By Simon ManchesterSunday 31 Aug 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
“God’s Wide Plan” – The Blessed Virgin Mary
Based on the Book of Luke
What do you think Luke wants us to know as we read Luke Chapter 1? He wants us to know that the Word of God is the way to go. And if you don’t think this is important,just ask yourself the question whether you would like the children who were here this morning or the children that you have yourself,or your grandchildren; would you like them to be putting into practice the Word of God? Would it make a difference? You bet it would make a difference. It will make a huge difference. When your children get older and they go out at night will it be important to you that they are putting into practice the Word of God? You bet it will be important. When they make their decisions about work and spending and family and travel and those sort of things,will it be important that they are thinking about the Word of God? Yes it will. Your neighbours-is it important that they would respond to the Word of God,put it into practice? It’s extremely important. We this morning,standing or sitting,is it important that we put into practice the Word of God? It is extremely important.
So I want to look with you at this section from 26-56 under 2 headings. First of all Verses 26-45. If you want these two points,the first is,”Responding Rightly to Grace Underserved” (repeats – responding rightly to grace undeserved). And then the second section,46-56,”Responding Rightly to Glory Deserved.:
So let’s look first of all at Verse 26,”Responding Rightly to Grace Underserved” This section,where the angel comes to Mary is traditionally called the annunciation; that is the announcement of the incarnation. And it’s the same messenger who went to Zechariah who now comes to Mary. He comes to a town,which is a nothing sort of town called Nazareth. And he comes to a girl called Mary,an ordinary girl,but she happens to be engaged to a man,as you know. And look at Verse 28,he comes and the angel says to her you’re highly favoured,which literally means you are graced; you’re graced. And again in Verse 30,you found favour with God,literally – you found grace. He doesn’t say you earned it. He doesn’t say you merited it. He says,you found it. And this is how the angel explains what grace to Mary is going to mean. From Verse 31,he says to her,you’ll conceive. You,singular,will conceive. No mention of Joseph. You’re going to be pregnant. Second,you’re going to have a son. Don’t worry about an ultrasound – it’s a boy! You’ll call him Jesus. Don’t look through the books’ of names – his name is going to be Jesus,Saviour! He’ll be great. Don’t worry about whether he turns out well; he’s going to turn out very well. He’s going to be called the Son of the Most High,which means the Son of God. He’s going to be given the Throne of David,which means he is the long awaited King or Messiah. And His Kingdom is forever,it’s endless,it’s eternal. Well,what a message to be told,when we’re so familiar with it we just don’t know how to really care about this anymore. But just imagine being told this and of all the ways to respond. You can’t do much better than Verse 34,can you? She says,how will it happen since I don’t know a man – meaning,I don’t have a sexual relationship. And this response is a very impressive and humble response because basically what she’s saying is, I don’t know how this will happen,but please will you explain it to me; would you teach me – that’s what she’s says,please teach me? And the angel gives this very beautiful explanation from verse 35,the Holy Spirit will come upon you,the power of God will overshadow you and so the Son will be called the Son of God. You notice that Jesus doesn’t’ become the Son of God at birth,he’s eternally the son of God,he’s eternally begotten as we say in the creed,but he’s going to appear at his birth and he,from then on will be called the Son of God. And the angel gives this encouragement to Mary,since she’s teachable and she’s willing,he says to her- your relative Elizabeth is six months’ pregnant. We don’t know what exactly the connection between Elizabeth and Mary was,it may have been that Elizabeth was an aunt or a great aunt,or something like that – but your relative Elizabeth,who’s way too old to have a child,is six months pregnant and nothing is impossible,Verse 37,with God. And see Mary’s second response,verse 38,I’m the Lord’s servant-the word is the doulas word-I’m the Lord’s servant,may it be as you have said,may it be as your word has said.
