An Improbable King, Pt. 2

Luke 2:8-20 • Jeff Crotts •

“Submission” is a word is generally counter-intuitive in our culture.

  • “Submission” as a necessary ill, so society can work.
  • Anything but noble or even beautiful.

In Greek it is “hupotassw” – a military term - to “rank yourself under.”

  • Submission is a broad term in Scripture, applied in several shapes and sizes.
  • Interwoven in and through our society.
    • Government, employment, home, church (both mutual and to leadership).
    • Submission transcends this world and society.
    • It finds its origin within the Trinity.

Because of sin, “submission” has been redefined as weakness.

  • The culture cries: “You don’t own me!”
  • There are life realities where we need to “Obey God rather than man.”
  • When asked to sin! Or, not obey.  Of course Not!

However, to be a Christian, fundamentally means, “You have been bought with a price!”

  • To be a Christian means you have submitted to the Lordship of Christ.

“Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9).

  • “Faith” at its core is “Self-Denial before Christ.”

From a human standpoint, we worship an Improbable King.  True submission to Jesus Christ makes no sense.  It is odd to place yourself under the Jesus of Scripture!

  • Luke 2 stages this odd and real dynamic.
    • Contrasting the most powerful Caesar with a newborn named, Jesus.
    • In the world’s eyes, your commitment to Jesus rebuilds this contrast over and over again.


  • Submission to an improbable King through the eyes and experience of a young teen-aged girl named Mary.
  • Luke makes the case, “To do as Mary did.”
  • Luke saying, “If she can submit to this King, anyone can.”

Submission is not robotic, raw, weak, and/or lifeless.

  • Faith, what I label as “glad submission.”
  • What Mary manifests.

Zero in on to the end of this section to verse 19.

ESV Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Mary is not doubting, she is decompressing!

  • Reading this verse without filling in the context, misses the drama and emotion, painting un-sanctimonious Mary.
    • Mary’s circumstances.
    • What was happening in her heart?


  • The story is so familiar.
    • Tempting to skim over Luke’s description and miss the energy here.
    • Energy for all involved, let alone a new young mother.

Verse 11 tells us angels declared the Messiah “born.”

  • This is true, but remember the birth of Jesus was still very much a human birth.
    • His birth like any other human birth meant high drama.
    • This birth should not be assumed to be anything less.

Kent Hughes captures this under the title: When God was made vulnerable

“If we imagine that Jesus was born in a freshly swept, country fair stable, we miss the whole point…There was sweat and pain and blood and cries as Mary reached up to the heavens for help.  The earth was cold and hard.  The smell of birth mixed with the stench of manure and acrid straw made a contemptable bouquet.  Trembling carpenter’s hands, clumsy with fear, grasped God’s Son slippery with blood – the baby’s limbs waving helplessly as if falling through space – his face grimacing as he gasped in the cold and his cry pierced the night”

This birth was meant to be remembered, to be witnessed.

  • Mary did not deliver Jesus at her mother’s home.
    • Privately in Nazareth.
    • Where twenty years later this event would have been forgotten or denied.


  • God made this public!
    • Mary was outside of a jam-packed inn.
    • Screaming until a newborn baby screamed!

With this physical drama, Luke in verse 19 shifts focus.

  • Zeroing onto Mary’s mind and thinking.
  • Luke builds a contrast!
    • Chaos of angelic hosts, evangelizing shepherds, and a crying newborn - on the outside.
    • Contrasted by quiet pensive meditations firing in Mary - inside.

There is a natural side to this moment, as with every new mother.

  • Mother and baby lock eyes cause a medical condition: mommy-amnesia.
    • Mom’s memory banks are immediately wiped clean.
    • The last twelve hours and last nine months – “Gone!”


  • This is the reason we have six children. Lost in love, a mother forgets.
  • She forgets about herself.

Mary bonds with Jesus (like any mother) but verse 19 conveys this bond with Jesus moved beyond merely being his mother.

  • Mary’s bond with Jesus moves from maternal to eternal.
    • Bond with the child moves to bond with Savior.
    • The standard for all who expect eternal life.

Never enough for Mary to simply love Jesus as a mother;

  • Mary had to love Jesus as her Lord.
  • She did so, not because she was Jesus’ mother but because she believed.

