Luke 24:36-53 – Ascension day

ASCENSION DAY – 12 MAY 1994

 

LUKE 24v36-53; ACTS 1v1-11.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUST: If you you knew that today was the last day that you would see your friends and loved ones, what would you want to say to them?

 

A pastor-friend of mine said to me the other day that the most meaningful part of his ministry was ministering to the terminally ill. WHY? Because they don’t want to talk about trivia. There is no pretense. They want to talk about the really important issues of life and eternity.

 

Jesus is about to leave his disciples. His time to return to heaven has come. He wants to talk about the thing that is most important to him. The very reason why he came to earth.

It is not that he hasn’t told them before but he wants to ensure that they have really understood.

They know that he has died and risen – he is there in front of them. But what are the wider implications and how does he explain them.

 

1. THE OLD TESTAMENT’S WITNESS TO CHRIST’S MESSAGE.

 

He [Jesus] said to them,” … everything must be

fulfilled that is written about me in the Law

and the prophets and the Psalms.”

…..

“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and

rise from the dead on the third day, and repentence

and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name

beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things. [Lk.24v44&46-48]

 

Jesus used the OT to explain to the disciples about his death and resurrection. We quickly turn to passages like Isa.53 [ the suffering Messiah] and to Ps.16 [He will not allow his Holy One to see decay]. Much has been written about Christ’s life fulfilling the prophecies of the OT and rightly so.

There has not been so much focus in the Church on the purpose of His death and resurrection – ie the salvation of the world. We want to be so theologically correct that we get into argument about whether he died for all or for the elect. HE DIED FOR THE WORLD!

 

Yes! he died for my sins – that has to be a focus. But in our Western society we are in danger of over-individualizing things.

For God so loved ME…..

For God so loved the CHURCH

True but that is not what Jesus said .

For God so loved THE WORLD!!!

 

The OT is full of passages about God’s concern for the nations of the world! Jesus referred to MOSES, THE PROPHETS AND THE PSALMS:

MOSES: “The Lord said to Abram: ‘Leave your country,

your people and your father’s household and go to the

land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and

I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing;

I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse,

and ALL PEOPLES ON EARTH will be blessed through you. [Gen.12v1-3]

This covenant was repeated 5x to the Patriarchs in Genesis.

 

PROPHETS: It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore

the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel that I have kept. I will

make you a light for the GENTILES so that you may bring my salvation

to THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. [Isa.49v6]

Israel were guilty of making God into a tribal deity – they made God too small. We can’t put God in a box. God is not a WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] He is the God of ALL NATIONS.

 

PSALMS: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and

make his face shine upon us; May your ways be known

on EARTH and your salvation among ALL THE NATIONS. [Ps.67]

 

Jesus’ vision was far greater than just the nation of Israel. Of course his death and resurrection are important – that’s the good news. It is because of his death and resurrection that repentence and forgiveness are possible – BUT what is the point of good news if we never tell anyone!

 

2. THE INITIAL MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE DISCIPLES.

 

So when they met together, they asked him,

“Lord, are you at this time going to retore

the kingdom to Israel. [Acts 1v6]

 

Jesus has been speaking to them about the Kingdom of God and about receiving power. The Messianic Age has dawned the ancient prophecies have been fulfilled. Naturally they begin to think about the nearness of the end of the world. Jesus warns them not to speculate about things that only God knows and has not revealed.

 

He also rebukes them for their parochial view of the gospel. Will you restore the Kingdom to Israel.

 

He had made it clear that he was going away and they were not going with him. They must have wondered why they could not go with him.

 

Have you ever wondered why God leaves us here on earth when life in heaven will be so much better? Why do we stay here with all this trouble and heartache and suffering and pain when the book of Rev. 21v4-5a:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,

There will be no more death or mourning or

crying or pain, for the old order of things

has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said,

“I am making everything new!”

 

The disciples must have had similar thoughts,”Now Israel is going to be restored to its former glory” The disciples were suffering from a condition that has plagued the Church throughout its history – parochialism!

It is very easy to become preoccupied with ourselves – our church! our homes! our families! our church programmes! “Lord, what are you going to do for us ?” Rather than, “What are you going to do through us?

 

Christ’s intention was not national but international – global – cosmic!

 

3. THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

 

The Holy Spirit has been high on the Christian agenda in recent years with much emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. Certainly the gifts are important!

 

The Holy Spirit has many functions – primarily to glorify Christ! BUT Jesus taught two very important thngs about the Spirit.

When He [Holy Spirit] comes he will

convict the WORLD of sin and

righteousness and judgement [Jn.16v8]

This in the context of Jesus telling his disciples that he is going away!

 

When the counsellor comes, whom I will

send to you from the Father, the Spirit of

Truth who comes out from the father, he will

testify about me. And you also will testify … [Jn.15v26-27a]

 

It is the function of the Spirit to testify about Christ to the world. It is also our function to testify about Christ to the world! The very last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before his ascension were about their witness to the world!

 

 

They had asked about the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel but Jesus expands the boundries to include the whole world. They were thinking in terms of a physical political kingdom but Jesus is thinking in terms of a Spiritual kingdom were those who come into the kingdom are not confined to a geographical place BUT have come into a vital, living relationship to the king!

 

The Holy Spirit is sent to testify about Christ and to convince the world of sin and righteousness and judgement BUT we are in partnership with the Spirit – we too are to testify to Christ’s death and resurrection – to the ends of the earth!!

 

5. HIS PROMISED RETURN.

 

Jesus had said the he would come back and the angels had confirmed that after he was taken up.

 

When will he come back?? We do not know!  Peter says a very interesting thing in 2 Peter3v11:

He is speaking about the return of Christ- the day of the Lord :

Since everthing will be destroyed in this way,

what kind of people ought you to be?

You ought to live holy and godly lives

as you look forward to the day of God,

AND SPEED ITS COMING. [2Peter 3v11]

 

How do we live holy and godly lives – well simply by obeying his commands.How do we speed his coming? – the same ways! By obeying his commands to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

 

Christ will return when the time is right!

… this gospel of the kingdom will be

preached in the whole world as a

tesimony to all nations, and then

THE END WILL COME [Matt.24v14]

 

When we begin to speak about world evangelisation and missionaries many Christians switch off. “God has called me to do that – it is not my responsibility!”  WRONG!!

 

ILLUST: When a country is at war and they send out their army – for every one frontline soldier there are 8/9 support people – both military and civilian.

