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John's Birth

Luke’s Nativity

Nov 29, 2020


by: Jack Lash Series: Luke’s Nativity | Category: Advent | Scripture: Luke 1:56–1:66

I. Introduction
A. This is episode five out of ten.
B. The story before this:
1. An angel appeared to an elderly priest named Zechariah to tell him that he and his barren wife Elizabeth were going to have a son who would be the promised forerunner of the Lord, and that his name would be John. (Luke 1:5-25)
2. Six months later, the angel appeared to a young woman named Mary, telling her that she would give birth to the son of God, to be named Jesus, and that her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant in her old age. (Luke 1:26-38)
3. Mary then hurried to Elizabeth’s house, where the two expectant mothers shared sweet and remarkable fellowship together. (Luke 1:39-55)
C. Luke 1:56–66 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. 57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
II. Luke 1:56-57 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. 57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.
A. Mary had arrived in Elizabeth’s sixth month, and then stayed three months. This means Mary departed in the ninth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, when Elizabeth was just about to give birth.
B. There was an important family event taking place, and Elizabeth’s ability to continue her sweet fellowship with Mary would soon be impossible as her time would be consumed with the baby.
C. So, Mary left, and shortly thereafter, the old, barren Elizabeth gave birth to her son.
III. Luke 1:58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
A. It seems from v.59-60 & 66 that Zechariah and Elizabeth had not informed their friends about what the angel had said.
1. Maybe the angel instructed them not to.
2. Maybe they didn’t want to come across as bragging.
3. Maybe they were afraid of their reaction.
4. But it does seem like they kept it to themselves.
B. It’s even possible that Elizabeth didn’t tell anyone about her pregnancy till the baby was born. She spent the first five months in isolation (Luke 1:24), then she spent three months with Mary.
1. And Zechariah couldn’t spread the news very well, for the angel had stopped his tongue.
C. It’s also possible that the friends and relatives heard it but didn’t believe it till they saw it.
D. But now their neighbors and relatives rejoiced with them.
E. Her life suddenly turned from reproach to celebrity. The ignored one became the center of attention.
1. Remember that Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in the hill country of Judea, a very rural area. Apparently they didn’t even live in a town or village. They lived, as we say, out in the middle of nowhere. So, there weren’t many people around. So, their neighbors and relatives were a small and very known group of folks.
2. And it seems like the ones who are rejoicing with her now were the same ones who were reproaching her all those years of her barrenness.
F. It’s amazing how fickle people are. It reminds me of Jesus and the triumphal entry.
1. The same people who reproached Elizabeth now joined in celebrating her, just as the same people who heralded Jesus with Hosannas on Palm Sunday cried, “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday.
2. We get carried away by the group. We celebrate together, and we reproach together.
3. But before the parties and the celebrations, only Zechariah held Elizabeth in high esteem.
4. These folks showed up for the naming party, but where were they when it looked like nothing was happening? Where were they when Elizabeth’s soul wept alone?
G. And yet, during those days, Elizabeth had the Lord as her refuge. That’s why, when she got pregnant, she spent five months with the Lord in isolation.
IV. Luke 1:59-61 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.”
A. We have our gender-reveal parties, and our baby showers. They had naming ceremonies, where friends and relatives would gather on the eighth day of a boy’s life to be present at his circumcision and hear the parents announce his name. And so, they all gathered on the eighth day.
B. But, some families are very opinionated, and very willing to state their opinion on everything.
1. And it seems like these folks were like that.
2. They were quick to tell Elizabeth what they thought when she couldn’t have a baby (Luke 1:25), and now they tell her what she should name her baby with the same opinionated assertiveness.
C. But Elizabeth had learned to not pay attention to these voices. Instead, she listened to the one Voice which mattered.
1. This is the only way Elizabeth survived all those years of being rejected and reproached for her barrenness.
2. And so, she does it again. She is not cowed by their opinions or their pressure to name the child after her husband Zechariah. The angel said the child’s name should be John, and that’s what his name was going to be, no matter what everybody else said or thought.
V. Luke 1:62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called.
A. This may sound innocent, but do you see what an insult this was to Elizabeth? Even after she had told them that they were naming the baby John, they went to Zechariah. They didn’t believe her.
B. She hadn’t told them that her preference was to name the baby John. She said, “He shall be called John.” What kind of person would she be to say that without her husband being in agreement?
C. But they wanted to hear it for themselves. They wanted to appeal to the man of the house, perhaps hoping he would cave in to their pressure.
D. But Zechariah had made a mistake regarding what the angel told him once, he wasn’t about to do it again. So...
VI. Luke 1:63a he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.”
A. Not, “I think his name should be John,” or “I would prefer John,” but “His name is John.”
B. There are no capital letters in Hebrew, but if there were, I think he would have written this in caps.
VII. Luke 1:63b-64 And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his (Zechariah’s) mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
A. I love this. Finally, these people are silenced.
1. Finally, they have something to think about instead of all their opinions.
B. But not only did they wonder. Fear came upon them (v.65).
1. Like Job, they put their my hands over their mouths (Job 40:4–5).
