I have been to Israel 45 times, and every time my spiritual life has been enriched. I recently took a video cameraman with me and had him shoot on the fly as I led a pilgrimage group through the land. We began in Tel Aviv, and went from there to Tiberias in the north, and then back to Jerusalem.
I'll continue to share some of the sermons I presented from that trip with you. As I do so, I think you'll come to understand why a person once wrote, "A pilgrimage to the Holy Land converts the Bible from black and white into Technicolor."
My fourth message was presented in the town where Jesus grew up — Nazareth — at the Church of the Annunciation. There we will consider the necessity of the Virgin Birth and the evidence that supports it.
The Angelic Proclamation
Turn over to Luke 1. We're going to focus on that chapter right now. I'm going to make two points in this chapter.
The first point has to do with what Gabriel had to say to Mary. Luke 1 beginning with verse 26 says, "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth." In the sixth month of what? Well, if you go back up to verse 24 it says that Elizabeth the aged wife of Zacharias the priest had become pregnant in her old age. So, this is in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Now, we do not know for sure how Mary was related to Elizabeth. Some have argued that they were cousins, but because of Elizabeth's advanced aged she was probably Mary's aunt. Anyway, they were kinsmen. So in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy Gabriel, the angel of God, was sent to the city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
This comes to the second point which is very important. We often think of Mary as a mature woman, but she was not. Mary was probably only 14 years old, which was the age of betrothal in those days. Joseph was probably much older than her. In fact, many think he was a very elderly man who died shortly after their marriage, but we don't know if that's true or not. Mary was a young woman, a girl, and likely only 14 years old. For that reason, I think that we need to put more emphasis on her maturity. The Protestant world has never emphasized Mary because the Catholic's have put so much emphasis on her as a glorified person and so have gone to the opposite extreme. Mary is a wonderful role model for teenage girls today.
Mary grew up in an Orthodox home. We know from what is read in the Bible that she knew the Scriptures by heart and was a person of great faith. She was a person who believed with all of her heart in God and believed in the promise of a Messiah.
We read in Luke 1 that she was betrothed to a man named Joseph. That means she was married. However, the marriage had not yet been consummated. Betrothal was considered the beginning of the marriage in those days.
It goes on, "And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" Verse 29 continues, "But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."
The Eight Promises
On to the most important part of Gabriel's message to Mary, which are the eight promises that he gave to Mary. One, you will conceive in your womb. Two, you will bring forth a son. Three, you will call His name Yeshua, the salvation of God. Four, He will be great. Five, He will be called the Son of the Highest, which means He is going to be God in the flesh. Sixth, the Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David. Seven, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. And eight, of His kingdom there will be no end.
Verse 34, "Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?'"
Mary may have been 14, but she knew how babies were conceived. This was evidence that she truly was a virgin. She says basically, "Hey, how can this happen as I've never known a man?"
"And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.'" Gabriel told her she was going to give birth to the Messiah, God in the flesh.
Gabriel tells her, "Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."
Look at what Mary says in response, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. That was a great statement of courage on her part. She knew the Law. She knew that if she became pregnant before the wedding ceremony that she could be divorced by her husband. She knew that she could even be put to death by stoning, and yet she said, "Let the Lord's will be done." This was a girl of incredible faith!
Let's stop here for a moment and go back to those promises.
- Number one, you will conceive in your womb. Fulfilled.
- Number two, you will bring forth a son. Fulfilled.
- Number three, you shall call his name Yeshua. Fulfilled.
- Number four, He will be great. Jesus is the greatest man who ever lived, after all, we measure history from his birth. Fulfilled.
- Number five, He will be called the Son of the Highest and be God in the flesh. That's exactly what has happened. Fulfilled.
The Forgotten Promises
That's only five of the promises. The last three I call the "Forgotten Promises of Christmas," because at Christmas we focus on these five and forget about the last three.
The last three promises are unfulfilled prophecies. Look at what it says in Luke 1:32-33: "...the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end"
Those three promises are unfilled, for after all, Jesus has never reigned from the throne of David. Never! The throne of David Psalm 121 tells us is in Jerusalem. Revelation 3 says that Jesus is currently sitting on His Father's throne. He says in Revelation, "Just as I have the privilege of sitting next to my Father on His throne. When I return I will give to all believers an opportunity to sit next to me on my throne." Jesus' throne is the throne of David. That means every one of us in our glorified bodies are going to have our day, our opportunity, to sit next to Jesus Christ on His throne as we reign with Him. So, Jesus is not on the throne of David. He is on the throne of God at His right hand right now. And so, that that promise has yet to be fulfilled.
The seventh promise says, "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever." Jesus has never reigned over the house of Jacob, which means the Jewish people. That reign will begin with the Millennial Reign when He will start reigning over the Jewish people.
Those who do not believe this, spiritualize these last three promises. They say, "They don't mean what they mean or what they say. The throne of David is where Jesus is now. The house of Jacob is the Church." The Bible never refers to the Church as the House of Jacob. That's called spiritualization, which is defined as making the Scripture mean anything you want it to mean.
The eighth and the last promise declares, "His kingdom will have no end." When Jesus begins ruling during the Millennial Kingdom, there will never be an ending to it. It will start and go on for a thousand years, but it will continue to go on into the eternal stage on the New Earth. Jesus will continue to reign forever and ever and ever. That particular Millennial Kingdom, the kingdom Jesus promised when He first came, that has not yet been established. That kingdom is yet future. It will become real when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming.
I don't think it makes any sense at all to say that the first five promises meant what they said, but the last three do not mean what they say. I think they all mean what they say.
In the second and last part of this sermon from the Holy Land given at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, we'll go through the evidences for the Virgin Birth.