Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mid-week Advent 1

December 6, 2017
Luke 1:18-20
 “The Promised Savior”
To Whom Does Jesus Come?

INTRODUCTION:  To whom does Jesus come? Does He come only to those who are rich in faith? Does He come only to those who have everything figured out? Does He come only to those who are secure in their beliefs?  What about the Scrooges of this world? Does Jesus come to them also? These Scrooges…they want to believe. They want to get all caught up in the merriment of this holiday season and yet they are reserved… There are those people who simply haven’t finally gotten a full grasp of the Christmas story. Now don’t get me wrong, they know the story inside and out which might be their downfall. They don’t necessary doubt but they have questions. Could the Savior really be born in Bethlehem, in a stable, to a Virgin?  As we consider the question: to whom does Jesus come we will find that Jesus comes with proof to him who has questions.

Ah yes, there are plenty of questions in the Christmas story. The man we will focus on this night is an old man by the name of Zachariah.

We know a little concerning Zachariah the father of John the Baptist. We know that Zachariah was a priest, whose lot it had fallen to offer up prayers at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Jewish exile into Babylon had interrupted the original lines of descent; so once returning to Israel the divisions were regrouped, most of them corresponding to the original in name only. Each of the twenty-four divisions served in the temple for one week, twice a year, as well as at the major festivals.
An individual priest, however, could offer the incense at the daily sacrifice only once in his lifetime since there were so many priests. Therefore this was the climactic moment of Zechariah's priestly career, perhaps the most dramatic moment possible for the event described to have occurred. God was breaking into the ancient routine of Jewish ritual with the word of His decisive saving act and nobody could believe it!

The suddenness of the appearance of the angel in the Holy Place is in agreement with other supernatural events in the Christmas story. Consider the heavenly host that visited the shepherds. (cf. 2:9, 13).

Only a heavenly being had the right to appear in that place with the priest. Zechariah's startled and fearful reaction is not only a natural reaction to such an appearance but is also consistent with what the Gospels say about the response of the disciples and others to the presence of the supernatural. They are - startled and to say the least - apprehensive at best, - doubtful and the worst.

This is the first indication of prayer on the part of Zechariah. The specific petition probably refers to both his lifelong prayer for a child (probably a son) and his just-offered prayer in the temple for the messianic redemption of Israel. Actually, the birth of his child was bound up with redemption in a way far beyond anything Zechariah expected.

As he prays for a son his prayer will be answered. As he prays for the redemption of Israel through the coming of the promised Savior his prayer will be answered!
That the prayer included a petition for a son is substantiated by the further description of the child, beginning with his name "John" (meaning "The Lord is gracious"). John being named before his birth stresses God's amazing mercy and grace in choosing John to be His servant.

To question does not mean doubt! Mary’s question arises from faith (v.45). Mary simply inquired as to the way God would work; Zechariah questioned the truth of the revelation. Zachariah's question, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18 seems oh so innocent, but  it was asked in doubt. In contrast to Mary's question- - "How can I be sure of this?" apparently was a request for a sign. Though we are told that Zechariah was devout (v.6), his quest for confirmation was perilously close to the attitude described by the skeptics, who in Luke 11:29 are searching for confirmation of Jesus’ ministry but find nothing to their satisfaction. “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”  

In the midst of his skepticism, disbelief, uncertainty and doubt the Lord speaks to Zachariah through the messenger Gabriel. “The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Luke 1:19-20

There you have it! Zachariah is dumbfound by the news and staggers at the very thought that he would be a father in his old age. Thus he will live in silence until the child is born. Yet, the mighty acts of God will be fulfilled in Zachariah’s lifetime. He will have a son, and the promised Savior will be born. John will be His prophet and the holy one of Israel will come to deliver His people. It will happen all as Gabriel had promised.

The Christmas story is just as difficult to imagine as is the birth of John, born to parents well beyond years and yet it all happened as it has been recorded to us in sacred Scripture.

The fact that Zachariah had difficulty believing what his ears were hearing does not mean it is impossible. To the contrary, it reminds us that what is impossible for man is all God’s doing!  If an old couple could cradle in their arms their own son could not God give us His own Son to be conceived of a Virgin, to be born, suffer, be crucified, die and then rise from the dead on the third day?  If you have difficulties grasping the wonder of the Christmas story your in good company with the likes of Zachariah and Thomas and even Peter.   To whom does Jesus come? He comes with proof to him who questions.

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