Jesus is the Son of Man
Birth of John the Baptist
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 1. As usual, if you do not have a Bible or do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back or see me after the service so that we can get one to you.
We are picking back up in our series through the Gospel of Luke. We are in going through Luke’s Gospel verse by verse and I expect that we will be spending the next few years here in this book. This is sermon number 5 in our series, and we are just now finishing up the first chapter and Jesus is yet to be born.
Luke’s purpose of writing this book is that we may believe what we have heard. That our faith in Jesus Christ can be rooted in reality be set on a firm foundation. Luke would not have wanted us to have a blind, unthinking faith, just believing what someone else tells us. But faith in something real. Jesus was a real person, a real, historical person. Our faith is in Him. Hebrews 11:1, the author writes: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Luke’s pattern so far in the first chapter looks a little bit like this. First was the prophecy, the announcement of the coming birth of John the Baptist. Then that is paralleled with the prophecy, the announcement of the coming birth of Jesus Christ. After that announcement, Mary sings a song of praise. Today, we will see the birth of John the Baptist and then we will see Zechariah sing a song of praise. Coming up in Chapter 2, we see the parallels continue with the birth of Jesus and the Angels sing a song of praise as well. Luke is very organized and very methodical in his writing as we see here.
Now, Elizabeth was miraculously pregnant by God. Her young cousin, Mary was now miraculously pregnant by God. Mary went to visit Liz and stayed with her the last three months of Liz’s pregnancy. We pick up the story with Liz now due at any time.
Let’s go ahead and read the first part of this morning’s scriptures. We will be looking at it in two sections. Over all, we will look at Luke 1, chapters 57 through 80. The first chunk we will read and look at is verses 57 through 66. That’s what we will read first. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along, reading the very words of God.
Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes:
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.
After an incredible 9 months, 9 months that Liz had likely come to expect that she would never experience, she gives birth and gives birth to a son! This was a specific answer to prophecy, as Gabriel told Zechariah that he would have a son, back in verse 13.
Now, especially in a small town, a birth is not something that you can easily keep quite. I remember when Malachi was born, it was not even the end of the day and the midwives were still with Hope, I ran down to the Bangor store to get some Ice. I get there and the one behind the counter already knew that Hope had given birth! News travels fast in a small town.
The same thing happened here. Once Elizabeth gave birth, E’er body in town knew. Now, some speculate, based on the reaction of the town and verse 24, where Elizabeth kept herself hidden for some of the months, that no body actually knew that Elizabeth was pregnant until she gave birth. They say this would explain the celebration and rejoicing that went on.
Either way, the neighbors heard about the birth and they came and gave Glory to God. They celebrated with Liz and Zechariah. They recognized the hand of God at work in this situation. This is again, a specific answer to prophecy. Back in verse 14, Gabriel told Zechariah, And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. And many did.
On the eighth day, they were circumcising John as was both the custom and in accordance with the law handed down to Moses, originally instituted with Abraham all the way back in Genesis 17. This was every family in every town for thousands of years. This is, however, the first biblical evidence for naming a child on the eighth day. However, this does read as if it was a normal custom at this point in time.
As was also the custom, everybody expected the baby boy to be named after his father, Zechariah. Elizabeth was adamant that he would not be named Zechariah, that he would be named John. John means “Gift of God.” One of the things we see there is that one of two things happened during Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Either Elizabeth also got direct revelation from God regarding the name of the son, or Zechariah was able to communicate somehow, someway with her to tell her that his name would be John.
Now, the friends and family didn’t understand this. Custom was that the firstborn son would be named after the father. If a son wasn’t named after his father, he would be named after another member of the family. John was neither his fathers name, nor a family name.
So, since Elizabeth wasn’t listening to common sense, the friends and family appealed to Zechariah himself. Now Zechariah was a priest, so he was educated. Whoever was preforming the circumcision would have been educated. Elizabeth may have been educated, if Zechariah was able to write to her during the pregnancy. SO, he wrote to this group of educated people, who knew how to read and write, he wrote to them, “John is his name.”
Zechariah believed God, believed the angel, Gabriel, and he acted on it. He believed what Gabriel had told him those 9 or so months ago and though he didn’t show faith at that point, he did now. His faith produced obedience. That’s the way it works, not the other way around.
Our obedience does not produce faith. I saw a great way of saying it yesterday, it said; Do not make a savior of your morality. Obedience is a fruit, not a root. The thing is, we cant obey God until we believe in him. We cannot obey God until we trust in Jesus. Back to Hebrews, Hebrews 11:6 reads: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Zechariah lacked faith when Gabriel told him what was going to happen. For that lack of faith, he was struck mute for the entirety of the pregnancy plus an unexpected 8 days until the circumcision. Then he showed his faith, it produced obedience in what he would name his son, which went against all the traditions and customs. This obedience, birthed from faith was what ended his muteness.
All of a sudden, his tongue was loosed. He was able to speak and Zechariah immediately praised and blessed God. He will see the details of this in the next chunk of verses, verses 68-80. Zechariahs punishment, his muteness, left him with time to reflect, to focus and time to think about God and His Goodness and His Greatness. It did him a great spiritual good. It humbled him and allowed to grow closer to God than he had been before.
And maybe, just maybe… that was the point.
Maybe, just maybe… that’s the point when we are going through stuff. Maybe God is trying to give us the time and the opportunity to allow us to reflect, to repent, to grow in our faith and to praise and bless him.
The neighbors saw all that was going on. Event after event. Detail after detail. They saw that God was at work. They saw the hand of God in these events. God was at work in a way that no one could have expected. They were struck with fear and awe and reverence.
