Robert Jeffress - Mary, Mary, Quite Extraordinary
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. One day in the little city of Nazareth, an angel appeared to a young woman named Mary. Why would God pick such an average, ordinary looking girl to be the mother of the Savior of the world? As we continue our study in the Gospel of Luke, we'll discover that Mary was not a random choice, but a true servant of God. Let's take a closer look at this remarkable teenage girl whom God used in a remarkable way. My message is titled Mary, Mary, quite extraordinary, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Throughout the history of the church, Christians have gone to one of two extremes when it comes to talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are some Christians who exalt Mary to a position that quite frankly is totally unbiblical. For example, there are some who have taught through the history of the church that Mary is a co-mediator, a go-between between God and man. And yet we know what the Word of God says. First Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one mediator". There is one go-between between God and man, and it is the man Christ Jesus. Others have taught the immaculate conception of Mary. And when we talk about the immaculate conception, that's not referring to Jesus. The doctrine of the immaculate conception refers to Mary. That just as Jesus was sinless, Mary was also sinless. But again, there's nothing in scripture. Mary didn't even believe that about herself.
As we'll see in a moment, she refers to God as her Savior. You don't need a Savior unless you're a sinner. Mary understood that. Still others talk about the perpetual virginity of Mary. It's the idea that not only was Mary a virgin when she gave birth to Christ, but she remained a virgin throughout her life. The only problem with that is, among other passages, Matthew 13:55 and 56 that tell us that Jesus had brothers and sisters. "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not also with us? Where then did this man get all of these things"? Jesus had brothers and sisters. And there's all evidence that they came about the old-fashioned way. Mary and Joseph had children. There is no perpetual virginity of Mary.
Now, in response to this unbiblical position about Mary, many others have gone to another extreme. Those of us who have protestants have not wanted to lift up Mary and therefore put down Jesus. So instead of exalting Mary, we've gone to the opposite extreme and we've ignored Mary. I mean, think about it. When's the last time you heard a sermon about Mary, the mother of Jesus? When's the last time you read a book about Mary? We don't talk about her much in the church. As one person pointed out, the only time Mary's ever seen or talked about in the church is in her cameo, once-a-year appearance in the Christmas pageant. And even then she isn't allowed to talk. So we just don't talk about Mary, we ignore her. And that is just as much an unbiblical position.
When we come to Luke's Gospel, this great doctor who's also historian, gives us a proper balance in understanding Mary. He neither deifies her, nor does he ignore her. Instead, Luke paints Mary as somebody whose character should be admired and whose faith ought to be imitated. And that's what we're going to see today as we talk about this extraordinary girl that God used in an extraordinary way named Mary. Take your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter one as we continue our study of the Gospel of Luke. Now, last time when we were in Luke, remember Gabriel the angel came with an exciting birth announcement to an old man and his very mature wife. Their names, remember, Zacharias and Elizabeth. And God appeared to Zach, or Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in the temple and said, "You and your wife are going to have a child". And this child is going to be the messenger who precedes the Messiah, the messenger that had been prophesied for hundreds of years.
Now when we come to verse 26 of Luke one, we find Gabriel coming to earth again with another birth announcement. But this time he's not coming to an elderly priest who's in the temple burning incense on the altar. Instead, this birth announcement is made to a starry eyed teenage girl who's preparing for the most exciting event in her life. Look at verse 26 with me. "Now in the sixth month," you have to stop there, what do you mean, sixth month? Well, remember, this is Elizabeth's story. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. "It was in the sixth month of her pregnancy that the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth". Where does Gabriel come to make this announcement? If he were going to announce the birth of the Son of God, the one who would be the ruler over all the world, you would think, maybe he would come to Rome. I mean, after all, Rome was the center of power in the world. He doesn't come to Rome. Or if he was coming to make the announcement about the Messiah, the Son of God prophesied in the scripture, since it's a religious figure, maybe he would come to the temple in Jerusalem. But he doesn't make the announcement there either. Instead, he goes to this city, no, not city, a town called Nazareth.
Now remember, Nazareth was 80 miles to the north of Jerusalem. It was in the northern region known as Galilee. And remember Nathaniel, when he heard about the Lord Jesus, and that he came from Nazareth said, John 1:46, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth"? Nazareth was a town that was absolutely despised by the people living in the south. Why was it despised? Not so much because of its smallness, but because of its corruption. Nazareth was an outpost for Roman troops. When they were changing assignments they would spend a night or two in this town of Nazareth. And you can imagine what kind of town it was with these Roman soldiers. It was known for drunkenness. It was certainly known for immorality. People would, these soldiers sleep with prostitutes when they had a night or two off from duty.
