Believe It Or Not-Part 3 The Virgin Birth
12/14/2014 Jeremiah 1:4-8 Luke 1:26-45
How many of you have ever been in a place in which you were saying, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” It may have been something good or it may have been something not so good. I can remember back in 7th grade the most popular couple was Leila Butler and Willie B. King. One day Willie B broke up with Lelia to go with Louise. Out of jealousy Leila, put out that she had decided to go with me. I heard through the grapevine that Leila was saying I was her new boyfriend. I was excited to be going with the most popular girl in the 7th grade. I couldn’t believe my wonderful fortune.
We didn’t have any classes together so I didn’t get a chance to talk with her and I didn’t have her phone number. I went home knowing that tomorrow was going to be my big day. I couldn’t wait for the night to pass and to get to school the next day. Well on the way to school, I heard once again through the grapevine, that Willie decided to leave Louise and go back to Lelia who gladly accepted him back. I had won and lost the most popular girl in the 7th grade without her saying as much as a hello or goodbye. I did learn not to believe everything you hear through the grapevine. Believe it or not my heart was broken.
We are in part 3 of our series “Believe It Or Not.” Pastor Kellie had us looking as to whether or not to believe the Second Coming of Christ. Pastor Toby had us looking at Believe it or not Peace is available to us because of the first coming of Jesus. Today we are going to look at the virgin birth and how it should affect our faith and shape our views.
We speak of the bible as though it is one book. The bible is actually 66 books that have been collected and put together over the centuries. It actually took over a thousand years for the bible to be written. There were other books along with the 66 books that were examined, but were rejected because they did not rise to the same level of inspiration from God and truth as these 66 books did.
There was a council of church leaders who studied, examined, prayed over and concluded these 66 books are the most reliable and trustworthy manuscripts that we have of what God has said to us. Now God used different people from different backgrounds to write the 66 different books.
When somebody says how do you know that some old guy didn’t just write the bible and make up a bunch of stuff. You can say believe it or not, history itself proves that did not happen and if one person wrote it, that person would have been over a 1,000 years old.
The story of the virgin birth appears in the gospel of Luke. Luke writes the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Luke interviewed a number of eyewitnesses and recorded their testimonies before writing the book. Luke was educated in that he was a medical doctor. So he knows all about how a woman normally gets pregnant. Before Luke tells us about the story of Mary and the conception of Jesus, Luke tells us about the conception and birth of John the Baptist.
Zechariah was a priest and was married to Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a cousin of Mary. Zechariah and Elizabeth were getting up in years and had had no children throughout their marriage. Luke the doctor tells us they were beyond the child bearing years. Yet God sent an angel to tell Zechariah, he and Elizabeth would have a son, and they were to name him John.
John would prepare the people’s hearts for the coming of the Lord. Zechariah told the angel, “this can’t happen, I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Gabriel told him it would happen but because he didn’t believe it, Zechariah would not be able to speak until what the angel said had come true. Just as Gabriel said, believe it or not, Elizabeth got pregnant. When she was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, we pick up the story of Mary.
Mary was not from a wealthy family. She is from Nazareth, a city with a bad reputation. She’s a teenager, maybe 14, 15, 16 years of age. That was the age of getting married in those days. Joseph is older and he has worked out a deal with her parents for the two of them to get married. They are officially engaged. But being engaged was much more binding than it is now. To break the engagement you had to go through divorce proceedings. The couple would live apart for that first year to remove any doubt that if a child was born during the first year, it was actually the child of the father. For a woman to get pregnant during that one year safety window meant bringing a lot of shame and disgrace on her family. She could possibly be stoned for committing adultery. Mary would have known all of this.
