The Call: Woman of Obedience, 23 November 2014

Big Idea: Mary is not just for Catholics, but an obedient girl who responded to the call of God.

The story of the birth of Jesus begins not on Christmas Day, but nine months or so prior. An angel calls Mary and announces her assignment (she really has no say in the matter!). She understandably asks the obvious question (v. 34) but does not object (as we will see next week). Has God called you to do something? It may not be as significant as giving birth to the Messiah, but are you being obedient to the smaller assignments He has given to you? Why did God choose Mary? It was likely because she was a woman (girl?) of obedience prior to the assignment.

keywords: calling, mission, obedience

Key Scripture: Luke 1:26-37

Introduction: Call

When someone calls you, what do you do?

That’s a vague question, right? It depends upon who calls and how. Two hundred years ago if you wanted to call a person you could use your voice or possibly a letter, one a bit more instantaneous than the other!

Then the telephone. We still have a land line. We almost never answer it, especially before political elections! If you ever call my house and we hang up on you, don’t take it personally! I’ve always tried to be respectful to people when they call. Half the time it’s not even a human on the other end. I sometimes pick up and just listen, waiting for a voice, then hanging up if there’s much more than a moment of silence on the other end. You might say I’m not very responsive if you call me on my home phone.

The same is sometimes true for the office phone. Caller ID is a blessing! Perhaps a third of the calls to the church office are telemarketers, another third are people in distress asking for money, and the final third are people calling for other purposes.

My cell phone is different. When it rings, I almost always respond. I don’t get too many telemarketers (knock on wood!). If my wife or one of my kids is on the caller ID, I almost always respond.

Have you ever noticed sometimes the phone is more important than the person in front of you? It’s amazing how tempting it is to let a phone call with a human take precedence over the human with whom we are interacting. I try to never interrupt a live conversation for a phone call unless it is my immediate family. That’s why they created voice mail!

Have you ever heard your name called in a public place? Your name may be the most important word in the world. It grabs your attention immediately. Perhaps you’ve heard your name over the PA system in a store or someone yelled your name across a parking lot. It’s unexpected, surprising, and sometimes rather fun. My father-in-law is the king of this! He retired to Florida and it seems every we talk with him he has another story of some old military buddy or high school colleague he encountered near his home.

Imagine a stranger called your name. They came to you and said, “Greetings!”

I’d probably run or tell them I’m out of cash if they wanted my money!

Imagine being a teenage girl and suddenly you’re confronted by…an angel!

Angels are real. The Bible is full of them. One third left to follow satan when he was kicked out of heaven for his pride, a failed coup attempt against God.

Have you ever met an angel?

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel
to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)

This is great new! First, the angel is very friendly. “Greetings.” Then Mary is told she is highly favored. Who wouldn’t want an angel to announce that to them? Then Mary is told the Lord is the her.

Imagine you go for a walk in the park and a friendly angel announces God is with you and you’re highly favored. What could be better?

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:29)

Greatly troubled at his words? It doesn’t say she was troubled by the appearance of a ghost. She was troubled at the angel’s words.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

Mary was afraid. Perhaps angels can be scary! He repeats Mary’s favor with God. David is mentioned again…and Jacob, too. Gentiles tend to skip over these details, seeing them as unimportant facts, but as a Jew, they were significant. Prophecy clearly stated the Messiah would be a descendant of David. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the beginning of the people of Israel.

Matthew states it this way:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose
mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Last week we talked about women and how they have not always been given the freedom, recognition, responsibility, and opportunities afforded to men. Here is the family tree of Jesus. It’s not too exciting at first, but notice the women included—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba…and Mary.

Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes or alleged. Ruth was a foreigner. Bathsheba committed adultery—or was a rape victim. It’s startling that these women would be specifically mentioned (since each man listed had a mom!).

The repeated phrase “The father of” shifts with Jesus since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but He was born of Mary.

