Monday, December 22, 2014

Sermon on Luke 1:26-38, for the 4th Sunday in Advent, "King of the House of Jacob"

In the Name of Him who strengthens us according to the Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, Amen. As we are ever so close to Christmas, the miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth jump out at us from the text. The unexpected visit of the angel Gabriel, to the Virgin Mary; his announcement of her conception of the Holy Child, Jesus, the Very Son of God; this child’s coming eternal kingdom. It was a troubling greeting for Mary—trying to sort out why she, a lowly maiden, would receive such a visit from an angel. But as Gabriel assured her of God’s favor, it became clear that the joy and honor to give birth to the Savior would be hers. She would fulfill the centuries old prophecy, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a Son—Emmanuel, God with us.
It’s all plainly miraculous and wonderful—but how all this would happen is simply explained: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” No further explanation needed. The same God that called all reality into existence and called out into the darkness: “Let there be Light!”, spoke to the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadow her, and she would conceive and give birth to a Son, Jesus. Without man’s help, Jesus would be born of God. And just as Jesus’ miraculous birth come about without man’s help—so also Jesus’ kingdom would be established by the hand of God.
The theme of a kingdom and of a “house” connects our Gospel and Old Testament readings. King David had wanted to build a glorious house where God could be worshipped. But God told David instead that He would build a house for him. But now the meaning of “house” is not about a building, but a dynasty—the royal family line of the house of David. God’s amazing promise and prophecy given to David, some 3,000 years ago, was: “The Lord will make you a house…and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” How that promise of a forever-house, a forever-kingdom, would be fulfilled, lay shrouded in mystery for long ages, but slowly was unfolded through the writings of the prophets, and became fully known in the birth and the lifetime of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
So from this royal family line, the house of David, we’re introduced to Mary and Joseph. They were ancestors of the great King David, but lived a thousand years later—when the monarchy was long gone, and the wicked King Herod and the cruel Romans ruled over Israel. No descendant of David on the throne, and the prospects of God’s promise to David being kept, must have seemed distant and uncertain. Surely the thought of her son being a king was from Mary’s mind. Even further, the idea that her Son would be the One to establish an everlasting dynasty, and that Jesus would be given the throne of His father David, and reign over the house of Jacob forever. But like her miraculous conception, this kingdom too would not come about by human power, but by the will of God. What is impossible for man, is possible for God.
The Old Testament speaks of the reign of the Messiah as universal. In a world of approximately 200 sovereign nations, often at war or in conflict with one another, the thought of one Sovereign ruler may seem incredible. Sounds like something that could only be accomplished through great bloodshed or force or tyranny. The nations would not willingly submit to any one ruler. But the Scriptures give us the extraordinary claim that there already is, in fact, One Sovereign Lord of all; Jesus Christ. He is the One who would be given the throne of His father David. But not a kingdom bounded by the national borders of Israel, but reaching all across the earth. Jesus’ kingdom is already expanding through every nation on earth, amidst sword, persecutions, and resistance—but it grows by the power of God’s Word and Spirit transforming hearts. He acquired this kingdom, not by military might, by earthly strategy, nor by forced conversions or threat of death—but by the liberating of captives from the enemy; by the freeing Word of the Son of God. The blood that was shed to acquire His kingdom, was His own blood, shed on the cross, for the forgiveness of our sins. He defeated the powers that stood in His way—sin, death, and the devil—by triumphing over them in His cross and resurrection. And His rule is of justice and righteousness.
His kingdom comes, His will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. He is no mere mortal to reign for 50, 60, or even 100 hundred years. But He is the Son of the Most High, who rules in heaven above and on earth below. His is an everlasting kingdom. In a democracy, with term limits, we have little concept of a single ruler reigning forever. The thought may even frighten us who are used to sinful leaders, and that even the best of mankind’s leaders are far from perfect. But Jesus is the eternally righteous and just God, and “of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). Our life here on earth, as Christian members of His kingdom, is but the opening chapter of an eternal story, with God’s eternal and peaceful reign.
When Jesus returns to earth in power and great glory, all resistance will finally fail and fall into eternal submission, as every knee bows and tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is the picture of the reign of Jesus, over the house of Jacob. It’s a lot to process, but this was what God was revealing to the Virgin Mary when she first received that unexpected announcement. To think that the child she would bear was holy—the Son of God. That she would live and worship under the reign of her great Son.
Later in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus was an adult, in His teaching ministry, some unnamed woman reflected on the great honor given to Mary, and shouted out in a crowd. “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28). The woman praised Jesus’ mother, and considered it an unsurpassed blessing to have given birth to and raised Jesus. Jesus, without diminishing His mother’s honor, announced an even greater honor—to hear the Word of God and keep it! In fact, that was the same reason Mary was so highly blessed, as she too said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word!”  She heard the Word of the Lord, and she kept it. She willingly received the unprecedented honor of bearing the Savior, Jesus.
Hers was not just a once in a lifetime honor—but once in all time—once in all human history honor—to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High; Son of God. No other woman will ever share in that honor. But the greater blessing and honor in which we all can share is to hear the Word of God and keep it. We now live under the kingdom of Jesus Christ, under His good and righteous rule. As Christians we have been liberated by the Word of God from our slavery to sin, death, and the power of the devil. Jesus’ Word has spoken us free, and we have believed it. We are now members of the “house of Jacob”—extended family, as God’s grace has extended beyond His people Israel, to welcome people of every tribe, language, people and nation on earth. God’s promise to King David of an everlasting house and kingdom has come true, and the gracious reign of Jesus has reached our hearts as well. So we can say with Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word.
Being a servant of the Lord, a subject of Jesus’ kingdom, or a member of this household of faith, are all different ways of talking about being a disciple, a believer, in Jesus. Just like for Mary, this high calling from God’s Word comes with its own set of crosses. The peacefulness of Jesus’ reign will not be completely established until death, the final enemy, is destroyed and made subject to Jesus. Until then, we still experience trouble, antagonism, resistance to the kingdom of Jesus. Many simply dismiss the miraculous events of Jesus’ birth and life, and choose to have nothing to do with Jesus or God. At a minimal level they may just laugh and mock—but in many places around the world, their opposition turns into full-fledged hatred and violence against Christians. It may seem impossible that such enemies of Jesus’ kingdom could be won over. But our reading reminds us, that nothing is impossible with God. On another occasion, when Jesus talked about the difficulty of a rich man entering heaven, the disciples exclaimed: “Then who can be saved?” And Jesus echoed those words, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27).
We may often forget that just as Jesus’ birth, and the establishment of His universal and eternal kingdom, cam about not through the help of man, but by God—so also the growth of His kingdom, by winning hearts and minds to Christ Jesus is also God’s work as well. We are messengers, bringing God’s Word to others—but it’s God’s power that converts and changes hearts. His Holy Spirit gives us faith and gives us the right to become children of God. And as children of God, Scripture tells us “we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Hebrews 3:6). We live in this house by faith, and God lives with us. And this Christmas, we again declare that our confidence and the boast of our hope, is not the kingdoms of men, nor the power of men, nor the glory of men—but it is the eternal kingdom of Jesus, God’s own Son, the power of only wise God, and the glory of the Lord that is our confidence and hope. We welcome His reign among us, we confess His universal and eternal power, we pray and believe in His kingdom’s continual growth, and we ask that He would make us His willing servants according to His Word. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

