We now find ourselves in the 5th day of this advent season— a time we celebrate the advent — the coming of Jesus our Savior!
And now as we transition from that great time basking in the words of Jesus’ famous hillside Sermon — there are some in that crowd and maybe among us thinking, “Where did this guy come from?” or simply, “Who is he, really?” That is what we are to dive into in the next few weeks — as we celebrate and remember when “this guy” was born and CAME to earth. This is HIS Advent season. That is truly something to Behold!
The telling of this story that has happened for a couple thousand years and will continue until His second advent — His second coming. This story is one of good news to a weary people plagued by
- ultimately — Sin.
This story is one of great joy to
- the downtrodden
- the insignificant
- the hopeless
This story is one of grace indescribable —
that God would come to be among His people.
These are some of the beautiful elements that we are to Behold. That simple little word ίδού. It is an imperative — we are LOOK —we are to PAY ATTENTION. For whatever comes next in the speakers words in something of amazement. Something that is truly awesome! Whatever or whoever is described is of great importance — we are to behold it!
Understanding who this “guy” Jesus is, is paramount to our understanding of why we adhere to His teaching and why we celebrate Christmas.
So the main question throughout this series is:
What are we to behold?
The Gospel writer Luke wants us to pay attention to His narrative of the Advent of Jesus. So let us dig into what we are to Behold.
Most of you probably didn’t see my little video I posted earlier this week — But this word Behold Luke uses 9 times just in the first 2 chapters. Let’s keep an eye out for that attention marker.
A Divinely-Appointed Meeting
The first thing we look at and must behold is the angelic figure of Gabriel. The text says clearly he was sent from God. But if you look back a few verses before our passage in 1:19, Gabriel really introduces himself — I stand in the presence of God. Gabriel — a terrifying visage — is from the presence of God — That is quite the resumé isn’t it?
It always strikes me as interesting that whenever an angel shows up people are fearful — what a far cry from the precious moments stereotypical angel that looks so soft and cuddly.m This Angel himself — is Gabriel — a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Gabriel — God’s valiant one. No wonder there is fear involved. God’s valiant one — who stands in the same presence of GOD Himself. He has the credentials to speak amazing things—not to be worshiped, but to be listened to. That is a major thing to behold — a transcendent being sent from God.
Then we get to another interesting twist — he was sent to Nazareth — an insignificant town — to a virgin — a girl of marry-able age — seemingly insignificant girl— she was a young girl about to be married with no prestige.
But — Joseph — this makes the readers lift their eyebrows — in the family of David. Luke is intentional in this naming of Joseph as a apart of David’s lineage.
Then we get into the dialogue of the meeting divinely appointed by God. These first few words are where the Catholic Church gets the “Hail Mary” prayer. I think “O favored one” is a better translation than the KJV — the other translations agree that greeting is a better word than Hail. Hail connotes a prestige that is to be revered. Rather the “favored one” is only favored on account of the favor that is from God. Remember she is of insignificant matter by the worlds standard — but on the fact that God CHOSE her to enact His will is the grace — is the favor. That grace is the fact that the Lord is with you! God’s withness to her gives grace. It’s not by her own merit, but simply the choosing of God.
I would venture to say without thinking this is reading too much into the text that Mary was a diligent Jew and faithful God-fearer. Other commentators even recognize her as one of the remnant faithful followers of Mosaic law in the midst of the hellenistic influence.
We need to clearly take note of what is going on — Luke wants us to see how God is moving.
- A town with no honor
- A girl with no heritage
- A time when someone else is ruling God’s people
- Angelic presence
- A royal lineage
- Proclamation of being chosen by God
- Declaration of God’s presence.
Luke is focusing us on our first point:
We are to behold the awesome nature of this divinely-appointed meeting.
Luke doesn’t use the word behold before this part of the passage — But overall he is clearly saying LOOK this is something amazing. What could come next — an even more grandiose plan that could only come from God.
Let’s move on.
Behold the Promised Child
So this supernatural meeting leads to this great foretelling of events to come. This is the favor — this is the grace — How Mary is going to be used to fulfill God’s will!
Look there it is — AND BEHOLD! This is the amazing thing — the description of what will happen – “You will” — there is no Mission Impossible “your mission, if you choose to accept” No — it’s just plain events that will happen— You will have a baby — and His name will be Jesus.
So first — she’s not married — has never had those relations — All other foretold births have happened to women who had been barren and longing for a child with their husbands — Sarah — Hannah — Even Elizabeth (The mother of John the Baptist). Mary has no husband just an engagement — a serious betrothal.
