[Lesson 60: The Prophet John] [Table of Contents] [Lesson 62: The Messiah's Birth]

Lesson 61

The Announcement

Luke 1; Matthew 1

Peace be with you, listening friends. We greet you in the name of God, the Lord of peace, who wants everyone to understand and submit to the way of righteousness that He has established, and have true peace with Him forever. We are happy to be able to return today to present your program The Way of Righteousness.

Over the past sixty lessons, we have been studying the Scriptures of the First Covenant, that is, the Torah {Taurat} of Moses, the Psalms {Zabur} of David, and the Writings of the other prophets. In the last broadcast we began to study the Scriptures of the New Covenant, that is, the "Injil." Injil is an Arabic word meaning Good News. Truly, the message of the Gospel {Injil} is very good news for all who believe it, because it tells us that God has sent a mighty Savior to earth, just as He promised through His prophets of long ago.

Before we begin our study in the Gospel, it would be good for us to remember why God planned to send a Savior to the descendants of Adam. Can you remember what happened the day that Adam and Eve disobeyed God? In the Torah, we saw how Adam's disobedience led the whole human race away from the kingdom of God and into the kingdom of Satan. Adam's sin is the reason every one of us is born in crookedness. Just as "a rat only begets that which digs" {Wolof proverb}, in the same way Adam and his offspring can only beget children that sin! Sinners produce sinners. Our sin condemns us so that we have no possible way of making ourselves right before the One who must judge us!

However, we praise God that the Scriptures of the Prophets do not conclude with the story of Adam's transgression! As we have already seen, on the very day that Adam and Eve sinned, God began to make known His wonderful plan to send a Redeemer into the world who could deliver the descendants of Adam from the dominion of Satan and sin. On that dark day when sin entered world, God announced that this holy Redeemer would be born exclusively of "a woman." (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4) The Messiah, who was to shed His blood as the Perfect Sacrifice for sinners, could not descend from an earthly father tainted with sin. He had to be perfect and holy even as God is perfect and holy. That is why the prophet Isaiah (who lived seven hundred years before the Messiah came) wrote: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel-which means 'God with us'!" (Isa. 7:14; Matt 1:23)

Let us now return to the book of the Gospel so that we might see how God fulfilled what He promised concerning this perfect and holy Redeemer who was to be born of a virgin-a young woman who had never been intimate with a man. In our last lesson, we saw how God's angel, Gabriel, appeared to a Jew by the name of Zechariah. Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife would have a son by the name of John, who was to prepare the way before the Redeemer.

Now let us continue in the Gospel {Injil} of Luke, chapter one, and see how God sent His angel to a virgin by the name of Mary. The Scripture says:

(Luke 1) 26[When Elizabeth, the mother of John, was] in her sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He 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, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God." 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Let's stop here and talk a little about what happened when God's angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary. Mary was a young woman who esteemed the Word of God. She was promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, but they were not yet living together. Both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David. You will remember that God's prophets not only prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, but also that He would belong to the family line of King David.

So that no one misunderstands, there is something else which you should know about Mary. It is this: Mary was a descendant of Adam. Like us all, she was born with a sinful nature. It is necessary that we say this, because many elevate Mary to the place of God and worship her and pray to her. To do so is idolatry! Certainly, Mary is worthy of honor since she was the woman through whom God chose to bring the Messiah into the world. But this favor that God bestowed upon her does not make her worthy of worship, because the Scripture says: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only!" (Matt. 4:10)

Now then, in the verses we just read, we see how Gabriel visited Mary to inform her that she was the virgin through whom God intended to bring the Savior of sinners into the world. Gabriel also told Mary the name of the Child that she was to bear. He said to her, "You are to give him the name Jesus." The name Jesus means the Lord saves. {Note: the Qur'an calls Jesus Isa. The Arabic New Testament calls Him Yasu which is in keeping with His rightful name. Jesus is a transliteration of the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means the Lord saves.} However, there was another name by which Gabriel referred to the Messiah. Did you hear it? He called Him "the Son of the Most High." Like it or not, that is what Gabriel said. We have already read in the Psalms of David that God called the Messiah His Son. Now we hear how God's angel Gabriel also calls the Messiah "the Son of God."

