The Improbable, Impossible, and Incredible

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December 17, 2017

Luke 1:26-38

Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Sermon Title: The Improbable, Impossible, and Incredible

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-38

Memory Verse: For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

MAIN IDEA: Believe Jesus is the Son of the Most High, born of a virgin.


NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.


Truth is sometimes Improbable, Impossible, and Incredible

Nobody likes fake news. Everybody wants the truth.

Imagine we are journalists and we come across news that will radically change society. Anybody with that kind of news has the responsibility to share the news with others. If we have the news, we will endeavor to be very thorough in presenting the information. We will talk with eyewitnesses. We will organize the information in chronological order. We will double-check the facts and allow the facts to speak for themselves.

We don’t want to embellish the story with our opinion. We don’t want people to believe the information because we sound convincing; we want them to believe because it is true. We don’t want to stretch the truth to work in our favor. Good news for all of mankind is too important for us to twist or manipulate. Some details may not sound good, but they are true nevertheless. Sometimes the truth is outrageous, but we must tell it like it is. It is important for all people to know the truth.

Luke the Evangelist knows good news and he sets out to write an account of this good news, gospel, to Theophilus. Listen to how the Gospel of Luke begins:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

Luke investigates and publishes a complete account of the birth, life, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Luke has thorough and strong evidence of the great news and Luke wants Theophilus, and every else who will listen, to have full assurance of faith in everything he knows about Jesus Christ his Savior and Lord.

During this Christmas season, we will look at the collection of facts Luke gathers regarding the birth of Jesus. We will look at the account Luke writes which is from Mary’s perspective. We are encouraged to read the entire narrative during this Christmas season. It is a truly wonderful recording of history which provides hope and encouragement for all people.

What is striking about Luke’s narrative is how he presents the facts. He does not try to change the facts, even though they are outrageous and sound like a fantasy. He states the truth with no apologies.

In Luke’s account of the Bible that we are looking at today, we find the truth to be improbable, impossible, and incredible.

The Improbable One

What is improbable about Luke’s account is the selection of Mary. Luke is not with Mary when Gabriel tells her that she is the one who will give birth to the Christ child. Luke visits Mary after the ascension of Jesus and asks her what happened. With pen in hand, Luke records what Mary tells him.

Luke asks Mary about her and Josephs lineage. Mary tells Luke that the story begins with a visit from the angel Gabriel. She is living in Nazareth and is espoused (engaged) to Joseph. The angel visits, as Mary later finds out, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s, Mary’s cousin's pregnancy of John the Baptist.

Mary tells Luke that the angel Gabriel came in and said to her:

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  (Luke 1:28)

Why is she being visited by an angel of the Lord God? The greeting from Gabriel sounds very strange to Mary and she tells Luke, “What type of greeting is this?” and that she is completely perplexed.

“Am I a favored one? Who am I that God favors me? What does he mean that the Lord is with me? I am of no importance to justify such a greeting. I am a woman. How is it that God is telling me, a woman, words of such noble and wonderful meaning? I have no special gifting or talent. I do not serve in the temple. I go about my day like any normal Jewish young woman. I am not part of the political elite. I have no stature in the community. I am a young woman of no significance.”

“It is improbable that I am favored because of Joseph. Joseph is not a man of any significance. He is a carpenter, not a Rabbi or priest. He is a common man who chooses me, a common woman.”

It is improbable I am favored because of where I live. I live in Nazareth, not Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Zion. Nazareth is no Zion. Nazareth is where the Roman troops have their quarters. No one wants to live in despised Nazareth because of the heavy Roman occupation. All Jews know that nothing good may come from Nazareth (John 1:46).”

Incidentally, it’s not until after the ascension of Jesus that people, like Matthew, understand the prophetic connection of Nazareth with Jesus (Mat. 2:23) It is the most improbable place for God to work.