His name will be Jesus — Joshua — “The LORD is salvation.” The Jewish readers would see that name immediately and begin to think of the connotations with The LORD—YHWH. And the Salvation that is anticipated. This is Messianic language — But, our frightening messenger from God continues to describe what this child will be.
Re-Read verse 32 — Son of the Most High — That superlative word could only be pointing to the fact that Jesus will be the Son of God. This is something to behold indeed — God is sending His Son — to be born of Mary — The eternal Son — in Mary’s womb — God, but Man — The God-Man.
Given the throne of David— prophetic fulfillment of 2 Sam 7:11-13. David’s lineage will continue — ding ding ding. Remember who Joseph was — of David’s family — though no flesh it was still of Joseph’s house — His adopted son — a common understood practice. But this is no regular kingdom of the earth, where David and his descendants of died and been buried — no this reign is eternal. There will be no end. These claims are magnificent indeed. These claims are something that Luke’s readers are to behold as an amazing fulfillment of God’s promises.
Which brings us to the next point:
We are to behold the awesome nature of this prophetically promised child. Clearly — this child is something to behold. This child is no regular child —
- He is Son of God.
- He is Rightful heir to David’s throne.
- He is the eternal King.
- He is Messiah.
That is very good news indeed!
Behold and Respond
Mary is like: wait — the biology doesn’t make sense. Kids that grow up in the village have learned very clearly the birds and the bees since everyone live in such close proximity. She doesn’t get rebuked for her question like Zechariah does previously in the narrative. The difference seems to be Zechariah was questioning God’s power to create fruit from the union of himself and Elizabeth — He knew Abraham and Sarah’s story — He should realize the power of God. Mary has nothing to compare this to — She’s like “I’m not married” — Implying that she knows that that God can create life between husband and wife.
But this is far out of her understanding. Gabriel reveals HOW this is to happen. Luke also writes this to contrast it with the prevailing Greek thought of the gods of Olympus coming down and having physical relations with humans. Luke wants to show us the difference. This verse is worth re-reading as well —
This is foundational to our faith — it’s so trinitarian in nature. The triune God is named here — The Holy Spirit will come upon you — there is no hint of a lusting god wanting physical relations with a human. No — The Holy Spirit will be sent. This is not the same as the outpouring of the Spirit on the believer in Acts 2 — But an occurrence of God sending His Spirit to fulfill His will. The Power off the Most High — again superlative — YHWH! Will overshadow — Just like He did in the cloud through the desert. Just like He did when He dwelt in the temple of Solomon. On this account — He will be the Son of God.
There they are — all three persons of the trinity — The Holy Spirit — God the Father (The Most High) — God the Son — The baby to be born of Mary.
This is something to behold — God’s power on display. Directing His will to be done. He promised the Messiah at the fall of humanity — He pointed to the need for a Savior throughout the history of Israel. He declared that He Himself would be the King of His people.
This is grace — that throughout the awfulness of human history God will still fulfill His promises. That is something to be joyful about. Gabriel confirms the power of God by disclosing Elizabeth’s supernatural conception as well.
Luke almost puts a bold typeface in — “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then, how does Mary answer — what is her response — Behold. Look! Listen!! Mary knows her place — She is God’s servant —
Let it be. The Beatles stole this from Mary — I can’t imagine that this was confident — but rather — trepidation and wonder. The faithful thing is that Mary realized this supernatural meeting had credibility to be of God and God alone. That is who she was beholden to – God. I think this whole episode wants us to see this:
We are to behold the awesome nature and power of God and respond. Mary responded favorably — because she knew her place. Serving God.
But, no where in the text does it say Gabriel was waiting for her approval. He only speaks in the affirmative of the future — this will happen.
Mary responds with acknowledgment of Who God is, and who she is.
But what do with this story that many of us have heard countless times?
I pray that I have not said anything new — that this message stands the tests of 2000+ years.
Take away – 1
We must believe by faith the supernatural elements in Jesus’ birth story.
Take away – 2
We must trust that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Take away – 3
We must recognize God’s ability to fulfill His will.
Behold— The beginning of the Christmas story.
The Advent of the Son of God.
The Advent of Messiah.
The Advent of Jesus.
Jesus uniquely and alone is the one that is able to be our Savior. Look at the prophetic and supernatural events that happened. He came, God Himself, to be that Savior. To live, die, and raise for our sin.
That is good news, great joy, and grace indescribable. Believe in Him — trust Him as your savior, who died in your place. That your sin is in need of payment — Jesus paid it all on that cross. But this is what we are to behold. The supernatural events only possible to be directed by God to bring us Jesus. God incarnate. Immanuel!