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Lk 1,26-38 - Highly Favored by God (2008)

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HIGHLY FAVORED BY GOD

Luke 1:26–38

 

I have a brother who is a medical doctor.

In fact, after finishing his training

       and working in General Family medicine for a while

       he went to the University of Heidelberg in Germany

       to specialize as an orthopaedic surgeon.

I really look up to my brother!

He’s got more than 12 years of intense scientific training

       and education under his belt.

I’ve been very privileged to watched him

perform some pretty amazing reconstructive surgeries

at the Leprosy colony Km 81 in Paraguay.

I am pretty certain from observing him at work,

       and hearing testimonials from his patients and colleagues,

       that he is one of the best in his field in Paraguay.

He knows his stuff!

He knows how to do some pretty in-depth prep-work and research

       before he even touches any human skin with a scalpel.

My brother is a very logical thinker…

       it has to make sense for him to be convinced of the facts.

Why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this because my brother believes

that God can do the impossible.

In fact, I have to admit,

       that he is more convinced of it than I have sometimes been.

And he very often challenges my faith

       to go back to the “facts”, as he calls them,  

the “facts” that have been recorded

       by the prophets and the Gospel-writers

about God’s activity in the world.

Luke, the writer of the Gospel,

       who describes the events of the story of Jesus’ birth

       in the greatest detail, is also a Doctor...

       a scientist, and physician…

       he is a logical thinker who has done his homework.

For that reason,

as we hear the story of the Angel’s visit to Mary,

       as described by Doctor Luke,

       we do not have the luxury of dismissing it flippantly

       as an old-wives tale,

       or the jaw-flapping of someone with an active imagination.

      

Listen to the words of self-description in Luke 1:1-4,

in the opening verses of the Gospel of Luke (The Message):

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story

       of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history

that took place among us,

using reports handed down

by the original eyewitnesses

who served this Word with their very lives.

Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail,

starting from the story's beginning,

I decided to write it all out for you,

most honorable Theophilus,

so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt

the reliability of what you were taught.

Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers

who did not physically walk in the presence of Jesus.

He was not present during our Lord’s three-year ministry

and did not witness His death and Resurrection.

He was probably at the University of Antioch

       sweating over his micro-biology exam or something…

Since he has not seen any of these events first-hand,

       he relies on the next best thing:

credible eyewitnesses,

people who have seen and heard,

and who are trustworthy…

who served this Word with their very lives.

Luke visited the people who actually saw the physical Jesus:

His family, His disciples, His friends,

and probably also those who did not like Jesus very much.

Bruce Larson and Lloyd Ogilvie,

in The Preacher's Commentary Series, Luke,[1] suggest that,

“Perhaps the genius of Luke’s Gospel

is that it is written to one person, to Theophilus.

I am convinced that Luke

is the most universal of the four Gospels

because he is the most personal.”

This personal Gospel was written to a fellow Greek of high rank,

the “Most excellent Theophilus.”

Not much is known about Theophilus,

except that his name means “Friend of God,”

which may have been a nickname, or his actual name.

The first verses tell us why this account was written.

Luke says,

so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt

the reliability of what you were taught.

Lloyd Douglas tells about a man

who on a visit to his old violin teacher, asked,

“What’s new?”

“I’ll tell you what’s new,” said the teacher.

He grabbed his tuning fork and banged it.

The “A” came out loud and clear.

“Do you hear that?

That’s an ‘A’,” he proclaimed.

“Now, upstairs a soprano rehearses endlessly

and she’s always off key.

Next door I have a cello player

who plays his instrument very poorly.

There is an out-of-tune piano on the other side of me.

I’m surrounded by terrible noise, night and day.”

Plunking the “A” again, he continued,

“Do you hear that?

That’s an ‘A’ yesterday,

that’s an ‘A’ today,

that will be an ‘A’ tomorrow.

It will never change.”

Luke is insisting on the same kind of certainty:

       “This truth that Jesus, the Son of God,

       has come to us through the Virgin Mary,

is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

As I see the birth of Jesus through the eyes of Luke,

“the beloved physician”, as Paul calls him,

I, for one, cannot dismiss the story

as if it was the result of the unenlightend guess work

of a pre-scientific fan of Jesus.

Luke, the physician and scientist,

was a clinical observer of the events that had transpired,

and he recorded the story of the Virgin birth of Jesus

after checking every bit of evidence very carefully.

With that in the background,

       Let us now turn to the story of the angelic encounter:

Luke 1

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God

to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,

of the house of David.

The virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And having come in, the angel said to her,

Rejoice, highly favored one,

the Lord is with you;

blessed are you among women!”

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying,

and considered what manner of greeting this was.

30 Then the angel said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary,

for you have found favor with God.

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb

and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.

32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest;

and the Lord God will give Him the throne

of His father David.

33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,

and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel,

“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35 And the angel answered and said to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;

therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born

will be called the Son of God.

36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative

has also conceived a son in her old age;

and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

38 Then Mary said,

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord!

