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Dec 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 16, 2018 – Luke 1:30-38

According to your word – Podcast

According to Your Word

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 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.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
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. 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.”
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.
 Luke 1:30-38

Intro: Recently there have been a lot of things weighing on my heart

I was feeling it yesterday when I sat down to read my Bible
– you know the story of the two sisters, Martha the hostess and Mary the contemplative

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary . . . (Lk. 10:41-42)

• immediately it was obvious that I needed to hear this
◦ I quickly wrote out a short list of things troubling me
◦ there were twenty-one items on my list
• it got me wondering, was Martha supposed to turn off her anxiety,
◦ just because Jesus explained it to her?
◦ was she to leave the bread in the oven, hang up her apron, and go sit next to Mary?
– at any rate, I heard Jesus talking to me
• I know how to shut off anxiety by replacing it with trust
• so after doing that, my worry dissolved
◦ and the rest of my day flowed smoothly
◦ the Scriptures worked in me exactly as Paul described:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Ro. 15:4)

Mary, the mother of Jesus, has something to tell us about how to hear God’s word

First, I want to point out some interesting features of this story

What I mean, is the way Luke puts it together
– for example, Mary asks a question that divides Gabriel’s message in two
• the first part in verses 30-33, he tells her what was going to happen
• the second part in verses 34-37, he tells her how it will happen
– both messages began with what would happen to her – “YOU”
• then he explained what the child would become – “HE”
• finally, Gabriel tagged something extra to end of messages
◦ he informed Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy
◦ this was to emphasize a specific point to reassure Mary

For nothing will be impossible with God

Another detail we hardly notice is Luke’s use of polysyndeton
– that is, the way Luke repeatedly uses the word “and”

Here is what I mean:
Verses 30-33, you have found favor with God
AND behold, you will conceive
AND bear a son
AND you shall name Him Jesus
He will be great
AND be called the Son of the Most High
AND the Lord God will give him . . .
AND He will reign . . .
AND His kingdom will have no end 
Verses 35-37, The angel answered
AND said to her, “The Holy Spirit . . .”
AND the power of the Most High . . .
AND for that reason . . .
AND behold, even your relative . . .
AND she who was called barren . . .

– the effect of all these “and’s” is to rush us from one statement to the next
• in this way, Luke creates a feeling of excitement or urgency
• we feel the bigness of what Gabriel is telling Mary

Two more details that I think are intriguing
– two times, Gabriel says “Behold”
• this is a visual cue – it tells Mary (and us) to pay attention
◦ both times it has to do with conception (Mary’s and then Elizabeth’s)
• “behold” or “Look at this,” because both instances required a miracle
– the last detail has to do with paternity
• Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High

Abraham did not have a book on systematic theology to study. What he knew about God, he learned from his encounters with him. Each encounter brought a new revelation, and with each revelation Abraham discovered a new way to refer to God. So God became to him El Shaddai (God Almighty), Yahweh Olam (the LORD eternal), and Yahweh Jireh (the LORD provides). One of the first designations he learned for God was Eylon, Eylon (the doubling of the word “high” intensifies it so that it is translated “Most High”). This he learned from a priest who arrived from Salem to bless him after a military victory. Notice that Most High implies polytheism; i.e., if there are many gods, Yahweh is the God Most High. Abraham instantly latched onto this revelation of his God being the greatest of all gods, and he used this term in turning down the rewards offered him by the king of Sodom (Gen. 14:17-24).
From then on, the Old Testament frequently makes use of the term Most High God in contexts that have specific reference to Gentile (this is not always the case, but in more times than not). It was a way for the people of Israel to refer to their God in places that had their own gods (Num. 24:16; Deut. 32:8; many times in the Psalms and Book of Daniel).
In the New Testament, this term appears only two times outside of Luke’s writings; once when it a demon in pagan territory that uses it (Mk. 5:7) and once when it is used in a reference to Abraham’s story (Heb. 7:1). Luke’s use of it parallels that of the Old Testament, where reference to Gentiles or all the nations is implied.

