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YOU HAVE FOUND FAVOUR WITH GOD

Luke 1:26-1:38
Key Verse: 1:30-31

Thank God that we began our Luke’s gospel study. The purpose of our study is to know the certainty of Jesus’ life and ministry so that we can obtain salvation in full measure to the glory of God and be able to shine the light of Jesus certainly and truthfully to others. As we studied, interestingly, Luke commenced his gospel with the story of an ordinary pious couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who made a spiritual environment for the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. Their life of faith was commendable for being upright in the sight of God through their observance of his words, which we believe was out of love for God. God regards the life of faith highly and uses people of faith in the work and history of God. Today’s passage is the angel’s Christmas message to a young girl Mary. Let’s think about God’s favour upon Mary and her response to it.

First, God’s favour upon Mary (26-33). Look at verse 26. “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town Galilee.” Six months before, the angel Gabriel was sent to Zechariah in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the city David had conquered and the temple of God was built there. In the Bible Jerusalem is a very important place and there is even a new Jerusalem in Revelation, called the Holy City. Jerusalem appears more than 800 times in the Bible (more than 650 in the Old Testament and around 150 in the New Testament), but Nazareth less than 30 times and it does not appear at all in the Old Testament. Nazareth was a totally unknown town to the people of Israel. Nazareth was a town in Galilee, a region known as Galilee of Gentiles in the Old Testament. The Israelites thought that nothing good would come from there (Jn 1:46). It was a despised town of nothing good. But God sent the angel Gabriel to such a humble place. He is truly a humble God.

Look at verse 27: “to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name is Mary.” In that town a young girl Mary was living. Two things are written about her: she was a virgin and pleased to be married to Joseph, a descendant of David. Humanly speaking, she was in her prime, in the happiest period in her life. According to Jewish custom, those who were pledged to be married had a one year period of engagement, and the engagement was tantamount to marriage. So according to Matthew’s gospel they were, by that point, legally husband and wife. So from God’s standpoint it was a perfect time for his plan.

Then what happened? Look at verse 28. “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” What a wonderful greeting! We all like favour and we want to be favoured people. And “the Lord is with you,” Immanuel is the best kind of greeting. When the Lord is with me, there is nothing of which to be sorrowful or fearful. This was really a remarkable greeting.

Then what was Mary’s response to this angel’s greeting? In verse 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Why might she have been so troubled and wondering? It was because at this point of her life she felt she did not need any one’s favour, even the angel’s favour. Joseph’s favour was good enough, and enough was enough. She was fully satisfied with the favour of Joseph, a descendant of David, responsible, hardworking, considerate (Mt 1:20), most of all a righteous man (Mt 1:19). So it was likely that to her high favour was tantamount to high fever-- she was pretty much rejecting the favour granted through the angel.

What did the angel Gabriel do? Did the angel say, “Okay, then, goodbye”? No. The angel did not deviate from carrying out the mission. Look at verse 30. “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” The angel was consistent and persistent to deliver the Lord’s message. But this time the angel clearly said, “You have found favour with God”, not with any man. Let’s think more about the meaning of this. Genesis 6:8 says, “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.” At that time all people except Noah were walking on the way of destruction. In God’s eyes Noah was different; he caught God's eyes. This was God’s favour, because the eyes of the LORD could have bypassed him regarding him as but one of the people of the earth. But God wanted to treat him differently with his favour. Yet, the expression is “Noah found favour” not “Noah received favour.” It showed that Noah had been seeking this kind of favour. It is the same with Mary. When God was going to send his Son into this world, his searching eyes stopped upon Mary in the town of Nazareth. God’s eyes caught her, for she was a right person in God’s sight. It was God’s favour, because God’s eyes could have passed by her, seeking or waiting for another right girl in that generation or other generations. Also, here the expression is “You have found favour with God,” not “you have received favour with God.” It also shows that Mary has been seeking this kind of favour, the favour with God in her deep heart. In fact people are seeking for God’s favour and find favour with God. There is no favouritism in God, yet, God is the God of favour, for people are in need of his favour.

Then concretely, what is God’s favour upon Mary? Look at verse 31. “You will be with child and give birth to son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” God’s favour upon Mary was that God wanted to use Mary as an instrument when he was about to send his Son into this world. Jesus means “the Lord saves.” All mankind needed the Saviour, including Mary herself. The Greek word “favour” (karis) has the same root and meaning as the word “grace.” In the Bible God’s favour is to be saved from sins and be used by God in his redemptive work and history. In order to help Mary to know how great the favour is, the angel spoke to Mary about the greatness of Jesus. The greatness of God’s favour upon Mary is related to the greatness of Jesus.

Look at verse 32. “He will great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” For John the Baptist, the angel said, “He will be great in the sight of the Lord”, but as for Jesus, “He will be great.” That’s to be self-explanatory in expressing the greatness of Jesus. It is because there will be no completely proper words for the greatness of Jesus. The angel said, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The angel was speaking the truth. The angel had said to Zechariah who was unbelieving, “…my words will come true at their proper time” (Lk 1:20). Jesus’ greatness cannot be expressed more than this. His greatness is unique and matchless, for he is the Son of God. He is sinless and, perfect in power, love and purity. If we were to begin to talk about the greatness of Jesus, it would be endless. So John wrote at the end of the gospel story that if everything Jesus did had been written down, even the whole world would not have room for the books that would have been written (Jn 21:25). Just one example in Luke’s gospel is this: When Jesus raised a dead young man from the coffin, the people who saw this said, “God has come to help his people” (Lk 7:16).

