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The First Coming of Christ

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

The First Coming of Christ Luke 1:1-25

GOAT. GOAT is a popular word in sports today. No, it is not the animal that eats your sweater. For you sports fans, what does GOAT mean?
GOAT means: Greatest Of All Time. Fans love to debate this.
• Basketball. Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
• Football. Tom Brady?
• Baseball. Babe Ruth?
• Golf. Jack Nicklaus? Tiger Woods?

We are entering into a completely different kind of GOAT season.
The Greatest Event of All Time.
The Greatest Period of All Time
The Greatest Human of All Time. All wrapped into one.

It is the Coming of Jesus Christ to earth. And since he is called the Lamb of God, we should change the acronym GOAT to LAMB.

We are entering into the season when the church for centuries has put a focus on the Advent—the Coming—of Jesus Christ. The word Advent may have many connotations for us, depending on our religious background.
• Some of us have no idea what it’s about.
• Some of us have a church background—like I do—when as a child we heard the word “Advent,” and we lit candles and read Bible verses. But really, we didn’t understand very well.

This month is a time of reflection on the First Coming of Christ. The First Advent. To dwell on what happened. To consider the impact on our lives and on this world. To worship God for all he’s done. To be transformed by the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

Luke 1

Turn to the Gospel of Luke. Chapter 1. We will go through this chapter for the next few weeks.

As you are turning there, I will introduce myself. My name is Brad Barrett, one of the pastors here. I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. My mom took us to church. My dad rarely went… just at Christmas and Easter, so by the time I was a teenager, I was apathetic about anything related to Jesus or church. Part of me assumed that, since my dad rarely went, perhaps God wasn’t someone that men cared about. Just women cared.

Well, that all changed when I was a 19-year old sophomore at Iowa State. I will share that full story at another time. But in short, God awakened my soul on a warm August evening before fall classes began.

Now to our topic this morning. There are Two Advents: his First Coming from heaven to earth. And his Second Coming.

The First Coming has already happened. Jesus Christ descended from heaven, took on humanity, became God Incarnate…. where divine and human became one. Then he lived a sinless life. Died a cruel death. Rose victoriously from the dead into an immortal body. Ascended into heaven literally and bodily.

The Second Coming is in the future. When Jesus Christ returns to earth. Following his ascension into heaven, he will then descend to the earth. And he will rescue all who love him. He will pour out God’s wrath on all who reject him.

This month, we are going to focus on the First Coming.

Luke 1:1–25 (ESV)
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

We just finished a 23-week series on the Gospel of John. At the end of that book, John declares his purpose in writing. Luke here does the same at the beginning of his account. He wanted his friend Theophilus to have certainty of the truths he had already been taught—truths about Jesus Christ.

The Gospels are, in a way, largely about the story of the First Coming of Christ. But the story doesn’t begin when Jesus is born. It actually begins centuries earlier with prophecies in the Old Testament from God about the First Coming of God’s Son. There are prophecies even as far back as the earliest days of creation in Genesis 3. And later through Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and others.

The Gospels focus in on the fulfillment of those many ancient prophecies.

This morning, we will enter the story about a year and a half before Jesus Christ is born. The events we will read about today involve a man named John the Baptist.

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

The year was about 5 or 6 B.C. Jesus was likely born around 4 B.C. The reason the year is not 1 A.D. is because the yearly calendar designation of B.C. and A.D. wasn’t established until the 6th century after Christ.
A monk named Dionysius established this, somehow calculating when Christ was born. Dionysius’s designation became the rule. Centuries later, historians realized he was off about 4 years. So Christ’s birth was likely in 4 B.C. So vs. 5 is about 1-1/2 to 2 years before Jesus was born. Herod the Great was ruling over the Roman territory of Judea.

Zechariah is a Jew from the tribe of Levi. And from the Levites come the priests to Israel. His wife Elizabeth was from the same tribe in Israel.

6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

They were not perfect, for no one is, except God’s Son. But they walked faithfully with the Lord.

7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

They were old and childless. How old? 60? 70? 80? Regardless, the prospect of having children was, humanly speaking, a zero percent chance. Couples their age simply do not have children.
It’s interesting how many times in the OT were couples childless until God intervened.
• Abraham’s wife Sarah.
• Jacob’s wife, Rachel.
• The Prophet Samuel’s mother. And others.
• Now Elizabeth.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

The priests in the temple had varying duties.

10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.

These were faith-filled Jews who gathered to pray while sacrifices were being offered.

11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.

How often when angels appear in the Bible men and women are afraid. The angels apparently are so intimidating that fear is the natural reaction.

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

An angel sent from heaven puts some glorious weight on all these events. The angel gives some astonishing, miraculous news.
First, even in their old, old age, Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to have a son. Their prayers for a child will be answered in an amazing way.
Second, this son is going to be very, very special. He will be great in the sight of God. He will even be filled with the Spirit while in Elizabeth’s womb. John was to be given by God a phenomenal role: the role of prophet, introducing the imminent Coming of the long-awaited Messiah.

So John was going to be one of the greatest prophets of God. We could say he is the “GOAT Prophet”? 

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

Not unlike many, many other people in the NT, Zechariah does not believe this miracle can happen. He and his wife prayed for a child, probably for years. But it seems they had stopped praying. They knew that, barring a miracle, they could not have a son now. They were too old. Their bodies simply wouldn’t allow it.

