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The First Person to Worship Jesus

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Luke 1:39‑45

The First Person to Worship Jesus

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!

I

n the near future we are quite likely to witness a return to ancient attitudes toward new-born children.  To the Roman mind, life did not begin until the father of a child accepted the child.  In judicial language, the child was not a person until accepted by the father.  A nurse would bring the new-born child to the father and attempt to lay the infant on the father’s lap.  If the father received the child, it would be allowed to live.  If the father spread his legs so as to allow the child to fall to the floor, the child was not accepted.  Children were disposable.

In Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth, children were frequently cast onto the garbage heaps or thrown onto the side of the roads.  There, the infants might be eaten by roaming dogs, die of exposure, or be taken in by charlatans of the vilest, most despicable character.  Castaway children thus “rescued” might have their legs broken or suffer cruel bodily deformation at the hands of their “rescuers”.  Such severely crippled children would be more effective beggars throughout their toddler and childhood years.  Their deformities would tug at the heartstrings of compassionate donors who felt guilty at their own good fortune.  Their short lives would serve only to enrich their benefactors!

Those who anticipated Messiah’s birth considered the unborn to be human — potentially and actually.  The people of the Book were conversant with the mind of God.  Throughout the Old Covenant are those verses which speak eloquently of the individuality of the unborn.  God affirmed the personhood of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

[Jeremiah 1:5]

Surely, despite having primary application to the Messiah, the Word of the Lord recorded in Isaiah 49:1,5 has relevance to this issue.

Before I was born the LORD called me;

from my birth he has made mention of my name…

And now the LORD says —

he who formed me in the womb to be his servant.

Among the powerful statements of the person of the unborn are those which occur in Psalm 139:13-16.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

Strong and definitive though the verses cited might be for Christ’s people, for us who are called by the Name of the Son of God, stronger still is the response of the first person to worship Jesus.  Though worshipped by angels, the unborn John was the first person to worship the Lord Jesus, and his mother, Elizabeth, was the first to lend her voice to praise of the Saviour.  These were the first in a never-ending multitude to worship Christ the Lord.  Join me, together with John, in worship of the Son of God.

The Reason for Jesus’ Advent — Why should it be necessary for the Son of God to be born?  Why was it necessary that He become man?  Wouldn’t it have done for Him to stand in His unveiled glory and accomplish His will?  Such questions are legitimate and deserve an answer.  For over two thousand years people have debated the purpose of Jesus’ birth, and the answers always lead us back to the Word of God.  There, within the Word, are found the answers to our questions concerning the Son of God.

Jesus once stood in unveiled glory, and those nearest Him were unable to stand before Him.  You will recall that it was as he was praying that the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning [Luke 9:29].  The Apostles (Peter, James and John) were startled out of their sleep and shortly found themselves facedown on the ground.  Had Jesus appeared in unveiled glory, everyone would have fallen at His feet in obeisance before Him.  It is a sorrowful fact, however, that merely falling at the feet of the Saviour is not worship of the Saviour.  There is a day when

every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

[Philippians 2:10,11]

It is an awful fact that either we worship the Son of God as our Saviour now, or we bow before Him as our Judge one awesome day.

How awesome is that scene which John saw and which he described.  Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”  [Revelation 6:15-17].  That misplaced prayer, the falling at the thought of His judgement, is but a harbinger of what is coming, for all the lost must one day appear before His Great White Throne.

As I prepared the message, I read again Revelation 20:11-15.  I saw something I had never noted before.  Listen to the Word of God.  Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.  Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the book of life.  The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  The lake of fire is the second death.  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.  Notice that death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  No one steps into hell.  No one willingly leaps into hell.  At the last, all bravado is missing, and sinners are flung into eternal separation.  How frightful that thought!

