“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
“And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”” (Luke 1:18 ESV)
Luke 1:34 ¶ And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
How would you react if you had just been informed that you were going to be a part of a miracle?
The world likes to look at Christmas time as a season for miracles. Not Biblical miracles mind you, but the kind of miracles that makes for good made for tv movies. Miracles like a family gets stranded in a dying out of the way town and they rally the town to put on a Christmas show and miraculously bring back the Christmas spirit and of course as they all start to sing it begins to snow!
But that’s not the kind of miracle we’re talking about here. The kind of miracle we’re talking about here is a supernatural miracle that only the power of God could pull off.
In Luke chapter one the news comes from heaven that two babies are going to be born. Both babies are in varying degrees miracle babies.
The first birth announcement comes to an elderly couple. He is a priest who served in the temple. As he is performing his duties an angel from heaven appears to him and tells him that he and his wife are going to have a baby. The reason I say this is a “miracle baby” is because of the reaction of Zechariah. Notice how he responded to the angels announcement. “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” In other words he says, angel are you sure you have the right guy? Me and the Misses are are the shadowy side of the mountain. There’s snow on the roof and very little fire left in the furnace, are you sure you’ve got the right couple Mr. Angel?
When the angel informed him that he was going to be a part of a miracle Zechariah responded with unbelief. What I find interesting about this is that he is “man of God”, he is a priest, whose life was dedicated to serving the Lord. If anyone could accept that God was going to do something out of the ordinary it should have been one whose life was spent in active service to the Lord.
Zechariah was a priest, he was from one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel, God’s chosen people. Their history was full of God acting in miraculous way on behalf of his people. He probably had a pretty good working knowledge of the story of Abraham and Sara. That should have been a clue that the angel knew what he was talking about. Then there were the plagues that God unleashed on Egypt. Water in blood, flies, frogs, and all those locusts. Did the Red Sea ring a bell? Yet despite who he was, and what he did, and what he knew he still responded with unbelief.
But before we are quick to condemn Zechariah let’s examine our own lives, most of us in this room are active Christians, we all would claim that our faith is important to us, yet how many times do we respond with unbelief. We too are part of God’s chosen people, we too are very aware of the many times that God miraculously intervened on behalf of his people. we have been given God’s word filled with His promises and still we react with unbelief.
When the angel delivered the news that Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to have a baby, Zechariah responded with a question, his question arose because of his physical condition. He said, I’m old, she’s old, the children train has left the station and it ain’t coming back!
What was the source of Zachariah’s unbelief? What was the cause of his unbelief? Very simply his unbelief arose because he was looking to himself and his capabilities rather than looking to God and what He was capable of.
There are several lessons to be learned from the encounter between Zechariah and the angel. One of those lessons is that God is not pleased with unbelief.
Let me illustrate this from the text. Let’s read verse 20
The first birth announcement comes to an elderly couple.
It’s like the angel said, or God said, you’re mouth has really got you into trouble this time! God was not pleased when one who has every reason to believe Him chooses not to believe him.
In Mark 9 we have the account of a Father who has a son who is being possessed by an evil spirit. And he comes to Jesus for help. Mark recounts the story for us.
“And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”” (Mark 9:17–23 ESV)
Notice what the Father said to Jesus “But if you can do anything…” What is that? It is an expression of doubt, it is an expression of unbelief. How did Jesus respond to his unbelief? “And Jesus said to him, “If you can! – What do you mean if I can of course I can! I’m the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! I’m your Creator! I’m all powerful, I can do anything what do you mean if I can! Of course I can and he did!
The lesson for us is we need to be careful about our response to the Word of God. The proper response should always be belief and trust in what God has revealed to us in His Word.
But what about the announcement of the second birth? An even more miraculous birth than the birth of John the Baptist. How did Mary respond to when the angel told her she was going to give birth?
She too responded with a question, and her question was also connected with her physical condition.
Her question wasn’t a random one, her question came from what the angel had told her. Her question was provoked by the information she received in light of her current condition. The angel says you are with child, i.e. you’re pregnant and because she knew she was a virgin she said how will this be since I am a virgin?
She wasn’t being rebellious or defiant she was being honest because her current condition didn’t match what the angel was saying. Her response was not an expression of unbelief. How do we know that? Let’s look at how she responded.
“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since am a virgin?”*
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:34–38 ESV)
Mary’s response was not one of unbelief, it was one of humble submission to and trust in the Word of God. She said “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Do you think she completely understood what the angel was saying to her? I doubt it, yet she did not let her lack of complete understanding of keep her from believing what God had said to her.
