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Skip Heitzig - Luke 1:26-80

Skip Heitzig - Luke 1:26-80
Skip Heitzig - Luke 1:26-80
TOPICS: The Bible from 30.000 Feet, Bible Study, Gospel of Luke

Father, we now pause, we just sort of lower the volume and the thought processes, and we direct our thoughts and our words toward you. We know that as prayer. We know that when we pray, we're not just saying words in the air that we can listen to and make ourselves feel better about it, we're actually communicating to you the living God. And not only do you hear us, you delight in us. You love it when we talk to you. And so we're told in the Scripture to "pray without ceasing," to live a life of communion with you. But before we begin tonight, we just pause especially to ask that you would open our hearts.

We've come to hear from you. We've come to learn about you. We've come to get in touch with you, to encounter you. We study the Word of God to know the God of the Word. And we believe, Lord that you have spoken. We believe, Lord that the gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are simply four camera angles of the same great story, of the same Savior. And as we look at Dr. Luke's vantage point, because he records things that no one else does, I pray that we would get insight, and you'd revive our hearts, you'd ignite our souls with a passion to love you and serve you and obey you, in Jesus' name, amen.

Well, there have been over history some unusual births. Several years ago a Russian woman in London, 29 years of age, gave birth to five children, quintuplets. A few years back a family in Iowa gave birth to seven children, septuplets: four boys, three girls. Come on, instant family, just add water. Foom! There they are. And then there have been children that have been born that are of unusual size. I discovered that the largest child that we have on record, Guinness Book of World Records, was born over a century ago in Canada. You ready for the weight? Twenty-three pounds. Come on, that's a-that's a toddler. Just this year in San Francisco a baby was born, weigh-in over 16 pounds, about 16 pounds, I think, 1.7 ounces; again, large child.

I read about one 16-pound baby that was born and it was 22 inches long, not that much longer than normal, but around the shoulders 20 inches, and the calf was 6 inches. I mean, this is, like, massive. You know, it's like breeding for football or something, unusual births. Now the Bible has its own repertoire of unusual births. Isaac would be one of them, born to Sarah. The Bible talks about "the deadness of Sarah's womb," beyond her ability naturally to conceive. Yet, through natural means, that is, her and her husband, it wasn't an immaculate conception, it was a conception, but it was a miraculous conception nonetheless. Hannah, infertile, gave birth to the prophet Samuel, unusual birth. Unusual all of them, but not unique any of them, not singular.

But now we come to a singular momentous birth that doesn't compare to anything in history and here's why: all the births that I talked about, a human dad was involved in conception. He was still involved. Only this birth, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, has that unique position of being unlike any other births, singularly spectacular. In Luke, chapter 1, we pick it up in verse 26, we begin the story. "Now in the sixth month," that would be the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy," Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary." There's a few things that we should understand about Mary. First of all, she was youthful. She was very young.

We think between the ages of 13 to 17, biologically ready for a child. And in those days psychologically and socially ready for a child, unlike today. You know, we try to say to kids, you know, "Wait till you're like 40 and then get married," you know. "Make sure you get a career and go to college and have a lot of fun, then sort of figure it out later." But the way God designed us wasn't that way. The way God designed us was to make commitments much younger, and they were ready for it even back then. So, she was young, she was youthful, she was humble. We'll see that in her prayer. She grew up in hayseed village in Nazareth, a place, if you recall, in the gospel of John where Nathaniel, after Jesus was introduced as "Jesus of Nazareth," he said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" And of course Jesus did.

Nazareth was a working-class village. That's where she was from. She's youthful, she's humble, she's also spiritual. Whatever age she was, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, she had a spiritual bent. Every now and then I will meet a teenager who is honed in spiritually, who loves Christ and wants to serve him. And I notice it because it was unusual. The day and age in which we live, you don't find lots of teenagers just radically on fire for Jesus. But when I find them, I gravitate toward them, and I want to help them in any way I can. I want to direct their steps in any way I can. I had someone in my life when I was 17 turning 18 when I gave my life to Christ. I know the power of mentoring. I know the power of a life directing another life and helping that life out.

So when I find somebody who's young and passionate about God, my heart rejoices. Because you have to realize something about Jesus and his ministry: essentially Jesus led a youth movement. All of us would be, like, over the hill, if we were, you know, looking at the apostles. You know, we'd say, "Oh, these are the old guys." I mean, we're talking young men. I know you've seen the pictures of the apostles with long white beards and lots of wrinkles, but they were young. And Jesus essentially led a youth movement, and it was against the establishment. It was one of the reasons I could so relate as a young man when I came to Christ and I saw so many other young people like me in love with Jesus. I thought, "Man, I'm in good company here."