We forget that Jesus was born to provide the means to redeem fallen creation.  He came to provide atonement for sin.  Here is a question to challenge your conscience.  “Are you a sinner because you sin?”  Or “Do you sin because you are a sinner?”  Without question we sin because we are sinners.  In other words, what we are dictates our behaviour.  Since we know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], it must follow that man is inherently sinful.  If he is to please God and if he is to enjoy sweet communion with God, God Himself must provide a means to put away man’s sin … sin which is an integral part of man.

We know that without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness [cf. Hebrews 9:22].  Those who were knowledgeable of the prophecies of Messiah’s birth were familiar with Isaiah’s words.  You have no doubt read his prophecy in the 53rd chapter of his prophecy.  Jewish scholars had read and still could not understand what was said.  Notice especially verses four through six.

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Again, take special note of verses ten through twelve.

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the LORD makes his

life a guilt offering,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,

he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous

servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors

[Isaiah 53:4-6,10-12]

Over seven hundred fifty years before His birth, the purpose of Messiah’s advent was prophesied to be that He should provide His life as a guilt offering.  His soul would suffer, but through that suffering He would justify many by bearing their iniquities while making intercession for them as transgressors.  Though the angels would sing of peace on earth, it was a peace which would be purchased at the cost of sacrifice by that babe.

It is vital that we remind ourselves that Jesus was born to die.  How awesome, how frightening, must the words of Simeon have seemed to Joseph and Mary!  This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too [Luke 2:34,35].  With the coming of the Son of God, the purchase of redemption was set in motion; but the purchase price was the life of that child.  God must taste death to redeem fallen man.  This babe, Jesus, by the grace of God must taste death for everyone [Hebrews 2:9].  I caution you lest the gaiety of the season obscure the solemnity of His advent, for the Son of God came to give His life as a ransom for many [Matthew 20:28].  If He does not present Himself as a sacrifice, His coming is futile.

Have you thought of this?  If Jesus did not present His life as a sacrifice, we have no reason to worship Him.  If He did not bear our sin and take upon Himself our wickedness, our iniquity, our transgression, our sin … we are still under condemnation and we have no reason to worship Him.  Though He was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead [Romans 1:4], there would have been no resurrection without His death.  Without His death and without His resurrection, why worship Him?  If He did not take our sin upon Himself and bear them away, why worship Him?  If He has not provided atonement, why worship Him?  He was divinely appointed to bear away our sin and purify for Himself a people, and by faith in Him we are that people.

The Reaction to Jesus’ Advent — All the world is divided into two groups — saints and ain’ts.  Either an individual is submitted to the reign of God’s Messiah in his life, or an individual is in rebellion against the Lord God of Heaven and earth.  Those who looked to God to fulfil His prophetic Word through the presentation of His Messiah were prepared to worship at Messiah’s advent.  Those who thought themselves sufficient to provide for their own life despised His coming.  Either one is prepared to worship the Son of God now, or that one is determined that he would slay Him if he could.

For a moment, think of the world into which God sent His Son.  The Apostle John wrote of that darkened world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him [John 1:10,11].  There is a reason for this studied ignorance of the Messiah by the world.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed [John 3:19,20].

John’s words present the most astounding thought.  Very God became man, and man did not recognise Him.  Their failure to recognise Him was deliberate, however.  Very God shone His glory on the soul of fallen mankind, and men rejected His light because they loved darkness.  Like rodents and insects, fallen mankind has become so accustomed to the murky blackness of darkened lives that they resent the light of life.  Knowing that they are wrapped in chains of their own lusts they resent even the threat of exposure of their bondage.  The pain resulting from exposure of their pitiful condition is feared more than is the thought of judgement.  Thus they choose to die in their sin rather than face their own slavery.

This week past I received a phone call from a man, a Mr. Wismer who lives here in Jasper.  He had received a tract on his door and he thought he was phoning late enough that he would receive the answering machine at the church.  Instead, he was able to speak with me.  He was obviously taken aback by a live answering machine, but he quickly recovered his sense of presence and delivered his message.