Let it be to me according to your word.”

And the angel departed from her.

—Luke 1:26–38

In the dialogue that took place

between Mary and the angel Gabriel,

the angel told her first of all

that she was “highly favored with God.”

But, Mary was troubled.

No Kidding!

Have you ever tried to tell a teenage mother-to-be

at Crisis Pregnancy

to “rejoice” and “don’t worry, be happy”,

“God has chosen you… Oh, highly favored one”???

Mary was troubled…

       And so would be any other teenage girl in her situation.

But, let’s shift gears for a moment,

       and lets look at the spiritual side

       that Dr. Luke wants us to see:

Maybe it was because of her humility,

that she was troubled and she was thinking,

“Why me?

I’m too insignificant to find favor with God.”

On the other hand,

maybe in her teenage innocence

and with wisdom beyond her years

she understood a profound mystery, namely

that those who are highly favored by God

do not have a life of unbroken happiness.

We have to remember that Mary was a Jew,

and the Jews were the chosen people,

a people who found favor with God.

Jews are still the chosen people.

But, for three thousand years those chosen people

have suffered perhaps more than any other people.

I believe that Mary understood at some level

that there is a tremendous price to be paid

by those who are highly favored by God.

We cannot talk about these Scripture verses

without discussing the fact of the Virgin Birth.

If we think about it, Dr. Luke, of all people

would be the most skeptical about such a birth.

He must have had an understanding of the birth process

as only doctors have.

And yet he is the one who records in detail

the angel’s message to Mary,

that she, a virgin,

was to become pregnant in a mysterious way

by God’s Holy Spirit

and that no earthly father was to be involved.

I checked with my brother, the Doctor, on this question.

       “Do you actually believe it?”

And he says to me very matter-of-factly:

       “It is what it is! A Virgin birth!”

And then in his not-so-tacktful analytical way,

       he says to me,

       “Don’t you read your Bible?

You theologians and preachers,

       you just don’t get it.

You make it way too complicated

by trying to figure out the mechanics of it all.

It says right there in black and white:

The angel came to a virgin

betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, and so forth…

And then he says, “It’s actually really quite simple:

God wanted his Son to be born through the virgin Mary.

And so it was!

You’ve got to believe it.

It’s all there – the evidence.”

Luke tells us from the beginning

that he has set down these accounts painstakingly

and in great detail.

It’s logical to assume that Luke

had many visits with Mary

and talked about all of these events.

Mary outlived her son for a number of years -

how long we don’t know.

And Luke, in doing his research,

must have often talked to Mary,

and we can imagine him saying,

“Ok Mary, you know as a scientist I have to tell you,

this story of your pregnancy is a bit out of the ordinary…

Let’s go over the facts one more time.

What really happened?”

For many devout Christians throughout the ages,

And perhaps today more than ever before,

the idea of the virgin birth

is intelectually pretty hard to accept.

But if we believe it’s impossible,

then we might as well turn off the lights and go home.

Then our God is too small…

If we believe that there is no such thing as a virgin birth,

then God, who made the lame to walk

and the blind to see

and who made the dead to rise again,

cannot do a single thing for us

and is only a product of our imagination.

As followers of Christ we believe in a God

who is big enough to deal

with our most pressing personal problems.

God shines in the impossible.

God is big enough to deal

with our most pressing national problems

and the problems of our world.

Our Creator and Redeemer is the God of the impossible.

In the words of Larson and Ogilvie,

       “I believe Mary was chosen to bear God’s own Son

because she was one of that faithful remnant in Israel

who understood that with God nothing is impossible.

She was chosen when the more worthy

or high-born or well-positioned were bypassed.”

But, why does God choose certain people

for unusual assignments?

Why does God choose men and women, young and old,

       with nothing much to show for,

       to be “God-bearers” in our world even today?

I believe the answer lies in Mary’s response.

Mary had a choice.

She responded as though she had made a decision:

“Let it be to me as you have said.”

God never forces His love or His will on anyone.

The angel announced God’s plan and purpose to Mary

and it would only be carried out with her consent.

When this teen-aged girl, Mary,

chose to serve God, she suffered much.

Mary suffered the ridicule and contempt

of being pregnant and unmarried

in a small town full of gossips.

Knowing all this, she said,

“Let it be to me as you have said.”

This is surely one of the most courageous statements ever made.

As we think about this beautiful story of how God

       interrupts the easy-go-lucky life of a teenage girl in Bethlehem

       to change the course of History forever

       and even transform our lives today,

       we admit that the story is packed with mystery and wonder,

       and perhaps even a hint of suspicion on our part.

But, more than anything else,

       it is my hope and prayer that this story

       of the miracle birth of Jesus

       will fill us with awe and wonder and adoration…

And that we would also respond to God’s favor in our lives

with a spirit of submission and readiness

       to be God-bearers in our world today.

Amen

      


----

[1]Bruce Larson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, vol. 26, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 26 : Luke, Formerly The Communicator's Commentary, The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 33.

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