“and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:33
This year we will have to three Christmas messages. In this first message, we will consider how God used Mary to fulfill his promise to send Jesus. Through this, Mary was able to participate in the work of ushering in God’s eternal kingdom.
Part I. The Throne of His Father David (26-33)
First we can think about how God called Mary. In most cases God uses his human servants to call others, but in this case God sent the angel Gabriel. Maybe it was because this was such a special calling! Either way, it is not the merely the messenger, but God who calls his people through His word. In calling Mary, the angel Gabriel initiated a short bible study with her. It began with a challenge, and then teaching, and next Mary’s question, and then more teaching, and finally Mary was able to open her heart to obey God’s word. Let’s look into the passage and see how this Bible study went.
Look at verses 26-27. In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
Mary was from Nazareth, in Galilee. Excavations of the ancient ruins show that Nazareth was a small farming community with a single spring of water, and a population of between 200 to 400 people. The town was located in the hills country twelve miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee. It was adjacent to several more prominent cities. By all accounts, Nazareth was just an insignificant speck on the map. In fact, Nazareth had such a lowly reputation, that in John 1:46, one of Jesus’ disciples Nathanael asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Mary was just simple country girl, but it seems that the sovereign Lord chose her and prepared her for this moment. Having grown up in Nazareth, she was likely to have been molded into a woman of humble character. It could be said that humility is the foremost essential characteristic for a good bible student—in order to listen to and obey the words of God. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. This verse describes how God humbled the Israelites in order to help them to become good bible students who would live all the words of God.
Mary was relatively humble, but what was her initial response to what the angel said? Look at verses 28-29. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Mary’s was greatly troubled. Notice the contrast here, “highly favored” and “greatly troubled”. Mary could have been greatly troubled merely by the awesome presence of the angel standing before her, but look at what verses 29 actually says. It says that, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be”
On the surface, the words “highly favored” sound pleasant enough and even wonderful. But Mary must have understood the significance of this greeting—that God was calling her. And, she must have wondered what would be expected of her. At that time, Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. Like any young woman, she had a beautiful plan for her wedding, and her own happy expectations for her marriage life. She must have been consumed with thoughts of love together forever with Joseph. So when Mary heard the angel’s greeting, she could have thought to herself, “God’s calling, why now? I’m not ready for this!” She didn’t want anything to interfere with her future hopes and dreams.
How then did the angel help her? Look at verses 30-33, But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” The angel understood Mary’s fear. He didn’t allow her thoughts to endlessly run wild with calculation. Instead, the he explained the purpose of God’s calling. In general it was to participate in the work of ushering in the kingdom of God. Specifically, it was to give birth to the promised Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament period, God was working to fulfill his promise to send Jesus. God gave this promise to the father of faith Abraham and to the prophets, priests and kings of Israel, and at long last it was being fulfilled.
Here, the name Jesus means the Lord saves. This indicates that Jesus was the one who would carry out God’s redemptive plan to take away the sins of the world. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven and saved from the eternal condemnation that our sins deserve. This, Jesus assured by paining the cost of our sins on the cross.
It also says here that Jesus will “… be great and we be called the Son of the Most High. Jesus’ greatness is not simply that He was a great man a great prophet or just a great philosopher or teacher. His true greatness comes through His identity as the incarnate God. Jesus is God! He was born of a woman and dwelled among men, but He is God! The concept of the triune God is difficult to comprehend, but this is what Jesus said, as confirmed and wrongfully condemned by the Jewish religious leaders of His day. When those religious leaders picked up stones to stone Jesus they said in John 10:33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
And finally in relation to the key point of today’s passage, it says that “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Jesus was born into the line of King David. But he is more than a human king, and his kingdom is more than a worldly kingdom. He is God’s king and His kingdom is eternal.
King David was a foreshadowing of King Jesus. David was a shepherd boy, the youngest among his brothers, but God raised him up as a king. God called him a man after His own heart. But David was not a perfect king. He was also a sinner. His kingdom could not reign forever. But in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 God made David a promise, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” This was God’s promise to send Jesus through David’s line.
