See the skit: The Called
It’s a good day for a new beginning. Time to get back to the basics, to set aside the sins of the past and walk forward in obedience to Christ. How many of you have noticed that obedience isn’t always easy?
How many of you have noticed that obeying the Lord comes at a cost?
I recently communicated with a man who was pondering what to do since some of the things his boss asked him to do were “a little off key.” As Christians we need to be prepared to be obedient to the Lord first and human authority second. But obeying God rather than man is going to have consequences. And not all of those consequences will be pleasant. But as you consider the difficulty caused by obedience, consider also the consequences of disobedience to the Lord. I would much rather fall into the hands of man or demon than the hands of God. They may strip away comfort,
but a servant of God has but one choice always: obedience is our only choice.
For a young woman in Nazareth the ramifications of choosing to obey God’s summons to service comes not with a desire to get out of it, but a desire to understand it.
When Gabriel came to Mary and greeted her as one highly graced, he informed her that she was about to become pregnant and bear a son she would name Jesus. To Mary’s credit she appears to have set her mind at once to doing whatever God asked her to do. The only pause in this passage isn’t a question of if she would obey, but a question of how she would obey. Ever been there? Take a look at Luke 1:26-38, starting to really focus at Luke 1:34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
We obey in God’s power, not in our own ability
Looking up to the 31’st verse (Luke 1:31)
the angel says to her, “you will conceive…” Apparently “Mary understood the angel to be saying that the conception would be imminent…”1 But that poses a problem. She understood how these things happen and she didn’t fit the requirements.
Mary’s question is not like Zacharias’ question in Luke 1:18. Zacharias answers "how can I know this is really going to happen." Verse 20 says his question was motivated by unbelief. But Mary doesn’t question the promised event, Verse 45 reveals that she believed, she merely questions the mechanism. She doesn’t question that it will happen, she merely wants to know how. She’d never known a man so how could pregnancy occur?
People have been pondering that question for centuries, how can a virgin give birth? There is only one possible answer to that: a miracle.
It is amazing to me that the so called science, or rather pseudoscience of evolution which claims that life sprang up out of rocks and mud denounces the virgin birth as impossible. The difference you see isn’t the sheer impossibility of the matter – both evolution and human parthenogenesis are completely impossible, it’s the belief or unbelief in God.
Apart from God, this cannot happen. Rocks and mud do not generate life no matter how long you wait, and virgins do not conceive children. Anyone who understands the principles at work can see the obvious. But with God, all things are possible.
Here’s our first lesson. God is seeking people to do his work. He wants the nations to know of Christ, he wants us to walk in obedience. He wants our families to mirror Christ. He wants our homes a haven of holiness. He wants his glory to shine through us to the darkened world. And quite honestly we know how these things can happen but we all to often find that no
matter how hard we try we just flat out lack the capacity. We know what God wants us to do, but we lack the ability to do it.
The question isn’t can we obey, it is will we yield to him? “How can I do this? I’m only a human?” the answer is the same for us as it was for Mary when she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
God ‘s Spirit in you is enough
There in Luke 1:35, “The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Looking at some of the word choices here….
Come upon you pictures someone stronger visiting the weaker. The image conveyed is one of Mary’s complete inability to virginally conceive a child and God’s presence making the impossible possible. Like the promise in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit will come upon the disciples the idea is one of
the impossible becoming possible because now God’s power is present in His Spirit which is upon you.
Overshadow youpictures the Holy Spirit covering her completely as the Shekinah Glory of the Lord in the Old testament overshadowed the temple and blocked all access visible or otherwise into the temple. Thus the work of Creating the Christ child is concealed from vision, and from all other access. We are not given a narration of what happened. All we know is that in one moment Mary was a virgin without a child in her womb and in another moment she remained a virgin but had a child in her womb. God spontaneously creates life where there was none.
The same phrase is used four times in the gospels. The meaning is consistently "Surround and envelop" The idea of a cloud is clearly part of three of the mentions. We can
understand what happened to Mary by considering these other instances. “The Holy Spirit will surround and envelop you” makes much more sense to my ears than “overshadow”. The Acts instance of the word describes Peter’s shadow when it would pass over someone. The word is translated there as fall. We can visually see a shadow fall upon someone and when it does it surrounds them, and had it the mass of a cloud we would readily say that it also enveloped them. But the Shadow has no mass. The word picture remains though. The Spirit Fell upon Mary in a way that surrounded and enveloped her. The generation of Christ is something secured in secrecy. But as it is the work of God – the child is the Son of God.
Finally the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit invokes the memory of the Holy Spirit Hovering over the waters at the dawn of creation. The Holy Spirit has ever been God’s agent of creation and order – the caretaker and the sustainer.
We are never told how the incarnation takes
place, we are not therefore meant to know. The testimony we are given is enough to say that the child Jesus simply became as God took on flesh in Mary’s womb.
Praise God for his indescribable gift!
Mary was no more able to create Christ inside of herself than we are; and yet in us as in her God performed a miracle of generation as Christ came to dwell within her. Mary wanted to know How it was going to work, Gabriel’s answer is sufficient, "God by his power and authority will make it happen." That is enough. And frankly that is enough for us.
We too often want to know how God will accomplish something that we see as impossible but which God is asking us to do. The answer to us is the same. When we ask "How" God’s answer is that he is sufficient.
"God shall supply," the scriptures say, but we say how? God is sufficient is the answer.
"God shall comfort" the
scriptures say, but we say how? God is sufficient is the answer.
God proves his power when we trust Him
We have the Scripture fulfilled as proof enough that God keeps his promises. Mary had proof of a different sort. Look down in verse 36-37.
“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(Luke 1:36–37, NASB95)
If Mary had any lingering doubts, they should be erased knowing that Her old relative Elizabeth was now with Child. Even an old woman is not so old that the authority of God cannot give her a child to fulfill his will, neither is it impossible for this young girl to conceive without a man under the authority of God.
What we do know is that Elizabeth’s pregnancy is now tied together with Mary’s.
indicates that God does miracles and neither age, nor marital status, nor human capacity (Elizabeth was barren and Mary was a virgin) will hinder God’s ability to work in and through us.
Second it indicates that God works in our lives through others. In the next section Elizabeth is going to confirm that Mary is indeed pregnant; that the child in her is God; and that Mary is indeed the mother of The Messiah.
Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.” It simply means that anything God says, he will do, because God is able to do everything he says.
A slaves obedience
After hearing Gabriel’s explanation, Mary has but one more thing to say, Behold I am God’s servant!
With those words the universe changed direction. Salvation became possible because a little girl in a village in norther Israel agreed to submit to God’s will.
God had asked Mary to bear the Messiah. I cannot but believe that every Jewish girl hoped that she would be the
one who would give birth to the Messiah. But Mary didn’t really expect it, and she was surprised to hear the request. But she quietly humbled herself before God and agreed to do the unthinkable and impossible — become pregnant before marriage.
She called herself “God’s slave”. A slave does not really have a choice in obedience it is mandatory to obey your master. The Apostle uses that principle when he says,
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. ” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NASB95)
“You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. ” (1 Corinthians 7:23, NASB95)
You are slaves to Christ Jesus – having been purchased with his Blood. Therefore whatsoever God asks of you
this year, let us yield to Him a heart and body of obedience. Never minding our own inability but trusting wholly in his ability.
1Walter A. Elwell, vol. 3, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Baker reference library) (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1996, c1989), Lk 1:26.
4Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke The New International Commentary on the New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 92.