The Announcement Of The Conception
December 18, 2005
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Next week is Christmas Sunday. At Shoei Church, our annual pageant will be performed on Christmas afternoon. The children have been practicing very hard since last month. Today's passage of scripture is the familiar scene of "The Announcement Of The Conception" from one of the pageant scenes.
You Are Pregnant And Will Bring Forth A Son
2. Mary the fiancee of Joseph lived in the Galilean town of Nazareth. The angel Gabriel appeared there having been sent by God and announced to Mary the following [news], "Congratulations, o blessed one. The Lord is with you," (verse twenty-eight). Mary was surprised and bewildered. Not because the angel appeared. The scripture says, "She was bewildered by the message..." She was bewildered by the message from the angel.
3. "Congratulations? Blessed one?" Mary couldn't find any reasons that "Congratulations" were given by the angel. The "congratulations" for no reason stirred her anxiety, instead. The angel did not over look Mary's bewilderment. The next thing he said right after that was: "Mary, do not be afraid. You have received blessing from God. You are pregnant and will give birth to a son; name the child Jesus," (verses thirty and thirty-one).
4. That's some terrible message to get! The angel tells her "Do not be afraid" but, there are no words as scary as that. Think about it. The angel did not sound out Mary's opinion on this. "Ummmm, God would really like to give you the assignment of giving birth to the messiah, okay, and he says that he wants to use your womb. What is your opinion about that?" -- That's not what the angel came to say. It had nothing to do with Mary's opinion on it, it was already settled right there! [The angel seemed to] decide it on his own, the message came in right out of the blue, "Congratulations."
5. When you think of it in realistic terms, it isn't a congratulations story at all. Mary had been engaged to Joseph at this time. [They] probably couldn't wait for the day of their wedding celebration to be here. The every day living of the public back then was under imperial Roman rule and could not possibly be enjoyable. But, even in times like that, [she] was dreaming that she would build a devout home with Joseph, where they would respect the Jewish traditions. -- I would think that just about every normal young lady [dreamt of] that. [She] wasn't burning with any reckless ambitions. There was nothing prohibitive in her having wished for such a meager bit of happiness. But, the one-sided news from God of the turning point [in her life] shattered the very basis of her happiness.
6. "You are pregnant and will give birth to a son." -- Obviously [to her], [this pregnancy] had nothing to do with Joseph. Mary surely must have known what kind of situation this would cause. It was as clear as day to her that her conceiving a child would never be accepted in Jewish society. Who in the world would believe her story that [she became] "pregnant through the Holy Spirit?" If Joseph pressed charges against Mary, she would not escape punishment as an adulteress. As a matter of fact, The Gospel According To Matthew states that Joseph "decided that he would sever the relationship secretly," (Matthew 1:19). In saying that [he will] "sever the relationship secretly," it means he will do it "without pressing charges of sin [against her]." Joseph's agony is quite evident here. Thus, the announcement from the angel meant a critical situation for both Mary and Joseph.
The Holy Spirit Is Falling Upon You
7. But then, Mary wasn't just given dreadful news, she was also given joyous news. The angel Gabriel spoke as follows: "The child will become a great man, he will be called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will rule the house of Jacob for ever, and his government will never end," (verses thirty-two and thirty-three).
8. In short, this was an advance notice of the arrival of the messiah, whom the Israelites had been expecting. Since Mary was a devout Jewess, she too must have been one of those in expectation of the messiah. The savior [would] be born. The son of the Most High God [would] be born. The eternal throne of David [would] be restored, and the true king would come to sit on it. The true king, who will bring salvation, is coming. That in and of itself was joyous news for Mary as well. But, the problem was that "she herself would be used" in order to make that come true. It's a whole other story when it involves a person personally being used.
9. To illustrate, please consider the following. You are praying, "O God, so many people are suffering in this world, so many are grieving. Even my friends have great pains. God, please help us." Then God's voice is heard from heaven. "Your prayers have been heard. I am concerned for the people in your prayers, and I will show my power." If you had heard God's voice like that, you would probably rejoice. But, what if God went on to say this next part? "In order to make it [all] come true, I want to use you. I want to use your body and your life." -- "Huh? Wa-wait just a minute. That's a different story. If you are going to use [somebody], will you use somebody else, or [won't you] please, [dear] God, do it by yourself for us?" -- Perhaps you might show forth that kind of reaction.
10. So, we often look for God to do a work of deliverance, however, we don't assume [or even imagine] that "I'll be used" for it. Do we? It was certainly joyful news that the messiah was given. However, the assumption that "I'll be used" was beyond her assuming, but was included in it. That is the event which Mary is facing.