But Mary was like that, humble, youthful, spiritual. Actually, Timothy said, "Let no one despise your youth," or another translation, "Let nobody look down upon you because you are young." And, man, the energy of somebody who's young and in love with Jesus, I just want to get behind it. I want to help them. I want to fund it. I want to just watch them go. Let them burn for the Lord. Something else we should know about her, Mary: she was from the tribe of Judah; she was of the lineage of King David. If the genealogical record in the gospel of Luke which is here...we're not there yet, but when we get to it. If the genealogical record is as I think it is, the genealogy of Mary, just like I believe Matthew was Joseph's, I believe this is Mary's in this book.

If that is true, we know her father's name. Her father's name was Heli, H-E-L-I. So she's of the tribe of Judah, the lineage of David. Her dad was Heli. Then there was her fiancé named Joseph. We know not a whole lot about Joe. Joe was a craftsman. Most of us think of him as a carpenter, right? Because the Bible uses the term, the English translation, we think Jesus was a carpenter. We picture him with wood and a hammer, and Joseph with wood and a hammer. And I don't know about you, but just sort of grew up thinking of Joseph cutting two-by-fours and building homes, until I went to Israel and I found out nobody builds a home out of wood, all of them are made out of stone.

And then I discovered the word for "carpenter" is the Greek word tektón, which means craftsperson, and it could be translated as stonemason. See, I just blew your whole idea of Joseph being the carpenter, Jesus being the...wood and little hammer and nails sitting up there on the wooden shelf and... You need to think of stone structures and craftspeople. Probably Jesus and Joseph worked with both wood and stone. A few miles away from Nazareth, I don't want to give you, overload you with information, but to me this stuff is interesting. If it's not interesting to you, then I guess you can text somebody while I talk about this, but... A few miles away from Nazareth they discovered the Roman town of Sepphoris and magnificent buildings have been found.

It is believed that the population of Nazareth who were stonemasons and carpenters went to Sepphoris and would spend the week and then come home for the Sabbath. It is believed that Joseph, though he must have had some kind of employment in Nazareth, really he was employed a few miles away building the Roman city of Sepphoris as this craftsperson. And if you go there today, you can still see remains of that city. Look at what the text says, verse 27, "To a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph." So they were "betrothed." What does that mean? Engaged. But don't picture a girl with a chain around her neck and a ring on the chain or a letterman's jacket, or it's not like they're going steady here.

It's more than just, "Hey, will you marry me?" and they're kind of dating to see if it's going to work. In Judaism they were technically married when they were betrothed, technically. Now there's two phases to the wedding process. The first phase is 12 months preparation time; that's called then kiddushah/kiddushin. They are formally engaged. When you are formally engaged, the only way to separate is a legal divorce, legal divorce. So you can actually be a virgin who's divorced. Or the Bible even speaks about a widow that is a virgin and the only way you can have that is with this set up. So there was this kiddushah. Then the second was the chuppah. Can you say that? Chuppah. Now say it like that, khoop-paw'. Okay, I just wanted to hear you say it, that's all. Cool word.

So they're betrothed. They have entered into this 12-month period and the 12-month period, by the way, meant they're engaged, but they had no physical contact, little social contact. It was a way to ensure the woman's virginity and to ensure the couple's fidelity. It's a period of watching and waiting and preparation, and then there would be the marriage ceremony. "And having come in, the angel," verse 28, "said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!' But when she saw him, she was troubled", better word, "agitated," "freaked out." Can we use that? Will that work for you? "She was freaked out at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was."

She's never had anybody say that to her before. "The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and call his name'", here's the name above all names, "'Jesus. And 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.'" Remember the prophecy of Isaiah, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; the government will be upon his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father"? You know that Scripture. "Upon the throne of David," it says, "to order it and to establish it... from this time forth, even forever."

"'And he will reign over the house of Jacob," verse 33, "forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.' And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be?'"" How can this be?" Natural question, especially what she says after that: "'since I do not know a man? ?'""I have never had physical relations with any man. How is this even possible?" I want to consider with you for a moment this whole concept of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and why it's important. The prophet Isaiah talked about a sign. This is Isaiah, chapter 7, "The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and bear a Son, you will call his name Immanuel," which means God with us. Now, that's quite a sign, God's going to give you a sign: a virgin is going to conceive.

When the ultrasound of the virgin says "pregnant," that's a sign, because that never happens. That's a mega sign. Some years ago Larry King who used to have his own show on CNN was asked, "If you could interview one person in history, anybody in history, who would you interview and what would you ask him?" He said without hesitation, "I would interview Jesus Christ and I would ask him if indeed he was virgin born, because for me," he said, "that would define history for me." Larry King is Jewish and the idea that it's possible that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, he understood if that part is true, it makes all the difference in the world, "It would define history for me."

Now, there is a word in Hebrew I want to tell you about. I mentioned Isaiah, chapter... what? 7. Good, you're listening carefully. Good, thank you. "The Lord's going to give you a sign: a virgin will conceive." The liberal scholar will say, "Ah, but the word in Hebrew in Isaiah 7 for 'virgin' is the word almah. And almah," they say, "is a Hebrew word that can simply mean a young woman of marriageable age." Okay, let's follow that line of thinking. So hear me: "The Lord's going to give you a sign: a young woman, like any other woman of marriageable age, is going to get pregnant." Okay, I'm waiting for the sign part. Where's, like, the miraculous sign part? Because last time I checked that's what happens every day in every country since time began, young girls get pregnant.

How is that a sign? It's not, that's my point. So it can be translated a young woman. It can also be translated a virgin, unmistakably a virgin, one who has never touched, had any physical relations with a man. Fast-forward from the time of Isaiah to about 250 BC when the Septuagint version was translated by Alexandrian scholars, and they had to take Isaiah, chapter 7, and find the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word almah. You follow me? And the word they choose was parthenos. And parthenos can only mean in Greek a virgin, not a young woman of marriageable age. And that is the word that is used here: a parthenos, a virgin. A young woman who'd never had sexual relationships with a man ends up being pregnant.

So Luke calls her a virgin. Matthew calls her a virgin. Mary calls herself a virgin, verse 34, "How can this be since I don't know a man?" In the gospel of Matthew, Joseph refers to her as a virgin. I'm going to go with that. I'm going to go with the virgin part that it's not just a young woman, it's actually a virgin birth, just because of that evidence. Okay, but let's continue the rebuttal part. There is a physiological process, a reproductive process known as parthenogenesis; that is, there certain species, certain creatures that can be conceived without fertilization, lower creatures, lower animals. And so somebody will say, "Well, the virgin birth, I mean, in the realm of life, that's not unheard of. There are species of lower life animals that are reproduced parthenogenetically."

Key phrase being "lower life," not human life, lower life. We're vastly different from amoebae and bugs. So, "Wow! Wow that happened, virgin birth!" Not like this. Number one, not lower life. Number two, according to studies by a Dr. Gregory Pincus, he said if Mary would have conceived parthenogenetically, she would have had a girl, not a boy. Those studies have been documented and written about. Here's the truth, get your heart around this, not just your head: God humbled himself and entered into a single cell that became a zygote that became an embryo that became a fetus in the womb of a young virgin miraculously. It was not parthenogenesis, let's call it "pneumagenesis." Let's come up with our own cool term.

Not parthenogenesis... ooh, that sound so scientific, how about just pneumagenesis, Spirit originated. And that's what we'll find out, it was by the Holy Spirit, that process. Now, why do I bring this up? Why do I make a big deal out of it? Why is it so important? Because if Jesus Christ was born like every other person, then he is not God in human flesh. If he's not God in human flesh, we do not have a Savior. That's why it's important. Because it means that Jesus Christ was either the illegitimate son of Mary, or simply a child born of natural processes by Joseph and Mary, and that means he's not God. And if he's not God, then all of his claims are lies. If all of his claims are lies, then salvation is a hoax. If salvation is a hoax, we're all lost, we're all doomed. And then the big question is: Why are we doing this?

You know, it all hinges upon the virgin birth. If Jesus Christ had a human father, then the Bible is a hoax, because the Bible said Jesus did not have a human father, as you will discover in the next verse. However, I know what, and you're thinking, "Well, come on, get to the next verse. You've said that twice. I can't wait for the next verse." Okay, let's read it. "The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that holy one who is to be born will be called Son of God.'" That's a single, creative act of the Holy Spirit. And, yet, I just want you to be aware that in the church world under the banner of Christendom there are people, there are churches, there are theologians that call the virgin birth a myth.

It's the "virgin birth myth" they say. And here's what they will say, and if you don't get it in liberal churches, you would get it in liberal seminaries, or you would get it on PBS perhaps, but it would be something like this: "There were many virgin birth stories in antiquity, this is just one of them. For example, there was a story going around that Alexander the Great was virgin born. It's the virgin born myth, and there were many of them." Now, let me throw something out at you. Did you know that Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ? Did you know that? There's only one woman mentioned in the Qur'an; that's Mary. It says that she conceived miraculously, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. The Qur'an also says Jesus ascended into heaven. The Qur'an also says that Jesus performed miracles.

Here's why I want you to know this: because the Muslim finds himself in the odd position of defending the virgin birth against liberal Christian theologians. Sort of fun. "And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, 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. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for she who is called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.'" If you believe that short, little verse, then everything I just said is, like, slam dunk. If you don't believe that verse, then you're going to have problems with every issue that deals with the supernatural and the miraculous.