I asked myself if my reaction would have been different from Mary’s? How have I responded to the Word of God when I read something that God says will happen to me, even though it doesn’t match my current condition?
Such as that one day I will be conformed to the image of Christ. That certainly doesn’t describe my current condition but God says that is what you’re going to be one day. Do I really believe that? If I believe that am I acting now and living now as if I believe it?
More often than not I react with unbelief. I may not verbally say that I don’t believe it, but my actions reveal that I really don’t believe what I’ve read.
What about Paul’s words in Romans 8 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37 ESV)
Notice that Paul says “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”. Present tense, we are more than conquerors! And then I go around feeling defeated, and worse yet acting defeated. My unbelief leads me to act in ways that are inconsistent with who I really am. Is that pleasing to God?
What was going to happen to Mary, was going to happen not because of what she had to do or was going to do, no it all depended upon what God was going to do. That is simply another way of saying that God is sovereign, and because God is sovereign, His will will always be accomplished even when we don’t see how it is even possible!
Mary’s faith, her belief was not rooted in her physical capabilities, her faith, her belief was rooted in God’s ability. This is just an aside but her belief was demonstrated by her submission to the Word of God. Remember she said “let it be unto me according to your word.”
Mary’s question was based upon what she knew to be true about herself, it wasn’t a question of unbelief. Mary knew that she was a virgin, she knew that in her current condition it was physically impossible for her to give birth to a baby. Again her faith, her belief was not rooted in herself, it was rooted in God and in his abilities.
GET READY FOR A MIRACLE
Mary was about to experience the power of God in a way that she had never experienced before. It wasn’t going to be terribly convenient for her, or Joseph.
This is a pattern throughout the Scriptures.
- Shadrach, Mesach, and Abendego, experienced Gods saving power, but they experienced it in the middle of the flames!
- Daniel experienced Gods power in a unique way but only in the midst of the lions den.
- David experienced Gods power but he had to first confront Goliath
- Noah experienced Gods saving power but he had to endure forty days and forty nights of rain
- Peter experienced Gods power but he had to be locked in a jail cell first
- Samson experienced Gods power but he had to bring the house down on himself
- The children of Israel escaped from clutches of the Egyptian army but they had to go through the Red Sea
Perhaps a lesson for us to learn is that when we pray to experience God’s power in our lives we had better be prepared to find ourselves in less than ideal situations. Because it is in these times when things are beyond our ability that we need to experience God’s power in ways we have never experienced it before.
OUR LIMITATIONS = GOD’S OPPORTUNITY
Let me also point out that our physical condition, our physical limitations does not and indeed cannot keep God from accomplishing His plan and purposes.
Our condition is not a limiting factor in Gods ability. Now let me draw a distinction at this point. We can remove ourselves from under the blessing of God if we engage in unrepentant sin. But nothing can keep God from accomplishing His plans and His purposes.
Do we have examples in the Scriptures where our limitations provided God with the opportunity to bring glory to Himself? How about these?
Earlier I mention Abraham and Sarah. Now Luke doesn’t tell us how old Zechariah and Elizabeth were, but we do know old Abraham and Sarah were. By any human standard Abraham and Sarah were way too old to have a child but she did. Why because God said she would. Their limitations were not a problem for God.
Remember Gideon of the fleece? He used the wet fleece and the dry fleece to make sure the what he was hearing was really from the Lord. What did God want him to do? God wanted Gideon to go up against the Midianites who were Israel’s current oppressors. Gideon with good reason wanted as many men as he could get. He started with 32,000 men, then then God whittled that number to 10,000. But that was still to many for God. So 10,000 became 300! Think about this, God is asking Gideon and only 300 men to go into battle against the Midianites and their entire army. Now I couldn’t find a specific number for the size of their army, but it must have been significant. The whole point of this story was to demonstrate just how powerful God is. When God defeated the Midianites with such a small force who would get the glory? God would. Our physical limitations always provides God with an opportunity for God to display his power.
Think about those who couldn’t walk, or talk, or see, or hear. That was their physical limitation. Yet we read when the lame, the blind, the deaf and the mute would come to Jesus they left walking, talking, seeing and hearing. Why because our physical limitations can never keep God from working in us, or through us. Our limitations are opportunities for God to work.
The Christmas season provides us with the opportunity to evaluate our level of belief. Who would you best identify with? Zechariah who couldn’t see how they could have a baby because of their age? Are you one who looks at your physical limitations and says no way God can use me?
Or would you best identify with Mary? Who also had some questions, questions which came about because of her physical condition. Yet she humbly submitted to God’s Word despite her lack of understanding. Her trust overcame her lack of knowledge.
Who are you a Zechariah, or a Mary?[/sws_author_bio_ui]