Luke the medical doctor, lets us know that Mary was a virgin meaning she had not had sex with anyone. It is possible to wait until marriage to have sex. You will not die, you don’t have to experiment, and your marriage can still last a life-time. Believe it or not, its actually God’s plan for your life. We’re not sure what Mary was doing when the same angel Gabriel was sent to her. The angel came with the message, “Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
A lot of us may think we want to be visited by an angel, but any of us who know Scriptures realize that when an angel comes and speaks, your life is about to change and you’re going to have to make a choice that’s not always going to be easy. Mary did not jump up and give the angel a high five with the news. The Scriptures said, “she was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”
If you were told you were highly favored and the Lord is with you by an angel, what would come to your mind. How many of you would be shocked? “Who Me?” How many of you would say, “well I already knew that? How many of you would think, “Oh no, what am I going to have to do now.” Now Mary is not highly favored because she was living and walking close to God. She is highly favored because God has chosen to use her for one of the greatest moments in history.
Gabriel knows that Mary is getting a little scared so he tells her, “Mary you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”
The name Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua and it means “Yahweh Saves” or God Saves. Christmas is about God coming to humanity in order to save us. The only people who need saving are people who are in trouble. Christmas reminds us that all of us are in trouble, and that we need to find out how it is we can be saved.
The angel goes on to say, “He will be great and will be called the Son Of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. It is obvious from the angel’s words, that from the beginning this is not going to be an ordinary child. He’s not going to be known as Joseph’s child. He is going to be known as the Son of the Most High. God is going to be the father of this child in a way that no other person will have the same kind of a relationship.
Christmas is about God entering into the womb of a woman to be born as a human, so that there could be a person who could lead us to God the Father and pay for the wrong doing we have done. Now when Mary hears this, she is somewhat shocked by the awesomeness of the news.
She asks the angel, “how will this be, since I am a virgin.” Now if the angel had said this, after she and Joseph had ended their engagement in marriage and moved in together, she could understand. But she knows the angel is talking about something like it’s about to happen right now, but she knows she has not had sex with anyone.
She doesn’t question whether or not what the angel said could happen, she simply wonders what steps will be necessary to make it happen. The angel answered her, “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 unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me according to your word.” In others words, take my life and make it happen.
It’s Luke the medical doctor, who tells us that Mary is going to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Gabriel is letting us know, that God can intervene and change the laws of nature at any time God wants to do it. Why do we want to limit the power of God to heal people? Why do we want to limit the power of God to change circumstances? Why do we want to limit the power of God to only work in the ways we have done things in the past? The world is eager to limit the actions of God, but the church should not.
The world can easily persuade its followers to believe that at one time, there was no life, but somehow the right proteins and molecules randomly came together and “poof” life began. Entirely on its own, with enough time and circumstances and billions of years, that poof eventually produced ants, elephants, whales, and people.
Yet when I say God took a living woman who already had an egg inside of her womb for a child to be conceived in and God fertilized that egg with a sperm God created, I’m told that could not have happened. What takes more faith to believe as truth; Random acts or the hand of God.
Believe it or not, none of us were around to see that first molecule. We don’t know how it sprang to life or how long it lived or what caused it to split in half to reproduce. Believe it or not, Luke did go interview some people who knew about the virgin birth. He talked with Joseph who told him, “I didn’t believe in at all at first. I knew she had cheated on me, but I didn’t want to expose her, so I was just going to get a quiet divorce. If an angel had not of told me that what was in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit, I would have been gone. Once I heard that, I swallowed my pride and went and took Mary as my wife. I was ridiculed and made fun of by others. Although we were now living together, I still did not have sex with her, until after Jesus was born.”
When the angel left Mary, Mary immediately headed to see her relative Elizabeth who was now six months pregnant. When Mary got to her home and was calling, “Elizabeth, Elizabeth” something amazing happened. The baby Elizabeth was carrying began his ministry for the Lord. He began jumping around in Elizabeth’s stomach.
Remember this child is going to be John the Baptist who announces to the world that Jesus is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. Before Mary gets to say anything about what happened to her, the Scripture says, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me. As soon as the sound of your greetings reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
Mary got pregnant as soon as she said, “May it be to me according to your word.” Mary had a choice to accept this pregnancy or not. It was going to change her life. The only person whom the gospels tell us believe her, is Elizabeth. Joseph turned his back on her. Her family felt ashamed of her and the disgrace she brought on them. The community talked about her. Even when Jesus was an adult, when the Pharisees had dug into his history to try to shame him they pointed out, they had not been born outside of marriage. This shame of the scandal of the virgin birth was with Mary for the rest of her life.