Mary’s faith was earnest and sincere.  Learn from her example because she was actually just like you and me.

  • See the events of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of this believing mother.
  • Submission saving faith!
  • “Do you possess saving faith?”


Mary submitted to an Improbable King

I am defining glad submission as synonymous with saving faith.  What does glad submission look like?

1. Glad submission was by grace

Look back to Luke 1:28.

ESV  Luke 1:28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"

  • Gabriel, the angel addressed Mary as “favored one” qualifying this saying, “the Lord is with you!” (1:28).

“Does this mean Mary was superhuman?”

“Favored one” or “highly blessed” is KeXapitwevn “full of grace.”

  • Saved by grace, blessed among women because God had changed her life.
  • God with her.
  • God’s presence, real in her life, she was a believer.

Mary was not a dispenser of grace.

  • Roman Catholicism teaches Mary is a Co-Redemptrix.
  • No! Mary, like any believer, had saving grace.
  • Grace alone saves.

Who was Mary?”

  • Romanticized, Mary viewed as larger than life (and Joseph for that matter).
    • Teenagers, betrothed in an arranged marriage.
    • Marriage was legally binding.
    • The period called the kiddushin where couples prove their fidelity.
    • Under requirement for no physical relationship whatsoever.


  • The second stage was known as the huppaour modern day wedding – seven days – was still to come.

We do not have much on Mary’s background from Scripture.

  • Pooling information from the Gospels, we learn Mary’s father was Eli and had a sister named Salome.
    • Salome married to Zebedee had children who grew up to be the Apostle’s James and John.
    • The “sons of thunder” were Mary’s nephews.


  • The family trade was fishing.
  • Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin, John the Baptist’s mother.

We do not know very much about her upbringing.

  • Early life spent in Nazareth, probably from a poor but hardworking family.
  • Still, virtuous and godly.

Background gives us context for Mary’s response.

  • Verse 29 says, “But she was greatly troubled…” (v. 29).
  • Why?
  • A teenaged girl from rural Nazareth, encountering a high-ranking angel Gabriel, a supernatural being.

[Read vv. 30-37]

Mary’s response is in verse 34.

  • To all that Gabriel just said, Mary is surprisingly practical.


“He will be great…called Son of the Most High…the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David…he will reign forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (vv. 32-33).


ESV  Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin


Why does Mary yield to the angel’s response?


Verse 37 “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37).


God’s Word stabilized Mary’s faith.


 2. Glad submission is generated by God’s Word

Look at verse 38.

ESV  Luke 1:38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Mary describes herself as “the slave of the Lord” as one coming under God’s word.

  • She believed what had been spoken (cf. v. 45).

Where did this level submission come from?  Not the time-period or context!

  • I attribute this to her depth of understanding and faith in the Word of God.

This is clear from the way Mary responds to her relative, Elizabeth.

  • Verses 46-55, known as Mary’s Magnificat (her hymn of praise) sounds amazingly similar to 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

Cross-referencing Hannah’s prayer shows this no coincidence.

  • Hannah was barren and mocked for years by her Elkanah’s other wife (who had children).
    • Hannah vowed to dedicate a son if the Lord would but open her womb.
    • She conceived and kept her promise.


My mother struggled to conceive and made this same commitment regarding my brother and me.  I found this out when I first surrendered to the call to preach.


  • Dedicating Samuel (her newly weaned child) to temple service.

ESV  1 Samuel 2:1-10 And Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.2 "There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world.9 "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed."


Not a prayer of sadness but triumph.


“Do you think Mary had run short on material?”


  • She was simply connecting her experience with Hannah’s experience
    • In the most personal way possible.
    • Relating to her hero, Hannah.
    • BTW, this is what it means to “Pray Scripture!”


  • Hannah was promised Samuel who then had to turn around and offer him back to God to be a prophet, priest, and judge Israel’s kings.


  • Mary on the same kind of mission offers her son – the Son, a prophet, priest, judge, and king.


Mary resonates with Hannah and sees a Big-God, big-30,000-foot view of God’s work in the world, through the centuries!


  • Mary knew God was sending God’s Son into her womb, into this world, as Savior.


The Christmas song “over and over again” asks “Mary did you know?”