You'll have to find a way to explain it somehow. But if you can get that verse, and if your relationship with God is such that "I trust in the living God with whom nothing is impossible," including changing your life or changing your relatives' or friends' life, "nothing is impossible," then you're in the right court and you're in for a great life. "And Mary said, 'Behold the maidservant of the Lord!'" that's herself. It's like, "Okay, I surrender. I give up. I'm yours." "'Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her." Can I just add, it's not in the text, but I'm just, I know she said this, but I'm picturing a young lady hearing these words, saying what she said, but with a big gulp in her throat.

Because she must know as she says, "Whatever, Lord! Be it done to me according to your word," that she's going to walk out of there and she's going to be showing pretty soon, and she's going to be accused of adultery. That's the road she's about to walk down. But she says, "'Be it to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her. Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste," or in a hurry, "to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth," Elizabeth the older cousin of Mary. Why does Mary go to her older cousin Elizabeth immediately? Can I suggest something? Who else would understand? Who else would be able to understand what Mary is going through except Elizabeth?

Who else is going to understand a young lady who says, "I'm pregnant by God"? The only one who could understand that is a woman who's had a miraculous conception herself, not immaculate, miraculous. John the Baptist was the product of a human sexual relationship between man and wife. But because Elizabeth was old and past the ability to deliver it was miraculous. She could understand when young Mary would come in and say, "I'm pregnant and it's God's fault." She would say, "I get that." And so she goes. Who else would believe when this girl said, "Not only that, but I was visited by the angel Gabriel"? Who could understand that except a woman whose husband had been visited by the angel Gabriel? Make sense?

It's important they get together and share their story, share their emotions, and confirm their feelings. "And it happened," verse 41, "when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb." Don't we love it when babies grow and they kick for the first time and they jump around and move? Dad comes in and says something, and then mom goes, "Oh! Baby just moved when it heard your voice." But this is directed by the Lord, as we are told: "The babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit," controlled by the Holy Spirit, "and spoke with a loud voice and said, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

"'For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.'" Let me take you back in history 2,000 years ago. From what I've read the idea that the Messiah was coming permeated Judaism. There was an expectation that he was coming. And, thus, it became the hope of every young Jewish girl that she might be chosen to be the mother of Messiah. However that was going to be played out, however that looked, it was that earnest hope. Mary is chosen; Gabriel tells her. Could that not be something that would swell a young lady up with pride? "Of all the Jewish women who lived today in Judea, of all those who have ever lived, God picked me."

And would it not be tempting to say, "There's something magnificent about me." Now I want you to hear me carefully in the next few sentences, because I do believe Mary was a wonderful person. And I do believe that Protestants can berate her sometimes way too much. After all, she was the one chosen to birth the Messiah. She is the mother of the virgin-born Son of God. Now, that's where I will draw the line, however. To call her "the mother of God" is a little bit different ascription than to say that she is the mother of Jesus, yes, God in human flesh, the virgin-born Son of God, Deity nonetheless. But when you say "the mother of God," that gives her a different kind of status in title and you have to then ask: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? And in this case Jesus, God, came first.

Nonetheless, I don't want to be swimming in all of that. Rather than being filled with pride, I want you to listen to her words. This is her prayer. It's called the Magnificat because the third word in the sentence in English is the first word in the Latin translation, which is magnificat or to magnify the Lord or bless the Lord. "Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord.'" This begins her prayer. The next several verses is Mary's prayer. When I met my wife, the night I met her, I spotted her, I eyed her from across the room: white blouse, red jeans, flip-flops. "Perfect," I thought, "a beach gal, right up my alley, beautiful." I was attracted to her. I saw her from across the room, then later on we met, we shook hands. She had a firm handshake; I've told you before. Loved that.

We started communicating to each other and talking to each other. We started dating. After a few months we broke up. Couple years later we rekindled the relationship. And one of the things, at least for me, that really drew my heart again to her, rekindled the love, was the night I took her to dinner on episode two. And it wasn't her fault, it was my fault. I was flaky. It's like, "Yeah, let's date. No, let's not date. Yeah, let's date. Okay." But anyway, when I started reengaging, and I took her out the dinner that night, we had a word of prayer together. And her prayer before the meal and then after the meal at her home was so right on that I formed another, a secondary attraction to her much deeper than eyeing her across the room and saying, "Wow! She's cute."

Yeah, she's cute, but there's depth and I was attracted to that depth. She was a spiritual gal and she ministered to me in a way that was profound that night. And can I just suggest that when you date or court somebody, if you really want to get to know a person, listen to their prayer life. Know what kind of a relationship they have with God as they talk to God. And it's incredible as you look at this, because in Mary's prayer there are no less than 15 either quotes or semi quotes that we call them allusions to Old Testament Scripture, 15. Okay, how old is she? Thirteen, 14, 15, 16, 17, right around a young teenager. She's praying Scripture. Okay, I'm just blown away, okay. Can I just get blown in front of you for a moment?