 

We are at war! Satan is the Prince of this world and we are involved in a spiritual battle! If we are serious about our faith and the kingdom of God then we are involved! How we are to be individually is a matter of God’s leading! We all have a task in this matter of world evangelisation!

 

ILLUST: SVM – [Student Volunteer Movement] 20 000 goers. 80 000 senders! They encouraged, finaced and prayed!

 

I am reading a Book at the moment called “Serving as Senders” – the emphasis is on the fact that goers and senders are equally important!  I know that our churches are involved in missions – some have members in other part of the world. {I like Queen Street’s term “the Away Team”  -they are in this together -whether goers or senders}

 

It is so easy for us as Churches and as individuals to be side-tracked – to become preoccupied with our jobs and homes and church buildings and holidays. God doesn’t expect us to live as paupers and never enjoy a meal out or a holiday abroad or go to the theatre – God is not a kill-joy!

He gives us many blessing to enjoy but he does expect us to put him and the work of his kingdom first!

 

When Jesus ascended into heaven he left clear instructions that we were to get on with the business of extending the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. GOD LOVED THE WORLD

 

If we miss this, we have missed the most important reason for which Christ left us on earth.

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Luke 18:9-14 – The paradox of pardon

THE PARADOX OF PARDON.

Baptismal Service – Tony Harris

Luke 18v9-14.

 

BAPTISM – strange for some who may have never seen this before! What’s going on? Some would call this adult baptism BUT I would rather refer to it as believer’s baptism.

This is a symbolic act/ outward expression of what has already happened to Tony inside/spiritually. Tony has already come to God by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

He is now publicly affirming that by being baptised – this is an important act and has deep spiritual significance but in no way adds to the gift of salvation Tony has already received! i.e. this is a physical/outward act to express/explain a spiritual reality!

 

So what does happen in order for a person to know salvation through Jesus Christ?

Many aspects – let’s look at one – a foundational/fundemental element!

 

A Parable of a religious-man and a tax-man.

 

A  Parable  about two kinds of people.

two kinds of prayers.

two kinds of guilt.

two kinds of outcome.

 

1. Two kinds of people.

A Pharisee and a tax-man // both go to the temple to pray // This is a very praiseworthy thing to do, surely! –  both leave the temple believing that they have prayed and yet we are told that one leaves having been heard by God and the other not. [the Jewish Temple in Jesus day in Jerusalem- Very familiar to all the hearers]

 

Who are these men? the shock factor is lost on us but not on Jesus’ hearers.

TAX-MAN – In our culture a tax-man, while the butt of a few jokes, is generally a respectable member of the establishment – NOT so in 1st C Israel – more like a town official collaborating with the Nazi’s in occupied France – this man collected taxes for the occupying Roman army – the Jews didn’t just make jokes about them but would lynch them given a chance and would spit on them and curse the ground they walked on.

PHARISEE – they have become known to us as religious hypocrites but this was not the view of Jesus listeners. He was a churchman, a Bible scholar, diligent in his observance of God’s laws, a model of religious righteousness, an ardent supporter of Mary Whitehouse, ‘Keep Sunday special’, and the Moral Majority.

 

So why is it that the tax-man is heard and not this religious leader?

 

2. Two kinds of prayers.

 

What is so wrong with the Pharisee’s prayer and right with the tax-man’s prayer, that God’s expectation is so radically different from our expectation?

It is not that difficult to see why!!

Luke 18:11 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. (NIV)

prayed about himself – could be ‘to himself’ a soliloquy! This is a frightening thought. Possible to go to Church thinking you want to meet with God, leave believing that you have YET to be self-deceived!!

 

Why is his pray rejected? Not difficult to spot.

ILLUS.: [Roy Clements] – A man going to his doctor and saying: “Doctor I want you to know that I am in superb health; my lungs are functioning perfectly, my muscle tone is ideal, my digestion couldn’t be better, my circulation is A1, I have no infections, no ailments, no diseases. In short, doctor, unlike the miserable specimens I see in your waiting-room, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me at all!”

 

What could the Doctor do for this man? He would leave the surgery unchanged having benefited not at all! His visit was pointless – except to parade himself.

He asks for nothing as he thinks he has no need!!

Had the doctor been allowed to examine him he over confidence may have been somewhat dented if not shattered!

Doctor – “Your blood pressure is a bit high — we need to do some tests on  that mysterious lump – you should see your dentist about that tooth And did you know that you are a diabetic!!

His complacency doesn’t invite such an examination!!

 

This is exactly the kind of person Jesus is talking about when he said

Matthew 9:12    …., “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (NIV)

 

The Pharisee is a good example of this – he came to the temple- not to seek God but to congratulate himself – he is also an exhibitionist – he wants all around him to know how good he is.

 

TAX-Man can of course hear …….

Luke 18:11-12 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (NIV)

Tax-man is all too aware of his need – he beats his breast – a sign of profound emotional distress – with a broken and sorrowful heart he cries to God in anguish –

Luke 18: 13  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (NIV)

This is the kind of pray God hears –

If we feel no need of God – if we are self-satisfied and self-sufficient we will feel no need –

 

How hungry are we for God? how desperate for his grace?

 

This tax-collector didn’t go to church to be entertained or like the Pharisee to entertain others. He went in need – like the sick go to a doctor – God heard his prayer because God always hears the prayers of such a person – crooks, rogues, adulterers, no matter!

 

3. Two kinds of guilt.

 

paradoxical irony – the Pharisee is feeling innocent yet Jesus implies he went home condemned // the tax-man feeling guilty yet Jesus says he goes home acquitted!!

 

Strange – we know there is such a thing as irrational guilt – psychiatrists deal with this kind of anxiety often. BUT it is equally possible to feel no guilt whatever when in fact we should feel guilty.

 

ILLUS. just this week on BBC radio 4 the programme “Vice or Virtue” were discussing guilt and many panelist were saying it is not helpful – it increases stress levels ….

 

Yes – I am sure the Pharisee had little stress – he had no pangs of guilt whatever.

BUT there is such a thing as guilt – it is not just an irrational feeling // it is a fact!

 

But in the modern day guilt is often not something to be repented of before God but to be treated by a psycho-therapist – I am not saying psychotherapy is all bad but to paper over real guilt is foolishness in the extreme.