For about 400 years God had been silent, the inter-testamental period between the old and new. Then the aged Elizabeth gets pregnant and now the virgin Mary is with child.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Very good question!

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:35-37)


With few exceptions, “Mariam” has been tossed aside by Protestants except for the month of December when we let her sit in the nativity scene beside the baby Jesus. Not wanting to “worship” her as Roman Catholics are often accused of doing, we ignore her faith, obedience, and important role throughout the life and death of Jesus. This series will strive to uncover the character and narrative of one of the Bible’s most underrated figures and one we are to call “blessed” (Luke 1:48b).

Why do we virtually ignore Mary? For some it is a reaction to Catholics. Contrary to some rumors, Mary was not a Roman Catholic!!! If Mary is overrated by Catholics, she is underrated by Protestants. Aside from being the mother of Jesus, she found favor with God and was carefully chosen to bring the Messiah into our world. As my professor Scot McKnight says, “We are Protestants; we believe in the Bible; Mary is in the Bible; we need to believe what the Bible says about Mary.”

Mary was obedient, not only in giving birth to Jesus (did she have a choice?!) but she clearly lived a life that honored God. She was undoubtedly faithful in the small things that allowed her to be chosen for a most monumental task.

So What?

What about you? Are you highly favored by God? I can promise you God is with you. That was His promise. Matthew’s final recorded words of Jesus—known as the Great Commission—say this:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice two things:

  1. Jesus wants His followers to obey…and teach others to obey. Obedience is God’s love language.
  2. He promises to be with us. Always. Psalm 139 is one of many explicit passages about God’s omnipresence—His ability to be with us always and everywhere. We are never alone. Never.

What is God saying to you today? What are you going to do about it?

Those two questions will determine not only your present but your future. God is not mad at you. He’s not trying to harm you or make your life miserable. He’s a great, loving Dad who can be trusted—even when He’s not understood.

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is the way it reminds us how we are truly blessed. Every good and perfect gift is from the LORD.

My prayer for you and me is that we would trust and obey. He’s calling you to obey. He’s calling me to obey. Have you heard His voice? If not, perhaps it’s time to spend more time with Him—in prayer and study of His Word.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

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Voice, John 10:1-21, 24 February 2013

Big Idea: We can choose to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd or the voice of the their that wants to steal, kill and destroy.

Sound is an amazing thing. Whether you realize it or not, there are sounds around us constantly. True silence is rare. What do you hear right now?

There are a few sounds that stand out from the rest. An alarm usually gets our attention, unless you’re a tired teenager in bed! Living across the street from the Cleveland Clinic, the sound of an ambulance was a frequent interruption to the mundane traffic tones. The human ear is able to process a wide variety of frequencies and noises. Now think about human voices. We have the ability to recognize people that we cannot even see, just by their voice.

There’s something powerful about one’s connection to a familiar voice. Yesterday I was in Meijer and a friend was telling me about his grandson. They live several states away and video chat frequently, and when the little boy hears the voice of his grandpa, he gets so excited!

Perhaps nothing seizes our attention more, though, than the most captivating word to our ears—our name. What is your name?

As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, Jesus’ close friend and biographer tells us a lot about sound, voice, and your name.


Are you a shepherd? Have you ever met a shepherd? Sheep and shepherds are not common images in our culture today. They were very popular in the Middle East 2000 years ago, and remain so today. It’s not wonder that the Bible is filled with references to shepherds (e.g. Isaiah 40:10-11; Psalm 23). Moses and David were shepherds. There are several references in the scriptures to “false shepherds” (1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 10:21; 23:1-2).


Last week in chapter nine, Jesus healed a blind man and the religious leaders went crazy because it was on the Sabbath. Biblical writers did not include chapter and verse references. Those were added centuries later, so from what we can see, Jesus is continuing His interaction with these self-righteous critics of His. The tenth chapter of John begins with red-letter text, words spoken by Jesus.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. (1-6)

Can you imagine the scene?