Now complete grace has come to Mary. Just as the sunshine comes down on the deserving and the undeserving,and just as the rain falls on the just and the unjust,there’s absolutely nothing about Nazareth or Mary which caused the Grace of God to come down. The Grace of God just came down. It was the decision of God,it was the choice of God,it was the Grace of God to Mary; it’s a gift. And it is a very blessed thing that she has received this. It’s a blessed role to play,isn’t it? She’s going to carry and she’s going to give birth to God’s son. It’s a unique,unparalleled,unrepeatable pregnancy. And to be chosen for this role as she was is a unique privilege. Now her response to this undeserved grace and ‘grace’ is the word in Verse 28 and Verse 30,is exemplary. She basically has two things to say – “teach me”,Verse 34,and “may your word be done”,Verse 38. And in case we miss the point that this is a very good way to respond,Luke then tells us that she made contact with Elizabeth and Elizabeth endorsed totally Mary’s response and said to her in verse 42,”You are blessed among women”,that’s a fact. Notice,”You are blessed among women,not above women. The child is blessed,verse 42,because God is promising great things for this child. And Verse 45 is an excellent summary of the whole thing,”Blessed is the one who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.” It’s a wonderful thing to believe that what God says will be accomplished. And,”if you believe”,says Elizabeth to Mary,”that God’s promises will arrive at their fulfilment”- and they will arrive at their fulfilment like an Exocet Missile,nothing will stop them. And Mary believes that they will arrive at their fulfilment,she just wants to see how it happens. Elizabeth says,you’re blessed to be in that position,you’ve committed yourself to the One who’s faithful and perfect. You know what happens if you’re watching a movie and there’s somebody who’s just an absolute superhero,Indiana Jones type of person,and you decide that you’ll be his sidekick in Indiana Jones’ movie and if you decide to be the sidekick of somebody who’ll arrive at the gold and everything will turn out well,you’ve made an excellent decision,because despite the journey you’ll be there at the end and the credits will roll and it’ll be a happy ending. Now move from fiction to non- fiction,what could be a wiser bet,a more wonderful decision than to allay yourself with somebody like God who is going to cause his promises to come to their finish. I know we forget and we doubt and we disbelieve and we turn away and we do all sorts of foolish things but the promises will come to their finish. And I know the preacher is meant at this stage to lean over the pulpit and plead with his congregation and say “please would you believe these promises,please would you believe these promises”,as if to say “would you believe them they’ll really come to their finish”. But it’s got nothing to do with whether you believe them whether they’ll come to their finish,they’ll come to their finish whether you believe them or not. Which is an excellent reason for believing them! They’re just going to get there. So go the hard way or go the easy way,the promises will get to their fulfilment. And Mary works this out. Well don’t miss what Luke is telling us,it’s unrepeatable,it’s a piece of history. God’s grace came to Mary for a specific role. She responded rightly to the Word of God. She shamed the Jewish priest Zechariah,didn’t she? She indicates to us in Chapter 1 how Israel should respond and how everyone should respond to God,but the important thing is that the Grace of God to Mary is not the end of the Grace of God-Verse 45 is really true for everyone,or anyone-if you believe what God has said you’re extremely blessed. Now just think about this for a second. The message of God comes to so many unbelievers,doesn’t it? They hear it in school,they hear it in funerals,they hear it in Easter day,the hear it in Christmas day,they’ve got dear aunts who send them books or messages or letters; the message of God’s grace comes to so many unbelievers. Now the billion dollar question is,what’s their response? Are they going to be resistant like Zechariah,are they going to be receptive like Mary? That’s the question,isn’t it? And it’s got nothing to do with whether you sit in a church. You can sit in a church and be highly resistant. Zechariah went to the temple and he was highly resistant. You can come to church and be highly resistant. It’s not a question of whether you come to church or whether you shake hands or whether you drink coffee here. The question is what do you do with the Word of God once you’ve heard it that’s going to be the big difference between you and a person who takes the opposite position? And of course the Word of God,the Grace of God comes to us,even more those who ask even more remarkably more remarkably than it was given to Mary. I mean Mary had the privilege,the grace to bear the Son of God for nine months. But the Gospel says that the Grace of God comes to you in order that you would belong to the Son of God and,if you like,bear the spirit of God for eternity. So what you do with that gospel is really going to explain where you will spend the rest of eternity. It’s a huge decision. And then the Grace of God comes repeatedly to us,doesn’t it. in the Word of God; the kindness of God,the promises,the warnings they come to us repeatedly. They come to me because I read the Bible and I read Christian books and I hear people preach and I preach myself and I learn things and the question that I have to ask is,what will I do with the ongoing messages that come to me from God? They’re going to work out whether I walk in fellowship with God or I don’t. They’re going to work out whether I make progress in the Christian life,or I don’t. What’s the difference between one person on one side of the church who has the Word of God and the messages of God and nothing goes in and nothing goes out; and a person on the other side of the building who has the Word of God go in and the Word of God bears fruit in their life? One of them is making progress and the other one isn’t. There,you see,there is a great ongoing lesson for us from Mary because she is an example of what it is to receive the message of God and respond rightly. “Responding rightly to grace underserved.” That’s what she did. That’s what we must do
Second point this morning- “Responding rightly to glory deserved.”