 

The Pharisee uses some very well-worn techniques to deal with his feelings of guilt in respect to his position before God —

  • he focuses on what he has not done!! – ‘I don’t do this //that …’ this can be a convenient smoke screen behind which we try to conceal the many sins we have committed.
  • he focuses on rules!! – he goes to an extreme in this area – he fasts twice a week when the Jewish law requires only once per year // he gave a 10% of everything right down to the herbs in the garden when the law said 10% of income was adequate — a classic way to try and avoid feelings of guilt is to try and accumulate enough Brownie points to compensate // this is fatally flawed logic  // “Yes your honour, I was doing 90 mph down the High Street but I never park on Double yellow lines surely you can take that into consideration!!”
  • he focuses on comparing himself to others – “I thank you that I am not like other men!”  In our self-righteous smugness we can so easily  tut-tut about the antics of others “I would never do that!”                              ILLUS.: It is like the SS teacher who after teaching this parable drew the obvious moral lesson [he thought] “Now children let’s thank God that we are not like that proud Pharisee!!”

 

It is so easy to think like this Pharisee – it is easy to FEEL all right but do our feelings correspond to the real state of our souls??

 

The tax-man had no illusion about himself  – he didn’t try to rationalise he guilt away – or persuade himself that he wasn’t so bad after all — or hide under a cloak of legalistic practices ………… He simply cried to God – ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner –  and Jesus says that he went home not just feeling better BUT his moral standing before God turn right around.

 

4. Two kinds of outcomes.

Luke 18:14   “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV)

 

justified – this is the language of the court room NOT the psychiatrists couch!

It has nothing to do with how the Tax-man felt and everything to do with what GOD had to say about him. He was declared innocent before God – justified – not guilty.

 

What made the difference between this man and the Pharisee? It was the grounds upon which that sought acquittal before God.

 

The Pharisee was confident in his our self-righteousness and looked down on every one else. He was confident of getting to heaven by his own effort – he would be able to boast to God about how hard he had worked to get to heaven  BUT .. listen to Jesus everyone who exalts himself will be humbled –

 

The Tax-man is humble and pleads for mercy – a weak translation  – old English “propitiates” — this is the language of sacrifice – the sacrificial ritual of the temple is which this story takes place.

His hope of forgiveness is not simply in God’s love and compassion –  His eyes are on the altar where that priest has offered sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Please God, I see the blood stains of the altar. Accept that sacrifice on my behalf and be propitious towards me!! . He is not appealing to God’s better nature but laying claim to God’s remedy for sin.

 

Some think that forgiveness is easy for God – its his business, isn’t it?? NO!  God is not morally indifferent or inconsistent — he can’t say that sin doesn’t matter — he is loving and merciful BUT he is also righteous and Holy — that is why in the OT there HAD to be an altar and a sacrifice.

 

The sacrifice is a symbol of how serious sin is before God — some people are squeamish about blood — WELL God is squeamish about sin — it repulses him.

The sacrifice speaks of death – the penalty for sin.. Nothing except sacrifice expresses adequately the anger and revulsion of God towards sin.

Forgiveness is offered to the sinner freely BUT never make the mistake of thinking it is cheap!!

 

The Tax-man has understood this about God — so he cries “God be propitious to me, let my sin be atoned for. I don’t minimize the seriousness of my wrongs. I don’t underestimate the punishment they deserve. I see the blood. I know the cost. Please God turn your anger away from me. Be satisfied with the sacrifice that has died in my place today. Have mercy on me the sinner!”

 

Have you sought God’s pardon this way or are you like the Pharisee banking on your own moral achievements.

 

The sacrifice this Tax-man saw was an animal sacrifice – it could not really take away his sin -BUT it pointed to the real sacrifice that did and still does take away sin – JESUS CHRIST dying on the cross – the Son of God shed his blood once and for all to make atonement for the sins of the world.

So you and I must pray, “God have mercy on me. I don’t ask for cheap forgiveness. I do not underestimate the seriousness of my wrongdoing. I deserve death. BUT please God be satisfied with Jesus who died in my place to take away sin  and be merciful to me, the sinner!!”

 

When we do that we hear the word “This one went home justified before God!!”

 

We are all guilty before God until we come to him like this Tax-man – to be justified // to receive the peace of God // to become a child of God in his kingdom.

 

This is what Tony has realised – he came to God like this — this baptism is a public recognition of what God he done for him and he obeys Christ’s command to be baptised.

 

ILLUS.: In the 18th C a British slave trader – a hard, uncouth, foul-mouthed drunken sailor was at sea in the midst of a storm and thought his life was about to end — in desperation he cried out to God “Lord have mercy on me!” God heard him  and saved his life and his eternal soul. YES it was John Newton!!  Some time later he wrote these words …

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound-

that saved a wretch like me;

I once was lost but now I’m found ,

was blind but now I see.

Luke 15:11-31 – The lost son who was found

TRANSFORMERS ACTIVITY WEEK FAMILY SERVICE.

 

Luke 15:11-31. “The lost son who was found”

 

INTRODUCTION.

Theme for the week -TRANSFORMERS – What is a Transfomer? Cars that change into robots.

What does tranform mean? To change.

Who did you learn about this week who changed?

Israelites from slaves to freemen.                                            Lazarus from death to life.

 

The Bible is full of stories about people who changed when they met Jesus!!

Blind to seeing!  Zacheus – cheat and swindler to generous caring person. Peter and other followers from fear and hiding to boldness and fearlessness even when threatened with death.

 

GETTING LOST.

Jesus story –

Man with two sons YS [younger son]. Very rich. YS didn’t want to wait for inheritance.

 

Give me my share now”

 What does he mean? “I wish you were dead – I want my money.”

“I don’t want to live in your house. I want to be my own boss!”

[Life different in those days – families lived together in one place]

 

Father very hurt but he is kind and gracious and gives money.

 

YS goes away – lives it up – big house, lots of friends, best parties in town, if today – cars, speed-boats, discos, Casinos, nightclubs. BUT times get hard, no more money, recession…..

Friends, “Sorry, I’d like to help but…..”  NO jobs!!

Thrown out his house. Bank won’t lend any money. He is on the street.

Eventually get a job feeding pigs – no wages just pig food to eat.

 

PSEUDO REPENTENCE.

Very sorry for himself. Thinks of his life at home. The food. Warm, clean clothes. Even the servants. “My Dad will never take me back but maybe I can be one of his servants”

He wants to do a deal with his Dad – I’ll work and you look after me – pay me!

 

LONG JOURNEY HOME> What is my Dad going to say

You really hurt me – I can’t forgive you – go away!”

“Now you’ve got no money you come creeping back”

“I don’t want a son like you – but if you want to work for me go and see the manager about a job and live with the other servants.” NO! NO! NO!

 

THE HOME COMING.

As he got near the house – “What will my Father say? will he speak to me?”

Father has been watching and waiting since the day he left. Sees YS before YS sees him. Runs through the town – make a real fool of himself and hugs and kisses his son.

 

YS now knows how much his father loves him and he doesn’t want him as a servant but as a son.

YS doesn’t say “make me your servant” but just “I am sorry forgive me!”

He is no longer sorry for himself BUT rather is sorry for breaking his father’s heart.

 

Father tells servants to bring best clothes, sandals, ring – orders the biggest feast the town has ever seen. Suddenly this poor, lonely, hungry boy is rich has the best food and clothes and is loved.

 

What a change!!! From living like a pig to living in his father’s house!!!

 

He was changed because his father loved him  – because he said sorry and his father forgave him.

 


A PICTURE OF GOD’S LOVE.

Like YS we want to run our own lives away from God we think we don’t need him. We think we can live without him — that is what sin is. “God I don’t want you to tell me what to do”

BUT God is not a slave-driver, he is a loving Father waiting for us to come to him and say “I am sorry”

 

Just like the father in the story humiliated himself and ran through the village so God in the person of Jesus humiliated himself by dying on the cross to make it possible for us to know him as Father.

 

Maybe like YS you are thinking -“God can’t accept me – I am too bad. I have gone to far away. I have left it too long. I used to believe but I went away from God and now its too late”

 

NO! it is never too late! [it is only too late when you are dead] Jesus Christ is the great Transformer of lives. He takes lost sinners, which includes us all and changes them into sons and daughters of the living God.

 

John said about Jesus “Anyone who trusts in Jesus, who really believes in him, he gives them the right to become God’s children” [John1v12]

 

Being a Christian is not following a set of rules – “do’s and don’t’s” – It is having a relationship with the living God as your Father who loves you.

Luke 10:38-42 – Jesus encounters Martha and Mary

JESUS ENCOUNTERS MARTHA AND MARY.

 

Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44; 12:3-8.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Most of what we know about Jesus is related to his teaching, his miracles and his death and resurrection. Don’t you sometimes wonder what he was like as he was relaxing with his friends? Wouldn’t you like to know the kind of food he enjoyed eating? Did he enjoy a good joke? – I am sure he had a sense of humour! We don’t know those details about his life – we don’t even know what he looked like. {Although I am sure he didn’t have fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes!}

 

Those who knew him and spent time in his presence would have known these things. Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus were a family with whom it seems Jesus spent a lot of time.

 

What can we learn from their encounters with Jesus?

 

This family lived in the village of Bethany about 2 miles from Jerusalem. It seems that Martha was the elder of the two sisters and Lazarus was their younger brother but this is purely assumption.

 

Scripture tells us that it was Martha’s house – which probably meant that she was the legal owner. However, you get the impression that Martha ran things in the house no matter who owned it.

 

From the little we are told about these two women it is possible with some imagination and a few guess to build a picture of these two.

 

MARTHA – the fussy type. When she entertained she wanted everything to be just so. We all know people like that – the living room must be perfect, the curtains must hang straight. The flowers must be in the right place and the colours mustn’t clash. The best plates and knives an forks must be used. The meal must be just right.

 

MARY – was a bit carefree. It didn’t matter to her that the house looked lived in.  If the cushions were crooked or the toys were on the floor of yesterday’s newspaper was lying on the couch. When people came Mary would rather sit and chat than stand stirring the gravy.

 

Two very different personalities and Jesus enjoyed being in their home.

 

1. A FAMILY WITH AN OPEN HOME. [Luke 10:38; Matt.21:17]

 

Luke 10:38

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. (NIV)

Matthew 21:17

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (NIV)

For Jesus ‘the son of man who had no place to lay his head’ would surely have appreciated this open home.

 

During the Passover week before his death we know he did not stay in Jerusalem but went to Bethany – it seems safe to assume that he stayed in Martha and Mary’s home. They had a hospitable home

 

Q. What is it that makes a home or a person hospitable?

– let’s try to be practical.

 

Hospitality has been defined as “the art of making want to stay without interfering with their departure”

 

1 Peter 4:9 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)

 

2. A FAMILY WITH TENSIONS AND TRAGEDIES.  [Luke 10:39-42;

                                                                                                John 11:1-44]

 

a. Tensions

 

We have seen some of the differences between Martha and Mary i.t.o. their personalities and temperaments.

 

READ Luke 10:39-42 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

 

What happened when Jesus can to their home?

 

ILLUS. I know what happens in our home when someone comes unexpectedly – we try desperately to cover up any tensions.

One minute you have a face like thunder and the next you are covered with smiles!!

 

Has this ever happened to you?

I’m sure that never happens in your house!

 

When Jesus came to the home of Martha and Mary were all their tensions suddenly resolved? Did Mary suddenly help more with the dishes and Martha become less fussy?

 

We know that that is not true. Mary was sitting a Jesus’s feet and Martha complains to Jesus “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

You can feel the tension building – Martha busy with the house and the cooking and Mary is just sitting there!

 

ILLUS.:  It is such a familiar scene.

Washing up time – It is not fair that I have to wash up when Suzie reading in her room? Tell her to come and help me.

Why should I take the garbage out, Harry isn’t doing anything?

 

Jesus doesn’t comply with Martha’s request.

Jesus’s reply – some texts ‘one thing is needful’ and others ‘few things are needful’

 

Whether it is one thing or a few things is not that important.  Jesus is saying “Martha you are fussing too much and Mary has chosen that which is of more value.”

 

Jesus doesn’t condemn Martha for being busy nor does he commend Mary for not helping.

The point he wants to get across is that in the busyness of life there ought to be place for learning at Jesus’s feet.

 

Q. How do we apply that principle in our modern day context?

 

b. Tragedy

 

John 11:1-44 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

 

Here is a family who are some of Christ’s best friends. Here is a crisis – Lazarus is sick and about to die.

You would think that their closeness to Jesus would have prompted him to come at once. But he delays and Lazarus dies.

This must have puzzled if not angered the two sisters.

 

Have you ever asked the Lord for something and found that he has failed to respond immediately to your need? It can be very difficult to cope with such things.

Why Lord?

Remember God’s delays are not necessarily his denials! Martha and Mary got the answer to their request but not in a way they could have expected.

 

We don’t always understand why God takes us through certain experiences in life. Sometimes they are hard and painful. Through them all God is working out his purposes. God’s dealing with us are always for our eternal good and for his glory.

 

BREAK – to pray for those who are at the moments coping with tensions and tragedies in their families.