I can think (a) okay, she's at Zacharias' house, her cousin Elizabeth. Zacharias is a priest. Maybe he's got scrolls and she's just been killing time reading through Old Testament scrolls. But because this flows so naturally from her heart, and she's not, like, texting this. These aren't tweets. This is just coming forth from her heart, bubbling forth. I can only assume that this is Scripture she has memorized. And, again, we're dealing with a young teenager who has memorized Old Testament Scripture. And can I just say, wow! Can I say that backwards? Wow! I mean, that is just so cool. It's profound to me. It's a great example of taking Scripture and applying it personally to your life. "Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord.'"

By the way, some of the quotes, and we're not going to dissect it all. We just want to read it through and make a few comments. But some of the...a couple of quotes are direct quotes out of Hannah's prayer who was infertile and the Lord gave her that prophet Samuel. "Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord, my Spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the lowly state of his maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.'" That's rain isn't it? No, no. That's just air-conditioning. Sorry, that was jet lag. As I look through this prayer, okay, I'm back now. As we look at this prayer, what I see is that Mary understands a few things. Number one, she understands her need. Now follow me here.

"My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit has rejoiced in God my"... What? What? "Savior." What does a Savior do? Saves people. Who needs a Savior? Only sinners need a Savior. Mary calls Jesus her Savior. It shows that she recognizes her need of salvation. She is not perfect. She is not sinless. There was only one perfect, sinless person; that is, the Lord Jesus Christ. She calls God her "Savior." Second, she understood her place. "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed [or bless•ed]." Now please notice that she does not say, "From henceforth all generations will ask me for a blessing: 'Oh, Mary, bless me.'" "They're going to call me blessed." They're going to say, from now on their going to say, "Look how blessed, look how God has favored her in allowing her this privilege.

"No one else on earth has had this blessed privilege of birthing the Messiah. What grace, what condescending favor she has received from God." That's the meaning of it. Do you see? We'll get to it in Luke, chapter 11, but one day a woman comes up to Jesus and looks at him and says, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and who nursed you." It was the first historical reference we have to Mary worship and it was in the Scripture. "Blessed is the one who birthed you and the one who nursed you." And Jesus said back to her, he didn't go, "Yeah." "He said, 'Blessed, rather, are those who hear the word of God and keep it.'" That's quite a rebuttal: "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it."

Nothing in Scripture supports Mary as the object of adoration. Okay, that is rain, isn't it? Am I jet lagged, or is that real? Am I zoned out? Am I in a different state? Is this real? Is this rain? It is rain, yes? I want to hear an "amen" if that's rain. Okay, good. Lord, thank you for the rain upon the earth, we need it so badly. I just wanted to rejoice with you. That's awesome! Always pause when God interrupts. Nothing in the Bible shows that Mary answers prayer. Nothing in the Scripture, none of the scriptural writers call her the co-redemptrix of the human race as some do. Nothing in the Scripture supports that she is immaculate. She is highly favored. She is set apart. There is no other woman like her, because of the role that she played.

But let me just say this: if you want to honor Mary, honor the God that she loved and worshiped. If you want to honor Mary, then honor the Christ that she bore as the Savior for her sin and yours. That would honor her more than anything else. Praying to her will not honor her. Loving God, being centered on Christ that will honor her. That's what her life was about. Verse 49, "'for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He had shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.'" Third, I see in in this prayer that she understood her God.

She understood her need, she understood her place, she understood her God. For she says, "He who is mighty," not "He who is busy," not "He who is weak," but "He who is mighty." She understands her God, the power of her God. That is a statement of faith, because what's happening in your body at that moment is impossible without God. And only mighty God can overcome the problem that she has of being pregnant without any human intervention whatsoever. That's impossible. So she says, "He who is mighty has done great things for me." The greater the size of your God, the smaller the size of your problem. If you have a small concept of God, and that usually is our problem. We have limited God. We place our limitations on God. He is mighty; nothing shall be impossible with him.

Do you remember being a kid when you thought your dad could do anything? The period did not last long, but I remember looking at my dad and I thought, "Man, there's nothing he can't do. He's my dad. He's awesome." I grew up and I discovered, oh, there's a lot of things he can't do. He's not that powerful. He has weaknesses. He has flaws. And then when I became a teenager, it's like that's all I saw. And then as I got past that I saw the attributes again. But every child goes through that. However, when we grow in our relationship with the Lord as Christians, we find out, not that God can't, but that he can do more than we thought. Part of our growth is exactly the opposite from the human dad. We go, "He can do anything. Nothing's too hard for him. He is so mighty."

