His Kingdom Will Never End
Word: Luke 1:26-38
Key Verse / 1:32-33
“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.”
Along with thanksgiving we have been preparing Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus and remember how great God’s love for us is. Nowadays we are in terrible times as if we are living in the last days. The Scriptures describe well about our current situation like: People are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them (2 Timothy 3:1-5). In this situation we are hopeless and helpless because there is not much we can do about it – we are just like lost sheep that do not know where to go and what to do. All we can do is get frustrated and dismayed saying like: “Oh my God! How could this happen?” But we will be fine when we have hope in the kingdom of God in the midst of troubles and we will be even comforted when we have the Son of the Most High Jesus in our hearts who rules the kingdom of God that will never end in the time of sufferings. At least for this moment put away all the worries, anxieties, complaints, busy and habitual minds and let us be joyful, prayerful, and thankful about the good news of the birth of Jesus and his kingdom through today’s passage.
Part I. Mary who was highly favored (26-30)
Look at verses 26-27. “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.” In the previous verses 5-25, we see that Elizabeth became pregnant and praised the Lord saying “The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” She must have been happier than anybody else around her because the Lord had shown her his favor and taken away her disgrace among people. In this Christmas season we also hope that the Lord may show us his favor and take away our disgrace among people. When we look back on the year 2015, we could feel disgraceful among people. We were not faithful, nor fruitful to the Lord in many ways. So it is natural that we are not full of joy and delight in celebrating Jesus’ birth, thinking about our disgrace only. In fact, I am the one that feels disgraceful. But this time, relying on the grace of God I pray that the Lord may show us his favor and take away our disgrace so that we may also lift up the name of the Lord highly with great joy and delight in this Christmas time.
Now, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent his angel Gabriel to a virgin named Mary. It seems that God found one more person whom he wanted to show his favor for his world salvation plan. Yes, we can be also receiving God’s favor; it is never late or exceptional. We should expect God’s angel. It could be your co-workers, colleagues, boss, friends, neighbors, teachers, clients, bank, auto dealer, even baby sitter. Somehow they will inform us God’s favor on us.
In Mary’s times the wicked King Herod was on the throne and the times looked dark. Even so, God was leading history to fulfilling his redemptive purpose. The world is very often troubled as we see it clearly here and there – terror, war, and slow economy, but God carries out his redemptive plan without fail.
For his redemptive work, God selected Mary out of many teenage girls. What made her stand out? What kind of person was she? First of all, she was from Nazareth in Galilee, a country town which despised by some (Jn 1:46), was kind of an ordinary country girl who did not put so much make-up or ornaments. To our surprise, she did not have even any boyfriends as opposed to so many around her who were longing for one or two or interested in at least one. But she was a virgin, young and pure like JBF girls here. With her pure heart, she was now finally engaged to Joseph, a descendant of David, the great king of Israel. Mary must have been thrilled with the anticipation of her upcoming wedding. It seemed to be a happy ending story as in a fairy tale; “Mary met a handsome prince Joseph and lived together happily ever after – the end.”
But something unexpected happened to Mary all of a sudden. Look at verse 28. “The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’” The angel greeted Mary saying, “You who are highly favored!” Yes, not to mention Mary was favored from human point of view because she would marry Joseph, a descendant of David. However it was more than that.
Why was Mary favored highly? It’s because the Lord was with her. Literally speaking, Mary was really with the Lord and the Lord was with her because God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah whether she knew that or not. This was God’s grace and special love for her. Spiritually speaking, it is also a great blessing for us to be with the Lord. People in this world think making a lot of money or winning a lottery or making a boy or girl friend or getting a good school GPA or entering good college are a great blessing. We think so too sometimes. We want to receive God’s blessings in term of social and financial stability. We would like hear prayers like: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)” In realty getting daily bread is really hard to achieve in the competitive job market as we all know. If you do not work hard enough to satisfy your boss you will never get daily bread from the company you work for. But real blessing is not the social or financial stability but the fact that the Lord is with us, that is the Savior the Promised Messiah is with me in a very personal relationship. Romans 8:31 says “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Isaiah 54:17 says “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.” If the Lord our almighty God is with us and for us, what or who can be against us? My bad grade, my bad friends or poor family background, my inability, other’s condemnation or accusation or curse, my gloomy future security, what else? Why are we anxious or afraid or fearful constantly? It’s all because we live our lives on our own with our limited resources and abilities and we act like we are the owner of our life.