First, the setting is the
desert, a desperate place. Today Arab and Jewish children tell stories about the desert much like some cultures talk about deep, dark forests. In the desert food is rare, water is scarce, and deadly creatures roam. In addition, the terrain is often filed with steep cliffs, some with drops of over 1000 feet!

Sheep are prone to wander. The shepherd’s job is to keep the sheep together and safe. A sheep could be harmed by thieves, wild animals, and injury from wandering.

Just like my friend’s grandson recognizes my friend’s voice, and just like dogs typically know their owner’s voice, so sheep know the voice of their shepherd.

The Middle Eastern shepherd even today talks to and sings to his sheep. They often carry a short flute and the sheep learn both the voice of the shepherd and the sound of his flute.

“During the Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s the Israeli army decided to punish a village near Bethlehem for not paying its taxes (which, the village claimed, simply financed their occupation). The officer in command rounded up all of the village animals and placed them in a large barbed-wire pen. Later in the week he was approached by a woman who begged him to release her flock, arguing that since her husband was dead, the animals were her only source of livelihood. He pointed to the pen containing hundreds of animals and humorously quipped that it was impossible because he could not find her animals. She asked that if she could in fact separate them herself, would he be willing to let her take them? He agreed. A soldier opened the gate and the woman’s son produced a small reed flute. He played a simple tune again and again—and soon sheep heads began popping up across the pen. The young boy continued his music and walked home, followed by his flock of twenty-five sheep.”

  • NIV Application Commentary

In the desert, sheep need to follow the shepherd if they are to survive.

Jesus doesn’t lead any sheep, but “his own” (3b). Notice that
the shepherd knows His sheep...by name. He knows your name! How cool is that?! The Creator of the universe knows your name.

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (7-10)

That last verse is one of my favorites. Do you see the contrast between Jesus and satan, the thief and the Shepherd?

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (11-13)

How far will the good shepherd go in caring for his sheep? All the way! To death!

Who influences you? So many respond to the teachings of people who are dead, celebrities with chaotic lives, or even friends that can be fickle. The Good Shepherd is willing to die for you...and He did!

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 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. This command I received from my Father.” (14-18)

Throughout Jesus’ life, we see Him submitting to the Father and the Father’s timing.

As usual, Jesus upset the religious people.

At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We’ll unpack the reaction of the Jews further next week.

So What?
Like sheep, we live in a dangerous world. It might not seem dangerous, but there is a real thief who wants to steal, kill and destroy. He will do anything and everything to speak lies, kill your passion for Jesus, and ultimately destroy you and everything good in your life.

The thing is, because he’s sneaky and because we often fail to spend time with the Good Shepherd, we mistaken the voice of the enemy for the voice of Jesus. We justify our behaviors because everyone else is doing it. We rationalize the importance of being politically correct and flee from controversy. We want to blend in, be liked, and do what’s popular.

We all need guidance to navigate through life, but we must make sure we are listening to the right voice. The only way to do that is to spend time with the Good Shepherd.

I can’t do that for you. Your parents or spouse cannot do that for you. Discerning the voice that brings abundant life requires time in prayer, solitude, silence, and study. Period. There are no shortcuts.

Whose voice matters to you? A recent study asked high school students where they would turn first in times of crisis or confusion. Mothers came in around number eleven and dads around 25. Friends and music were at the top!

Students, daddy often knows best. In the case of our heavenly Daddy, He always knows best.

Friends are influential, not only to students, but adults as well. When is the last time you experienced a tension between popular opinion and the teachings of Jesus? Do you even know the difference?

As we continue our annual theme of b.l.e.s.s. I want to encourage you to remain on your knees in prayer, listen to God, and study His Word. It’s not rocket science. The more time you spend with someone, the more you’ll know their voice.

C.S. Lewis said that there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you follow it?

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