11. But, the very fact that "it was beyond assumption and outside the imagination" is extremely important in this biblical passage. It has a message that we are supposed to hear in it. So, we should take note of the words in verse thirty-five. The angel said, "The Holy Spirit is falling upon you, and the power of the Most High is covering you," (verse thirty-five). [The text] doesn't just say that the Christ will dwell in your womb, but it says especially that "the Holy Spirit will fall upon you." Why does "the Holy Spirit" appear in the speech here? We need to give this some good thinking.
12. Actually, The Gospel According To Luke, which we are reading here, is the first scroll of two scrolls. By itself it isn't the conclusion. The next part, the second scroll, is called "The Acts Of The Apostles." This is the narrative in which [Luke] set forth a composition on the works of the founding church. And if you ask "Where is this expression, 'the Holy Spirit falls upon' found?," it is found right at the opening section of The Acts Of The Apostles. It is the words of Jesus. "When the Holy Spirit falls upon you [all], you will receive power. Then, you will be my witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, but in Judea and in all of Samaria, and even unto the ends of the earth," (Acts 1:8). So then, what happened? Just as Jesus had said, the Holy Spirit fell, [and] the apostles and the church were used for God's work as witnesses of Jesus Christ.
13. In this way then, in Acts, the expression [when] "the Holy Spirit falls upon" [someone] has to do with a person being used for God's work of deliverance in this present world, and this fact is already indicated through the character Mary to whom was said in the scene in the first scroll, "The Holy Spirit will fall upon you."
14. Often times, the expression [when] "the Holy Spirit falls upon" [someone] tends to be regarded as being connected to only special experiences or mystical occurrences. But, the truly important thing is that God works in human beings and he uses them, and not that he does it directly himself. The Holy Spirit uses real lives and specific persons with all kinds of names. In other words, it was beyond Mary's imagination for her to be used, and often times it is beyond ours as well, but yet we must assume it to be so. To believe in the Holy Spirit means that we do.
Let It Be To Me As He So Says
15. So, upon receiving this news what did she do? She said, "I am the Lord's maiden. Let it be to me as he so says," (verse thirty-eight). As a person in service to God, she presents her body to God. From here on out she turns everything over to the Lord, and she presents her life [to him].
16. Then, beginning from that moment, the words that the angel Gabriel had first spoken to Mary take on meaning. What did the angel tell [her]? He said, "Congratulations, o blessed one. The Lord is with you." "Congratulations!" -- How's that? Because the Lord is with you. What does it mean by saying "The Lord is with you?" "The Lord is with you. God is with you." We say it a lot we hear it a lot. When grieving, the Lord is with us and comforts us. -- Of course, that is true. When on the verge of a crisis, the Lord is with us and will keep us. -- Of course, that is true. But, what the text is saying here is just not that simple. In saying, "God is with you," it means that the Lord who is willing to use Mary is with her.
17. Once ago a man named Moses heard these words. Discretely and peacefully, Moses spent forty years in Midian as a shepherd. Then, the Lord appeared to Moses and said, "Look, the crying voices of the Israelites have now reached me. I have seen their situation in which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh. You will lead the Israelites, my people, out of Egypt," (Exodus 3:9-10). Did God hear [them]? Did God see [them]? God did not do it directly himself, but told Moses, "You go." As you know, Moses turned down God's selection a number of times. He said, "Who am I? Why must I go to Pharaoh and worse, lead the Israelites from Egypt?" When [Moses said that], this is what the Lord said: "I will always be with you," (Exodus 3:12).
18. When looked at from a human perspective, this was the start of Moses' troubles. Leading human beings is more difficult than leading sheep. Over the long span of forty years Moses would patiently lead the stubborn and selfish Israelites. Then, the same thing could be said of Mary. This was the start of Mary's troubles. It didn't lead to a breakup for them. As it was announced to her, the boy was born. The son would soon begin to proclaim the kingdom of God. He would come to be the focus of the hatred of the authorities of that day. Then, one day at last, [she] would stand at the cross upon which her dear child would be crucified.
19. Neither Moses nor Mary had lives that were tranquil and peaceful or what might be called "happy lives." Yet, unmistakably [their lives] were with the Lord and their lives were used by the Lord. Therefore, when all is said and done, it was a "Congratulations." The call out to [her] of "Congratulations, o blessed one!" was not mistaken.
20. As I mentioned earlier, the figure of Mary is the figure of the later church as well as the figure of believers. God advances his work of salvation by using people. God has a plan in which he wants to use us. It will not necessarily be a happy life like painted in a picture. But, we can still hear the message of "Congratulations, o blessed ones" none the less. It is a "congratulations" when the Lord is with us. It is a "congratulations" when we walk with the Lord and when we let the Lord use us. When [that happens], as for our part in it, the main thing is that we present ourselves happily to the Lord. Like Mary. [She] said, "I am the Lord's maiden. Let it be to me as he has so said."