“The Greater Miracle”
Luke 1:39-50
by Andrew Ogea

Sermon Notes:

Merry Christmas! It’s Christmas on a Sunday. I don’t know about you, but it has thrown off our normal Christmas routine a little. But, celebrating the birth of Jesus on a Sunday seems quite fitting because it really gives his church an opportunity to worship together and remember that it all does start here, with Jesus.

For the past few weeks, we have been in a series entitled Relevant, and we decided to conclude the series on Christmas Day, because, even though Jesus was born two thousand years ago, the story could not be more relevant for us today.

Over the past few days, my wife and I have been teaching the Christmas story to our children. It has truly been a great experience, not only because they can tell the story now, but also because it has led to other conversations about the gospel and faith. But, as I was preparing this sermon, I realized that we left out a part of the story leading up to Jesus’ birth.

This story is found in Luke 1:39-45. You can turn there now if you have your Bibles, and if you don’t, we will have it displayed on the screen behind me. In Luke 1:39-45, we learn about a visit between two cousins who discover that God had chosen to include both of them in two incredible miracles. So, let’s read and find out what happens starting in Luke 1:39:

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.

So, the passage begins by introducing us to Elizabeth and Mary—two family members who receive a miracle from God. From the very beginning, God has been performing miracles. The Old Testament reveals that God created the heavens and the earth and filled it with living creatures on land and sea.

He created man and woman. He parted the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to walk on dry land to the other side. God caused the sun to stand still for an entire day.

These kinds of miracles are what theologians call “the mighty works of God” because they point to the supernatural acts of God that cannot be explained in terms of coincidence. They involve works that are a result of the same power that created the world from nothing. They can only be attributed to God and nothing else.

This is the same kind of power that is at work in Elizabeth and Mary in our story. Earlier in the chapter, we learn that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were very old, and Elizabeth was unable to conceive a child. But, God miraculously intervened. Luke 1:13-17 says,

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

God designed it for Elizabeth to give birth to John the Baptist, whose life purpose and ministry was to prepare the people of Israel for the coming their long awaited Savior. She was barren, but nothing was impossible for God. This wasn’t the first time that God performed a miracle in the life of a barren woman. In fact, he did it five other times in Scripture.

Barren Women & Their Miracle

  • Sarah - Isaac
  • Rebekah - Jacob and Esau
  • Rachel - Joseph
  • Wife of Manoa - Samson
  • Hannah - Samuel
  • Elizabeth - John the Baptist

First, was Sarah, the wife of Abraham. God made a promise to Abraham to give him descendants as numerous as the stars, and that those descendants would one day inherit the promised land, and be recipients of spiritual blessings which included the Messiah coming from their lineage.

There was a problem though, Sarah was barren. But, God miraculously intervened and allowed her to conceive a child when she was 90 years old.

Abraham and Sarah’s son Isaac grew up and married Rebekah was also barren. But, Isaac prayed, and the Lord performed a miracle, and Rebekah had twin boys named Jacob and Esau. Jacob, who God later named Israel, was married to Rachel. Despite her barrenness, God enabled her to have a child named Joseph who would become a means of blessing to the Egyptians.

The fourth woman was the wife of a man named Manoa from the tribe of Dan. An angel of the Lord appeared to her to inform that she would become pregnant and have a Nazarite son who would “take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judg. 13:2-5). Her son, Samson, was a judge who did end up assisting his tribe in their struggle against the Philistines.

The fifth barren woman was Hannah who God remembered and blessed her with a child named Samuel. Samuel would later become a prophet and a priest, and is most notably known for anointing David as king of Israel.

God blessed these five women with a miracle child, and each one eventually prepared the way for God’s purposes to be accomplished. Each one is commended for their faith in the Lord. In fact, they are each listed in the New Testament in what is commonly called the Hall of Faith, in Hebrews 11.  

So, Elizabeth is the sixth barren woman to be blessed with a miracle, and her son John, was given the life purpose to prepare the way for someone greater. Elizabeth knew that the greater miracle was with Mary. Just listen to what she said in verses 41-45.

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 favored, 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 the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Elizabeth was blessed with the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah, but she knew that the greater miracle had been given to Mary because she was actually carrying the Messiah. And she commended Mary for believing what God had promised her and she was most certainly blessed as a result. So, let’s remind ourselves of what God said to Mary earlier in Luke 1:26-35,

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.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 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 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.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 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.

God performed an incredible miracle by supernaturally enabling a child to be conceived by an old barren woman and her old husband. But, the greater miracle by far, is that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally enable a child to be conceived in a virgin.  

And the virgin Mary believed God, that he would do exactly what he promised. And, in the next two verses, Mary responds to Elizabeth and we find out why she is blessed as a result. Let’s look at verses 46-49,

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

Mary glorified the Lord and rejoiced in Him because even the mother of the Savior needed saving. Mary praised God that he saved her because of her faith, and she also praised him because of the incredible favor he bestowed up her. He chose her, a humble servant, to be the mother of the Messiah. He could have chosen anybody, but he chose her. She is blessed.

Yet, in her praises to God for her personal blessings, Mary also knew that that this blessing was not hers alone. She knew that God had a greater miracle in mind. Look at what said in verse 50,

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

Salvation was not for Mary alone. She knew that the child within her would bring mercy to generations to follow. If we fast forward roughly years, Jesus, the Messiah, defines this salvation for us. In John 3:14-18, he said,

“…So the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

God performed an incredible in Mary, and she conceived and eventually gave birth to Jesus Christ, and through faith, she believed and was saved. But, God had a greater miracle in store. The miracle did not end with Mary, but the greater miracle is that God sent Jesus Christ into this world to save ALL of the world through him.

In this passage we just read, Jesus was responding to Jewish leader, a Pharisee, named Nicodemus. Jesus told him that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. Nicodemus was confused and asked how it was possible to be born again.

Jesus was not saying that you literally have to be born again physically. What Jesus was telling him was that he needed to be born again spiritually. And that is the greater miracle in our story today.

“If you’re born once, you’ll die twice, but if you’re born twice,
you’ll die once.” Adrian Rogers

The late Adrian Rogers, a great pastor, once said, “if you’re born once, you’ll die twice, but if you’re born twice, you’ll die once.” Everyone is assured a physical death in this life, but if you are only born once, you will also experience an eternal death.

However, if you are born again spiritually, you will only experience one death physically, and your reward will be eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.

You see, over two thousand years ago God miraculously enabled a baby named John to be born of an older barren women and her old husband. Yet, as incredible as that miracle is, John would only prepare the way for the greater miracle, which was the Son of God, the Savior and Messiah, being born of a virgin.

Yet, we know that this miracle would also lead to a greater miracle, the greatest miracle of all—that Jesus Christ would prepare way the way for all the world to be born again spiritually.

Everyone needs to be born again. And, Jesus said that this is possible through faith, by believing in him as your savior. We all need a savior, and today we celebrate the birth of the Messiah who prepared the way for our salvation. Please be join me in prayer.