Will God favor Mary? Not likely, she is an improbable choice because she is of no significance. She is an improbable choice because she is espoused to an insignificant man and she lives in a despised place. The selection of Mary as the mother of Jesus is an improbable choice.

The Impossible Birth

The narrative moves from the improbable to the impossible. Luke’s account already seems unbelievable. An angel knocks on a door in Nazareth and tells a young woman of no consequence that she is favored by God.

After the greeting, the angel Gabriel announces the impossible birth:

30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:30-35)

Mary is a virgin. And the angel tells her she is going to conceive and bear a son. Ladies, imagine if you have never been with a man and an angel knocks on your door and says you will conceive. And, you don’t even get to pick the child’s name.

Imagine Luke looking at Mary and asking, “What did you say, Mary?” She looks at Luke and says, “I asked him what any person says in that situation. I asked, ‘How can this be since I am a virgin?’”

Luke responds, “Good question, Mary. Hold on a minute; let me write this down.” Afterward, Luke asks, “What did he say? How does a virgin conceive?”

Mary says, “The Gabriel told me that the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow me, and for that reason, my holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

We can picture Mary and Luke just staring at one another in complete amazement. God performs a miracle. The impossible becomes possible when God is in control.

As we look at the Bible, we see this is God’s plan. God tells His people that He will give them a sign. Seven hundred years before Jesus is born, the prophet Isaiah writes:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Immanuel means God with us.

God tells His people, I will let you know I am at work and that I am the One who redeems you because I will give you a sign. It will be an obvious sign. The sign will be that a virgin will give birth. You will know I, the Lord, am working in your midst because the only way a virgin may give birth is if I perform a miracle.

Jesus is a holy child born of the Holy Spirit. He is God with us; God the Son.

Mary then tells Luke about how the angel Gabriel tells her another piece of impossible news

And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.  (Luke 1:36)

Luke already tells us about Elizabeth earlier in chapter one because Luke is telling us the account in chronological order. (Perhaps he visits her and her husband after he talks with Mary. We don’t know.) Elizabeth became pregnant late in life. She is already known as being barren; which means she is unable to have children (Luke 1:7). Elizabeth becomes pregnant when she is “advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). Advanced in years may mean anything from late middle-age to old age. She is past child-bearing age. Her pregnancy is another impossibility.

It’s as if the angel Gabriel tells Mary to believe her impossible conception is possible because Elizabeth’s impossible conception is made possible. All Mary needs to do is visit Elizabeth and see for herself, which she does.

Mary then tells Luke Gabriel’s closing words:

For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

The improbable Mary has an impossible birth because, with God, all things are possible.

The Incredible Son

Luke’s narrative of what is improbable and impossible now tells of what is incredible. He tells Mary of how she will give birth to an incredible Son who she will call Jesus.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

The angel Gabriel, coming directly from God’s throne, tells Mary that Jesus will be great. He will be great according to God’s standard. The Greek word is megas, which means He will be exceedingly mighty. Jesus will be incomparably great.

Jesus is the Son of the Most High. He is not like any son ever born in the past or like any son born in the future. Jesus alone is the Son of the Most High God. No other son on earth claims this title. Jesus is God the Son.

As God the Son, Jesus is King of kings. God gives Jesus the throne of David. At the time this is written, there is no king in Jerusalem. This news sounds incredible to Mary. Her Son will sit on David’s throne.

One thousand years before Jesus is born, God promises David that his throne will have a King who will come after him. God repeats His promise with the prophecy of Isaiah; given 700 years before Jesus’ birth. Isaiah writes:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Gabriel tells us about this King Jesus. Unlike other kings, Jesus’ will forever sit upon the throne. How many kings reign forever? Kings come and go. Not Jesus. Once Jesus is on the throne of David, Jesus remains for eternity.

Jesus’ kingdom will have no end. Again, this is another incredible claim. How many kings have no end to their kingdom? Every king in the history of the world has a limit to the time and place of their rule. God sets kings up and brings kings down and God assigns every king a specific territory. When God gives the kingdom to Jesus, God gives a kingdom which stretches across every inch of the universe. Jesus’ kingdom stretches across the east and west and the north and the south.