That's part of your growth. As we grow, so should grow our concept of God. And, again, we're dealing with a teenager here. I'm humbled by this prayer. Difficulty must always be measured by the capacity of the one doing the work. We're dealing with God here, and she knew it. She goes on, verse 53, "'He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.'" This shows me that she understands her history. She's speaking about the Abrahamic covenant and the promises God made, the eternal nature of the covenant promises that God made to Abraham. How many teenagers know that? She knew it.

She has no library, she has no computer, she has no Internet, she has no Bible programs, and yet she knows more theology than a lot of pastors I know. And so can you. You can grow as much as you want to. You don't have to grow at all. You don't have to engage with truth much. Your Christian experience, if you want it, can simply be opening your ear, sort of, periodically tuning in and out of Bible studies, not really making application, just sort of slightly engaging as a spectator. You can do that, and it's completely up to you, you can grow in depth as much as you desire, and Mary is one who proves that. Incredible theology that comes out of this prayer. Before we move on, I just want to apply that, one more illustration. When you bump a bucket, and you hit it, what comes out? Whatever's in it.

If water is in the bucket, let's say I have water. Let's say I have a bucket of water and I accidentally hit it, water spills out all over the platform. If I have ink in the bucket and I hit the bucket, ink will spill and then in front of that carpet is going to be worse looking than it already is, and some of it is pretty gnarly. What comes out of you when people "bump" you? Whatever's inside you. Somebody bumps up against you, curse word comes out. That's in you. "From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." If blessing comes out, that's in you. When you bump somebody, whatever's really in them is what comes out of them, whatever's inside. That's why Paul in Colossians said, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Let it dwell in you. So when people bump you, it's like you bleed Scripture.

It's like bam! The Bible comes out. Whoa! Bam! "My soul doth magnify the Lord! And Mary remained with her three months," so up till her ninth month when she delivered, "and returned to her house. Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias," which was typical and expected. "The mother answered and said, 'No; he shall be called John'" Remember, God is gracious, that's what the name means." But they said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.'

"So they made signs to the father, what he would have him called. He asked for a writing tablet." See, he didn't have sign language down even after nine months, so he's still writing stuff out. "Saying, 'His name is John.' And so they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, 'What kind of child will this be?' And the hand of the Lord was with him. Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 'Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.'"

Okay, this prayer, and only Luke, by the way, includes the prayer of Zacharias and the prayer of Mary. Mary's prayer was called the "Magnificat" because that third word in the Latin translation, oh, in the English translation. It's the first word in the Latin translation, the Vulgate, magnificat. I'm trying to see if I remember any more of that. "Magnificat anima mea Dominum," that's it, "My soul magnifies the Lord." So, the first word in Latin, magnificat; third word in English. This prayer by Zacharias is called the "Benedictus" because of the first word, blessed, and the first word also in Latin, bendictus. It's a blessing. It's a prayer. And just as Mary's prayer was peppered with Scripture from the Old Testament, so is Zacharias' prayer.

Okay, I want to go back to the study when we are outside, which seems to me like four months ago, but it was just a couple weeks ago when we began the gospel of Luke. This is what I said, here's how it worked. It was Zacharias' turn to burn incense in the temple. You remember that, right? So he comes out and what he should have done, and all the people were waiting for him to come out, because when the priest came out from burning the incense, he would give a benediction. He would give the Numbers 6 benediction: "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, give you peace, be gracious to you," that little blessing of Aaron is what the priest would say. But he comes out going, "Mmmm, mm, mmm." He has to wait nine months to give the blessing.

And when he gives the blessing, it's not Numbers 6, it's this inspired by the Holy Spirit, this fresh word of blessing to the Lord. Nine month delay, but here it is: "'blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, he has also raised up a horn of salvation.'" That just means strength. The horn is symbol of the animal's strength, thus a symbol of strength in general. If you remember the Scripture in Samuel, David hears the promises of God and says, "The Lord is my strength and my tower; he is the horn of my salvation." That's a reference to the promise God gave to King David. And here is Jesus the virgin-born son of David, going to be born, but now this is Zacharias the priest who's going to be the father of the forerunner of Jesus, all tied into the promise that God made to King David, and he references that.

"'He has raised up a horn of salvation in the house of his servant David. He has spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets, who have been since the world began.'" The prophets in the Old Testament spoke about this, all of them, the coming of Messiah in some form, some fashion. I love the opening line of Hebrews: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke to our fathers in times past through the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he made heir of all things, and through whom also he made the worlds." Same reference. God predicted him through the prophets, but he is the manifestation of the ultimate promise.