History tells us that earthly kingdoms do not last. The Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty, whatever, all the kingdoms of the world rise and fall. They rise victoriously, but fall tragically. The kingdom of God is different. The kingdom of God arose in the most a humble manner, through the calling of poor country girl, but it will reign forever. It will never fall.
Today we are living in a highly contentious political environment. It is an environment where virtually everything is politicized in the media, and everyone is a political activist. And, it doesn’t even matter which side you’re on. But what is it that people today are really longing for? They are longing for the same thing as all prior generations—they are longing for a perfect King and an eternal kingdom. They cannot find it in the world, because it doesn’t exist. It only exists in Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom.
Look at verse 33 again, “… and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Here, Jacob’s descendants refer to the heirs of God’s eternal kingdom. But who was Jacob? Jacob was the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac. He was the third patriarch, and through his sons came the 12 tribes of Israel. But Jacob was also a particularly earthbound and even worldly person. The God did not give up on Jacob. God poured out his grace on Jacob again and again until he was finally changed into a man that worshiped God. This how Jacob was remembered in Hebrews 11:21: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” In the context of today’s passage Jacob and Mary look like the two extremes as far as their character is concerned, one worldly and one humble, but both will received the same grace of God and both inherited the kingdom of God forever and ever. Please repeat after me: Forever and even, forever and ever, Halleluiah, Halleluiah!
Let’s pray to continue to usher in the eternal kingdom of God by reaching out to all kinds of sinner with the message of the gospel. One way where we have the resources to do so is through our co-working to serve CSULB and LBCC and other campus through fishing and one to one ministry.
Part II. How will this be?
At this point in the bible study, Mary asked an important question. Look at verse 34. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Her question addresses the impossible nature of what she was called to do. But she did not let the impossibility hold her back, but asked God. She asked “How” and as a result she was able to receive God’s answer and experience God’s help. Look at verse 35. The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Here, God’s way was truly miraculous. It could be—would be done only by the power of the Holy Spirit! This is the nature of the work of God. The work of God is work of the Holy Spirit. But did this mean that Marry just had to sit back and do nothing? Not at all! Mary still had to bring herself to God. It was God’s sovereign choice to use her, but God couldn’t force her. She still had to make her own decision to come to God and submit herself to his will. Romans 12:1 talks about what it means to submit to God’s will.
To be favored by God means to be favored with grace. We all like grace, right? With grace comes true blessing and true freedom! But grace also comes with the expectation that we live a new life. Let’s read Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. In order to participate in this work of ushering in the eternal kingdom of God, Mary still had to pray. She still had to offer her body to God. She still had to keep her faith by testing and especially approving God’s will.
It was for this reason that the angel told Mary what was happening to her relative Elizabeth. Look at verse 36-37, Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” Six months earlier, another impossible and miraculous thing had taken place. Elizabeth had conceived in her old age, though she was barren and past the age of childbearing. On hearing this, Mary was given the opportunity to test and approve her faith through seeking fellowship with Elizabeth. And right after bible study that’s exactly what she did according to Luke 1:39-40, At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
Now, going back to today’s passage, what was Mary’s decision based on bible study with the angel Gabriel? Look at verse 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Mary humbly accepted God’s word and made a personal decision to obey God’s word. This is the response to God’s word that God is looking from each of us.
When I prayed in regarding to today’s passage, my mind was overwhelmed with my many sins and mistakes. At that moment I could not see where I was highly favored by God—although I knew that it was true according to his word. Then God spoke to my heart to reveal the very area in which I am highly favored by the Lord. Guess what? It was my marriage! It is not only because my wife is beautiful, or because she does a better job of supporting the family. The real reason is that through our marriage God wants to build up the eternal kingdom of God. Then, what should I do? I should submit to God’s will for my marriage. For example, one way is to restore and continue with giving my wife a nightly ten-minute message. It seems like such a small thing, but I requires my humility to submit myself and my time to this each time. Believe it or not, that is the work of God. And, through it we can make one and co-work to build up God’s kingdom among many—by extending prayer and bible studies to our children to our other bible students, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Let’s also pray for the marriages among all the young couples in our ministry; such as Moses and Ellie and now Daniel and Chamnan, and all the others, that they would continually offer themselves and their marriages to God for building up the eternal kingdom of God. One word: He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever.