Read Luke 1:26-36
Three weeks ago we read this same passage as we looked at Mary. At the time we said that some wonderful things were said about her baby but we would come back to them later. Today, let’s consider what was said about Jesus.
No birth has ever been anticipated like Jesus’. Maybe there have been other people in history who’s births have supposedly been prophesied. I’m not sure. Jesus’ was prophesied hundreds of years before it happened and prophesied in detail. The fact that his mother would be a virgin, that He would be called Immanuel, the tribe He would come from, the town of His birth – and possibly, depending on our understanding of some of Daniel’s prophecies, even the date of his birth were all foretold, and accurately fulfilled. Some of those prophecies come from 800 years before Jesus’ birth.
This was a birth that the Jews had waited for for centuries. The fact that the Old Testament talks so much about this coming Messiah obviously indicates that He would be someone quite exceptional. But let’s just focus on some of the things said about Him around the time of His birth in the accounts of His birth in Matthew and Luke. I think they fall into three main categories – His identity, His mission and His destiny – Who He was; what He came to do and His future.
When Gabriel visited Mary, he said some absolutely stunning things. “You will conceive and give birth to a son.” OK, that’s not very stunning. All babies are born as the result of a conception and roughly half of all people ever born have been male. There is nothing very special about that… except, of course that Mary was a virgin. It is absolutely stunning that this child would be born of a virgin. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
“And you are to call Him Jesus.” Again, there is nothing exceptional about that. Jesus was a very common name for Jewish males. Jesus is the Romanised version of the Jewish name Yeshua or Joshua. To call your baby son Yeshua was very normal… except that, in this instance the name had additional significance. Yeshua means “God saves” or “Saviour”. We’ll come back to that in a minute too.
“He will be great.” This announcement is a bit more stunning. This baby, born to an obscure girl in an obscure part of the country would be great. But other people had also been great. Some had even been called “the Great” like Alexander the Great who had conquered their land only three centuries earlier. His empire had spread from Greece to India. Would the Messiah be a great military general or a great political leader?
What are we to make of these statements?
“He will be called the Son of the Most High.” There is a sense in which we are all children of God and, if you look at the Old Testament, which is where Mary’s mind would have gone, lots of people were called sons of God: angels, particularly godly people and kings. The whole nation of Israel was called God’s son… except that, here Mary’s baby is called the Son of the Most High; the unique Son of the Most High, but we will come back to that in a minute too.
“The Lord will give Him the throne of His father David. Whoa! This is getting more stunning. There hadn’t been a king in Israel for 500 years. David was remembered as the great king. There had been many dubious kings but David’s reign was remembered as the pinnacle of Israel’s history – a time of great peace, prosperity and expansion. What is more, David had been promised that his throne would be established forever through his descendants (2 Sam 7).
Ps 132:11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
a sure oath he will not revoke:
‘One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne.
Because of the promises, there was an expectation of a new King David – one of David’s descendants who would re-establish the Kingdom and an era of prosperity.
As I said, there had been no kings for 500 years but the angel said that the child of this Galilean country girl would sit on David’s throne and His kingdom would never end. How is that even possible? Would He never die? He would be a king ruling over an eternal kingdom? What does that mean?
Mary didn’t question any of that. She didn’t question how her Son could be a king or how He could reign forever. She didn’t question how He might be uniquely the Son of God. She just asked the perfectly reasonable question of how she could even have this son since she was a virgin.
This is where we come back to the question of Jesus being, in some unique way, the Son of the Most High. How could she have a child? By the power of God. This would be a miracle baby. Every baby is a miracle. Some babies are special miracles when parents have been unable to conceive. But this baby would be a miracle in that He would have no human father. His conception would be a miraculous, creative act of the Holy Spirit.
Notice what the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born to you will be called the Son of God.” Jesus’ conception would be a miraculous act of God and it was because of that that He would be called the Son of God. Note also that He is called “the holy one” which might mean “the divine one”. He is the Son of God in the sense that He is God. He took the form of a human being. He became one of us but Jesus is uniquely God.
Imagine what this announcement must have been like for Mary but, as we noted a few weeks ago, she simply replied, “May it be to me according to your word.”