 

3. A FAMILY DEVOTED AND GENEROUS. [John 12:3-8]

 

During the Passover week while Jesus was spending the nights in Bethany – this was after Lazarus had been raised form the dead – Jesus was eating in the house of Simon the Leper [in Bethany] –

John 12:2-3

2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

It is Mary who brings the bottle of nard – the equivalent of a year’s wages – but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did this with the knowledge and encouragement of Martha and Lazarus – esp. in the light Lazarus being raised to life.

 

Judas questions the wisdom of Mary’s actions but Jesus defends her and commends her for this deep act of devotion. What an encouragement it must have been to him as he moves towards Calvary!

In terms of symbolism Mary’s act at the very least signifies the utmost in self-humbling love and devotion – regardless of the cost or of what others might think.

The two things that often hold us back – it is too costly! – and What will  people think of me?

 

CONCLUSION.

 

This is the family that Jesus loved so much. Where he could relax and also where he performed him greatest miracle. This family was blessed with his presence.

BUT they didn’t escape from the trials and tragedies of life. There were the normal quarrels and jealousies of any home; there were illnesses and worries; there was death and grief.  The presence of Jesus in the home did not exempt that family from these things.

 

The presence of Jesus in your home and your life will not remove the realities of life BUT he will help you to live through them.

 

Jesus doesn’t want more of our money, our time, our abilities – at least not on there own – He wants me / you – he wants our love, our devotion, our lives.

 

Let’s respond by singing :-

All I am will sing out as a praise song

every note, every tone is for you;

whether days will be hard or be easy,

I will live every moment for you.

                    You have all of the praise I can offer…..

Luke 2:21-40 – Jesus the baby – The saviour

JESUS THE BABY –  THE SAVIOUR

Luke 2v21-40.

 

1. Jesus identifies with us under the law.

In would have been 8 days after his birth that Jesus would have been circumcised and given his name. The name Jesus means Yahweh the Saviour.

The passage before us occurs 40 days after the birth of Jesus when he is taken by his parents, Joseph and Mary, to the temple in Jerusalem. There were two reasons for this visit to the temple. Firstly, for Mary to go through the purification rites according to Jewish Law and secondly, for the parents to present their baby [their first-born] to God according to the Jewish Law.

When a couple presented a child at the temple they had to bring a lamb to be sacrificed if they could not afford a Lamb they were permitted to bring a pigeon or 2 pigeons. Joseph and Mary were obviously poor; such a couple would in no way have skimped on their sacrifice.

A first-born son had to be presented to God because of God redemption of Israel first-born at the first Passover in Egypt went the Angel of Death caused all first-born males to die during the tenth plague. The first-born of the Jews were spared only because a substitute lamb was killed and the blood sprinkled on the lintel and door posts of the house.

The price of redemption, as every Israelite knew, was the sacrifice of a substitute. These were sin offerings.

Sin offerings signified the sinful state into which every human in born.

“But”, you say, “Jesus was perfect so why was there a need for these sin offerings.”  “Surely He didn’t need redemption He is the Redeemer.”

True – Jesus was perfect and didn’t need redemption but he undergoes these things, NOT for his own benefit, but as  sign that he voluntarily places himself under the law.

Gal.4v4. ” Born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law

His purpose was to become like us in every way, yet without sin.

2.   ANTICIPATION OF THE FAITHFUL FEW.

The coming of Messiah into the world at that time was not totally unexpected. There was general belief in a coming Messiah amongst the Jewish community but for most of them it was a remote belief that had little or no bearing on their daily lives.

Like today there are many who come under the umbrella of Christendom for whom the second coming of Christ is irrelevant if it is believed at all.  Indeed what difference does the fact of the second advent of Christ have on our lives. Does the immanent return of Christ impact upon the way we live our lives. Are we expectant in regard to the coming of  Christ?

In the first century there were the faithful few who were actively anticipating the arrival of the Messiah; among them were Simeon and Ana. They look forward with great yearning to His coming.

Simeon, in some special way through the Spirit of God, knew that he would see the Christ, the Messiah, God’s Anointed One.

ILLUST: A young child waiting for Granny and Grand-dad to come knows that they are coming but really has no concept of the timing. The child simply knows that they will come.

 

Simeon knew that “he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”

God kept his promise to Simeon, as God always keeps all his promises.

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.”

The time of Simeon’s waiting is over.

ILLUST: The thought is of a slave who has been instructed by his master to keep watch through the long dark hours of the night. His task is to stand on a high place to await the rising of a special STAR and then to announce it. After wearisome hours her sees the star in all its brightness, announces it and is then discharged – his task is done.

 

Simeon has seen the rising of the “Sun of Righteousness”.

Simeon and Ana had taken God at his Word. They had believed His promises. What they believed had a dramatic influence on their lives and their behaviour. They were not passive religious hermits sitting around in pious contemplation nor were they like those who give nodding ascent to God while continuing to live as if he doesn’t exist .

Does what we believe about Jesus make us live differently from those around us? They believed against popular opinion.

“You don’t seriously believe that stuff about Jesus, do you?  I mean the virgin birth, the resurrection ………”

“You must go with the flow.”

“NO, Christian, you must go against the flow if the flow is going against the flow of God”

The tension we constantly face is that we don’t want to be irrelevant religious fanatics but at the same time we don’t want to compromise our faith. We walk a tight-rope. How to be relevant to the world while remaining true to God’s Word. There are no easy answers but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep on trying, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us.

3. SALVATION: NOT THROUGH A  PRACTICE BUT THROUGH A     PERSON.

Simeon: “Dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen the baby Jesus!! NO My eyes have seen your salvation

Through the Holy Spirit Simeon knew that if the Messiah had come, salvation would inevitably follow. He wouldn’t see its completion – he probably didn’t know exactly how it would be accomplished BUT he knew it was certain!

Through the eyes of faith Simeon saw in this 40 day old baby God’s redemptive plan fro the human race.

“.… salvation , which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the gentiles.

The salvation of the world didn’t lie in the sacrifice of bulls and goats. It didn’t lie in the rituals of the Mosaic Law. It didn’t lie in the religiosity of the people. BUT the world’s salvation lay in his arms. Righteousness personified in the Baby Christ.

Israel and the nations were in spiritual darkness but the light of God in Christ has come to dissipate the darkness.

Darkness which is representative of ignorance, sin, misery and spiritual death can be replaced by knowledge, growth, happiness and spiritual life through the redemption that Christ brings.