The angel continued, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Here the angel talked about Jesus’ kingship, his throne and reign, and about his kingdom. Many people think that the kingdoms of this world are everything. They cannot see beyond this visible world. But the kings and kingdoms of this world rise and wane. The agony of the kings of the world is that they die like all other people. According to Isaiah 14:9-11, the kings of the world all meet in death. They suffer endlessly surrounded by maggots and worms. But Jesus is different. He is the eternal king as God’s promised king; his reign is forever. He died for man’s sins but rose again from the dead. And his kingdom will never end. It will expand until it covers the whole world. This kingdom would be reclaiming the paradise that had been lost in the kingship of Satan.

In light of Jesus’ greatness what an amazing favour would Mary receive! This favour would be the greatest favour men could ever receive from God. In this favour of God Mary would bear the baby Jesus and become the mother of Jesus. In the course of raising Jesus as the human mother, she would experience the Son of God from manger to cross, knowing him, the king of salvation, love and peace more and more and sharing suffering with him. She also could go deeper and deeper in to the heart of God. God’s favour upon Mary was very specific and unique.

God still shows his favour upon his people. Again, God’s favour upon sinful mankind is that they may be saved and used by God in the work of expansion of his kingdom in this world. It is to serve the eternal king in his saving grace. All men are destined to die and be plunged into eternal punishment because of their sins. In this body of sin and death whatever they do and how they live cannot make any difference for their destiny. They can eat better and sleep better and enjoy the things of the world better and help others in some extent. Yet, in a true sense everything is hopeless and meaningless in this world. Then what a favour it is to be saved from the mighty streams of sin and curse and judgment and to be used by God in the more powerful streams of his redemptive work and history for his eternal kingdom! In this world, when we work, a sort of reward is there, job, pay cheque, promotion, recognition, honour, etc. However, as we thought, all works are eventually in vain, for death swallows up everything. But all our labour in serving eternal king will not be in vain. According to Jesus, even one who gives a cup of cold water to a disciple of Jesus will certainly not lose his reward. I know some of you have joy in serving God’s flock of sheep, when they receive God’s word into their hearts for salvation and spiritual growth. But there are also sufferings and agonies in serving God’s flock and his ministry. Yet, through all these we come to know our Savour and eternal king more and more. All are so meaningful as we serve our eternal king for his kingdom. People want to be remembered for their works. So building names, street names, and even bench names are after the names of certain people. But all will come to an end. There is Remembrance Day; the soldiers who fought for their countries had to be remembered. Still that remembrance has limitation. Even the Roman Empire of that time would end and be forgotten gradually. But the kingdom of Jesus will never end. A church, big or small, that contains Jesus, will never end. Even an individual who has Jesus will never end. His kingdom is in man’s heart, and it his kingdom will certainly expand to the whole world.

This is the reason the angel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured” and “You have found favour with God.”

Second, Mary’s decision of faith (34-38). Look at verse 34. “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” Zechariah was momentarily unbelieving when he asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” But as for Mary, she was puzzled, unsure of how a virgin would have a child. She had a scientific question. She questioned, not out of doubt, but of genuine curiosity. At this the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” (1:35-37). Virgin birth could be explained only through the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of God. This would be solely the work of God. This is an unprecedented and unreplicated work in history. But the closest work, though on a different level, was the work of God in Elizabeth. Eventually this kind of work requires faith, not completely human understanding.

What was Mary’s final response? Look at verse 38. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angle left her.” When she said, “I am the Lord’s servant,” she found a new identity above Joseph’s fiancé. Her new found identity was the Lord’s servant. It was her new found identity in the eternal history of God. A servant is a servant. A servant is bound to his or her master. Yet, Mary was happy to say, “I am the Lord’s servant.” In saying this, certainly she was willing to make sacrifice. According to Matthew’s gospel when Joseph realized/discovered Mary’s pregnancy, he had in mind to divorce her quietly in misunderstanding and confusion. She was thus willing even to give up the sweet home she would have with Joseph. Misunderstanding from her parents and criticism and derision, even punishment from her townspeople in the small village would be huge. Yet, she was willing to pay any cost, even those she knowingly foresaw. It was because God’s favour upon her was greater than any of these. And she must have believed that God will solve all the problems in his way, when she decided to be the Lord’s servant. So her personal decision was out of her faith, not sorrowful or blind resignation to her fate. Out of faith she obeyed God. Mary bore God’s favour of his choice with her choice to be the Lord’s servant. It is so beautiful that God chose Mary and Mary chose God.

And she said, “May it be to me as you have said.” Her faith was based on the words of God, not on her feelings. Isaiah 40:6-8 says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field…the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Nothing is reliable and enduring to the end in this world, but the word of God. Mary’s faith and the consequent obedience was grounded on the forever enduring word of God.

God’s favour upon Mary was truly amazing and at the same time very costly from first to last. Later on, she had to watch her own son Jesus to be crucified on the cross, which was like a sword piercing her own soul as Simeon prophesied in Luke 2:35. Yet, she would be closest to knowing the heart of God the Father in heaven.

Here we can think of who God is. God chose Mary a young country girl to be the mother of Jesus and now was pleased with Mary’s decision. Soon a young girl virgin Mary would bear the Son of God and deliver him and be the mother of the Son. God imposed such a tremendous work upon a small young girl and would work out for his world salvation purpose which had been launched throughout history. Our God is truly a holy God. And he is truly a humble God. He is also is the God of faith. This God values the decision of faith of a young man or woman.

Thank and praise God for sending Jesus to be our Savour and our eternal king. And his kingdom will be the restoration of paradise, which will never end. May we be his favoured people by accepting his favour with a decision of faith and live as his servants for his kingdom in this world.

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