"'That we should be saved,'" verse 71, "'from our enemies and from the hand of those who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, child,'" speaking to little Johnny, Johnny the Baptist. He didn't call him John the Baptist, by the way that was just John his son, "Johnny." And I don't know that John really was a Baptist. I don't know if he was any particular denomination at all. I prefer to call him John the Baptizer or the Immerser. Sorry about that. I know if you're Baptist, it's like, "That's just, that's blasphemy."

"'And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people'" , watch this, "'by the remission of their sins.'" Knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness, the wiping away, the clearing the slate of everything you've done wrong. You get a do-over. You get a do-over. "'Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high is visited us.'" " Dayspring" means sunrise. That's what it is, the dayspring, the day springs up when the sun comes up. Jesus is the sonrise, is God's sonrise, S-O-N-rise. The Son rises, "'to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.'

"So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel." Consider this as we close: John the Baptist was the son of a priest, Zacharias, of a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. So John was a PK, right, a priest's kid? We call "PK" pastor's kids. This is a priest's kid, it's a pastor's kid, but a priest's kid. John would have naturally followed his father under typical circumstances and joined the priesthood. He would have been groomed for the priesthood. But he marches completely to a whole different drum beat. His father and mother declare that, they know that, but then they watch him grow up. And he doesn't conform to the typical idea of a priest. This isn't like typical ministry material.

"Honey, have you seen little Johnny? He's wearing camel's hair today, and eating bugs in the garden." It's, like, this guy's really weird. And it says that he lived "in the deserts till the manifestation of Israel." And we will see that he comes in the next couple chapters and comes on the scene and introduces Jesus the Messiah. We believe that John the Baptist was a Nazirite. I'm not going to explain it all now because of time, but a Nazirite, something mentioned in the Old Testament: he lived an uncontaminated life; he didn't cut his hair; he didn't touch any corpse, a dead body; he did not drink any fruit of the vine or eat grapes; he was completely separated; he wanted to serve the Lord totally his whole life and we believe he took the vow of a Nazirite.

Now because it said he lived in the desert, some have presumed that he was a part of a community. Ever been to Israel? If you raise your hand would, or if you have. If you raise your hand would you go to Israel? No. If you've been to Israel, would you just slip your hand up. Okay. That's how many? Again, I want to see how many have gone to Israel. That's quite a bit. Okay, hands down. How many want to go to Israel? Okay, okay, okay. In Israel down by the Dead Sea there's this place called Qumran where a group, a community of Essenes they were called lived in community together. The Dead Sea scrolls were found in the caves right behind them, the Essene community. Some people have believed that John was an Essene because it says this.

I particularly don't think he was and here's why: the Essenes hated the priesthood in Jerusalem. They repudiated the temple structure and wrote things dissing the priesthood. Because of John's association with the priesthood through his father, he was probably was a recluse. He's kind of hanging out in the desert just to get alone with God, because of his special purpose. And he's going to show up down at the Jordan River, and he's going to call people to repentance, as we'll see. But as we close, I want you to think of something. Most people looking at John the Baptist would just think, "Okay, he's eccentric. Okay, eating bugs and looking like that, doing what he's doing, little weird, little eccentric, kind of a hippie." But most people would not call him great.

Did you know Jesus called him the greatest person ever born of woman? So can I just close by just saying maybe we need to readjust what we call great. If Jesus calls this the greatest dude who ever lived, maybe we should adjust what we call great. Maybe we should start evaluating what we think is wonderful or great or successful in the world's eyes and start comparing that to what God calls wonderful and great and successful in his eyes. And can I suggest that if we live in that column, rather than that column, our joy zone goes sky high. Over here, not so much, not so much, temporarily ups and downs; over here, sky high. Greatest one who ever lived, and we'll find out more as we continue next week. Let's pray.

Father, thank you for this wonderful story of the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist his cousin and his harbinger, his forerunner, the one who would announce his coming, lay the groundwork for Jesus' ministry and work on the cross even. Because it was John who recognized him and said, "Look! There's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." And tonight we even read in our chapter that salvation would come through the remission of sin. And what hopeful words those are, because anybody who's honest with their own life, their own thought life, their own life of practice, would realize they're not all they could be, they have fallen short. Like your Bible says, they've "come short of the glory of God." We've all sinned. We've all done things that are unpleasing to you.

We have sinful natures and we've done sinful actions. And some of us know it and some of us are plagued by it. The good news is we can be forgiven. We don't have to be holding onto that junk. There's the promise of salvation through the remission, the forgiveness, the atonement of sin. We find it everywhere. You're all about cleaning up our mess, and that's so wonderful. We're humbled by that. But, Lord, the truth is also you won't clean it up unless we let you. Your Word says that Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and he knocks. He doesn't force entry. So, Father, I just pray for anyone who may be invited here tonight or may have come a few times but has never really committed their own life to Christ. They've come, but they haven't come to Jesus, they haven't come to the Redeemer.