The angel tells him the miracle is about to happen. But Zechariah doesn’t believe him. With a doubting tone, he asks, “How shall I know this will happen? I’m old. My wife is old.”

So the Lord chastises Zechariah. For the next nine months or so, he is going to be unable to speak.

21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple.
22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.
23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying,
25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

The miracle happens. Elizabeth is now pregnant. One of God’s greatest prophets is going to be born.

We are climbing the mountain to the top of the greatest period in history.

The world will never be the same.

This prophet, John, will be God’s spokesman to announce to the world that the Lord is doing something new. Something radically new.
• God’s own Son is going to enter into the world.
• If anyone believed that God was distant and didn’t intervene in world affairs, that person would be rebuked.
• Heaven was descending on the earth.
• In less than 35 years from this moment, the Son of the Living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, is going to be brutally murdered but then miraculously raised from the dead.
All of this is God’s eternal plan, happening just as he planned it.

What Now?
So far, we have read only a tiny portion of the whole story. In that portion are some remarkable details. God is sending a prophet who will announce his Son. The sending of this prophet is through some miraculous and heaven-sent events. An angel appears. An old couple is going to have a baby. The doubting father-to-be is struck mute for nine months.

On the one hand, these events are monumental. The course of human history is about to change.

On the other hand, these events drew such little fanfare. One old Jewish priest is visited by an angel. A very small number of people know about it. Perhaps a few hundred or a few thousand hear firsthand about it. And considering the 10’s or 100’s of million people on the earth, this is an extraordinarily obscure event.

These events led to the greatest period of human history. It’s all pointing to the life, death, and resurrection of the King of kings who came to die and be resurrected. And so rescue sinners, ushering them into eternity and glory.

So then how does/should all this impact us?
With the truth of the First Coming of Christ before us, what should we do? How should we think? How ought this to change our lives?

I want to offer two things this morning. These two things are not directly about John the Baptist, but it’s about what John the Baptist pointed to. He came to point the people to the Messiah.

And really, that is always our point. For we are not John the Baptist followers. We are Christ followers.

So the first way this story of John and the First Coming of Christ can impact us is this:
God is very active and near
God is very, very active in our world. He is not distant. He is not disinterested. He is not without power.
You and I need never doubt his care and love and power.

Late this last summer, my wife and I were going through some additional health challenges. And honestly I was not handling it well. I was growing frustrated. Discouraged. Feeling overwhelmed. And I didn’t understand why.
I was beginning dialogue with my family and my fellow pastors. And I realized something was going on inside my heart.

So one day I was reading a very good book that many of us are reading this fall. Called “Gospel Fluency.” In Chapter 9, the author wrote four simple questions about examining what we truly believe about God and who we are in relationship to God. So one afternoon, I took those four questions. And in the course of just a few minutes, I wrote out my answers to those questions. [Here on this paper.]

The Holy Spirit used those few minutes with those four questions to open my eyes. In brief, I realized I was angry at God. Because of our difficult circumstances, I was believing that God was distant, not near. That he was inattentive. Uncaring. That he was ignoring our prayers.

That’s what I wrote down as an expression of my heart.

When I realized that, the Spirit pointed me back to what is really true about God, and I repented of my unbelief.

I realized… the Lord is near. Very near. And the Lord is not inactive or inattentive. He has proven all this by the sending of his Son.
This verse says it well.
Romans 8:32 ESV “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
By remembering the Greatest Event and the Greatest Person of all time, and what he has done and is doing for me, I could be at peace. I could have hope. I could find encouragement and strength.

Those few minutes I spent searching through my heart and through the truth of who God really is completely re-oriented my life just a few months ago.

This simple story of John the Baptist, pointing us the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ proves that God is very near and very active in this world and in our lives. We must believe this.

A second way the First Coming of Christ can impact us is this:
Every good thing we have is “in Christ”
For everyone who believes in Christ, they have the riches of heaven “IN HIM.”

This past week we started a simple approach to reading the Bible. With our leaders. We call it the “Twenty Passage Challenge.” It’s a very simple plan:
FIRST: Choose twenty of your favorite passages. Write them down. Begin reading them and studying them one at a time. Learn from that passage. Believe it. Obey it. Rejoice in it.
SECOND, pass them on to other people: your spouse. Children. Life Group friends. A co-worker. A neighbor.

The first passage in my list of Twenty Passages is Ephesians chapter 1. And a major theme of that chapter focuses on spiritual blessings…spiritual, heavenly goodness we have IN CHRIST. Through him. Because of him.

Here’s a partial list from Ephesians 1:
“Every spiritual blessing IN CHRIST…
…chosen… holy… blameless… predestined to be adopted… blessed… redeemed… forgiven… lavished with grace… obtained an inheritance… sealed with the Holy Spirit…”
This is a taste of what Jesus Christ and God the Father accomplished in the First Coming. In THIS we celebrate. In THIS we glory. In THIS we are transformed.

And all this had its beginnings in Luke 1, and this obscure but powerful, heavenly day with an old man, an old woman, an angel named Gabriel, and a son to be named John.

This is the outcome of his Coming. The fruit. The benefit. And the glory. We are the recipients of his Coming.

God has blessed us “IN CHRIST.”