Joshua had the same problem when he was near Jericho. He was afraid how he could take down the wall of Jericho. The gates of Jericho were securely barred and no one went out and no one came in. At that moment Joshua looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The man replied, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Joshua 5) Here we see that Joshua thought he was the commander of the army who must lead the Israelite to victory over the enemy. That’s why he was very concerned about the man coming to him by asking, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” But then the man said, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Wow, this is amazing because the Lord reminded Joshua that the Lord is the command of the army not Joshua. Joshua should not be worried about the future of Israel or how to break down the wall of Jericho but seek to the truth that the Lord is the commander of the army. I like these words spoken to Joshua from the Lord: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:5-6)
When we realize the Lord is with us and he is the master and owner of our life we will absolutely win the victory in every area of life. On the other hand, when we think we are the owner or the commander of our life we always lose in battles of life and end up being a mental patient. However, when we are with the Lord and recognize that the Lord is our master and the commander, we live as more than a conquer without a hint of fear. Therefore, great blessing for us is to be with the Lord our Savior Jesus Christ. May God bless all of us to be with the Lord in the Christmas season so that we may be full of joy and delight for the good news of Jesus!
Look at verse 29. “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” There is a saying that it is too good to be true. Like that, Mary felt very troubled. “What the heck is this? I am so busy preparing my own wedding ceremony. Oh, no, perhaps I got in some trouble. No way…” Several years ago one of JBF members said to me, “M. Joseph, would you want to work for the glory of God?” That’s exactly the same words Sh. David Gates said to me very often when he needed a hand for a fixing or repairing job for the old center building. So when I heard it from Hannah I sensed that there must be a work to be done and I felt annoyed because it seemed she ordered me to do something. Likewise, even though God’s favor is great, we are very often reluctant to accept it. However, we must acknowledge that God's intervention in a person's life is disruptive and burdensome. It requires us to acknowledge God as God, putting aside our own dreams and desires. Mary had to decide to surrender to God, and she was scared. The angel helped Mary overcome her fear by saying “"Do not be afraid!” and emphasizing God's great favor to her.
Here we learn that to be chosen by God for a mission is God's great favor or grace to us. All Christians have received this grace. Romans 1:5 says like “Through him and for his name's sake we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” For example, before meeting Jesus, Paul had been a terrible sinner who persecuted the church of God. But Jesus forgave his sins and made him his servant, an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was overwhelmed by a sense of awe and thanks. He said in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” All who are in Christ Jesus are included in this grace. To be entrusted with a mission from God is great grace. Regardless of the kinds of tasks, when we sense God's favor upon us, we feel a great sense of privilege and find absolute self-worth. However, from time to time, when we face many practical problems or difficulties, we can feel burdened by God's favor. “I have homework, finals, presentations, all kinds of school work plus God’s work. Oh my God, when can I take a rest?” When we see people living carefree lives without any mission, we can envy them. “Oh, I wish I could be like them.” Then we begin to complain about the very mission that makes our lives special like a Kingdom of priest and a holy nation. In this situation, we’ve got to remember and acknowledge God's grace of the forgiveness of our sin and his providence of choosing us for his world salvation history.
Part II. He will reign on David’s throne. (31-33)
In verses 31-33, the angel tells about the child to be born. Look at verse 31. “You will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” The name “Jesus” means Savior. Matthew 1:21 says “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” This explains that he would save his people from their sins. The real problem of mankind is a sin problem, that is, a broken relationship with God. God made man in his holy and honorable image to live in fellowship with him. God wanted man to rule over the created world and bring the reign of God to all creation. God made man with freedom of choice to willingly choose to love and serve God. God did not want man to be a robot, but a person of dignity, whose decisions would have real significance. Thus, God made it possible for man to disobey him like children disobey their parents in their close love relationship.
Under Satan's temptation, man fell into disobedience. Through one act of disobedience sin entered the world, and death through sin, and all creation fell under the power of darkness. Sin has made all men sick and miserable, unhappy, grumbling, and empty. Romans 1:29 says, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.” They were sick with the disease of sin. People try in many ways to solve this problem. However, no matter how hard man tries, the basic problem remains unsolved. Man needs a Savior. God sent Jesus as our Savior the healer, the teacher, the master, the commander, the counselor, the shepherd, the fortress, and the king of kings.
How is Jesus our Savior? Look at verse 32a. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” What does it mean to be great? It means Jesus is great because he is the Son of the Most High. Jesus is in very nature God. Jesus is holy and pure. Jesus never makes a mistake and is perfect in all. Though Jesus was severely tested through trials and hardships, he always revealed the power, wisdom and character of God. Jesus is truly great because Jesus is God.
On the basis of his divine character, Jesus is worthy to take the throne of David, which the Lord God gives him. Look at verses 32b-33. “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.” The “throne of David” and “the house of Jacob” refer to the right to rule God's people. God had a plan from the beginning to raise his people as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God established David as their king. David destroyed the enemies of his people and united the kingdom and reigned justly with peace and love. It was a time of prosperity and victory for the people of Israel. However, David was not perfect. One day, David fell into temptation and sinned greatly against God. Consequently, sin destroyed his household and marred the kingdom, bringing injustice and pain. Still, through David, God had painted a picture of what the reign of the Messiah would be like. God promised to send an offspring from David's line who would reign over a perfect kingdom. In this kingdom, God's people would enjoy life and love and joy and peace forever. Jesus is the king who reigns on David's throne and over the house of Jacob forever.
In order to establish this perfect kingdom, Jesus had to deal with man's sin problem. Throughout his lifetime, Jesus lived a pure and holy life. Jesus obeyed his parents and he obeyed the law of God. Jesus defeated the devil's temptation by the word of God. Jesus served people as a good shepherd by healing their diseases, driving out evil spirits, and planting the word of God in their hearts. Jesus lived out the very life of God on earth. Being the perfect man, Jesus did not deserve to die. Yet, in obedience to God, Jesus offered himself for the sins of the world. Jesus died on a cross, shedding his blood. On the third day, God raised him from the dead. Jesus has the right to forgive our sins and the authority to give eternal life to all who believe in him. We obey Jesus willingly because Jesus gave his life for us. In this way, Jesus became our spiritual king who sits on David's throne.
The last part of verse 33 says, “...his kingdom will never end.” How can this be? All human kingdoms have an end. Nowadays America seems getting weaker and weaker in economy and politics in the globe even though once she was a powerful nation over all the nations. A large part of the problem is internal corruption and greed among financial and political sector. The thing is, sin is at the root of all the problem. However, in Jesus' kingdom there is no sin and no death. There is no sorrow and no pain and no darkness at all. There are no elements of corruption in Jesus' kingdom. In Jesus' kingdom God reigns over all, and people willingly serve God in love and joy and peace. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.” (Isaiah 11:6-8) We human beings were made to live in such a kingdom. We have sorrow because we get old and die someday. But Jesus gives us eternal life in a kingdom that never ends. This is the true and living hope for all of us here and people out there.