I want us to notice something else about this passage. Jesus is barely an embryo in Mary’s womb and the first one to recognize that he is there, is an unborn child six months along in Elizabeth’s womb. John starts his ministry of announcing the presence of Jesus while in Elizabeth’s womb.
Jesus is as much the Son of God at a couple of days inside of Mary as he will be when He’s hanging on a cross and she is there weeping at his feet. John is as much the prophet John The Baptist six months into the pregnancy as he will be thirty years preaching a gospel of repentance for the day of the Lord is at hand.
Carrying Jesus is costing Mary her marriage, her reputation, her sanity and who knows how much depression. Elizabeth is carrying a child in her old age. Today we would be concerned about her health and if the child born will be normal. Would it have been okay for either Mary or Elizabeth to have gotten an abortion?
Know matter what the world tells us about abortion, we know that abortion is the killing of a life inside of a mother’s womb or killing the child as it passes out of the womb. Set aside for a moment what the world tells about abortion and look at what the bible says about life. God is the author and creator of life. God is intricately involved in every child’s growth in the womb.
God says that he fashions us in the womb. God’s calling on our lives takes place before we even are conceived in the womb. When Jeremiah thought he was not worthy to be a prophet, God told him, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
One thing we know is that we have the power to change history and the course of the lives of others. God often says, if you do this, then I will do that. This means we can thwart a lot of the good that God intends to do.
Let’s talk about abortion for a moment. Let’s eliminate the 6% of abortions that may deal with a mother’s life in danger, a rape, or a severe birth defect. Let’s talk just the other 94% or the 52 million abortions since Roe vs Wade. Does anybody know how many of the 52 million had a call of God upon their lives? Does anyone know how many of the 52 million lost their lives across the street from our church at Planned Parenthood in Church Square? Does anybody know many singers never got the chance to sing, how many athletes never got the chance to play, how many mothers and fathers who never got the chance to love, and how many preachers who never got the chance to preach? I think only God knows the answer to those questions.
I know that some of you support Planned Parenthood because you have a strong desire to help women, and we need you to be there because the number one question that is asked by women in the abortion clinic is “will God forgive me for this.” Those women need someone there to tell them about the true grace and love of Jesus Christ, that even when we have made the worst of choices, the power of Jesus Christ is still available to transform our lives. 94% of women report some negative affects from getting an abortion.
Mary was young. Abandoned. Isolated. Poor and lonely. She seemed mentally unstable with this talk of a virgin birth. If you have of been working at Planned Parenthood when she walk in, thanks to your intervention, would she have walked out with the Son of God intact in her womb or would God’s greatest gift have remained behind in a wastebasket in little bits and pieces.
I know a lady who gave birth to a son at age 17 while a junior in high school. The father denied the child was his and had moved on to her former best friend as his new girl. She never finished high school. Her mother was poor and had already had 14 children of her own. God was not a part of this family’s existence except as a mere token of religion. The family did not need another mouth to feed.
Finding out she was pregnant was one of the darkest days of her life. She worried about the child being depressed throughout the pregnancy because she cried from pain, from humiliation, and from depression just about every day until the child was born.
This happened back in 1956. If it had happened in 1976 I fear somebody may have led her to an abortion clinic to help her move forward with her life. Had they done so, I would have never been born because that was my mom. I thank God that she gave me life, because not only is she my mom, she is my sister in Christ.
Believe it or not the Virgin Birth does not only offer hope for Mary, because Mary chose life, Jesus came into this world and died for each of us. Because of the virgin birth, Jesus did not have the same sinful nature that we have, and he alone could pay for the penalty of our sins. God proved his death was acceptable payment for our sins by raising him from the dead.
Christmas is realizing that God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save us from the affects of our sin and wrongdoing. Nobody has to feel guilty. None of us are beyond the scope of God’s love regardless of what we have done. The bible says, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It all happens by putting our faith and confidence in God, and allowing Jesus to live His life through us.