|Series Theme: Jesus Christ, the Son of God|
|Meditation No. 5|
|Meditation Title: Impossible Message|
Luke 1:31-35 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 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." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 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.
One of the things about the Bible is that it never panders to us; it never eases us gently into spiritual things, giving us easy things to believe first, then deeper things. No, the Bible never apologises for God and blatantly challenges us to believe. You may remember in the second of the studies in this series we looked at Luke and his opening verses where he speaks about having carefully investigated everything for his friend so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
He was, we said, a doctor, an educated man and also a man who had travelled with the apostle Paul and witnessed the mighty works of God through his ministry. This is a very down-to-earth man, who has been collecting the information in this Gospel, and yet a man who has come to realise that God is very real and when God speaks and moves it is very real; what we might call the divinely supernatural is very real. Thus when, presumably, he talks with Mary about her early experiences of Jesus, in what we call the Nativity story, he is not afraid to record details that leave the unbelieving sceptic spluttering. Consider what we have in today's verses.
These verses today come part way through Mary's encounter with an angel. So you haven't encountered an angel? Others have! The angel is a messenger from God. Why didn't God speak to her directly? I don't know. There are many things the Bible doesn't tell us, but it gives us plenty on which to build our faith. There are two things in this passage to particularly look at: first what the angel says about the coming child, and then, second, how he will come.
Before we continue, can I remind you about some of the things we've already thought about in the introductory studies, particularly the matter of the veracity of the writers? When our sceptic challenges both Luke's writing and Mary's version of what happened, we have to ask why ever would they lie? Luke is writing an historical narrative. His credibility before his friend, as an accurate historical researcher, is on the line. For Mary, she is probably passing on this information to Luke at least fifty years after it happened. She's an elderly lady recounting what happened. Have you ever noticed how the elderly can remember things in the distant past far clearer than things that have just happened? She can see it in her mind's eye as if it happened yesterday; it was such a vivid experience. No, these two have no reason to make this up.
So look at the language the angel uses about this child she is going to bear: He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Most High was a designation from the Old Testament that clearly referred to God Himself. Note it is not a son, but the Son. Yet he clearly will be seen to come from the Davidic family and is to be a ruler, but note that he will reign .. forever , and his kingdom will never end. Not only that, the way this child is going to be conceived and born will mean that he will be called the Son of God. Now we may have reservations but Mary hadn't and Luke hadn't. The child she is about to have is no ordinary child. The language that is used about him is not the language used of a prophet. We are not left with that option. Whether we like it or not, the language here is unequivocal, this baby is going to be recognised as the Son of God whatever that might turn out to mean.
In later years the early church would struggle over what this really meant. Was Jesus just a son in the sense of being a very holy man given over to God or was he God in the flesh. It was such a big issue that they struggled with it, even though Scripture was quite clear. It was to challenge those who denied his deity that the early church formulated what we call the Creeds. The Apostles Creed, one of the earliest of creeds simply referred to, Christ Jesus, his only Son. For them he was unique.
Later the Nicene Creed declared, We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God , eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made , of one Being with the Father, which was full of language of oneness in deity.
If you look up the Athanasian Creed, an even later creed, you find this spelled out in even greater detail. The early Church Fathers were sure in their minds that Scripture spoke of a divine Son of God.
But look at the means of this child being conceived, because Mary declares she was a virgin and she's not yet married, and in her culture sex before marriage is forbidden: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Whether you like it on not, the record is quite clear. Mary is going to conceive without the aid of a man. This is going to be a miraculous conception. Matthew similarly picks up this and aligns it with prophetic Scriptures which we will examine at a later date. Mark, recording Peter's emphasis on Jesus' ministry, doesn't bother with the early days. John, writing many years later, is quite clear as to Jesus' divinity as we will see and because Matthew and Luke already covered it, John doesn't bother, but uses ever bigger language to describe Jesus.
You can try to escape the truths of even these early verses by challenging Mary's account and Luke's reporting, but such a challenge says more about you, I'm afraid, than it does about them. Don't be like those liberal theologians of the nineteenth century who denied the possibility of God moving, speaking and acting, and so basically ripped out everything of a miraculous nature from the Bible, not because it was contradictory to itself, but because it contradicted their made-up minds.
If you are willing to be honest in your search of the Scriptural records, but desire to hold onto your denial of Jesus, I have to warn you that you are in for a battering for these accounts, these referrals to the unique Sonship of Jesus, are going to come thick and fast. Contrary to public speculation (and speculators rarely take the trouble to read for themselves) the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament are quite clear in their proclamations about Jesus: He is the Son of God .