This week as you remember Christmas you might consider having a listen to Handel’s Messiah. I listen to it every year. For me one of the most memorable parts in Handel’s Messiah takes place in the early oratorio “For unto us a child is born” The words go on to quote from Isaiah (inserting a long pause between wonderful counselor which isn’t exactly there)
“And his name shall be called: Wonderful – Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!” The names of the Messiah all point not only to who is is, but what he shall do!
A Greeting of Grace
Last time we talked about Gabriel being sent (1:26) and now he arrives. The flow is important. First we learn of Gabriel’s assignment. Now we learn of Gabriel’s Message. It starts with a Greeting of Grace.
His two word introduction begins with a greeting which is literally "Rejoice!" Most English Bibles
translate it simply as "Greetings" because it was commonly used as a greeting – and that’s how it’s used here.
The second word is translated as "you who are highly favored" in the NIV. It is really just one word used as if it were a name. Mary is identified as favored. Not merely as one favored as Mary but identified with receiving favor (grace) itself. Mary is not a dispenser of grace, the Bible clearly teaches that she is a recipient of grace.
The same word is used only one other time in Ephesians 1:6 “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
As one commentator put it, God gives grace and we rejoice.1 So this morning I can greet all who believe in Christ the same way, “Rejoice! Receivers of Grace”.
With the final phrase, “The Lord is with you” Gabriel’s message becomes even more important. This greeting
marks God’s involvement in the lives of such people as Gideon (Judges 6:12) and King David (2 Samuel 7:3). Every time it is used in the old testament it tends to come at a time when God is about to bring some sort of deliverance through an individual. (cref: Jdg. 6:12; 2 Sam. 7:3; 2 Chr. 15:2; 2 Chr. 20:17; Lk. 1:28)
Mary’s response to the greeting is unique in the scriptures. The angel greeted Gideon hiding in the wine press , “The Lord is with you valiant warrior” He just argued with the angel that the Lord wasn’t with them. When Samuel told king Saul that the Lord was with Him, he went and hid in the baggage on his coronation day.
But when Gabriel says the Lord is with Mary she just wonders what it means. Like others before her, Mary doesn’t see herself as worthy of any of this. I don’t think that it points to her feeling particularly unworthy in a self-abasing morose sense. But rather that Mary’s honest humility (knowing who she was in light
of who God is) made her ponder what this greeting could possibly mean. She knew it was directed at her, but why?
Put yourself in her position, it’s not every day you are greeted by an angel, and it’s not every day that an angel tells you that you are favored by God. Naturally Mary is perplexed with such a greeting. Why would she be called favored? Why would he declare God was with her? Mary’s response is very similar but is heightened compared to that of Zacharias in 1:12, Zacharias was troubled, she is troubled through and through. There she stands amid an internal debate wondering what was next.
A Servant of Grace
We might also ponder the statement for a moment and ask the question, Why Mary? Perhaps on the outside an ordinary girl from the wrong side of town. And I’m convinced that this is the point.
Gabriel was sent to Mary because she was “full of grace” Not the dispenser of it but the recipient of it. God chose this young woman because he had poured his grace out upon
For her part, Mary was an honestly humble person. A humble person is humble in truth, not merely in appearance. When Gabriel called her Graced, she didn’t stand up and declare, “You’re right! I am!” She pondered it internally. Mary’s song, which we’ll look at in coming weeks will be filled with the same humble framework as she refers to herself as being in “the humble state of his servant”.
Her inner turmoil is one not merely of confusion but apparently of some fear since the angel continues in Luke 1:30, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”
Found favor is literally grace. “You have found grace in the presence of the Lord.” Once again the same phrase is used with other notable figures in the scripture.
Noah (Gen 6:8) Found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Moses (Exodus 33:14-17) found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Proverbs 12:2 tells us that “a good man” finds favor in the eyes of the Lord.
King David (Acts 7:46) found favor in the
eyes of the Lord.
And what of you and I? Through Christ we find favor with God to draw near Hebrews 4:16!
