Ten days ago, I became an uncle. After a long and complicated labor, my sister in California gave birth to a baby girl. I talked to my sister when she got out of the hospital and she was gushing over her new baby. She said, "She looks just like her father... only cute." And it's true. Last night we saw the baby on video, and sure enough, she's got her father's features. Every day, all over the world, babies are born with their father's features.
And sometimes we grow into it. Every day, I look in the mirror and see more and more of my father looking back at me. Today, as we continue on in our study in the gospel of Luke, we're going to see the birth of two babies, each of them bearing a remarkable resemblance to their fathers.
As we've seen, Zacharias said it like it was (when he could talk). When Gabriel appeared to him in the temple and said he would have a son, Zacharias said, "Hey - I'm an old man. My wife's an old woman. How are you gonna pull this one off?" Today we'll see more of that quality in him - saying it like it is. And we're also going to see in chapter three that his son John grows up to be just like him - pulling no punches, saying it like it is.
Now the other baby we'll see born today, Jesus, also grew up to be just like His Father. He said in John 15:
John 5:19 ...Whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
Of course His step-father Joseph was a carpenter, and Jesus grew up to be one too. But He really grew up to be much more like His real Father - God Himself. We'll spend much of our studies in Luke watching Him be just like Dad.
Now let's jump in where we left off last week. Mary has just spent 3 months with the pregnant senior citizen Elizabeth, and has just gone back home. Now, picking up the story in Luke 1:57
(v. 59) In Jewish culture, baby boys were both circumcised and named on the 8th day. Why is that? Because when the covenant of circumcision was given to Abram in Genesis 17, the Lord said:
Gen. 17:5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations."
When Abram was circumcised, he got a new name. In following that lead, boys were given their names at the time of circumcision.
Just picture this scene: A great big bunch of neighbors and relatives all crowded together saying, "Oh, you've gotta name him after his father - call him Zacharias. But Elizabeth says "No dice - His name is John." "Well then, we'll just ask his father!" Zacharias waves his hands - "Give me something to write with"... "His name is John."
Now I love this. He knew what the Lord wanted - he knew what he'd been told, but he couldn't speak. I think of Moses, when God called him up to the burning bush and said, "Mo, I'm putting together a new ministry, and I'm making you the head of it. I'm sending you to the people of Israel... you're going to be the guy to tell them the good news. And go to Pharaoh, 'cause you've got to give him the bad news." But Moses said,
Exod. 4:10 "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
"Can't you get someone else to tell them? I'm not good at that." The Bible says that the anger of the Lord burned against Moses for wimping out. But Zacharias doesn't wimp out, drop out, or cop-out. "Hey, I know what God's told me. And if I can't speak, so what? Give me something to write with! If I can't talk, give me some chalk!"
Now the Lord has told us:
Mark 16:15 "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
But how many of us have taken the way of Moses? "But I can't talk... I'm not good at that... I get too nervous..."
Can you write a letter to your unsaved Mom or Dad telling them what Jesus has done for you? Can you send a postcard to your lost sister-in-law with the message of the gospel? "I can't talk" is no excuse. Zacharias knew what he had been told, and he knew what he was supposed to say. And since he couldn't talk, he found another way to make it clear.
Now the neat thing is when you actually do it. When you actually sit down, write the letter, and mail it off. You know what? You'll discover that something amazing and supernatural happens. When was Zacharias' tongue loosed? When he became bold enough to proclaim the word of the Lord in writing. Suddenly, he was able to speak, and he proclaimed the Lord even more boldly to everyone that was there. If you're faithful to write that letter, or send that note, you will find your tongue supernaturally loosed to proclaim the gospel of God to everyone around you.
Zacharias now bursts into song. His song is the interpretation of the name John. This baby boy is going to have a ministry. A ministry of preparing people for the Lord. The crowd had been saying "Name him Zacharias", a name which means "God remembers". But his parents said "His name is John", which means "God's grace".
