Thrones has kind of taken me by surprise.
In a good way.
We’ve had salvations, we’ve had tears, we’ve had anointed music, and yesterday we had this as a bottom line:
Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.
I am getting ready to tell you about something in which I have absolutely NO experience; something that the thought of participating in fills me with fear and trembling. It’s an environment thoroughly alien to my frame of reference and my sphere of influence. Ready for this? We’re going to talk about a morning coffee meeting with two pregnant ladies. Yep. They’re sipping on their latte and likely talking about morning sickness, stretch marks, food cravings, what it’s like when baby kicks and for obvious reasons I got nothing on that. Why? Because I don’t drink coffee! So we open up the bible to Luke 1 today and the thought of sharing that scene with these two women gets me all nervous.
But we must. And yet to get to the scene in question – which is technically in Luke 1:39-45 – we’ve got to back up one scene, to Luke 1:32, where an angel tells Mary (young, the virgin) that she is pregnant:
32 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,
But note: the son will be, is going to be the Son of the Most High God and look where he will sit! The throne of David! Fits with the series – but if you’re wondering why this message isn’t called The David Throne, you gotta wait! In the meantime, Mary is told, there is coming a day when your boy will be recognized as the ruler of all.
And with that rather incredible news, Mary hurries to greet her cousin Elizabeth WHO IS HERSELF PREGNANT WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST. Now you know why I’m so nervous! But what happens when they get together is the best womb to womb communication ever. A kind of womb to womb talk that I never experienced, of course, but neither did any mom here! Not even my 100 year old mom with 8 kids! Look at Luke 1:41:
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Quite an in utero leap going on there! It evidently makes Elizabeth raise her pregnant voice to an outside voice, because look at 1:42:
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!
And all that back and forth and increased volume sets the stage for 1:43, one of the most subtly stunning verses in holy writ:
43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
See that? See what Aunt Elizabeth calls pre-natal-nephew Jesus? My Lord. Whoa! Jesus in Mary is an embryo, inches long at this stage, a collection of cells, dare I say it, what some would call a choice . . . and to Elizabeth he is already Lord! Many of us already believe that he is the King of Kings, but it’s fascinating to me to think that at this stage he is Embryo Of Embryos! Above every embryo ever. EVER.
And what is so cool is to see the connections between Luke 1:32 and 1:43: READ & READ. The implication is clear when you allow the word “lord” to seep over you: the throne that he is going to have is the one he already occupies. As an embryo, pre-natal Jesus is every bit as much on his throne as he will be when he returns to judge the quick & the dead (Creed that day). He is already what will be. The Embryo Throne. Fabuluous, cool, remarkable & I love what a good writer we have in Dr. Luke.
But through all that literary sort of appreciation, it’s Aunt Elizabeth’s response that gets me. Think of all the things she doesn’t know at this stage of meeting teenage Mary carrying around some zygotes in her pouch. She doesn’t know he’s going to be born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. She doesn’t know three wise men are going to visit him, establishing a phenomenon that gets stores decorated in October. She doesn’t know he’s going to teach parables like the Good Sam and the Prodigal Son. She doesn’t know he’s going to claim to be the Light of the World. She doesn’t know he’s going to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, get convicted by a kangaroo court, live by his own Golden Rule even as his back is being split open by whips. She doesn’t know he’s going to die, humiliated and naked, on a cross. And she definitely doesn’t know he’s going to be the death of death when he rises again 3 days later. She knows nothing.
And I don’t know, but there may be a few folks here who are the same way. Some of you didn’t grow up in church, this seems like a LOT of trouble to go through for something that may or may not even be true. You don’t know your OT from your NT and you think Jeremiah was a bullfrog and not a major prophet. Today was the very first time you’ve ever heard the bible is a library, FGS, and you’re thinking, “does that mean Gideon is the librarian?” You don’t know phrases like premillennial rapture or Five Point Calvinism or postmillennial apocalyptic. So in a sense, even though you probably don’t have a prenatal baby leaping in the face of embryonic royalty, you know about as much as Aunt Elizabeth.
