I explained last Sunday that what I want to do on the two Sunday surrounding Christmas is to study four passages from the Bible which help us to understand why the Son of God came into the world; and what will happen when he comes again.
So far we’ve looked at Genesis 3 and Isaiah 11. In Genesis 3 God promised that one of Eve’s descendants will crush the serpent who had deceived them. By those words, God was speaking about the Lord Jesus who came into the world to defeat the Devil; and who will one day destroy the Devil and all who have sided with him. In Isaiah 11 God promised to send a great King into the world, who will be filled with his Spirit and who will be fully equipped to be King. He also promised that his people will live in peace on God’s holy mountain. By these words, God was again speaking about the Lord Jesus, who is our Great King, and who — when he comes again — will bring all his people into the new heaven and earth where we will live peacefully and securely on God’s holy mountain forever and forever.
This morning we’re turning our attention to Luke 1 and to the time when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to a special son. And this special son is the great King which Isaiah foretold, who will reign forever and his kingdom will never end.
But before we move on, I wonder have you noticed how God revealed his great plan of redemption bit by bit? He didn’t reveal it all at once, but bit by bit over time. So, like a flower which grows over time — so that first the seed is planted in the ground and then the shoot appears, and then the buds and then the flower — so God reveals the gospel bit by bit over time. So, in the Garden of Eden his first announcement of the gospel was in seed form: he announced how one of the women’s descendants will crush the head of the serpent. What he said was true, but it was without any detail. But then — through the rest of the Old Testament — the Lord revealed his plan for our redemption more clearly and more fully through what he revealed to Abraham, for instance; and in the way he delivered his people from Egypt, and led them to the Promised Land; and then in what he revealed to David, the King. And then, in the days of Isaiah, he revealed with greater clarity and with more fullness how he will send a great King who will reign forever over a renewed earth.
Do you see? He revealed his plan for our redemption bit by bit over time. And now, in Luke’s gospel, he revealed his plan even more clearly and with even greater fullness by telling us more about the coming King. And if you come back this evening, when we’re going to study Revelation 21 and 22, you’ll see how the Lord revealed through the apostle John in every more clarity and fullness his future plans for his people, and the wonderful future he has in store for us when Christ the King comes again.
God didn’t reveal his plan all at once, but bit by bit over time. But the whole of the Bible — from beginning to end — reveals to us God’s great plan for our redemption; and how the Lord God Almighty will gather his people into his presence by his Son, who is our Great King and Redeemer, so that we will be with him for ever and ever in glory. That’s what the whole of the Bible is about. And so, you need to repent and believe the good news, trusting in Christ the Saviour for peace with God, otherwise when Christ comes again in glory and with power to judge the living and the dead, he will send you out of his presence to be punished forever; but if you repent and believe, he will bring you into his presence to enjoy everlasting life and peace and joy and rest for ever.
Gabriel and Mary
And so, in order to persuade you to repent and believe, and to keep believing, let’s turn to Luke 1. And we read in verse 26 that this took place in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy: Elizabeth was expecting John the Baptist, whose birth had been announced to Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, in the previous passage. And so, when Elizabeth was six months pregnant, the Lord sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth to visit Mary. Mary, we’re told, was a virgin who was pledged to be married to Joseph, who was descended from David. David, of course, was Israel’s greatest king. And so, Luke is pointing out to us that Joseph — who was the Lord’s adoptive father — was from the house and line of David. Though he was only a carpenter, he was descended from King David.
When the angel appeared before Mary, he greeted her as one who was highly favoured with God. So, though she was only a young girl, living in a fairly obscure town in Galilee, the Lord looked on her with favour and chose her for this special calling. The angel also reassured Mary that the Lord was with her. And, after telling her not to be afraid, the angel went on to announce to her that she will soon give birth to a son to whom she must give the name Jesus. You’ll perhaps know that the name Jesus is the Greek form of the name Joshua which means ‘the Lord saves’. So, Mary’s child will be known as ‘The Lord saves’. And, of course, he is the Lord; and he has come to save his people from condemnation and eternal punishment by laying down his life as the ransom to set us free. However, the angel does not dwell on this, but goes on to tell Mary that her son will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. In other words, he will be called the Son of the Most High God. We’ll come back to that later.