C. Their tongues are finally silenced and Zechariah’s tongue is finally loosed.
D. What is the first thing done with his newly freed tongue? He praises God.
1. In nine months of not being able to speak he goes from doubting God to praising Him.
E. Do you see why God disciplines us?
1. Our doubting needs to be silenced. Our demanding needs to be silenced. Our jadedness needs to be silenced. Our grumblings need to be silenced. Our bragging needs to be silenced. Our critiques of everybody else need to be silenced. Our arrogant opinions need to be silenced. Our scoffing needs to be silenced. Our harshness needs to be silenced. Our defensiveness needs to be silenced.
2. – (Is it possible that the reason the whole world has to wear masks right now is because God is tired of what comes out of our mouths?)
3. And our speech needs to be turned away from ourselves and unto Him. Our talk needs to be turned to praise.
F. What’s beautiful is not what we’re like when we get lifted from the miry clay. What’s beautiful is what we’re like at the end of the process, when He’s sanctified us, and cleansed us by the washing of the word, when He has prepared us to be presented to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or blemish (Eph.5:26–27).
1. The stone is not beautiful when the sculptor first begins; it is beautiful after he’s done lots of chiseling.
G. And how does that happen? Well, the process is often not very pretty. It means going through hard things, it means seeing our own weaknesses, it means failing, it means being driven to pray because there’s nothing else we can do.
H. In Zechariah we have a man who has been changed by God’s discipline, a man who has benefitted from 9 months of silence.
I. How much better off we are when we “do not despise the chastening of the LORD...”!
VIII. Luke 1:65-66 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
A. What a beautiful scene! Here God finally has them all just where He wants them: fearing God, talking about what He’s doing, pondering the things of the Lord, wondering about who this child was upon whom the Lord’s hand so clearly rested.
B. Oh, that our conversations might be centered around the great things God has done and is doing!
1. You will able to tell that we are spiritually mature when the thing we want to talk about more than anything else in our everyday conversations is what God has done and is doing.
2. You will able to tell that we are spiritually mature when we are eager to get together because we want to talk about the Lord and what He’s doing in our lives.
IX. Conclusion
A. This is a story about vindication, divine discipline, and sanctification.
B. It’s also a story about who God calls, who He uses.
1. In the gospels of Mark and John we see how immensely important it was that Jesus came into the world. But in Matthew and Luke we see that it’s also important HOW Jesus came into the world.
2. Why is this important? It tells us things about Him: who He is, what He’s like, how He works, who He’s looking for.
3. These are not stories about kings and queens, or about geniuses and celebrities, or about emperors and world-changers.
4. These are stories about ordinary people, in the midst of life’s joys and difficulties.
5. Mary is a country girl who has just become a woman and gotten engaged.
6. Elizabeth is an old woman who lives in the hills and who’s never been able to bear children.
7. They were distantly related, but they became forever bonded by their participation in the story of the Savior’s coming.
8. If you or I had been writing a story, we would have chosen neither one to be in it. But God did.
9. It’s not the celebrities and the stand-outs that Jesus notices. It’s the ordinary people living ordinary lives. Those are the people He wants in His story with Him.
10. And if someone doesn’t want to be in the story with old women and country girls and shepherds, then the story of Jesus isn’t the story for them. They’re too high up to be in Jesus’ story.
11. The story of Jesus coming into people’s lives is still continuing today. And all the chaos and the conflict and the confusion of our world do not tarnish what He’s doing at all.
12. The Lord is gathering His elect to Himself, sometimes one by one, sometimes many at a time.
13. But every one of them is precious to Him; every one is someone He has chosen for Himself from before the creation of the world.
14. And not only has He chosen them for Himself, but He has chosen them for one another.
C. And this is also a story about fellowship, about comradery.
1. Next week we are going to study Zechariah’s prophecy when God finally opens the old priest’s mouth to speak. But this morning, we say good-bye to Elizabeth.
a. I really love Elizabeth. And I believe Luke loves Elizabeth, and the HS who inspired him.
b. And I love that too.
c. And I love the bond between Mary and Elizabeth.
2. Can I end with a little bit of speculation?
a. There is a question of where Luke got his material to write these chapters of his gospel. Much of this material could have only come from Mary. Who else knew what the angel said to her? Or what Elizabeth said to her? Or what Simeon said to her? Joseph seems to have died long before Luke was in the picture, so it wasn’t him.
b. But when could Luke have gotten this information from Mary? Well, the best possibility is that after Paul’s third missionary journey, he returned to bring the offering to the poor in Jerusalem. Luke was accompanying him. While he was there, Paul was arrested and held in prison for over two years in Caesarea (Acts 24:22-27). What did Luke do for the two years Paul was in prison? I’m sure he visited Paul a lot. But he was right there in Judea, not far from where Mary lived, assuming she was still alive. It was the perfect opportunity to interview her for the gospel he was writing.
c. But that’s not the end of the story. Some of the Luke 1-2 material must have come from Elizabeth. For instance, the material which occurred after Mary had returned home, like the story we read this morning. How did Luke get this material?
(1) Well, the thing which makes the most sense is that Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship didn’t end when John&Jesus were born, that they visited & enjoyed fellowship after their two sons were born.
(2) We don’t know this for sure, but it makes more sense than any other possibility, it seems to me.