• Gabriel also refers to Jesus’ “father David” and as “the Son of God”
◦ significantly, there is no mention of Joseph
◦ Luke is very careful about that, qualifying Joseph’s relation to Jesus in his genealogy

When He began his ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph (Lk. 3:23)

Everything in Gabriel’s message points to the special nature and greatness of Jesus

Mary has the last word in this conversation

And it’s a very important word – it is her consent to God’s purpose

May it be done to me according to your word

– we’ll return to this, but for now we must complete the story
• afterward, she immediately rushed off to visit Elizabeth (v. 39)
• she went in a hurry – as if she were driven to see her relative
– why did she go? why was it so important? Who knows?
• maybe she just wanted to keep her pregnancy a secret for awhile
• but there’s another possible reason:
◦ perhaps Mary knew Elizabeth would be the one person who would believe her
◦ who would understand and support her
– she stayed there through remainder of Elizabeth’s pregnancy

Do you think Mary had any idea how this would affect her?

After Jesus’ birth his parents brought him to the temple
– there they were approached by an old man, Simeon
• taking Jesus in his arms, Simeon gave God thanks for him
◦ then he made this prophetic prediction to Mary specifically:

Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sight to be opposed–and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed (Lk. 2:34-35)

– I used to think the sword referred to what Mary would suffer
• that she would lose Jesus twice; first to his ministry and then to his cross
◦ but what Simeon is saying is many hearts will be exposed
◦ and he could mean that even Mary’s heart will be opened
• perhaps the sword works like the one in Hebrews 4

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:12-13)

This brings us to what I believe is a critical lesson

Luke uses Mary as an example

What do we need to say when God’s word is spoken to us?

Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word

– we accept the word he speaks to us like servants would their master
• we surrender to the will of a good and generous God
◦ a God who knows the value of our lives,
◦ and can lead us to the most meaningful life

Mary surrendered to God’s word
– there are three different Greek words for “word”
• one of them is logos: an idea, thought, concept (“logical”)
• another one is rhema: a word that is expressed, a word spoken to a person
logos can be impersonal, a simple fact
rhema is personal, addressed to an individual or group
• Mary used rhema
◦ so did Peter when he complained to Jesus request to take him fishing

Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing 
[but then he gave in and said]
Nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the nets (Lk. 5:5)

The Bible is both logos and rhema

It is the word of God’s revelation for all people and for all time
– but the Spirit of God also uses it to speak to us in the here and now

In the Hebrew culture, scripture was a world of stories
– each story contained a revelation: of God, of humans, of our world
• the stories opened hearts and minds to the reality of God
• the stories showed them how they could know God–in covenant
– just prior to time of Christ, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek
• later, in first centuries of Christianity,
◦ the most influential theologians were educated in Greek thought
• the Greek culture was vastly different from that of Hebrew culture
◦ it was a world of philosophy, of theories, logic, debate, and arguments

There were still believers who hung onto experience of scripture
– they mostly chose to live in monasteries in or close to Israel
• for them, the Bible was more than ideas about God
• in it the heard the voice of God
– this way of listening to God in scripture persisted all the way to Reformation
• a shift began with the Renaissance (a revival of Greek art and philosophy)
◦ that shift reached a climax that was solidified during the Enlightenment
• western intellectuals adopted a strong bias against the supernatural
– this western influence eventually affected how Christians treated the Bible
• we turned it into dull concepts, lifeless doctrines
◦ we made it something to argue over, a battleground, a weapon
• we used it to hammer our plowshares into swords, and our pruning hooks into spears

As Jon Courson has said, “We have eaten from the tree of knowledge, but not the tree of life.”

Conclusion: Mary, standing before God, surrendered to his word

That word planted life within her – the life of Jesus
– and it is capable of doing the same in us
• do you know why you’re here? I will tell you in Paul’s words

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you . . . . (Gal. 4:19)

◦ you are here so that the word of God can be implanted within you,
◦ and so that the life of Jesus can be formed within you (Lk. 8:11 & 15; Jas. 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23)
• but not if we only know it as logos and never hear it spoken to us as rhema

We will meditate on God’s word with our minds
and hear it as his word to us with our hearts and souls

Yesterday morning, God’s word rescued me from a day of anxiety
Every morning we can be rescued, warned, encouraged, and strengthened,
we just need to come to it in faith and humility,
open and receptive, ready to surrender
to whatever God has to say

Behold, the servant of the Lord;
may it be done to me according to Your word.

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