There are two ways that we can preach to the world - Two messages we can bring. The first is "Zacharias" - God remembers. "You are a sinner and God's got every one of 'em written down in a book and He won't forget where He wrote it and one day you're going to die and they'll look in that book and see what a terrible person you were and push you over the edge right in to hell where you'll burn up forever!"
The second message is: "John" - God's grace. "You know what? We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And the Bible says that the wages of sin is death. But the good news is that we can be saved from that judgment by God's grace - He paid the penalty of death Himself by dying on a cross for your sin. Won't you accept that gift by faith and be saved?"
The choice is yours - which name will you give your message - Zacharias or John? God remembers, or God's grace?
So apparently, Joseph didn't call their 800 number to book a room in advance...
Luke 2:7 ...There was no room for them in the inn.
That breaks my heart every time I read this line. And Jesus didn't have to deal with this just once. How many billions of times has Jesus knocked on the door of men's hearts, only to have them turn Him away - "Sorry Bud, no vacancy. I've got no room for You in my heart." John writes in his gospel that:
John 1:10-11 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
If you've been telling Jesus, "Sorry, no vacancy. There's no room for you in my life", then look again. I'm sure you can work something out.
Now 650 years before Mary was pregnant, Micah the prophet wrote:
Micah 5:2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity."
Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. But how? Mary and Joseph were living in Galilee - about 45 miles away. God has a purpose to accomplish, and he's gotta get them moved quick. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Caesar Augustus gets a great idea... "Let's take a census of the entire Roman Empire! And let's make everyone go to their hometown to register!" What can we learn from this? That God can use the unrighteous to accomplish his purposes. Proverbs 21 says:
Prov. 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Maybe you don't like the way our country is being run. Maybe you don't like what's happening in our city. Maybe you don't like the way your boss at work has chosen to do things. Have you ever stopped and thought that no matter how unrighteous and inconvenient it is, that God is using it to accomplish His purpose for you?
You see, Joseph submitted, even though the census was unrighteous and inconvenient. He could've refused, or looked for a way out. "Hey, my wife's 8 1/2 months pregnant, and my hometown is 45 miles away! Give me an absentee ballot or something!" But Paul the Apostle said,
Rom. 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Let's learn to be people that take God at His Word. That every authority over us is put there by God Himself, to accomplish His purpose in our lives.
We talked last week about the divisions in the church concerning Mary's identity. By some she is deified, by others she is despised. There is also contention about her perpetual virginity - that after giving birth to Jesus, she remained a virgin for the rest of her life. But notice in verse 7, that it says Mary...
Luke 2:7 ..gave birth to her first-born son...
Contrary to the teaching of some people and some churches, Mary was not a perpetual virgin. She later had at least 6 other children with Joseph. For when Jesus began to preach and perform miracles in his hometown the people murmured:
Mark 6:3 "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?"
Mary is not made less blessed because she had other children. It makes her more human.
Besides, this morning the question isn't really "Who is Mary?" The question is "Who is Jesus?" This baby boy born to a virgin that grew up and performed many miracles and taught with amazing authority. "Who is Jesus?"
This is the most important question you can ask yourself this morning. Jesus questioned his disciples, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" And the disciples said, "Well, some think that you're this guy, and others think you're this guy, and..." Okay, whatever. It doesn't matter what other people say.
Matt. 16:15-17 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."
This morning, Jesus is asking everyone in this room, "Who do you say that I am?" If you're a Christian today, you might have the answer in your head, but is it being acted out in your life? Are you really living like you have the Christ, the Son of the living God living inside of you?
If you're not a Christian, then who do you say Jesus is? You can't be neutral to the question, for Jesus said:
Matt. 12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me...
The Bible says that Jesus is the only one who can forgive your sins. The only one with your ticket to heaven. And you can get that forgiveness, get that ticket absolutely free for the asking.