But notice as well that the angel said to Mary that the Lord will give her son the throne of David. So, he will inherit David’s throne and the right to rule over the Lord’s people. But unlike every other king, whose kingdom comes to an end, Mary’s son will reign for ever and his kingdom will never end. Other kings come and go; kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall; but Mary’s son will reign for ever. And so, he will be a great king, unlike every other king who has ever reigned.
Well, having listened to all of this, Mary is puzzled. ‘How will this be?’ she wants to know. She doesn’t doubt what the angel said, but she wonders how she can possibly have a son like this when she’s not yet married. And so, the angel went on to reveal to her that she will conceive this special son in a special way, for the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High God will overshadow her. And so, she’ll conceive this child, not in the normal and natural way, but in a supernatural way. She will conceive this child by means of the Holy Spirit who will overshadow her.
And so, the child who is born will be holy. Do you see that in verse 35? Every other person who is born is born a sinner. We’re sinners from our mother’s womb, because all of us inherit Adam’s sin and guilt. And because we’re born sinners, we sin naturally. And we all know this to be true, don’t we?, because we all know that you don’t need to teach a child to misbehave and to be disobedient; it comes naturally to every child; and parents need to teach their children how to behave and parents have to discipline their children so that they become obedient. Sinning comes naturally to us, because we’re born sinners. ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me’, is how the Psalmist puts it. But the Lord Jesus would be different, because he alone — from the moment he was conceived — would be holy, so that he would be born undefiled by Adam’s sin.
Now, if he were born a sinner like us, then he would need a Saviour like we do. But since he was holy from the moment he was conceived, and since he never once sinned throughout the whole of his life, he did not need a Saviour to save him from his sin. He didn’t need to be saved. Instead — when the time was right — he was able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice to deal with our sin and guilt, so that all who believe in him receive forgiveness for their sin and peace with God.
So, Mary’s son will be holy; and he’ll be called the Son of God. Again, we’ll come back to that later. But here’s the angel explaining to Mary that her special son will be conceived in a special way. Instead of being conceived naturally, he’ll be conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. And so, in this way — by means of this supernatural conception in the virgin Mary — God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, became flesh and dwelt among us. Without ceasing to be God, God the Son took to himself our human nature; and he became one of us. And he became one of us, so that he could take the blame for us and suffer and die in our place to take away our sins. He became one of us so that he could lay down his life as the ransom to set us free from condemnation.
And so, there you have it. The angel announced to Mary that she would conceive and give birth to a special son, who would be a great King who will rule for ever. And he will be holy. And he will be called the Son of God.
And after Mary heard of all this, she submitted herself to the Lord’s will for her, saying in verse 38:
I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.
Well, we’ve recently finished our studies in the gospel of Mark. And so, do you remember the Lord’s first words in Mark’s gospel? His first words in Mark’s gospel were:
The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.
You see, all through the Old Testament, the Lord had foretold in various ways that one day he would send a great King into the world who will rule on his behalf over his people. The Lord announced it in various ways; and as we’ve seen, he announced it through the prophet Isaiah when he declared through Isaiah that a great King will come who will be filled with the Holy Spirit to equip him to be King of God’s people. The Lord announced it in Isaiah and he announced it in other places throughout the Old Testament. And so, God’s people in Old Testament times were taught to expect and to look forward to the time when this great King would come.
And then, at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry, he made known to the people that the time they were waiting for had arrived, because he’s the great King. He’s the one God told them to expect. And by the things he did — all the great miracles he performed — and by the things he taught — and he taught them with great authority — by the things he did and said, he revealed again and again that he had come from God to be our great King and to deliver us from our sin and misery and to give us everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom.
But, of course, — and we saw this in Mark’s gospel — many of those who saw him and heard him did not believe in him; and they would not submit to him. We’ve seen how the Pharisees and the teachers of the law came to question him and to argue with him and to sit in judgment on him, demanding that he should prove himself to them before they will believe in him. They sat in judgment over him, when in fact they ought to have bowed before him and worshipped him as their great King. But because of their sin and unbelief, they would not submit to him; and even though he was their great King, they plotted together how to get rid of him. And when the time had come, they had him arrested and tried and crucified. Instead of submitting to him, they killed him.
But on the third day, he was raised from the grave and he ascended to heaven where he now rules over all things as the great King over all. And from his throne in heaven he sends his preachers out into all the world to proclaim the good news of salvation and to call on sinners everywhere to repent and to believe the good news. Whoever turns from their old life of sin and unbelief and trusts in Christ as the only Saviour of the world, is added to his kingdom where there is forgiveness and peace with God and the hope of everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.