ILLUST: Men and women work all their lives to improve and protect their lives – to find happiness and fulfillment. BUT when they leave Christ out of  their lives these very things they pursue will never ultimately be found or held onto.

“I tried the broken cisterns Lord

But, Ah the waters failed

Even as I stooped to drink they fled

And mocked me as I wailed

For none but Christ can satisfy…..

Simeon knew salvation had come; not exclusively for Israel, it would extend to ALL  NATIONS. Just as God had promised Abraham.

“He came to that which was his own,

but his own did not receive him.”

John 1v11

For many today it is the same. They do not recognise Christ for who He is.

For many Christmas is unknown.

For others Christ is commercialised out of Christmas.

For others Jesus is simply a Baby in a manager – one can handle a Baby in a cradle, it is kind of cute, people are comfortable with that image.

BUT a Sovereign Lord who died and rose again and ascended to God’s right hand, who is beyond our control and makes demands on our lives – that is too uncomfortable

That is why people are content to focus on the cradle and ignore the cross. But a cradle without a cross is a distortion, it is a half truth. We can not, we dare not focus on Bethlehem and ignore Calvary.

4. RESPONSE TO GOD’S SALVATION.

“..salvation …in the sight of all people” does not mean that all will be saved.

This child is destines to cause the falling and rising of many…” [v34]

A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” Isa.8v14 [1Peter 2v8]

NO! Not all will be saved. Jesus is the stone over which some will trip and fall and perish but he is also the stone which others will be enabled to rise and be saved.

Those who bow down at his feet, who have been humbled and confessed their sin and have placed their faith in him will be raised up to eternal life.

Those who imagine themselves to be strong and high and mighty, who rely on their own merit and power will come to a woeful end. Because of their pride they do not realise their own need. Those who ignore Christ do so to their peril.

But lest we become smug and complacent about our position as God’s people let us remind ourselves that we are only his people by his grace and not by our merit.

This salvation is “prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the gentiles.”

God’s salvation has global implications. While celebrate the coming of Christ – and rightly so – there are million who don’t know that he came. Do we give adequate importance to the global mission of Jesus Christ? Is the evangelisation of the world high on our agenda?

If the salvation of the world is high on God’s agenda, should it not be high on ours?  How much time do we give to praying for our world?  How much of our substance do we give to help others in missions? How much do we challenge our children and young people to give their lives in missionary service?

Jesus is the salvation of the world. Let us enjoy our Christmas but let it also be a time of recommittment to the One who is our Salvation.

Luke 1:67-79 – Zechariah’s Song

Luke 1v67-79.

(To be read as background Luke 1v5-25)

 

 Zechariah’s Song.

 

Introduction.

 

It is not uncommon for proud new fathers to be walking on air and a little dumbstruck. No least because they have often been up all night!

 

When Zechariah heard that he was going to become a father – he too was dumbstruck but for another reason and in his case it was literally dumbstruck.

Both he and his wife Elizabeth were too old to have child – Luke 1:7 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years. (NIV)

 

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even a gynaecologist for that matter, to know that couples in old age don’t have children. This was reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah.

 

Zechariah just couldn’t believe it even when told by an angel – as a result he was struck dumb by the angel Gabriel.

 

In due course Elizabeth became pregnant and the baby boy was born just as the angel had predicted. When the child was 8 days old and was due to be named the friends and family wanted and expected him to be called Zechariah after his father.

 

Read from v57- 66.

 

Once Zechariah had written that his name would be ‘John’ his power of speech was restored.

All who witnessed these proceedings knew that this was to be a special child. Luke 1:66 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. (NIV)

 

Most new fathers tend to babble on about their new born – “he is the strongest, best looking, most amazing ….” As if he or she is the only child to have ever been so perfect!!!

 

Given the unique circumstances of John’s birth and the age of the parents we might expect Zechariah to be going on about his new son.  BUT out of 12 verses the 1st eight don’t mention the child at all. Then there are 2 verses about the new child and then 2 more about the “Coming Light”

 

This is not because he is not pleased to have a son. Rather it is because he has a correct sense of proportion in relation to the “Coming One” – the Messiah. Zechariah realises that John is just the forerunner to One who is infinitely more important than his son John.

 

  1. 1.     Praise for God’s salvation. v.68-75.

 

When the angel announced John’s birth Zechariah was doubtful – now there is no doubt.

Now he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Now he sees things from God’s point of view and praise to God wells up within him.

 

The long night for Israel and the world is over – at last after 400 years of silence God has spoken. There had been no prophet in Israel since Malachi 400 years before. However, God has not forgotten his people

– he has kept his promise to send a Messiah. Luke 1:70  (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),

– he has remembered Luke 1:72-73 72 ….his holy covenant,

73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

 

God always keeps his promises – we may weary of waiting but that doesn’t lessen the certainty of his promises.

This is the subject of the SGM Christmas and millennium services this year – “Promises, Promises!”

When Jesus was presented at the Temple on his eighth day Simeon said       – Luke 2:28-30 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you now dismiss your servant in peace.

30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, (NIV)

 

Psalm 145:13 13 ..The LORD is faithful to all his promises…..

 

Sometimes when life is hard / when we are under pressure and we read about the good things God has in store for his children we may wonder if it is all just a fantasy – will it really happen?

How can we be sure it will come about? BECAUSE he has kept his promises in the past!

 

The theme of these 1st 8 verses is “God’s Promised Salvation”.

It is likely that Zechariah, like most of Israel, saw liberation from the political bondage of the occupying Romans BUT nevertheless the principle meaning of these words is salvation / liberation from the power of sin and guilt.

 

Luke 1:68-69 68 ….he has come and has redeemed his people.

How will this redemption / this rescue be accomplished?

69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (NIV)

 

HORN – It is a symbol of strength and power.

 

ILLUS.: If you were to go on Safari in Africa – visit a game park as we did in 1993 – you will see the leader of a herd of buck or wildebees has the biggest and strongest horns / antlers. We watch two male kudu fighting.

 

The Horn of salvation is therefore the one who possesses the power and strength to redeem.

 

How do we know that Zechariah is not referring to John? Because this Horn of Salvation will come from the house of David which was of the tribe of Judah – whereas John was from the tribe of Levi – Zechariah was a priest and all priest descended from Levi.

 

The Remarkable thing about Zechariah’s statement is that it is in the past tense! He is so certain that it will happen that with the eye of faith he considers it to have already been accomplished.

