a saviour and who humble themselves and submit to God’s way of salvation. Those who follow their own man-made way of salvation.
Those who are great in the world’s eyes become nothing in God’s eyes and those who are nothing in the world’s eyes become great in God’s eyes. Jesus’ coming into the world has changed everything.
In Christ those who are nothing and having nothing receive everything. Outside of Christ those who have everything end up with nothing.
Mary is the object of God’s underserved unmerited favour – though she is nothing and nobody – God showers His blessing upon her and she becomes the first believer. She hears the message about Christ, she believers, she hastens to go and tell her relatives and she openly confesses – look what the Lord has done for me.
What a marvellous picture of the salvation that we will see coming to various people throughout the gospel of Luke and beyond the gospel in our own day.
Which brings us back to the main question we should be asking ourselves over Christmas – have I received God’s gift of salvation?