And by the way, that is exactly why the rumor got started about Mary, that her pregnancy was not a result of God, it was the result of a one night stand with a Roman soldier. In fact, they had already a name for him, named Panthera. That's what the enemies of Jesus said. Mary had slept with this Roman soldier named Panthera. And that's why in John 8:41 the Jewish leaders made this attack on Jesus. They said, "Well, we were not born of fornication. We have one father, even God". Now, it was to this corrupt town of Nazareth that Gabriel made his visit. And I think there's a reason the announcement was made there, it was in keeping with the theme of Luke. Remember, Luke 19:10 says, "For the son of man came to seek and to save those who are lost".
Jesus' announcement was made in the middle of a moral cesspool, because that's the kind of people Jesus came to save. Not the righteous, but the unrighteous. Look at verse 27. Gabriel came to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. Twice we have the word virgin there. The word virgin, the Greek word is parthenos. And it means only one thing, parthenos means someone who has never had a sexual relationship before. Gabriel appeared to this virgin named Mary.
Now, when we think about Mary, again going back to our Christmas pageant, we usually cast a young adult woman, maybe in her 20s or early 30s to play the part of Mary, but that's really wrong. According to Jewish culture, Mary was probably 12 or 13 years of age. Joseph would have been probably 17 or 18 at this point in their story. And notice also Luke says that Mary was engaged. Now, that's the new American Standard Translation, engaged. The King James says she was betrothed.
Let me quickly explain to you three steps in the Jewish marriage process. There were three steps, jot them down. First of all, there was the selection, the selection. Now, unlike today, when young adults will go to internet dating sites to find God's chosen person for them, and that's fine, God can use anything to accomplish his purpose, but there were no internet dating sites back then. And so to select a mate, you'd rely on your parents. Most marriages were arranged marriages. The parent picked out the mate for his or her child. Now, I can hear all the teenagers saying together collectively, "Yuck". That is unthinkable today, but that's exactly the way it was done in the Jewish culture. And when the parents of a boy would find a girl they felt like was suitable, and both sets of parents agreed, that was the selection that was made. And when they came of age 13, 14, 15, that led to the second step, and that is the betrothal period.
Now, the betrothal period probably best corresponds to what we call engagement. But betrothal was much more serious than an engagement. We don't live in the first century, so it's not the same thing. In the betrothal process, actually commitments were made, vows were exchanged, it was everything that a marriage was except there was no sexual relationship. It was a very serious commitment. The final stage, after about a year, was the marriage ceremony itself. Now, Mary and Joseph were in this betrothal period. And it's at that point, that Gabriel comes to Mary with this remarkable announcement. Look at verse 28. "And coming in, Gabriel said to her, 'hail, favored one, the Lord is with you'". The latin translation says, "Hail, one who is full of grace". And that translation has led to a lot of confusion. Mary's full of grace, she's running over with grace. Therefore that means she is the dispenser of grace to other people. No, it's simply saying God has had grace on you. He has favored you, he has chosen you for a special purpose. You are the recipient of God's grace.
Now, just like Zacharias, Mary was very troubled when she saw this angel suddenly appear before her. Verse 29 says that she was greatly troubled, wondering what kind of announcement the angel was about to make. Remember, just like in Zechariah's case, an angel appearing was not usually good news. Angels didn't come to bring good news. They usually came to bring news of God's judgment. And so Mary was very frightened. She wondered what Gabriel was about to say. But notice what he says in verse 30. "You have found favor with God, do not be afraid". Now, there's no inference, again, the fact that she found favor with God that she was sinless. It was simply that God had chosen her for a special purpose. Gabriel begins to unveil what that purpose is beginning in verse 31, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and you shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus". The word name Jesus means Jehovah is salvation.
Now I'm sure Mary wondered a lot of things at this point, but who will this baby be who I'm to call Jesus? Gabriel follows with a five-fold description of this baby that was more exacting than any sonogram could have ever been, because once Gabriel had finished, she had no doubt who this baby was. Notice this five-fold description beginning in verse 32.
Number one, "He will be great," Gabriel said. Your son is going to be great. Now, every mother thinks her son is great. But this is going to be beyond that. There's something special about him.
Then he goes on, number two, to say "He will be the son of the Most High". The son of the Most High. We know who the Most High is, God. He will be the son of the Most High. In our culture we think the son of a great person is somewhat lesser than the person himself. The son is lesser than the father. Not true in Jewish culture. The son of a great man was equal to the great man himself. This is a reference in Psalm 2:7 to the Messiah.
Number three, "He will have the throne of David". This is an obvious reference to second Samuel 7:16 in which God said to David, "David, one of your descendants will be the Messiah who will sit on your throne".
Verse 33, number four, "He will rule over the house of Jacob forever". That's the operative word, forever. Israel's history was littered with kings. Kings came and kings went, but this king would reign forever.