  1. Review the readings from 2 Samuel 7:1-16 and Luke 1:26-38, and take note of the various uses of the word “house”—to refer to David’s palace, the Temple David desires to build for God, the royal lineage of David that God promises to establish on the throne, through the Messiah, and how the Gospel reading in Luke ties Jesus to that lineage of David, and all the way back to Jacob. Who is now God’s “house?” Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5. What does this metaphor tell us about our relationship to God?
  2. Being the mother of the One who would reestablish David’s throne might be considered great enough honor for Mary, but greater than just an earthly king, who would her Son be? Luke 1:31-33; 35. Later, when Jesus was an adult, a woman in a crowd declared Jesus’ mother to be greatly blessed for giving birth to and raising Him. Luke 11:27-28. What did Jesus respond was an even greater honor or blessing? How was Mary also blessed for this reason? Luke 1:38. Is the same blessing available to us? How so? How can you “hear the Word of God and keep it?”
  3. Even receiving this unique honor of bearing Jesus in her womb came with its own challenges for Mary. How might committing our life to the Lord’s service and His Word bring both challenges and blessings for you? What are some present challenges and blessings you face? What ways have you been called to be a servant of the Lord?
  4. Gabriel tells Mary that Jesus, her Son, would rule an eternal kingdom. How is this possible? Revelation 11:15; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Psalms 2 & 110. How does this fulfill OT prophecy? 2 Samuel 7:11, 16; Daniel 7:13-14; Obadiah 17-21.

No comments: