June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 1:26-56 Nothing’s Impossible

Nothing’s impossible for God! And David Livingstone proved it his whole life.

He was born into a working-class Christian family in Blantyre, Scotland in 1813. He lived in a one room house, and from the age of ten, he worked a four -hour day in the cotton mill. And it was only after work / that he’d learn to read and write.

At the age of twenty, a strong Christian, he read about the need for medical missionaries in China. And because nothing’s impossible with God, he decided to train to be a doctor.

In 1838, he’d finished medical and theological studies. And was accepted as a missionary by the London Missionary Society. But their were problems in China. The door was closed because of the first Opium War there.

But because nothing’s impossible with God, another door opened. He volunteered for service in southern Africa, instead.

He started there in 1841, but it wasn’t long before he decided to move further into Africa. Looking for unreached people. He worked for the next ten years with the Tswana people, and saw only one convert, the village chief.

But nothing’s impossible with God, and Livingstone’s attention moved to areas further north – where there was little influence from white men at all.

He wanted to open up trade routes as opportunities for the gospel. And he pushed through central Africa all the way to the Atlantic ocean on the North West coast. He got there in May 1854. But he wasn’t really satisfied, so he re-traced his steps. And then followed the Zambezi river all the way to the Indian ocean. It was a phenomenal feat. He was a hero when he got back to England.

He spent the rest of his life opening up Africa to Christianity. Often years would pass without anyone in England knowing where he was. The most famous search party was led by the journalist H. M. Stanley/ who, once he’d found him/ came up with the line “Dr Livingstone I presume”.

And while he was a flawed man, with many rough edges to his personality, he was passionate for the gospel. His desire was to EXPAND missionary work, not just consolidate. And what’s resulted/ is that churches in these areas of Africa/ are some of the strongest in the world.

The church in Africa owes a big debt to David Livingstone. Because he believed that NOTHING WAS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.

An ordinary man, who trusted in an extraordinary God.

Perhaps you’re not convinced that God can use someone like you. Perhaps you’re not even sure he’s INTERESTED in people as ordinary, or insignificant as you.

But the amazing thing about God is that he loves to use the insignificant people. They’re the ones he can’t WAIT to show his power through. He loves to turn the expectation of the world on its head.

“You think you need money? I’ll show you!” he says.

“You think you need influence, or university degrees, or possessions, or connections? I’ll show you! Because nothing’s impossible with me”

That’s the message here in Luke, too!

Israel under Roman rule? Nothing’s impossible with God!

An old barren want a baby? Nothing’s impossible with God!

A young virgin will conceive a child who will be the Saviour of the world? Nothing’s impossible with God!

And just like Mary, that’s a good reason to celebrate. To praise the God of the Impossible.

Nothing’s impossible – God favours insignificant people (26-31)

Last week we looked at the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Now we pick up the story six months later. Six months after John’s conceived. Verse 26. Gabriel’s had a break. But now God’s got another job for him to do. His first message was to Zechariah in the middle of Jerusalem. In the middle of the temple. But now he’s got to go to Nazareth. Up in Galilee.

And he’s not going to an upright, respected priest either. It’s a message for a young – probably no older than 14. No prestige, no honour, nothing much significant about her at all.

Her ancestors are nothing to right home about. They’re not even mentioned. In fact her only claim to fame is that she’s been promised in marriage to a guy called Joseph. And he’s a descendant of King David.

So perhaps we don’t expect Gabriel’s message to be very important by comparison. But we’re in for a shock, because Mary’s JUST THE SORT of person God’s interested in. God favours insignificant people. And nothing’s impossible with God.

Look at what Gabriel says. Verse 28.

(Luke 1:28 NIV)  “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

The word for “Greetings” is literally “Rejoice!”.

Why rejoice? Because Mary is HIGHLY FAVOURED of God. Out of all the people in Israel, God has decided to shower HER with his good gifts.

The message/ is that God will be WITH Mary in a special way.

Perhaps this is all a bit much to take in, because Mary isn’t instantly jumping for joy. Verse 29.

(Luke 1:29 NIV)  Mary was greatly TROUBLED at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

It’s a bit like Stuart Macgill (recently retired from cricket). I heard a story that when he was first picked in the Australian cricket team, a reporter rang to tell him. Hoping to get an inside story.

But Stuart wouldn’t believe him. He thought it was one of his mates playing a joke. He took some convincing. SUCH GOOD NEWS WAS COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED.

And Mary isn’t too sure how to take HER news either. Because it’s even MORE unexpected. I mean, she’s hardly the most OBVIOUS choice to be on the receiving end of God’s good gifts. But Gabriel reassures her. Yes, it’s really true. It’s YOU that God’s interested in. Verse 30.

(Luke 1:30 NIV)  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, YOU have found favor with God.

Time and again the story of the Bible / is that God’s way is to pick the LEAST obvious choices. He loves to work with the insignificant, the undeserving, the left-out and the passed-over. Because they’re the ones who seem BEST able to TRUST him. And so he can USE THEM.

Which is good news for US. He doesn’t choose us because we DESERVE it. Because we’re measure-up. Because you’re special, or famous, or talented. You’re here only because God has CHOSEN you. And because he wants to work with INSIGNIFICANT PEOPLE.

Nothing’s Impossible – The greatest King ever (31-33)

But back to Mary. Because now Gabriel gets onto the meat of the message. If the FIRST PART’S been hard to take, just wait until he gets to this bit! The bit that seems REALLY impossible. Verse 31.

(Luke 1:31 NIV)  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

Okay… That’s not too hard to cope with.. It’s a fair bet that some day I’ll have children. Nothing too out of the ordinary here. Not a bad name either … Jesus … or Y’shua in Hebrew – “the LORD saves”.

But Gabriel goes on. This is no normal baby. He’ll be the greatest king EVER. Verse 32

(Luke 1:32-33 NIV)  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, {33} and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Not just a son of Mary, but the Son of the MOST HIGH. GOD’S son. Gabriel had said JOHN was going to be great. But this is a WHOLE EXTRA DIMENSION on great.

He’s going to be the king on David’s throne. David was the pinnacle of Israel’s history. The best king there ever was. And Jesus will be a king like that! But while David was only king for forty years, Gabriel’s promising that Jesus will reign FOREVER. His kingdom will NEVER end.

Nothing’s impossible – A virgin conceives (34-45)

Who would have thought that such a mighty man would come from such humble beginnings? Certainly not Mary. She can’t quite follow the process. Verse 34. “How can this be. Since I am a virgin?” Young, no privilege, no connections, no money. No famous ancestors.

“Why me?” There’s nothing significant about me! I’m just a virgin!” How’s the world’s greatest king going to come from an insignificant young ?

But that’s the amazing thing about the way God works! Nothing’s impossible with him. He can even make a virgin into a mother. Gabriel continues. Verse 35. Describing one of the most miraculous events in the Bible.

(Luke 1:35-37 NIV)  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. {36} 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. {37} For nothing is impossible with God.”

I can imagine Doctor Luke doing his research for this book. Interviewing Mary. “Tell me again, Mary. What did the angel say? Are you SURE? The power of the Most High will come upon you? And the child will be called the SON of God. That’s a good one. He literally WOULD be God’s Son, wouldn’t he.”

And my guess is/ Luke would take comfort in the very words that Gabriel said to comfort Mary. “You think this is hard to believe? Even old Elizabeth’s expecting! Six month’s pregnant! Remember nothing’s impossible with God!”

And Luke would go away from his meeting with Mary. Muttering to himself. Looking at his notes. “I’ve seen plenty of births. I know how it happens. Just remember. Nothing’s impossible with God. Nothing’s impossible with God.”

But Mary accepts the angel’s word. Verse 38. “I am the Lord’s servant”. (It’s literally, “Behold, the Lord’s slave”) “May it be to me as you have said” In other words, I’m prepared to go through with this. She trusted God’s word. Hard as it might be to believe.

And she SHOWED that trust by rushing off to visit Elizabeth. Maybe a hundred kilometres away. She wants to be part of her happiness. To share the good things God’s doing for BOTH of them. They’re BOTH having babies. Who would have thought?! An old woman, and a virgin! Look at v39

(Luke 1:39-40 NIV)  At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, {40} where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

But it wasn’t just Mary and Elizabeth who were excited. God was pretty excited too! He makes baby John jump around. And fills Elizabeth too. Verse 41.

(Luke 1:41 NIV)  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Even John was getting into the action. Back in v15 it said John would be filled with the Holy Spirit EVEN FROM HIS MOTHER’S WOMB. It’s God’s Holy Spirit who’s getting excited about Jesus’ arrival! His plans are starting to unfold! He’s making John do somersaults. Because he’s heard Mary’s voice. The one who’s carrying Jesus.

Jesus was the One God had planned from the beginning. The One he was pleased in. God loves his Son. He gets a kick out of seeing him doing what he was destined for. And the greatest plan in history is now at stage two. And God loves it!

Elizabeth too. Elizabeth just gushes. How good God is! Verse 42.

(Luke 1:42-45 NIV)  In a LOUD VOICE she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! {43} But WHY AM I SO FAVORED, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? {44} As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb LEAPED FOR JOY. {45} Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Believe in the God who can do the impossible! That’s Elizabeth’s message. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Nothing’s impossible – Praise God! (46-56)

And Mary joins in. Nothing’s impossible – Praise God! Verse 46.

(Luke 1:46-47 NIV)  And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord {47} and my spirit REJOICES in God my Savior,

Why? Verse 48.

(Luke 1:48-49 NIV)  for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, {49} for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.

True praise of God. Real joy and thanks. Always comes from understanding WHO GOD IS. And WHAT HE’S DONE.

“Look what he’s done. He’s done great things for me. Little old insignificant me.”

“But not just for me. He’s done great things for insignificant people all the way through history. He’s turned the way the world sees things on its head. Look at v50.

(Luke 1:50-55 NIV)  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. {51} He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. {52} He has BROUGHT DOWN RULERS from their thrones BUT HAS LIFTED UP THE HUMBLE. {53} He has FILLED THE HUNGRY with good things but has SENT THE RICH AWAY EMPTY. {54} He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful {55} to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

And this upside-down work of God is one of the big themes in the book of Luke. It’s the way JESUS did things. Jesus loves the outsiders of society. The rejects. The least, the lost and the last.

Women, children, lepers, tax collectors, s.

And it’s this upside-down way of doing things that we celebrate at Christmas. Who would have thought that the way to bring victory. To defeat the enormous power of sin and . To deal with the broken relationship between God and man. Would have come by ETERNAL GOD BECOMING FINITE MAN.

Getting right down into the muck and mess of this world!? Involving himself with an insignificant young virgin in a dusty corner of a tiny country?

Who would have thought that THAT’S THE WAY God would work out the most significant event in history!

But praise God he did! Praise God that he uses insignificant people like you and me! Like Mary and Elizabeth! Praise God that nothing’s impossible with Him.

And this Christmas time, let’s wonder afresh at the greatest gift of all. Jesus, the eternal, infinite Son of God, who put off his rights and power, and took on human flesh, with all its weakness and sickness and brokenness. So that he could WIN us to himself.

And let’s give OURSELVES. In grateful and humble service of our servant king. Let’s follow his example, and give ourselves to those who DON’T deserve it. To those who need the gift of Jesus.

Let’s offer ourselves, like Mary, to the God who uses insignificant people to achieve his incredible purposes. “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said!”

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