And then climatically, number five, "His kingdom will have no end". This was a reference not just to the duration of his kingdom, forever, but to the extent of his kingdom. This child of yours, Mary, is going to rule over the entirety of God's creation. That was the announcement. Mary was getting the picture who this baby was going to be. And so in verse 34, she responds with a logical question. And Mary said to Gabriel, "How can this be since I'm a virgin"? We almost wince when we hear that, but Mary's question was not asked out of unbelief, it was a logical question. She said, "Gabriel, you do know I'm a virgin. I've never had sex before, how am I going to give birth"? Look at how he answers in verse 35. "And the angel answered and said to her, 'the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God'".
There's no need to try to speculate how God brought about this miracle, the virgin birth. There's no explanation given, except that God did it. And I think it's interesting in verse 35 that you have all three persons of the Godhead mentioned in this verse. Notice the three in one here in verse 35. The Holy Spirit will come upon you. It was the Holy Spirit who gave life to this child. The power of the Most High, a reference to God, the father, will protect you, that is, he will overshadow you. And for that reason the holy offspring will be called the Son of God. Why was a virgin birth necessary? Is it really important whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin? Some say that's just a little extra mythology tacked on to the Jesus story. No, let me show you why a virgin birth was absolutely necessary. If somebody ever asks you, you can give them these four reasons.
Number one, the virgin birth protects Christ's deity. Had Jesus been born of a human father, if Joseph had been the biological father of Jesus, Jesus would have inherited the curse and the corruption of Adam's sin. Remember, the sin nature and the guilt came through the father, Romans 5:11. Just as through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and death spread to all men. So the virgin birth protects Christ's deity. He could not have been God had he been born of Joseph.
Number two, the virgin birth preserves Christ's humanity. Some people say, "Well, why did we have to go through this whole Bethlehem thing? I mean, why not just put God on earth in the form of a young adult male, let him go to Calvary and pay for our sins and do it that way"? No, had he escaped the birth process, had he not really been totally human as well as totally divine, then we could not have a high priest who understood us. Hebrews four verses 15 and 16, talking about Jesus, says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tested in all points as we are, and yet without sin. Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need". The fact that Jesus was born just like you and I are born, he lived the same kind of existence we did, means he understands everything you and I are going through. There's no heartache, there's no disappointment we experience that he has not experienced. And his humanity is preserved through a virgin birth.
Number three, the virgin birth solves the problem of Jeconiah's curse. It solves the problem of Jeconiah's curse. Now stay with me for the next three minutes. I've talked about this before at Christmas time, but I want to be sure you understand this. Hold your place here and turn over to Matthew chapter one. For Jesus to be the Messiah, he had to be a descendant of David. Second, Samuel 7:16 says the Messiah will be a descendant of David. And that's why Matthew, which was written to the Jews, showed that Jesus was in fact the Messiah because he met the qualification. He was a descendant of David. That's why you have that long genealogy, those begets that put us to sleep in our Bible reading. That's why it's in there in Matthew chapter one to show Jesus' connection to David. And so as you read through that genealogy, you find you've got David, but underneath David, before Joseph and before Jesus you find a man named Jeconiah. He was also known as Jehoiachin. He was the last king of Judah before Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar came and took Israel captive for 70 years. He was the last king of Judah. Now, this isn't going to cost you anything extra, but I thought you'd be interested in this.
I was reading this week about Jehoiachin. Did you know there's not any secular reference to Jehoiachin? Nobody could ever find him in history. The only place he was found in the Bible, skeptics said there's one more example of the Bible just making up things that have no historical basis whatsoever. Well, guess what? In Iraq, which is where Babylon was located today, two tablets have been found called the tablets of Jehoiachin. They are tablets that came from Jehoiachin that date his reign exactly to those dates that are recorded in the scripture. That's just one more example of the authenticity and credibility of the Bible. But anyway, this king Jehoiachin was so evil that God placed a curse on him. God was so mad at Jehoiachin that he not only allowed Judah to be taken captive, but he gave this curse.
And let's skip down to Jeremiah 22 verse 30. "Thus says the Lord, 'write this man down as childless, a man who will not prosper in his days. For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah'." God said, "Here's the curse on Jehoiachin. Not one of his descendants will ever prosper on the throne of David". Well, that presents a big problem, because if you've got David here and you've got Jehoiachin here, then it means nobody who's a descendant from that point on could ever be qualified to be the Messiah because they can't prosper on the throne. And yet the Bible says the Messiah, whoever he is, has to be a descendant of David. And for him down here to be a descendant of David up there he has to pass through Jehoiachin. Well, how do you solve that knotty problem? You solve it through a virgin birth.