This is still sort of religion to them. This is still institutional for them. It's like going to church, but their lives, their hearts aren't in it. They're not changed. But, Lord, as you hold out the hope to them of forgiveness and hope, I pray that they would grab it and voluntarily say yes to it and receive the Savior who was born, Jesus the one who would take away our sin. If you're here tonight and you've never given your life to Christ... I grew up in a religious home. I went to church. I grew up rebellious, but religious nonetheless. But there came a point in my life where that wasn't enough. Religion cannot save you, but Jesus the Savior, the God-man, the one who came to this earth to clean up your mess and my mess can do it for you, if you let him. I want you to think hard about that right now.

If you've never given your life to Christ or if you've fallen from him, you're not walking with him, you've been going down some roads that you're just at a place where you don't even know where you are, and your heart is burdened because of it. If you're honest with yourself, you want to get rid of that sin, and you want to experience God's peace and love again, if you want that, you can experience it. And if that is your desire, as we're praying right now for you, I'm the only one opening my eyes, I'm going to check it out. I want you to raise your hand in the air right now so I can see your hand, just so I can acknowledge you and pray for you as we close this service. By raising your hand you're saying, "Hey, pray for me. Here's my hand. I'm going to be honest, I need to come back to the Lord, or I need him."

Yes, ma'am, God bless you; and you over to my right; toward the back; on my right here; and in the middle; toward the back in the middle; way in the back in the aisle. Anyone else? Yes, sir. That's awesome. Just raise your hand up. Time to get honest. God bless you, right over here to my left. In the balcony, anybody? Raise your hand up? God bless you, yes; family room, yes, sir. Yup, couple of you right over here to my left. In the main sanc right over here; to my right.

Father, thank you for all these with their hands raised. Lord, I know that this is a threshold moment for these individuals, and I'm just struck with the fact, and I hope they are, that you love them. You love them as individuals. You love them enough to send Jesus Christ to come to their earth, their world, and die for their sins, and bring them into your kingdom, and give as a gift to them salvation, so that they will live forever in heaven with you and find purpose in this life here and now. I pray you do a wonderful work tonight and in days to come in these lives and give them strength to make stand for you, not only tonight, but every day of their lives, in Jesus' name, amen.

Let's all stand. I saw hands go up around the auditorium, and we typically do this, not to embarrass people, but we do this to strengthen those who have made that commitment with a raised hand. As we sing this final song, I'm going to ask you to do something. It's going to be bold, perhaps, for you, for others maybe not so hard.

But I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing if you raised your hand, even if you're in the balcony, you can come down the stairs. I want you to walk the nearest aisle and stand right up here and I'm going to lead you now in a prayer to receive Christ as your Savior. We're going to do this deal right here, right now. So as we sing this song, you get out of your seat and just come and stand right here. We'll wait for you, but you come. I want you to come down those steps. I want you to come to the door of that family room. If you're on the side back here, find the aisle over here and come right here. Yes, yes. I'm going to wait just a moment, and I'll tell you why I do this.

I do it a lot, every time we do an altar call. And that's because I was one of the guys that just kind of watched. I was watching this on television, not this, but a Billy Graham Crusade and I watched and I waited and it was until the very end when I finally gave in. And it could just be that some of you are better than others at saying no to God, and you need to be down here. If there's one thing you shouldn't be good at is saying no to God. If the Holy Spirit is compelling you, and you know who you are, you know what's going on inside your life and your heart. You know what you need. You get up and you come and you join these who are up here as they're going to pray and I'm going to lead them in a prayer. You can be part of that. Don't let this pass you by, you come now. We will sing this through one more time.

Just as you are. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed either. Awesome! God bless you. You don't have to be ashamed. There's one thing we all have in common: we're all sinners, all of us are sinners. Come and join the church of the forgiven sinners. That's what it's all about. We all need God, we all need his help, and we all need him to clean up our mess. Let him do it to you. I'm about to pray... anybody else? You can just run out of your seat, we'll wait for you. Okay, I'm going to lead those of you who have come in a word of prayer. I'm going to ask you to pray these words out loud. Why out loud? Well, you know when married couples are on the altar at their wedding, they say vows to each other out loud.

And you're going to tell God that you're a sinner and that you need him. And he already knows that, but he loves it when you say that, when you confess that and you admit your need. And so I'm going to make that a public confession. You're going to pray these words out loud after me. Say them from your hearts, say them to the Lord, and let's do it right now. Say:

Lord, I give you my life. I know that I am a sinner and I pray that you would forgive me. I trust Jesus Christ. I believe he died for me. I believe he rose from the dead for me. I believe his blood pays for all my sins. I give you my life. I turn from my sin. I make Jesus my Savior. I want to follow him as my Lord. Would you please help me, in Jesus' name, amen, amen.

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