Which makes her response in 1:43 all the more remarkable: my Lord. She’s basically clueless about the details, she doesn’t know the agenda, she’s not sure of her schedule, but she knows that God is moving in this and she wants to be part of it. Her knowledge is not complete but it is enough. Enough for her to say, “Lord I don’t know it all, but I know enough to know you are supreme.” It’s this: Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender. yes! You can have complete surrender to Jesus even if you have incomplete knowledge about Jesus.
It’s like this (light switch). Do you UNDERSTAND electricity? Oh a few of you EE studs might, but by and large, no. We don’t. But you trust it! You trust electricity so much you keep flipping switches even when the power goes out! And it always surprises you when it doesn’t work! That’s how familiar and trustworthy electricity is. You don’t understand a thing about it . . . but you depend on it, trust it, keep accessing it even when it’s gone. That’s something of what it’s like. Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.
Or it’s like Mark Twain said that time: “It’s not the parts of the bible I DON’T understand that bother me. It’s the parts that I DO.” Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.
Or it’s even like Judge Judy (AV). Do you know what is a prerequisite of appearing on that show? Some of you are thinking, “Yeah, be an idiot.” No! You have to agree in advance that her decision is final. Ha! Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.
So, all you GS beginners or skeptics: do you know that you know more than Elizabeth did on that day? Very likely – even if this is your first time ever in church, you know that the baby in Mary’s womb was born in some kind of miraculous way, that he lived a life of unparalleled influence, that how he died on the cross has something to do with paying a price for human sin, and that we in the church believe very firmly that he rose from the dead three days later. And that in the aftermath of the resurrection we believe nothing was ever the same again. Almost everyone here knows at least some of that story. Which puts you way ahead of Aunt E. Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.
It’s so funny: when I became a Xn after not growing up in church, never attending SS, and thinking VBS was just for sissies, I had no comprehension of sin. I knew there was a hell, but at 17 I was not clear on the connection between my sin and Jesus’ cross. All I knew as my friend was laying some gospel smackdown on me and the room was spinning (sans marijuana!) was that there were two sides and God was urging me to take his. So I did! I got saved first and came to understand what it was about later. Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.
Those of you who are maybe more familiar, spent more time around, have you noticed that more information doesn’t always lead to greater transformation? Some of you have the books, you’ve bought the studies, you’ve enrolled in the class . . . and yet there’s not been a genuine yielding of the heart. You still reserve your worst language for the people you should love the most. You resist connecting with people who look or talk different from you. You come to church asking what’s in it for me? but not what’s in it for God. You’ve been informationed to death but haven’t surrendered to life. REFRAIN.
It all makes me think of the guy from Boston who was boasting to a friend: “I’m going to go to the Holy Land and see where the 10 Commandments were given to Moses!” And his friend answered: “I have a better idea. Why don’t you stay in Boston and keep them?” Touche. REFRAIN
All this really matters at Christmas because there are so many people here today just because it’s the season. You have quite possibly equated relationship with Christ with religious activity. Nope. Completely different. Sometimes even at odds with each other! A living relationship with Jesus Christ is a life full of massively small steps, each one committing you more deeply to Jesus. The steps aren’t all that sexy – time away and alone, growing generosity, connecting in aLifeGroup community – but you add them all up and their cumulative effect is unmistakable. Ultimately you’ve got someone who is deep in Christ not because of spectacle but because if community. That’s the kind of depth that lasts. I believe all this hits home at Xmas because, as someone once said, “God doesn’t show his will to the curious but to the obedient.” (AV) BOOM! REFRAIN
At some point curiosity becomes a delay tactic. And I don’t want anyone hearing my voice to delay until it’s too late. Because just like I believed in hell at 17 and that helped me choose Jesus’ side, I still believe in it today. I want it to help you make that choice as well.
Some of you know the phrase that some gospel tracts (hold up) have that says: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life (AV) Sounds great! But like a lot of things that sound great, it’s not exactly right. Because what happens is a lot of people spend so much time searching for God’s plan for their life, they never search for the God of the plan. The whole thing is better said this way:
God has my life for his plan.
Yeah. Lordship precedes direction. If Aunt Elizabeth can say that to an embryo sitting on an amniotic throne in Mary’s womb, can’t you say the same to the risen Lord and returning King? Won’t you hear the urgent invite of Romans 10:13? Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved? No matter how much – or how little – you know, that much is true today. Incomplete knowledge doesn’t prevent complete surrender.