He said he is an atheist.  I told him I was sorry to hear that.  He was taken aback but recovered quickly and continued by saying that the message of the tract offended him.  Because he was offended by its message he wanted to be taken off our delivery list.  I told him I was sorry that he was embarrassed and I would take his concern under advisement.  There was, however, no delivery list and I would try to be sensitive to him.  He was a perfect example of fallen mankind, however.  If he says there is no God, then for him there is no God.  He perfectly exemplifies the Psalmist’s assessment of such a one: the fool says in his heart “No God!” [Psalm 14:1].  Living undisturbed in darkness, he resents the light reminding him that he is a fool.

No one is truly neutral concerning the Son of God.  Either people hate Him, or they worship Him.  Scholars ignored His advent, though they knew not only the time He would appear but also the place of His appearance.  Nobles determined they would kill Him, but He came to give His life as a ransom.  To the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus said, The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again [John 10:17,18].  Religious people were ignorant of His coming.  Together they blended their voices in a pæan of calumny exposing bitterest hatred which would be satisfied only with His death.

Men still hate Him, but what can they do to rid themselves of Him?  If you attempt to stone Him, He slips through the midst and walks away.  If you try to drown Him He will walk on the water.  If you try to destroy Him in a storm, He commands the storm to hush and it lies down at His feet like a chastened puppy.  If you try to crucify Him, He refuses to stay dead and the stone will be rolled away from the mouth of the grave.  Try to ignore Him and you will hear a still, small voice which whispers, Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me [Revelation 3:20]. You can’t get rid of Him, and at the last

at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

[Philippians 2:10,11]

Why would you wait to worship Him?  Why would you wait to confess His Name?  Why would you wait to bow before Him?  He is Lord.

Perhaps many did reject Him at His coming, but there were those who responded in another way.  Even in the verses cited a few short moments ago we see another response.  It is true that the world did not recognise Him and His own did not receive Him, yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God [John 1:12,13].  It is true that men loved darkness, but there was another response to His presence.  Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what has been done has been done through God [John 3:21].

Mary submitted to the will of God and became the one by whom the Son of God was brought into the world.  Joseph responded with deepest humility before the message of the angel to obey the will of God.  At His revelation in Israel, many of those whom the forerunner had prepared turned to Him, and John rejoiced at this knowledge and said, The bride belongs to the bridegroom.  The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.  The one who comes from heaven is above all.  He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.  For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him [John 3:29-36].

Long before the forerunner spoke those words, he worshipped the Son of God.  John was the first to worship the Son of God, worshipping in his mother’s womb.  That unborn child leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice, and though his tongue was yet mute, he worshipped.  I confess that I love to sing praises to the Son of God.  I confess that I delight to lift my voice in praise to Him.  I confess that few instruments of praise are more beautiful than the voice of a redeemed child of God.

When unable to lift my voice in praise, I can worship Him as did John in Elizabeth’s womb.  In the midst of my trials and sorrow I can leap for joy, as did the unborn child in the womb.  The world can’t stifle the worship in the Christian’s heart.  Silence me at my tasks, and I will yet make music in my heart to the Lord [cf. Ephesians 5:19].  Command me to refrain from singing aloud and my heart will nevertheless soar with joy.  Joy is the precious gift of God to all who receive Christ as Lord, and the joyful heart cannot help singing.

Threaten the servants of God and they will go back to their own people, and together they will raise their voices in prayer to God [cf. Acts 4:23,24].  Impose a judicial ban on the children of God and they will leave the courts rejoicing because they are counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [cf. Acts 5:41].  Beat the followers of Christ and put their feet in stocks and at midnight they will pray and sing hymns [cf. Acts 16:25].  You can’t conquer a people who worship the Living God.  You can’t silence a people who know their God, for they will firmly resist those who oppose Him [cf. Daniel 11:32].