I was talking with one of my nephews through the week,I have some very clever nephews and one of them was telling me about a documentary he just watched about a man called Ub Iworks. I’d never heard of him,anybody here ever heard of him? And Ub Iworks is an unsung hero because he worked in the movie industry,he was a genius. He invented,according to this documentary,non flammable film. He invented the 360 degree camera lens. He invented the quality photocopier for Xerox-he took a poor photocopier and made it a good photocopier. He invented the duplication principle in films,which is where you film a collection of birds and if you want to give the impression that there are millions and not thousands,you can duplicate the picture you’ve taken. He worked for Walt Disney; he created the character called Goofy. He animated himself,solely and completely,the first three Mickey Mouse cartoons. He won three Oscars for technical achievement. I’d never heard of him. He’s completely unknown. Now I’m excited about Ub Iworks. I have a gospel to proclaim called Ub Iworks. I feel as though he needs to be better known. Now multiply that piece of trivia by a billion and you’re getting close to what Mary does in Chapter 1,Verse 46 where she suddenly realises that she must declare,or publish,the greatness of God. She says in Verse 46,my soul praises the Lord; literally my soul magnifies the Lord. This song,ten verses,is known traditionally as the Magnificat,it’s the Latin word for ‘magnifies’. This song was said or sung in the Anglican evening services,if you remember those days and it was a reminder every evening on a Sunday of the mercy and the power of God. It’s been retold or re-written in a song from the 80’s called Tell out my Soul,and we will finish this morning with it. But I want to ask you the question,why would Mary magnify the Lord,because normally magnify means that you would enlarge something which is small and God is not small? So why not just tell about God as he is? And the answer is,listen carefully to this,God is made small in the minds of many people whose sin has unjustly reduced Him. In other words it is the mark of sin,or one of the marks of sin,that you turn the telescope around the wrong way and you end up with God,who you know rules the galaxies,and he is become too small to care about or fear or revere. That is an objectively insane decision isn’t it? And Mary is therefore magnifying God,not because she’s making God who is small,great but because she is making God,who’s been made small,like He is. She’s telling the truth of God. In other words,His story needs to be told,or needs to be published and she does it in these ten verses.
If you’ve ever studied the Magnificat it breaks into three parts. There’s a first few verses that have to do with Mary. The next few have to do with the world. And the next few have to do with Israel. First of all with Mary,she says,I praise God,Verse 46,because he is my Lord,very great and He is my Saviour,verse 47. He has seen me in my humble position,verse 48,and He has done very great things for me,He deserves to be credited. You see she’s doing the exact opposite of what people do which is to take somebody who’s become a believer and say ‘your great’. She says,I want to give you the correct perspective. I…rotten position,have been treated remarkably. God is mighty,he stooped to save me. I was low in everyway,she says and he has given me very great blessing. It looks as though she believes in God for more than nine months,doesn’t it? The second thing is in relation to the world in her song,she says the mercy of God extends to any who fear him. Every generation has its opportunity to revere God and to receive his mercy. How’s God going to give mercy to a world that doesn’t deserve mercy? Well we know that the Lord Jesus will die on the cross and take the justice,the penalty,in order that the mercy gates would be open for the world. And you’ll notice that Mary sings about these reversals from Verse 51. She says that God is going to scatter the proud,he’s going to humble the rulers,he’s going to raise the humble,he’s going to fill the hungry,he’s going to remove the plentiful,he’s going to turn everything upside down. He’s going to put everything right. And she says,He’s done it. She doesn’t even say He will do it one day,she says He’s done it,He’s done it,He’s done it. Why does she say,he’s done it? Because with God it’s as good as done. The whole process has begun,He’s given His Word. The King is coming. The Word of God has launched the whole fulfilment. Mary says,really responding to Elizabeth in Verse 45,blessed are those who believe that God will accomplish His Word,He’s accomplished His Word.