 

This way of expressing things is very common in scripture

– Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

– Ephesians 2:6 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (NIV)

 

BUT we are not yet in heaven – we are seated in Binscombe Church on the 12th December 1999 – BUT it is so certain that we will receive what God has promised that the Bible speaks about it as if it is already accomplished.

 

No doubt there were those in Zechariah’s day who were very sceptical that the Messiah would ever come.

  • “These old prophecies are just myths.”
  • “It is just human expressing their belief in HOPE itself as a principle of life.”
  • “One surely can’t take such things literally.”

There have always been the sceptics and the cynics. All this talk about Jesus as a Saviour / about guilt and judgement / sin and repentance.

 

When Christians talk about guilt and sin most people think we are nuts. “I don’t feel sinful or guilty” they will say. For many there is no sense of need of a Saviour.

For many people God is irrelevant to their lives. “I decide what is right and wrong for me” – “I do what is good for me” – “Why do I need all this religious stuff?”

 

The Christian faith brings us face to face with a God who is just & holy and to whom we are accountable. It is only when we see God for who he is that we see ourselves for what we are and realise our need of a redeemer.

 

Verses 74 & 75 give us the purpose of redemption.

Luke 1:74-75 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,

and to enable us to serve him without fear

75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (NIV)

 

Zechariah may have had the Romans in mind but the deeper meaning it rescue from Satan and his forces – The devil is our greatest enemy.

  • Ultimately it is from his power that we need to be rescued –the reason people done feel the need of rescue is because Satan has conned them into believing they are ok.
  • It is because of Satan that people are in fear.

 

Jesus came to break that power and to destroy Satan and his works.

 

This is the negative side of Salvation – rescue from Sin / Satan / guilt / fear ….

 

The positive side is that we are saved to serve God in Holiness and righteousness.

 

  1. 2.     Preparation for God’s Saviour. v.76-77

 

Luke 1:76-77 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;

for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, (NIV)

 

These verses focus on John as the one who is to prepare the way for the saviour’s arrival.

His task is to prepare the people so that they are ready to receive the coming King.

ILLUS.: In ancient time when the Emperor was going to visit a town the people would go out onto the approach road and remove the obstacles – fill in the potholes so that his Chariot could have a smooth ride into town.

 

It was John’s task to summons the people to prepare to receive their king.

How did he do that? What was his message to them? Matthew 3:2 2 … “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

 

The Messiah is coming John said to the people – “Build a highway in your heart to welcome him!”

The way to do this is through repentance and forgiveness and getting right with God. Preparing hearts to receive the king!

 

Is your hearts prepared / ready to receive the King!

Luke 3:4-6 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.

6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ” (NIV)

 

What kind of roads are we? Little donkey tracks full of obstacles and pitfalls! OR Highways ready and welcoming!

 

ILLUS.: Ever watched a motorway being built? Mountains are moved / valleys filled in / the surface is smoothed / the obstacles are removed.

 

Are their obstacles in your life that are hindering God’s work? Is your heart and life open and welcoming to the Messiah – King Jesus?  Is your heart like a highway or an obstacle course?

 

The world is – ….living in darkness and in the shadow of death, … Luke 1:79

 

ILLUS.: I guess we have all watch murder mystery movies at some time – it is dark and gloomy / the music is eerie / the victim is unsuspecting / the shadow of a knife or gun appears on the wall / … you know what is coming! UNLESS a hero saves the day and overpowers the murderer.

The world is in spiritual darkness and Satan is the murderer ready to claim his victim UNLESS there is a hero who will overpower him and restore the light!

John could not save or forgive sin or restore the light BUT he could point to the One who can.

 

Sometimes in these movies the victims are aware of the danger but they are helpless – sometimes they are oblivious to the danger.

 

Isn’t this a good illustration of our world – some are have all sorts of fears and phobias and problems while others seem to sail blissfully through life without a care in the world – BUT both are in darkness and the shadow of death until “the rising sun shines in their hearts”

 

Jesus is the Light of the world – the sun of Righteousness – John the apostle tells us that John 1:4-5 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (NIV)

 

Jesus also tells us – John 3:19 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

 

When people respond to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith THEN his light shines in us – 2 Corinthians 4:6 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (NIV)

 

Has the Light of Christ’s salvation and love shone into your Heart? What are the obstacles / the mountains or valleys that need to be smoothed?

 

If you are a Christian not only has the light of Christ shone into your light BUT it is to shine through you into a dark world – Christians are to be “salt and light”. Are there obstacles in our lives that hinder the light of God shining through us?

 

Earlier we sang these words:

As we gaze on your kingly brightness

So our faces display your likeness

ever changing from glory to glory

mirrored here may our lives tell your story.

            Shine on me…..

 

John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus and point people to him. That too, is our task! To point people to Jesus so that Luke 1:77-78

77 to give …. people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven (NIV)

 

He has come – 2000 years ago – he brought salvation / forgiveness / light / Life / love / peace….. and it is freely available to all who respond in repentance and faith.

Luke 1:46-56 – Mary’s Song

Luke 1v46-56

Mary’s Song

Introduction

ILLUST.: Imagine a rural setting of devoutly religious people – maybe in Ireland – a strong Roman Catholic community in a small town. A young woman is engaged to be married to a very honourable and highly respected man in the town. Then suddenly she is pregnant. She insists that she hasn’t been sleeping with another man – in fact, she says that this is a miracle, a supernatural act of God. This is what she tells her fiancée.

Who do you think would believe a story like that! Would you? I doubt I would have believed it!

Even Joseph, who loved her and was engaged to be married to her could not believe it and that is why he wanted to divorce her quietly.

In those days and engagement / betrothal was far more binding than it is today.

The promised Messiah had been long awaited. Probably many Jewish girls dreamed of becoming the mother of the Messiah – what an Honour. Maybe Mary herself had entertained such thoughts.

After all isn’t that what Isaiah had promised – Isaiah 7:14 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin [young maiden] will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (NIV)

It is very easy for us with hindsight to understand virgin as one who had not had sexual relations. I doubt we would have thought like that prior to the event.

I don’t think any young Jewish girl would have thought the Messiah would be conceived miraculously before they were married. BUT then God doesn’t always act the way we think he should.

In terms of her engagement to Joseph Mary was in criminal breach of the law of betrothal for which the Jewish Law prescribed the death penalty – Deuteronomy 22:23-24 23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death — the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. ….

When the angel announces to Mary that she is pregnant by The Holy Spirit she would have understood the social implications of her situation. This is an awesome thing the angel tells her.

How will Mary respond?