What must we do to find this favor in the eyes of the Lord? Should we climb a high mountain and meditate? Should we memorize the bible? Shall we raise the money to broadcast the gospel to every household? Perhaps we should flog ourselves for past sins? What shall we do to find this favor?
You know the answer already. There is nothing. Grace is grace. By definition grace is getting something you don’t deserve. We cannot earn it but only receive it. Grace is God’s domain, and we are doubly blessed to be His servants.
Mary found grace / favor in the presence of God. In the presence of God we also found grace in the Son that Mary bore.
A Miracle of Grace.
The Miraculous begins in Luke 1:31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.”
We’ve been introduced to the importance of
the announcement by the angel, the descendant of David, and now by Mary puzzling over the greeting and finally by her finding grace in the presence of the Lord. But it is the message itself which goes beyond comprehension.
Having reassured Mary and in effect explained to her the reason for his visit and the purpose for what is next is because she’s the recipient of grace it’s time for the meat of the announcement, and it’s all about Mary.
She will conceive in her womb.
Everything that has happened so far is highly unusual stemming from the usual. Under normal circumstances Joseph and Mary would eventual complete the betrothal with marriage and go on to live a normal life of a Galilean tradesman’s family. But when God enters in with his plans for Mary (and Joseph) the impossible happens. Mary is told that she will conceive, alone, without Joseph’s involvement. It’s this part of the whole equation that will cause her the most consternation. Naturally because it doesn’t happen this way.
She will bring forth a Son
The wording of the whole annunciation brings to mind Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel ” (Isaiah 7:14, NASB95)
Matthew is the one who calls attention to this particular prophecy and tells us that the name Immanuel means “God with us”. We discover that the name in Isaiah is meant to be symbolic because the name that she will call this child is Jesus.
She will call him Jesus.
Jesus. The Name above all names is given to the one above all. The name means “Yahweh Saves.” This fact isn’t lost on Mary who later (Luke 1:47) will proclaim God as her savior.
But Gabriel goes on to describe Him Luke 1:32 "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
The Angel’s promise is specifically Messianic.
He will be great:
As John the baptist was to be great in the eyes of the Lord, Jesus the son of God will simply be great. For John the baptist, greatness is contingent on God recognizing him as great, for Jesus – greatness simply is what he is.
He will be called Son of the Most High.
The unexpected (by Mary) contrast here is that Jesus will be the son of God and not of Joseph.
He will be called son of the most high: means that he will be, as Jews understood the phrase, the same as his father. ( the phrase “son of” was often used to refer to one who possessed his “father’s” qualities 2
Being just like his father, Jesus is God and nothing less than God. The Deity of Christ is undeniable.
He will be A Davidic King,
The throne of David already alluded to earlier in Joseph’s lineage is now brought center stage.
He will be given the throne of David. Jesus is to be the fulfillment of the promise given to David in 2 Samuel 7:11-16 (read) which clearly could not apply to Solomon because Solomon later went astray from God to idols, and was diminished in God’s eyes. Jesus however fits the bill perfectly.
Each of these are promises from the prophets.
He will Reign over Israel (house of Jacob) forever.
Normally you expect a king to reign for along time and then to pass the kingdom to his son. But this king is to be different. He will reign forever. So unique is the emphasis that it’s repeated.
His kingdom will never end.
The never ending Kingdom is promised in 2 Samuel 7:13-16. It is the ultimate in Messianic promise. With this last descriptor, there is no questioning the identity of the child Mary will bear.
A never ending kingdom demands a never
ending king. The Messiah is no mere mortal with a life span of a hundred blessed years, he is the ancient of days in the flesh. The eternal Son of God.
To sit on David’s throne demands a human descendant of David, to reign forever demands a deity. The absolute humanity and deity of Jesus Christ is necessary for Him to complete the task.
The Christmas hymn asks, "What child is this?" and then proclaims, "This is Christ the king – whom shepherds watch and angels sing" With such an identity what must we do? The Hymn continues, "Haste to bring him laud [praise]" This king, is the king who will rule with a rod of iron. We will either fall before him in humble worship or we will fall before him as slain sinners. There is no other option.
B. Green, The Gospel of Luke The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997). p86.