Do you know the difference between happiness and joy? The happiness comes from happening. It all depends on happenings or conditions or situations. It is very conditional. That’s why we sometimes happy or unhappy based on our human conditions. But joy comes from the Holy Spirit. It is the fruit of the Spirit. When we fix our eyes on mundane affairs, improving our human conditions constantly, we will never be or feel joyful at any rate but only happy for a while and unhappy for the rest of our lives. On the other hands, when we fix our eyes on Jesus and put our hope in his kingdom that will last forever we will be joyful and thankful always living a victorious, glorious, and honorable life. This is God’s promise for all of us here. I pray that we may put our hope and trust in God’s kingdom rather than in this temporary world that we may really enjoy the great news of Jesus’ birth and his kingdom coming into our hearts to rule over.
Part. III. Nothing is impossible with God (34-38)
The message that Mary had just heard was that the whole world would be redeemed from the power of sin and death and God's perfect paradise restored. Mary's heart was deeply moved. She was ready to obey God's will. When we understand God’s will from God’s point of view in God’s salvation work, we can willingly obey God’s will like Mary.
However, there was one thing that still bothered Mary. What was it? Look at verse 34. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Then 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.” But still it was very hard for Mary to accept what the angel said from human point of view. In order to plant faith in her, the angel told Mary of Elizabeth's miracle pregnancy in her old age. Then the angel said, “For nothing is impossible with God” (37). The angel did not rebuke Mary for her unbelief or pushed her to just believe, but tried hard to plant faith in her with the word of God very personally. “Nothing is impossible with God.” This is what we need, the word of God that strengthens our faith. Some of us believe God's favor upon us and have accepted Jesus as king and the hope of his kingdom. Yet when it comes to believing that we personally can be used in God's work, we may wonder how it can be. Then what do we need? It’s God’s word, God’s promise. “Nothing is impossible with God. When we have it, God can use us greatly in his work and history. Let's read verse 37 again. “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Finally, how did Mary respond? Look at verse 38. “’I am the Lord's servant,’ Mary answered, ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” Mary identified herself as “the Lord's servant,” so she called herself “the Lord's servant.” She was very humble in spirit to obey God’s will. Can we do the same like Mary did? Let us say “I am the Lord’s servant.” With this in mind we can obey any God’s commandment humbly. But this decision of Mary was a risky one. It’s because Mary knew that Joseph her fiancé could not understand. Mary could lose Joseph. Mary also knew that people in her town and even her own family members would not understand. Most likely they would think she was an adulterous woman. She would be terribly mistreated, even condemned to death. Yet, by faith, Mary accepted the word of the angel. She believed God was establishing his kingdom, the perfect kingdom of God, and that his kingdom would never end. Mary's pain and difficulty would last for a season, but her joy and victory in Christ would last forever.
Here we see that God’s favor or blessing comes in disguise in the forms of sufferings. And listen to what Paul says in regards to sufferings in Philippians 1:29-30 “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” The word ‘blessing’ originally comes from bleeding or blood. It requires someone’s shedding his blood or suffering or sacrifice for us to receive God’s blessing or favor. Personally I like what Theologian Martin Luther said about sufferings. He said, “Suffering plays a dual role. Before we get the joy and love that help us to face and overcome suffering, suffering must come first to 1) empty us of our pride and lead us to find our true joy and security only in Christ. For since God takes away all our goods and our life through many tribulations, it is impossible for the heart to be calm and to bear this unless it clings to better goods, that is, united with God through faith. 2) Suffering dispels the illusion that we have the strength and competence to rule our own lives and save ourselves. People become nothing through suffering so that they can be filled with God and his grace. It is God’s nature to make something out of nothing; hence one who is not yet nothing, out of him God cannot make anything and therefore God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, give sight only to the blind, restores life only to the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise. In short, he has mercy only on those who are wretched.”
Before wrapping up my message, I want to say that in welcoming 2015 Christmas, there are opportunities for each one of us to participate in advancing the Lord's kingdom. However, we must be ready to sacrifice, and ready to obey the Lord. Only then we can be part of the kingdom that never ends through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let's decide to believe about the kingdom of God and obey his word personally during this Christmas season. I pray that through decision of faith to welcome Jesus in our heart, joy and delight of Jesus and his kingdom may overflow in our hearts in this Christmas time and for the year of 2016 next year.
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