Study # 1
Thesis: Our expectations should be realistically balanced.
Introduction: As we have been witnesses once again to what happens when this time of the year comes around, one of the things we see is imbalance. Merchants offer 'special deals' to get customers in their doors which are in incredible contrast to our expectations (TV sets for 99 cents; DVD players for $30). Extravagant displays of Christmas lighting are deliberately designed to shock our vision. Crime, during the season of 'Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men', increases markedly and, if we are a victim, we are left stunned at the enormity of the contrast. And, TV specials heap up the sugar coating of the warm and fuzzies about how Christmas causes men to be generous, kind, and good so that our expectations set us up for great disappointment when family gatherings degenerate into screaming fights on Christmas day. The key word here is: imbalance. Even the Scriptures are often used to generate a false sense of imbalance. We are told, by some, that God is an Omnipotent Sugar Daddy that will do anything we ask -- as long as we ask in faith -- because God doesn't want any of His children to be sick or poor. We are told, by others, that if we will just "trust in Jesus" our lives will level out in a regular experience of "abundant life" that translates into an effective denial of the internal war that rages between the Flesh and the Spirit. And so it goes, both without and within, we are confronted by false expectations in the process of real living. When Luke wrote to Theophilus, he was well aware of just how easily a person could get a false impression that would inevitably lead to false expectations that could easily produce a disastrous crash of confidence when the experiences of real-time living catch up with those impressions and expectations. He was, after all, writing about the coming of God's Messianic Savior within a context of a huge imbalance of expectations in the theology of Israel -- and he was writing so that his reader could know 'the exact truth' -- the balanced reality that exists in God, but doesn't seem to have much of an echo in the hearts and minds of men who are given to extravagance in both pride and despair. This morning, as it has simply come about as a happy coincidence of study and season, we are going to begin a study of the first coming of God's Messianic Savior. It is interesting to see how Luke threaded his way through the pitfalls of false expectations in order to give Theophilus a way to achieve balance in his own expectations. And, therefore, we will seek, this morning, to give ourselves a sense of balance--both for the season of the year as well as for the process of living year around.
December 21, 2003
- I. Luke's Description of the Preliminary Events.
- A. His focus: God's commission to Gabriel to take the message of a crucial part of the Messianic Hope to a least expected audience.
- 1. One the one hand, the issue of the Messianic Hope is clearly involved because of the identification of Joseph as an heir of the House of David.
- a. This is the exact terminology of the record of God's commitment to David in 2 Samuel 7.
- 1) In that setting, God, addressing the fears of David's private heart, told him that He would "make thee a house" that would dominate an eternal kingdom (7:11 and 7:16)
- 2) In that setting, God told David that, though the processes of death would continue in their normal way, He would establish David's offspring as the source of all of the rulers who would sit upon his throne.
- 3) In that setting, David, whose name means "beloved" is given a bright promise of the significance of what it means to be loved by God [Note 2 Samuel 7:8-11 and 2 Samuel 12:7-8].
- b. The reference to Joseph as an heir of the House of David clearly brings the Messianic Hope into the picture -- David's throne is going to be occupied by David's seed once again and the occupation will endure throughout the ages in righteousness, peace, and joy.
- 2. On the other hand, the issue of a least-expected audience is clearly involved because of the identification of all of the other identities in the text.
- a. First, God sent Gabriel to Galilee.
- 1) This place is called "Galilee of the Gentiles" in Matthew 4:15.
- 2) It was looked upon as the "last place on the earth" as far as Israel's interests were concerned as Luke 23:5 reveals.
- b. Second, God sent Gabriel to Nazareth.
- 1) This place is derided as a place from which no good thing could come in John 1:46.
- 2) The derision came out of inter-Galilean competition: a resident of Bethsaida in "the last place on the earth" derides Nazareth as "the last place in the last place".
- c. Third, God sent Gabriel to an unmarried virgin.
- 1) The virgin was only espoused to an heir of David's house; she was not married to him, nor was she carrying his seed within her.
- 2) The virginity of the woman is repeated so that there is no doubt that she cannot be pregnant [this is not a comment on her 'purity' as those of the unbalanced theology of 'the virgin Mary' as the 'Mother of God' would have us believe; it is a comment on the impossibility of her being pregnant].
- d. Fourth, God sent Gabriel to an unmarried virgin whose name meant "rebellious".
- 1) This name hearkens all the way back to Moses' sister who was smitten with leprosy in Numbers 12:1-15 and was used as a negative example in Deuteronomy 24:9 because she aspired to be one of the great ones among the people. [There is an echo here of the outworking of Elizabeth's pre-occupation with status in the eyes of men.]
- 2) The name generates a false sense of someone who aspires to greatness in regard to the virgin, whose pregnancy is going to be looked upon by many as exactly such an aspiration [the very idea that an unmarried, pregnant girl should claim that 'God did it' will be taken by many as simply the manifestation of a desire to be great in the eyes of men].
- II. Luke's Message to Theophilus.
- A. Beware of projecting the foolishness of men upon God.
- 1. It is men who chase the crown, not the cross.
- 2. It is men who, if they ever do come to embrace the cross, only do so because it is a way to the crown.
- 3. It is men who denigrate their neighbors and their help-mates as "lesser than me."
- B. Beware of falling into false expectations because of the glitter of false glory.
- 1. It is ironic that Jesus was going to be known as Jesus ben Joseph in a national setting of Messianic fervor that, though it has a Messiah ben Joseph, focused upon Messiah ben Judah.
- 2. The "glory" of God's Kingdom is the opportunity to spend one's life doing what others want and need, with the greater "glory" meaning one has more "others" whose lives are filled with needs and desires.
- C. Begin to develop realistic expectations that accept God's mind and heart as the ultimate governor of reality.