So, what have we learnt about Jesus’ identity? He is divine. He is the Son of God.
What have we learnt about His mission? Not much yet except for the hint in His name, “God saves” or “Saviour”.
What have we learnt about His destiny? He will reign as King forever.
When Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby (who would later be John the Baptist) leaped in her womb. There was a Holy Spirit thing going on there. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She blessed Mary but she also referred to Mary’s baby as “my Lord”. Imagine it! In the natural, she wouldn’t even know that Mary was pregnant, much less know anything about her baby but, inspired by the Holy Spirit she calls the baby her Lord.
Mary’s song (The Magnificat) didn’t explicitly refer to Jesus but she talked about what God had done – first what He had done for her but then what He had done for the world and so that indirectly referred to Jesus’ mission. By giving the world the Messiah God had extended mercy to those who fear Him, across all generations. He had scattered the proud and brought down rulers but lifted up the humble. He had filled the hungry with good things but sent the rich away empty. He had helped Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants just as He had promised their ancestors. Mary sang of God’s mercy to the humble and to those who fear Him. He had kept His promises – the covenant He had made with Abraham 2000 years earlier. God had come to save His people – or at least those who were humble.
Jesus’ identity was Messiah. His mission was to save; to have mercy.
Let’s quickly look at some of the other words spoken about Jesus at this time. In Matthew 1 the angel Gabriel also visited Joseph telling him not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife “because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” That is consistent with what we already know. This is a miracle baby conceived miraculously. “She will give birth to a son and you are to give Him the name Jesus.” Again, that merely confirms what we already know, but Gabriel added, with reference to the name, “Because He will save His people from their sins.”
In Luke, Jesus’ mission was just hinted at in the name Jesus. Here it is explicit. He is to have that name because He will save His people from their sins. That is His mission. That is the mercy of God. God reaches out to forgive sinners.
Furthermore, Matthew quotes a prophecy from Isaiah: ‘A virgin will conceive and bear a son and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”.)’
Now what do we know? Jesus identity. He is the Messiah, the Saviour, the Lord. He is the divine Son of God. He is God – God with us.
His mission: to save people from their sins. Jesus is the means of God’s mercy, and remember that the angels declared to the shepherds that they had good news of great joy that would be for all people (Lk 2:10). God’s forgiveness of sinners is not just for the Jews but for all people.
The angels went on to say, “Today, in the city of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” That is who He is: Saviour, Messiah, Lord. And yet He came as a baby, born to an unknown country girl and lying in a manger. A manger – a feeding trough – is no place for the Messiah. There is a huge amount that is exalted and magnificent about Jesus but also a huge amount of humility. He came as a servant. He came not for the healthy but for the sick, the humble, those who fear Him.
His destiny: He will reign as king for ever.
The magi went to Herod and asked, “Where is the one who was born to be king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and we have come to worship Him.” King. One who has a special star signalling His birth. “We have come to worship Him.” When they found Him they did bow down and worshipped Him.
One of the strong themes of the Bible is that only God is to be worshipped. We are to have no other gods – worship nothing other than God Himself. But this baby was worshipped and the worship of these wise men is seen as a good thing. This baby must be God.
Of course, Jesus hasn’t yet said a word but lots of words have already been spoken about Him- both in the Old Testament and by Gabriel, the shepherds, the magi, Elizabeth, Mary. We could go on. Remember Simeon in the Temple when Jesus was eight days old. He said, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of many nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Then he said, to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own souls too.”
Jesus was destined for a throne but he was also destined for the Cross. He would rule forever but he would also die. He would face opposition and suffering. Only by walking that path of obedience to the Cross would He be raised to His position as eternal king.
And He was destined to cause the rising and falling of many. People will rise or fall depending on their response to Jesus. Simeon prophesied that some would speak against Him and thus reveal their own hearts. In opposing Jesus, they oppose God; they oppose God’s mercy; they reject God’s Saviour; they resist the king; they say no to salvation.
This Christmas, how will you respond? Will you worship, bowing before God incarnate? Will you come humbly to the Saviour, fearing God, and seeking forgiveness for your sins? Will you submit to the King and give your life to Him? Will you tell others about Him?