If she doesn’t appreciate the tremendous honour that is being bestowed on her then we would consider her to be ungrateful.

If she were in any way proud or conceited then we would consider her to be unworthy of the honour.

When something takes us by surprise it is difficult to fudge our response. Our immediate response is usually our genuine feeling.

Look and Mary’s initial response Luke 1:38        38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” ……

Such an immediate response reflects her attitude to God. She is prepared to accept whatever God wants to do in her life. This is not a pagan fatalism – rather it is a deep-seated trust in an Almighty God who always knows best and who always does what is best for his children.

What is your and my response to unexpected situations in our lives? Is there a deep-seated trust in God, like Mary, or do we display a fierce independence that always wants to control and be in charge. The kind of trust in God that Mary had is not something that comes naturally to us – it is something we have to learn from God. Mary had such and attitude in God.

BUT we may say, if an angel appeared to us like that we too would respond like Mary did. Would we???

Earlier in the chapter an angel appears to Zechariah the priest to announce that he and his wife, Elizabeth, who has never had children and is not past childbearing, is going to have a son. Did Zechariah respond like Mary? NO! He was full of doubt and questions – as a result he was struck dumb until the child. John was born.

1. MARY’S RESPONSE TO GOD.

v.38 gives Mary initial response. Soon after this she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The journey was a day or two long. Surely she must have reflected on what God was doing through her – as a result we have her song.

Luke 1:46-49

46 “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.

Later in NT we read in James 5:13  Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (NIV)

When we are anxious and things are tough singing doesn’t come easily – worship is difficult when our hearts are heavy. BUT when our hearts are full of joy and happiness it is natural to sing.

As Mary realises the implications of what the angel told her she is filled with praise and worship – she is to be the mother of the Messiah. She glorifies God with her whole being.

What a privilege for her to be the Messiah’s mother – it would be easy to become proud and self-important BUT she turns the spotlight away from herself and on to God.

It is all too easy when God has blessed us or used us in some specific way to subtlety, or maybe not so subtlety, step into the limelight and take the glory for ourselves.

ILLUST.: I remember some years ago being at a performance of Handel’s Messiah – At the end there was spontaneous applause for the musicians, and singers and conductor. The conductor pointed to the various performers BUT then raised his hands heavenward – God was really the one who was worthy of our praise!

Far from being filled with self-pride Mary is just a sinner in need of a Saviour

She is to be the mother of the Son of God – can you imagine what that must have meant – the Son of the Most High – YET she knows that like everyone else she is a sinner in need of a Saviour.

Mary is simply a humble servant – the fact that she is remembered today is not because of what she was or what she did BUT because of what God did in and through her.  The Mighty One has done great things for me

If there is anything in us that is worthy of praise then it is only so because it comes from him.

There is really nothing essentially good in us that is praiseworthy. We are all equal before God as sinners therefore we have no reason to boast or consider ourselves better that anyone else.

The good that we may be able to do is always because God has enabled us. Therefore the praise is due to him. Mary knew this – The Mighty One has done great things

He is the mighty one because he has done great things and the things he does are mighty because he does them.

2. The extent of God’s mercy.

Luke 1:50-53

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty. (NIV)

In these verse Mary uses the poetic language of the OT to describe her experiences.

The essence of what Mary is saying is that God’s ways are not man’s ways. If we were to choose a woman through whom the Messiah was to be born would we have chosen a peasant girl from an obscure village?

When the Wise men came the first place they looked was the palace.

BUT God chose Mary! In the world’s eyes an insignificant nobody – “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth” Nathaniel was to say of Jesus years later.

But Mary was not insignificant in God’s eyes.

God specialises in taking the weak and the humble – the nobodies of this world – and making them into something for him. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (NIV)

Those who are proud and self-righteous God will bring down –

Luke 1:51 …he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

ILLUST.:  Consider what God did at the Tower of Babel – they became proud and arrogant so God confused their languages and scattered them across the earth.

 

MOSES – When he was 40 he was wise is all the wisdom of Egypt – he thought he could deliver the Hebrews from Slavery so he killed an Egyptian he saw mistreating a Jewish Slave. He had to run and hide in the desert for 40 years were he was a nobody. Then when he was 80 and leaning on his staff, a symbol of his weakness, God used him – the staff became a symbol of God’s power.

Remember what God told Paul when he asked for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed – 2 Corinthians 12:9 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Mary sees in God’s choosing of her just one example of the way God does things. God scatters the proud – he brings down princes and kings – he sends the rich away empty – BUT he exalts the humble and feeds the hungry.

ILLUST.: I was struck watch the video of the Taliabo People in Indonesia – one lady crippled from leprosy and with no fingers, living in a straw house but the expression of utter joy on her face is something we don’t see much in our very rich society.

As long as we are proud and self-sufficient we will never know that joy. It is only when we acknowledge hopelessness and humbly respond to God’s gracious offer of salvation that we can know him as Saviour – And we can’t praise him or worship him until he is our Saviour.

There are two pits we can fall into – Either we feel that we are ‘okay’ and we don’t need God –

ILLUST:. Like the response Janet and I got on the door when offering the Jesus video – “No thanks I am fine!” That might be your opinion of yourself but I wonder what God’s is?

Or we have an “I am a worm mentality” and remain useless because we refuse to respond to God.

If you are proud and self-satisfied then humble yourself before God.

If you feel weak and feeble – like a nobody – take heart God will use people just like that if we respond to him like Mary did.

HIS power is made perfect in weakness

The world tells us the opposite – It is the rich and famous and powerful who think that by their abundance they can control their own lives.

ILLUST.: RSA TV ad for Insurance co. “Your destiny in in your hands, your path is yours to choose”

How wrong can you be – God is King! My destiny is in His hands.

There is no area of my life where I don’t need God.

3. Mary’s place in History.

Luke 1:54-55

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever,

even as he said to our fathers.” (NIV)

Mary acknowledges and reminds us that everything God did for Abraham and Israel was as a result of his mercy. God is not obliged to show mercy but he does so because he is kind and merciful.

What was happening to Mary was part of God’s faithful promise to Abraham and his descendants. Mary is just a small part of that plan BUT that in no way detracts from the specialness of what God did for and through Mary.

We too are part of God’s plan and blessing Through Abraham because through faith in Christ we too are part of God’s people. Mary is a special person in the history of God’s plan BUT she is special BECAUSE God did something special for her.

Each one of us is special – or at least we can be through Jesus – not because we are worthy BUT because of what God has done for us.

You are special to God! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! God loves You!

Therefore let us glorify HIM!