The circumstances around the birth, Zechariahs muteness, John being spirit filled in the womb. They knew there was something strange, something different about this boy.
God called John for a purpose. John was not called to be Zechariah JR. He was not called to be his cousin Jesus. He was not called to be anyone else but John. You and I are called by God for a purpose.
We are called to be us. We are not called to be Daniel. We are not called to be John the Baptist. Dave is not called to be Mike. Mike is not called to be Jim. Jim is not called to be me. I am not called to be Dave. We are called by God to be who he created us to be.
I am not called not be Billy Graham. I am not called to be RC Sproul. I am not called to be John MacArthur. I am called to be none other than Casey Holencik. I am not called to pastor to the world. I am not called to pastor RC Sproul’s church. I am not called to pastor John MacArthur’s church. I am called to pastor Bangor Community Church, and God willing, this is where I will be until God calls me home.
IF we spend time trying to be someone else, we waste time not being who God called us to be. We need to be careful we don’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. And we need to be carful not to compare those around us to others.
John was called to be the forerunner, to pave the way for the messiah. The people didn’t necessarily know this yet, but they knew he was called by God for some very special purposes.
From here we are going to read the song of praise that came out of Zechariahs mouth when he was unmuted. So next we will read verses 67-80.
Recorded by Luke, we read:
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Zechariah had been silent for over 9 months and here we see the first words out of his mouth and they were worth the wait.
He starts with praising and blessing God and look at some of the things he says here. Many prophecies speak of things to happen in the future, but speak in past tense. This is no different.
Zechariah says that God has visited and Redeemed his people. He is a personal God. Jesus Christ, God become man, came down from heaven, to be born a man. This is the incarnation. We are going to see coming up in chapter 2 the birth of Christ take place.
And he came to Redeem his people. He saved his people by what’s called the Great Exchange. He exchanges our sins, takes them on himself, pays the penalty. He takes the wrath of God upon himself and in exchange, he gives us his perfect righteousness.
Like Mary’s song, Zechariah appeals to, alludes to and references the Old Testament throughout his song. He references the Davidic Covenant, saying that salvation is through the house of David. He saw how Jesus fulfilled that through his lineage.
HE will be the horn of salvation. The horn, we saw a little bit in the visions of Daniel, are a symbol of strength. Jesus is that horn here. One commentator says that the Horn, Jesus is where “all the power of God is focused.”
We see a lot of Old Testament Warrior language here too. We will be saved from our enemies. This is the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised to deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Then, that looked like nations and militaries. Here is what we know that does not mean, It does not mean that there will be not defeats, no giving in to temptation, no hard times. Zechariah just spent 9 plus months muted. There will be hard times.
But we know that in the end, the very end, Revelation 19 shows us that God does indeed finally and completely defeat and deliver us from our physical, earthly enemies. But even more important, we see the same promise but in New Testament Language.
Jesus is King and we are his bondservants. He has come to save us form our enemy, the enemy which causes death. The wages of sin are death. Sin is that enemy. HE has delivered us from the enemy with the Great exchange. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us about him defeating the final enemy; death.
Zechariah switches subjects of song from God to his son, John. He would be a prophet of the Most High. He was going to change the peoples understanding of salvation. The common understanding at the time was what was referenced in the Abrahamic Covenant. Israel was looking for a military savior. They were looking for a political savior. They were looking for any type of savior except a spiritual savior.
Many American Christians today, with their words, affirm looking for a spiritual savior. But with the very same mouth, their words and their actions show that they are indeed still looking for a military or a political savior. We see this especially during this next month more than ever, but in reality, it never stops.
John is here to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and he is to pave the way for the Messiah, his Cousin, Jesus. Preaching repentance is one of the ways that he does that. John reminds the people of Israel that their sins are a big deal and repentance is required. Jesus comes along and shows that through that repentance, grace is abounding.
But that was Jesus ministry. John was not responsible for Jesus ministry; he was responsible for his own. Each of us, we are responsible for what God has called us to do. We are not responsible for what God has called others to do. This is related to what we were saying earlier. We are responsible for our own obedience.
But, our ministries, our responsibilities, our calling supports, influences and paves the way for others and their ministries, responsibilities and calling. Just like theirs does for ours.
John is going to give the knowledge of salvation to the people. He is going to help people start to understand the Gospel. As one commentator points out, this is not “theoretical knowledge, but personal knowledge of the inward experience of salvation as the result of a divine gift.”
John was to show the people the knowledge of salvation, Gods Mercy. He was to show that light was starting to break through the darkness of the last 400 years in Israel. John was going to be a guide for the path that leads to Jesus.
Amazing words out of the mouth from a man who had been silent for over nine months. We finish off seeing a temporary end to Johns story. John grew in both physical strength and in spirit until it was time to start his public ministry and he would come out of the wilderness preaching repentance, forgiveness and salvation. This is a reminder that we need to prepare, we need to study, we need to be an active part in what God has called us to do.
Lastly, I want to read from Philip Graham Ryken as he lays out salvation and most importantly, the last bit about Gods purpose for it.
This was Zechariahs Song- a song of salvation. Now everything he promised has been fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the salvation that comes from God. God had to intervene. Unless he sent his Son to be our Savior, we never could have been saved. We needed someone to live a perfect life and die an atoning death in our place. This was the promised salvation, and it was a mighty deliverance, as salvation always is. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ have delivered us from sin, death, and Satan. We are no longer enslaved by our selfishness but are free to give our lives away in service to others. This is why God has saved us: he has given us grace so that we can live for his glory.