And so, right now, he’s building his kingdom on the earth, calling men and women and boys and girls into his kingdom. And when he comes again, with glory and in power, he will sit as King in judgment over all. And all who refused to repent and believe and who remained outside of his kingdom will be sent away from God’s presence and punished forever. But all those who believed in him and who were added to his kingdom will be brought into God’s presence to be with him forever and ever in glory.
The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her son would be the great King which the prophets said was coming into the world. And whereas once the Lord sent angels to reveal his plans, he now sends preachers to declare to you that Christ the King has come. He came to save sinners from condemnation and to give them everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. And so, he calls on you now to repent and believe: turn from your old life of sin and unbelief and turn with faith to the only Saviour, trusting in him and in his death on the cross for sinners, in order to receive the forgiveness of your sins and the free gift of eternal life.
And if you already trust in him, then remember to live your life for him. He is our Great King who loved us and who gave up his life for us; and he calls his people to obey him and to do his will here on earth. Instead of living for yourself, he calls on you to live for him. Instead of saying ‘no’ to him, you’re to submit to his will in all things. Instead of being selfish and self-seeking, you’re to live your life for him and for his glory, seeking first his kingdom and righteousness, so that your heart’s desire will be to do what’s right in his sight. And so, as you face a new year, you’re to resolve to live for him and for his glory, doing his will cheerfully every day and submitting to him in all things.
But there’s one final point to make today. Twice the angel said to Mary that her son will be called the son of God. Now, we believe that Jesus Christ, her son, is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, who took on flesh and who dwelt among us by means of his supernatural conception in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. We believe that; and anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is both God and man in one person is denying the faith and is not a Christian.
However, it’s possible that the angel meant something else when he said to Mary that her son will be called the son of God. Look with me now for a moment at Luke 3 verses 21 to 38. You’ll see, if you turn to that passage, that it contains the Lord’s genealogy. Luke the historian lists the Lord’s ancestors, beginning with his adoptive father, Joseph, and going back through David and through Judah and through Abraham and through Noah and all the way back to Adam. And how does Luke describe Adam? He calls Adam ‘the son of God’. Adam was the son of God: he was the first son of God, the first one to come from God. But though God gave Adam his life, and though God filled Adam’s life with good things to enjoy, Adam became a disobedient son, because Adam disregarded the word of the Lord and ate the forbidden fruit. Later in the Bible, after the exodus from Egypt, God referred to the people of Israel as his son; but they too were disobedient to God. The Lord also referred to the king of Israel as his son; but all those human kings were also disobedient to God.
So, Adam was the first son of God, but he was disobedient. The people and kings of Israel were called sons of God, but they too were disobedient. Finally though, here’s the Lord Jesus: he too is called ‘the son of God’, just as Adam was. But the Lord Jesus was unlike Adam in that the Lord Jesus was an obedient son. And he remained obedient to God throughout his life on earth, even to the point of death on a cross.
And here’s the thing: because of Adam’s disobedience, sin and death came into the world. All who descended from Adam in the normal way are born sinners and we disobey God continually throughout our lives. And because of our sin, every one of us is justly liable to God’s wrath and curse in this life and in the next. But because of the Lord Jesus’s perfect obedience, God’s grace and the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life came into the world. And therefore, every one of us who trusts in Christ for peace with God receives the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of everlasting life in God’s presence.
Adam, God’s disobedient son, forfeited for us the right to eat from the Tree of Life and to live forever in the presence of God. But the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s obedient son, has secured for us the right to eat from the Tree of Life and to live forever in the presence of God. Though you too are disobedient to God — and you may have disobeyed him in terrible ways; and today you’re feeling guilty and ashamed because of some terrible thing you have done — nevertheless for the sake of Christ who is God’s one and only obedient son who died for sinners, God is willing pardon you for all the ways you have disobeyed him. And even though you may have done everything wrong, nevertheless for the sake of Christ, his obedient son, God promises to treat you as though you too have done everything right, if only you will believe in him. And so, you ought to trust in Christ, God’s one and only obedient son, and give thanks to God for him, because he was obedient, even to death on the cross; and died for sinners to bring us to God.