Truly this is incredible. Jesus is God the Son. And, Jesus is given a throne over a kingdom which reigns forever, throughout eternity, and there is no end to His kingdom.

Imagine Theophilus reading this account from Luke. His heart for Jesus expands. He wonders about Mary being chosen as a virgin to be the mother of Jesus. He thinks of Jesus as the Son of God. His mind goes into overdrive as he contemplates the expanse and the eternal nature of the kingdom of Jesus.

What about us? Are we overwhelmed with what Luke is saying? Are we embracing this account that he is proclaiming to be the truthful facts about the birth of Jesus?  How are we to think?


Let us realize how we are to think about these words in the bible.

1-Believe the truth.

We need to believe this is the truth. The main idea of the message this morning is this:

MAIN IDEA: Believe Jesus is the Son of the Most High, born of a virgin.

The Bible is reliable and trustworthy. Archaeological finds and history both prove the bible to be true. Every word of the Bible is true. Without faith, without believing, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). God is not pleased with any person who does not believe any part of the bible to be true. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin.

It is necessary Jesus is born of a virgin because of Adam’s sin nature. (Read Romans 5!)

The followers of Jesus all believe the account of Jesus’ birth to be true. When faced with the penalty of death, the disciples of Jesus will rather die than say the bible is a lie. To be a Christian means no less than being willing to die proclaiming that this is true. We may trust these words with our life.

2-Believe nothing is impossible with God.

The Bible is filled with impossible miracles. It begins with telling us that God creates the world in six days. God creates Adam from the dust of the earth. God parts the Red Sea and allows His people to pass through on dry land. Throughout the entire Bible, we read accounts of God doing the impossible.

Jesus life is filled with accomplishing the impossible because He is God. Jesus tells a storm to stop, walks on water, heals the blind and the lame, and feeds thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a handful of fish.

God does the impossible when He raises Jesus from the dead. And, most importantly, God does what is impossible with us. God gives us complete forgiveness and life everlasting when we believe the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins.

3-Let the truth speak with no apologies.

Luke makes no apologies for the truth of God. He plainly states Jesus is born of a virgin and expects his readers to believe it to be true. Luke doesn’t try and say, “Well, I know this is hard to believe, so, maybe you just need to believe Jesus is born.” Luke presents the facts of Scripture and lets the truth be known.

We don’t need to defend God or bend the truth to make what sounds impossible, possible. The truth is profound, and the truth is the truth. Let’s have confidence in speaking the truth. Luke has confidence in the truth of God’s word to change the life of his readers. We need to have the same confidence in the word of God. Let the word of God convict and convert.

4-Find a Theophilus.

Luke tells others the truth. He thinks of people he knows who he needs to tell and tells them. We need to find our Theophilus. Who in our life may we tell the good news? The truth is too important and too wonderful to keep to ourselves. (song: This little Light of Mine) We may not put the light of the truth under a basket. We need to shout it from the housetops. As the Christmas song says, “Go shout it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.”

5-Be a bondslave

We need to have the humble attitude of Mary. Look at the last verse:

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

She knows her rightful place before the Lord. She is the Lord’s slave. Her attitude is that whatever God wants to do in her life, He may do. It is her attitude which God finds favorable.

We are to say, “What do you want to do with my life God? Do whatever you see fit. You want me to tell others about Jesus? I am your slave. You want me to serve in Your kingdom? I am your slave.”

It is one thing to say we believe. It is a completely different matter to say we believe and to be willing to live our life accordingly. We are bond slaves of God. God is a good Master. His command is for the good of the slave.

We have much to learn from these words in the Bible. May God give us the grace and faith to believe and to act upon our belief.

MAIN IDEA: Believe Jesus is the Son of the Most High, born of a virgin.