The third thing Mary says is in relation to Israel,toward the end- Verse 54,he says; because Israel is the nation that God uses,he spoke all his promises to Abraham we remember,and all the earth would be blessed through Abraham and that other promises to Abraham find their fulfilment through Jesus. So Mary’s response,which is the right response,is to glorify God,He deserves it and she calls it out. Now friends,stay with me for the last few minutes because I want to say something to you again about this whole idea of minimising God,magnifying. This,I think,is the key to the section this morning. If you get this I think you will go out with a clue,with a key to the world. You remember Mary says that she’s going to magnify,Verse 46. I hope you’ll remember this point every time you think of the Magnificat. The world magnifies people. The world magnifies our greatness and our deservings. We beat the drum of our nation,don’t we? We beat the drum of our cleverness. We beat the drum of our independence. We beat the drum of our personal greatness. That’s what the world magnifies,how big can it make itself? Mary has come to her senses. She has come to realise that she is undeserving and therefore she has a proper estimate of herself; she gets the truth about herself,which the world fails to get. I know the religious world has steadily invented ideas about how great Mary is,but that is to go completely against what Mary says. We’d be much better off if we took Mary’s own estimate of herself and didn’t do what is the natural Pagan thing to do,which is to keep on piling up superlatives. She says you’ll never understand things if you don’t understand that I was in an undeserving position. That’s what’s so great about God. If you turn all that upside down and say. ‘I was great’,what will you end up with? You’ll end up with a little God. What does the Pagan world minimise? The Pagan world minimises the Glory of God. It doesn’t even see it,it doesn’t recognise it. It’s a piece of illogicality,isn’t it? But Mary gets it. She gets the Glory of God and she magnifies the Glory of God. She magnifies what has been minimised and so she seeks to tell the Truth.
Now friends you’re going to walk out of here and I’m going to walk out of here and we go into a world which constructs human greatness all the time. It’s the world that you live in. It’s bent on constructing human greatness. At the business level. At the sport level. At the personal level and the church level. It is bent on constructing human greatness. And it is also bent on deconstructing God. You may say,well that’s just a piece of foolishness,or that s just a piece of opinion,but in actual fact it is building the universe on a lie. We are little,we are undeserving. God is Great. He’s merciful,He’s gracious,He’s glorious. If you construct the world on a lie,in the end it will fall apart. If you construct the world on the basis that God can be hidden or avoided; and he can’t be hidden or avoided,you’re absolutely doomed. So the world,you see is committed to inverting the Truth. God enables,Mary to see the Truth. She sees her minimal dessert and she sees God’s maximal dessert. She sees that she is blessed because of Grace. She sees that God is Great because of Glory. She gets things right. It is an indescribable privilege that God would bring to us an understanding of ourselves,that we would understand His Grace. It is an indescribable privilege that God would bring to us a grasp of Him,that He is glorious. And what a role to play in the world! Not just to bring our opinion to the world,but to bring to the world the Word of God which is going to enable to the world to understand what is true,to set up something which is constructed for eternity. What a privilege for us,therefore to be able to declare the Grace of God,which has come to the undeserving and the Glory of God,which goes to Him,who is the deserving. Our privilege in the world,like Mary’s,is to get the Truth in,and out.
Let’s pray that God would help us.
Our Heavenly Father,we thank You this morning for enabling us to see what Mary received and rejoiced in and enabling us to see what Mary grasped of you and told,keenly. And we pray that you would help us to continue to rejoice in Your Grace to us and to continue to rejoice in Your Glory,which is so great. And we pray that you would use us as your servants in this world as agents of Truth and therefore agents of Love,to communicate Your Greatness and Your Grace to a needy world.
Thank you for bringing The News to us,please bring The News through us to others. And we ask it is Jesus’ name. Amen.