  • Mary, of course, did not know exactly how Jesus’ ministry would take shape in particular miracle scenarios.


  • However, her application to God’s word tells us she knew whom she was carrying!


3. Glad submission perseveres through hard life circumstances


Go back to Luke 2:15, when the shepherds rushed into the Bethlehem to share what the angels had told them.

ESV Luke 2:15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."

Verse 17 tells us they evangelized the town.

“[making] known the saying that had been told them concerning the child” (v. 17).

  • This is simply the “thing” - “rhematos” literally the “word” - the message they just heard from the angels (cf. vv. 10-12).

This a lead into a point Luke makes that I want you to see.

  • There is a not so subtle difference between how the townspeople heard the shepherd’s message and how Mary heard it.
    • The crowds “wondered at what the shepherds told them” (v. 18).
    • But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19).

She “treasured” or literally “preserved” or “kept safe” the message she heard.

  • “pondered” – literally SumBallousa meaning “batted around in her mind” what she had heard.
    • Not doubting
    • Working through the implications of the message.
    • Reflecting on the message in her heart.

The crowds were definitely filled with astonishment with emotion but not necessarily faith yet.


Mary’s story fills out with a few more appearances in Scripture which are not all that stellar.

  • Twelve years after Jesus’ birth Mary and Joseph lose track of Jesus.
    • Headed to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:41).
    • Left, Jesus stayed and his parents did not know it (Luke 2:43).


  • After three days they found him (Luke 2:45).

ESV Luke 2:48-52 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress."49 And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

  • Mary and Joseph were “astonished” or “overwhelmed” and “in great distress” (v. 49).

Having lost track of my kids before I understand their histrionics.

I had a kid give me the slip for a few minutes at the zoo once and have lost a kid who had fallen asleep behind the couch.

Years ago, after church, I lost track of my three little boys who had opened the backyard gate.

I found Owen who was two at the end of the street being rescued by two men outside their trucks, slowly walking up to gather him to safety.

  • Mary and Joseph parents were normal.


  • Scripture’s point is that this was no normal son.


  • Mary’s response is right where you want it to be “treasuring up all these things in her heart” (v. 51).

Eighteen years later Mary and Jesus’ half-brothers are in a spiritually weakened state.

  • Jesus’ teaching ministry with his Twelve Apostles had reached a fever pitch where “they could not even eat” (Mark 3:20).

ESV  Mark 3:20-21 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind."

ESV  Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." 33 And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."

  • Mary was misunderstanding Jesus, her son’s ministry.
    • She wanted special treatment.
    • This was not Jesus’ mission.

Two years later Mary faced her most extreme test having to watch her own son be crushed to death on the Cross.

  • A moment predicted by Simeon, 33 years before.

ESV  Luke 2:35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

  • John’s Gospel portrays a mother being pierced with pain over her son, while a son’s heart breaks with compassion for his mother!

ESV John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"


“Why doesn’t Mary’s story end with her having a nervous breakdown?”

  • Mary endures because Mary possessed faith – a “Glad submission.

This is not where Mary’s story ends in Scripture.

  • Forty days later Mary’s story picks back up in Acts 1.
  • Jesus died but rose again three days later.

In Acts 1:14 Mary is counted with the 120 in the upper room.

ESV  Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.


Often, the way someone’s story ends is the person’s final commentary on who they really were.

Mary’s final portrait painted in Scripture is as a worshipper.

  • She began a young teen trained in Truth was given immense responsibility to carry, give birth to, and raise the Messiah.


  • Persevering through harsh life circumstances, even witnessing her son go through an extreme ministry of sacrifice, culminating in unjust accusations and cruel torture and death by crucifixion.


  • Ultimately translating into Mary persevering as a faithful worshipper and mature disciple of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into her adulthood.


“What made her this way?”  “Was Mary special?”

  • Yes, in terms of her unique privilege.
  • At the same time No, in that Mary was a simple believer, saved by grace alone.
  • Steeped in Scripture.


It is never enough to just be amazed by Jesus.

  • He is amazing but He must also be your Lord to be your Savior.


  • How can you move from simply being moved by the emotion of Christmas to being a mature disciple of Christ? Simply believe.


  • Yield your life in glad submission to this Improbable King


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