Friends, we know that many who hear the name "Son of God," reply, "That's impossible! Astaghferullah! {Islamic maxim carrying this idea: May God forgive you for uttering such blasphemy!} But as the old (Wolof) proverb says: "Before you slap the shepherd on the mouth, you should find out what he is whistling about." Similarly, before you despise the name "Son of God," you should make an effort to find out what the term Son of God means! In the Holy Scriptures, the Messiah is called God's Son more than one hundred and twenty times. Thus, we who believe the Writings of the Prophets do not dare deny that God calls the Messiah His Son. What we want to know is why God calls Jesus His Son.

First, we need to know what the name Son of God does not mean. It does not mean that God took a wife and had a son! Anyone who thinks such thoughts is blaspheming God! God is the Highest One and does not produce children as a man produces them. Never! That must be perfectly clear in our minds. We do not have time today to explain all that the name Son of God means, but what you must understand is that the name does not mean that God took a wife and bore a son by her! This should not be difficult to understand, because here in Senegal we often call anyone who has lived a long time in the country "a son of Senegal," although Senegal obviously cannot have a wife and bear a son. Also, if you travel outside the country, people may call you "a son of Senegal," but that does not mean that Senegal is your father! It simply means that you come from Senegal, your place of origin.

That is how it is with Jesus the Messiah. God calls Him His Son because He came forth from God. The Messiah came from heaven. Before He was born He was with God; He was in God. He is the "Ruh Allah"; the Spirit of God. {Note: "Ruh Allah" is Arabic for Spirit/Soul of God; like the Hebrew "Ruah." This is a Qur'anic title for Jesus consistent with who the Messiah is: God's Eternal Spirit Son: the second Spirit in the One Triune God.}. The Messiah is also the "Kalimat"; the Word which was with God in the beginning. {"Kalimat Allah" is Arabic meaning the Word/Verb of God: a title attributed uniquely to the Messiah both in the Bible and the Qur'an.} That is what the Scriptures declare when they say:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:1-3,14)

Yes, the Messiah is the Word of God which came from heaven, and was born as a man. We all know that the Messiah had no earthly father. Well now, if He did not have an earthly father, then where did He come from? Whose Son is He? Listen again to what Gabriel told Mary. He said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. [That is why] the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

Perhaps you have heard some say, "Oh yes, we know that Jesus had no earthly father, but Jesus' birth of a virgin isn't so important. God merely wanted to show His power. God created Adam without father or mother. Next, He created Eve with only a father, that is, He formed her from the rib He took from Adam. Then to display His power further, God created a man using only a woman. That is the only reason Jesus was born without an earthly father."

Dear friends, it is true that God is the Almighty One and nothing is impossible for Him! But concerning Jesus' birth of a virgin, you must know that the reason for it was infinitely more important than merely to display God's power! Do not let anyone deceive you! There is a very, very important reason Jesus was born of a virgin thousands of years after God created Adam and Eve! Do you know the reason? The Holy Scripture tell us the reason, when it says: "[Jesus the Messiah] came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim. 1:15) Jesus was born into the world to redeem the lost, sinful, contaminated, condemned descendants of Adam--therefore He could not originate from a man tainted with sin! As we have already seen, according to God's plan, the Messiah had to shed His blood as a sacrifice to pay for sin. To be the Perfect Sacrifice, the Redeemer had to be without a single sin or fault, like the healthy, innocent sheep sacrificed every year at the Feast of Sacrifice {Id al-Adha}.

Think about it! Can a person with a great debt pay the debts of others? No! Only the one who has no debt is qualified to pay the debts of others. Similarly, the Messiah had to be a man who had no debt of sin, so that He might pay the debt of sin for the children of Adam. God wants us to know that the Messiah and the children of Adam are very different. We are sons of Adam, but Jesus is the Son of God! We, as children of Adam, are like the dirty earth because of our sin. However, Jesus is like the rain that comes from heaven. He is pure and holy, just as God is pure and holy. That is why God is not ashamed to call Him His Son! And so friends, we hope that as you leave here today, your minds are clearer and that you better understand why Jesus the Messiah had to be born of a virgin and what the name "Son of God" means and does not mean.

We conclude today's broadcast by reading in the Gospel of Matthew about the birth of the Messiah. Several months after Mary became pregnant by the power of the Spirit of God, God sent His angel to Joseph, who was to become Mary's husband. The Scripture says:

(Matt. 1) 18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" which means, 'God with us.' 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

We must stop here today. In the will of God, next time we will continue in the Gospel to read the amazing story about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.

God bless you as you remember what the angel told Joseph concerning the Messiah:

"You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins!" (Matt. 1:21)