What was true two millennia past is true this day.  The presence of the Son of God forces us to position ourselves.  Either we stand opposed to Him or we are submitted to Him.  Either we reject Him or we embrace Him.  Either we are in darkness or we are in light.  Either we are lost or we are found of God.  Either we are dead in trespasses and sins or we are alive in Him.  Either we walk in darkness or we are in the light as He is in the light.  Either we reject Him or we worship Him.

The Result of Jesus’ Advent — If time was divided at His First Coming, time shall cease at His Second Advent.  If mankind was divided at His First Coming, mankind shall be judged at His Second Coming.  Throughout the years since His Advent, God has been at work taking from the Gentiles a people for Himself [cf. Acts 15:14].  That divine work has been accomplished through the creation of the Body of Christ, which is the Church of God.  Bought with His blood [cf. Acts 20:28], the church is responsible to gather a people for His Name.  We are yet charged with faithfulness to His Name until He calls us to Himself.

In the smallest detail of life, we are responsible to glorify Him and to live a life of praise.  Our worship is not to ensure that we feel good about ourselves or even to assist us to feel good about Him.  Our worship is to equip us to serve Him until He comes.  We are called to devotion to Him and to fidelity to His cause, which is to declare His Good News to the peoples of this darkened world.  There are many still in darkness who will respond to the light of His Word … if we honour Him and remember the purpose of His coming.

As result of the Coming of the Son of God, the church of Christ was born.  Salvation is proclaimed to all mankind.  Peace is offered to all who will cease their rebellion and receive the Son of God as King of life.  The stage is set for His return in great power to receive His chosen people to Himself.  Until that day, the people of God are charged with the responsibility of preparing themselves to serve Him through their worship of this Living Son of God, and having prepared themselves they are responsible to boldly proclaim His salvation to the lost and dying world in which they live.

We are conditioned to avoid unpleasantness in our relationship to the people with whom we share our lives.  Consequently, we avoid speaking of Christ and of His claim upon the life of those who are lost.  We don’t want to offend, so we look for an easy way to witness of His claim.  Our puerile efforts are silent evidence that we have failed to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  Our fear testifies that we are not Spirit-controlled.

We rationalise by saying that our lost friends and family members are not so bad.  We console ourselves by thinking that perhaps they have secretly trusted Christ as Lord.  We don’t know and we dare not risk this shaky relationship by asking of their situation before God.  I have heard comments about the lost to the effect that they are good people and that they may be a bit rough, but…

Think about that for a moment.  What would you think of a dentist who looked in your mouth and said, “Yes, you have a bad tooth back there in a corner, but you have a lot of good teeth and I don't want to make you uncomfortable, so we'll leave all of them alone”?  Yet, we do not want to confront the lost in their sin lest we create a disturbance.  I might apply the same illustration to the preaching the Word and the confrontation of the saints.  You see, if it is wicked to permit people to die in their sin, it is wicked for the minister of Christ to fail to confront the people of God about their sinful situation.  We do not want ministers to deal with sin in the church lest they create a disturbance.  There were good people in the church at Corinth but Paul did not overlook the evils in the fellowship.  He dealt with them one by one, and only after that did he get around to the positive notes of giving, love, and the resurrection.

What better time to confront the people of God about our failure to worship, about our failure to be obedient, about our failure to seek the lost, then at Christmas?  Christ came to seek and to save the lost, and His coming, commemorated at this Holy Season, speaks powerfully of His Second Coming to judge those yet in their sin.  If the joy of His presence is seen in me, I will tell others.  If the joy of His First Advent now resonates in my life, I will not be silent before those about me.  If the joy of His salvation baptises my life, I will speak and I will worship.  Having worshipped, I will serve.

Do you know Him?  Does He reign in your life?  Does your life give evidence of having worshipped Him?  Have you any jewels to present before Him at His return?  Because He has come once, we now live in anticipation of His return.  Because He has come once, we are busy doing the work which He has assigned.  Amen.

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