Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sermon: Luke 1: 26-38 Jesus: the Man

I wonder if you’ve ever seen a birth announcement, maybe in the Belfast Telegraph, or in the Ulster Tatler. Perhaps it’s something that celebrities would do more than normal people. You have the name of the parents, and then the news of the birth of their new child.

In the Bible reading we’ve just heard, we have a special birth announcement. You see, normally, a birth notice comes after the baby has been born and all is well. You would never see a notice that says ‘in 9 months Jim and Susan will be having a baby boy called Sam.’ Yet this is what happens here. When the angel Gabriel announces the birth, he tells the mother, before she’s a mother. Rather than here’s what has happened, it is a case of here’s what is going to happen. And just as it is no ordinary birth announcement, so we see it is no ordinary person. What will this child be?

Not only are we told the name of the child, Jesus, we’re also told three important things about him. To help you remember them, I’ve put it into a short, snappy sentence. Jesus the man is the great, holy King. Jesus the man is the great, holy King.

First of all, Jesus the man is described as ‘great’. Look at verse 32 with me. ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.’ Sometimes we can use the word ‘great’ too much. I know I do. So a meal was great, or a new song can be great, or my niece, if she behaved, was great.

But what does it mean here when it says that Jesus will be great? Surely it’s not just that he’s good, or pleasant? Well, I had a look at the Greek, and do you know what? You’ll recognise the word that I found. He will be great is the word ‘mega’. Jesus will be (is) mega. A few years back, Sega brought out a new computer game console, and it was called the Sega Megadrive – far greater than anything we had seen before, faster, better, beyond our imagination. Or think of what used to be the Virgin Megastore shops – these weren’t just a shop, but a megastore – far bigger and better.

Look over at Luke 1:15. Gabriel had visited Zechariah, the men who was to be the father of John the Baptist. Again, Gabriel uses the word ‘mega’. ‘For he will be great before the Lord.’ John and Jesus are both great, but John is great before the Lord, whereas Jesus, in a different league of greatness, is great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

The angel announces that Jesus will be great. We see his greatness as he walks on the water, or feeds the 5000, or heals the sick, or teaches, or raises the dead. And we see his greatness as he dies on the cross, in our place – even though he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. As Gabriel went on to say – ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High’ – we see this at the cross. Just as Jesus dies, the Roman Centurion, a hardened soldier who had probably presided over hundreds or thousands of crucifixions, declares ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’ (Mark 15:39).

Jesus is great – but have you seen his greatness? Have you been amazed by his greatness? Time and again in the Gospels we find that the disciples were amazed by him – What about you?

He will be great. If you look with me down to verse 35, we see the second aspect of Jesus the man. ‘Therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.’ Mary had raised a major problem. How could she have a child when she was a virgin? Gabriel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. It is because of this – therefore – that Jesus will be called holy.

Holy is a word that we hear in church, or maybe one that we use, but sometimes we don’t grasp what it’s all about. Here, it’s talking about how Jesus will be pure, sinless, holy – separate and distinct and different from every other baby born. You see, we are all affected and infected by sin. It doesn’t take long for a baby to become selfish – it doesn’t even have to be taught. In contrast to all of us, Jesus is free from the problem of sin. He never told a lie, or stole or cheated.

Jesus is holy. We are not. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Yet the good news of Jesus is that in his holiness, he came to the earth to deal with our sin. He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us on the cross, so that he paid the debt that we could not pay, and give us the life we did not deserve.

When we’re confronted with the sinlessness of Jesus, we sometimes want to turn away. We just can’t face up to it, knowing the things that we do wrong. His holiness is a challenge to our sinfulness. Think of the time when Peter had been out fishing all night and caught nothing. Jesus tells him to let down his nets in a certain place, and the catch is so great the nets are about to break. How does Peter respond? ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ (Luke 5:8).

Jesus’ holiness challenges our sinfulness. But at the same time, his holiness provides us with the remedy to our sin. Because the sinless saviour died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied, to look on him and pardon me.

Find forgiveness and peace today under the wings of the sinless one, who shed his blood for you, so that your sins might be cleansed and forgiven.

Jesus is great. Jesus is holy. And finally, Jesus is the King. Look back to the middle of verse 32. ‘And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ In some ways, this might be the most surprising part of Gabriel’s announcement.

You see, Mary lived in a small village in the northern province of Galilee, far away from the capital city of Jerusalem, where King Herod lived. If you were looking for the family of a new king, you wouldn’t have looked for them in Nazareth. Yet this was the news that Gabriel brings – that Jesus will be, not just a king, but THE king. So far we have seen that Jesus is the Son of the Most High (32) and the Son of God (35) – two ways of saying the same thing. But here in the middle, we find that he is also the son of David – because God will give him the throne of his father David.

Son of David may not seem important to us, but to the people of Jesus’ time, this was shorthand for saying that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah – the King God would send to conquer their enemies and bring in the kingdom of God.

You see, back in 2 Samuel, God had made these promises to king David. ‘When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.’ (2 Samuel 7:12-14).

Now compare that with what Gabriel tells Mary: ‘throne of his father David… reign forever… kingdom there will be no end.’ On one level, the promise had been fulfilled in Solomon, who had built the temple in Jerusalem. But Solomon messed things up with his hundreds of wives and concubines and his religious compromise to keep his wives happy. Every son of David since had failed, some more spectacularly than others. But none had been the final king promised by God who would rule forever.

Jesus is God’s king – appointed by God to reign over the world. Yet while he walked on earth, he wore no royal robes, and the only crown he wore was the crown of thorns imposed by the soldiers at his mocking and crucifixion. Yet the Bible tells us that he reigns now, seated on the right hand of the Father. And one day he will return as king and judge to establish his kingdom forever.

Jesus is the great, holy king. We’ve seen this in his greatness; and in his sinlessness. So what will you do with God’s king? Will you accept his reign in your life, living in obedience to him, or will you go your own way, wanting to rule your own life?

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 4th January 2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment