Luke 1

Introduction

The Gospel of Luke is an incredible account of the person and ministry of Jesus and the way Luke presents his account is so easy to understand and follow. The book itself contains lots of parables and focuses a lot on how Jesus deals with and shows compassion for the poor and the oppressed.

Author

The book was written by Luke but he doesn’t claim to have been an eye-witness of our Lord’s ministry, but to have gone to the best sources of information within his reach, and to have written an orderly narrative of the facts, Luke 1:1-4.

Luke was a Gentile and a literate, educated and intelligent man. He was educated in Science and Medicine. He travelled with the Apostle Paul. It is probable that he was a physician in Troas, and was there converted by Paul, to whom he attached himself.

He accompanied him to Philippi, but didn’t there share his imprisonment, nor did he accompany him further after his release in his missionary journey at this time, Acts 17:1.

On Paul’s third visit to Philippi, Acts 20:5-6, we again meet with Luke, who probably had spent all the intervening time in that city, a period of seven or eight years. From this time Luke was Paul’s constant companion during his journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:6-38 / Acts 21:1-18.

He again disappears from view during Paul’s imprisonment at Jerusalem and Caesarea and only reappears when Paul sets out for Rome, Acts 27:1, where he accompanies him, Acts 28:2 / Acts 28:12-16, and where he remains with him till the close of his first imprisonment, Philemon 1:24 / Colossians 4:14.

The last notice of the ‘beloved physician’ is in 2 Timothy 4:11. There are many passages in Paul’s epistles, as well as in the writings of Luke, which show the extent and accuracy of his medical knowledge.

The Book

Luke wrote most of the New Testament, more than any other writer did, that is, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The Gospel of Luke is the third and longest book in the New Testament.

Luke is writing to one man, Theophilus which means friend of God, a young man and a Roman official, possibly a Christian who wanted to know more. Luke is the first of a two-part work dedicated to the ‘most excellent Theophilus’, Luke 1:3 / Acts 1:1.

The Book of Acts forms the sequel to Luke, with the author explaining in Acts that Luke dealt with ‘all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up’, Acts 1:1-2. No other Gospel has a volume two.

The book was written for Greeks and Gentiles and he wrote an account written to the world. His book contains Greek writings.

Some suggest that the four faces mentioned in Ezekiel 4:10 and Revelation 4:7, represent Jesus in the four Gospels.

Matthew represents the face of the lion which implies Jesus’ kingship, Jesus is from the line of Judah.

Mark, represents the face of the ox, which implies the servant, service, the serving Jesus.

Luke, represents the face of the man, which implies humanity, Jesus is the Son of Man.

John represents the face of the eagle, which molies Jesus’ deity, Jesus is the Son of God.

Matthew was written for Jews and he uses the words ‘as it is written’ throughout his Gospel. Note the genealogy goes back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. Matthew 1:1-17. His point is to remind the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah in fulfilment of the Jewish Law.

Mark is writing to Romans and he simply talks about what Jesus is doing and how busy He is, which is exactly what the Romans were doing building roads etc., they were busy people.

Luke is written for the Greeks and he uses the term, ‘Son of Man’ throughout his Gospel. Notice his genealogy goes back to Adam, his point is that Jesus is for the whole world. Luke 3:23-38.

John is writing to those in Asia and he uses the term ‘Son of God’ throughout his Gospel. His point is to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ through signs, 8 miracles and 8 ‘I AM’ statements.

Holman, in his dictionary, says the following.

‘Luke’s purpose was to present a historical work ‘in order’, Luke 1:3. Most of his stories fall in chronological sequence. He often gave time indications, Luke 1:5 / Luke 1:5 / Luke 1:26 / Luke 1:26 / Luke 1:36 / Luke 1:36 / Luke 1:56 / Luke 1:56 Luke 1:59 / Luke 2:42 / Luke 3:23 / Luke 9:28 / Luke 12:1 / Luke 12:1 / Luke 12:7. More than any other Gospel writer, Luke connected his story with the larger Jewish and Roman world, Luke 2:1 / Luke 3:1-2.’

Date

No one knows the exact date the book was written but it must have been written before the Book of Acts, the date of the book is generally fixed at about 63 or 64 A.D.

This Gospel was written, therefore, probably about 60 or 63 when Luke may have been at Caesarea in attendance on Paul, who was then a prisoner. Others have suggested that it was written in Rome during Paul’s imprisonment there.

Outline

The Prologue. Luke 1:1-4

Birth and Infancy Stories. Luke 1:5-2:52

Preparation for Ministry. Luke 3:1-4:13

The Galilean Ministry. Luke 4:14-9:50

On the Way to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51-19:27

The Jerusalem Ministry. Luke 19:28-24:53

The Text

‘Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.’ Luke 1:1-4

Luke begins by informing us that many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘It has been doubted who are referred to here by the word ‘many’. It seems clear that it could not be the other evangelists, for the gospel by ‘John’ was not yet written, and the word ‘many’ denotes more than ‘two’. Besides, it is said that they undertook to record what the ‘eye-witnesses’ had delivered to them so that the writers did not pretend to be eye-witnesses themselves. It is clear, therefore, that other writings are meant than the gospels which we now have, but what they were is a matter of conjecture.’

What Luke is doing is writing an inspired record, 2 Timothy 3:16 / 2 Peter 1:21, to give an accurate account of the life and teachings of Christ, to help give Theophilus a correct understanding of who Jesus was and taught.

Notice that Luke says that the things, that is the life and teachings of Christ, have been fulfilled among us, Jude 3.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘By these words, Luke affirmed that his record dealt with nothing new or novel in the faith of the very extensive Christian community already established throughout the Mediterranean world. The word for ‘fulfilled’ in this clause means ‘fully established’, English Revised Version 1885 margin and this means that the total content of Luke’s Gospel was already the faith of the whole church at the time he wrote in 60 A.D.’

Remember Luke wasn’t a personal witness of the life and death of Jesus, but here, he refers to those who were. This was probably Jesus’ mother, Mary and the apostles themselves, Acts 1:2. Luke himself personally made a point of investigating the life and teachings of Christ, from the beginning of Christ’s ministry.

He did this to give Theophilus an orderly account, so that he may know for sure that the things he has been taught were true and accurate, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / 2 Peter 1:20-21. The word taught here means to be instructed by word of mouth, Acts 18:25 / Romans 2:18.

Who is Theophilus? Acts 1:1, His name means ‘one who loves God’ but when Luke addresses him in Luke 1:3 as ‘most excellent Theophilus’. Theophilus is obviously a follower of Jesus and he possibly helped Luke with finances.

When we look at other people in the Bible with the title ‘most excellent’, they are usually people who are a part of the Roman government. In Acts 23 when the Jews were planning and plotting to kill Paul.

Paul’s sister’s son heard about it and told Paul and so Paul then told one of the centurions, who then went and told his commanding officer. Felix was a Roman governor, Acts 23:26, and Luke addresses the Roman governor Felix as ‘most excellent,’ in Acts 24:3.

When the apostle Paul was standing in front of Festus, giving his testimony, Paul addresses Festus and calls him ‘most excellent Festus’ in Acts 26:25.

Was Theophilus a Roman governor? We simply don’t know but because Luke addresses him as ‘most excellent’, he certainly has a position of high ranking of some sort.

The Birth Of John The Baptist Foretold

‘In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.’ Luke 1:5-7

Herod the Great was the son of Antipater, an Idumean and descendant of Esau. He was proud, cruel, bloodthirsty and unmerciful as a ruler of the Jews. Herod the Great as he was called, cruelly reigned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. according to our calendar today.

And so this establishes the date of the birth of Jesus about two years earlier than 4 B.C., for Herod had sent out a decree before his death to kill all children under two years of age, Matthew 2:16. But knowing the exact date of Jesus’ birth isn’t important, what is important is that He was born.

The story of the birth of the one who came to be known as John the Baptist gives signs of the greatness to come. John’s parents were an older couple named Zacharias and Elizabeth. Zechariah belonged to the priestly tribe of Abijah, who served in the tabernacle during the days of David, 2 Chronicles 24:1-10 / 2 Chronicles 8:14.

Zacharias and Elizabeth were both descended from the priestly family of Aaron, Genesis 29:34 / Numbers 36:7-8. It’s a strong possibility that Elizabeth and Maty, Jesus’ mother were cousins, Luke 1:36.

Both of them were righteous in God’s eyes and obedient to God’s commands. They were blameless in terms of doing everything they were supposed to do to keep right with God, this doesn’t mean they were sinless, Romans 3:9-10 / Romans 3:23.

Luke informs us that they were children because Elizabeth couldn’t have children, Luke 1:25. This was often frowned upon and looked upon as a disgrace in Jewish times. Luke also tells us that they both were old in age.

‘Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.’ Luke 1:9-10

Because there were so many priests available from the priestly division of Abijah, and because it was an honour and privilege to serve in the temple, Zechariah was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood. He was chosen to go into the temple, enter the holy of holies and burn incense, Exodus 30:6-8 / Exodus 30:34.

Zechariah would have burned incense twice a day, Exodus 30:7, the burning of the incense was symbolic of prayer and praise, Psalm 141:2 / Revelation 5:8 / Revelation 8:3-4, an aroma pleasing to God, 1 Samuel 2:28.

The time that Luke mentions for the burning of the insect was probably around 3:00 pm. This was the time when all the worshippers gathered together outside for prayer, Exodus 30:6-8.

‘Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 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.” Luke 1:11-17

Then came the day when Zacharias, while burning incense at the temple, saw an angel, that is, Gabriel, Luke 1:19. The altar of incense was part of the furniture within the temple and was situated near the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the temple, Exodus 30:2 / Exodus 27:2.

Zacharias was startled by the appearance of the angel but perhaps he was even more surprised by what the angel told him. Elizabeth would bear a child in her old age! They would name him John, Luke 1:57 / Luke 1:60 / Luke 1:63, and he would be set apart for a special purpose.

When John is born many people will rejoice because of the miraculous events surrounding his birth. They would rejoice because his birth signified the hope of Israel was about to come, Malachi 3:1 / Luke 1:58.

John would be great in the sight of the Lord because he was going to be the greatest of all of God’s prophets, he was the forerunner of the Messiah, that is Jesus, Matthew 11:11.

John would conform to some of the Nazarite laws, Numbers 6:1-21, he would not drink any strong wine or drink, Ephesians 5:18.

Ash, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Some facets of the Nazarite vow are not specified here, e.g., allowing the hair to grow.’

John would have a miraculous relationship with God from the time of his conception, Luke 1:41. He was filled with the Spirit in terms of God revealing to Him the message he was to deliver.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘It is impossible to avoid the significance of the contrast in this verse between intoxicating ‘spirits’ which John would renounce and the ‘Spirit’ who would be in him, filling him, even from his mother’s womb, and for his whole life. The same contrast was evident on Pentecost when the apostles were not ‘drunk with wine’ but filled with ‘the Spirit’. Paul wrote, ‘And be not drunken with wine wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit’, Ephesians 5:18. Strong drink is an unqualified curse upon the earth and, although Christ did not require the kind of abstinence which marked the life of John the Baptist, drunkenness is forbidden, as well as an association with a drunkard, 1 Corinthians 5:11.’

John’s mission was simple, he had to prepare the way for the Lord and call the people to repentance, Matthew 3:1-12. John would be the fulfilment of Malachi 4:5-6 / Matthew 3:2 / Matthew 17:9-13, in reference to Elijah.

John will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, Malachi 4:5-6. In other words, John will prepare the hearts of people for the coming of the Messiah, John 1:35ff.

‘Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:18-20

Zacharias was shocked! And wanted to know how this could happen because he and Elizabeth were old in age. The angel reveals himself to be Gabriel, Daniel 8:16 / Daniel 9:21.

Gabriel also reveals that he stands in the presence of God, 1 Kings 10:8 / 1 Kings 12:6 / 1 Kings 17:1 / Proverbs 22:29, and he has been sent to speak to Zacharias, Hebrews 1:7 / Hebrews 1:14, and tell him the good news, that is the birth of his son.

Because Zacharias had doubted Gabriel’s words, Gabriel gave him a sign, that he wouldn’t be able to talk until the birth of his son, Luke 1:62. Zacharias also lost his hearing at the same time. Of course, the angel proved to be correct, and after nine months the priest and his wife had a son, Luke 1:57.

‘Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.’ Luke 1:21-22

God’s people had obviously been used to the timetable of how long a priest should take to do his job in the sanctuary, and so when Zechariah didn’t come out at the proper time, they began to worry about him.

When he came out and was unable to speak, they then realised that he had seen a vision. They came to this conclusion because Zechariah kept making signs to them.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The word ‘vision’ means ‘sight, appearance’, or ‘spectre’, and is commonly applied to spirits, or beings from another world. When he came out of the temple, it is probable that they ‘suspected’ that something of this nature had detained him there, and that, on the inquiry of him, he signified by a nod that this was the case.’

‘When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:23-25

After completing his weeklong duties as a priest, Zacharias returns home. Later, Elizabeth became pregnant, in other words, despite being old in age, it was at this time that God opened up her womb and enabled her to conceive, Genesis 18:11-15.

She hid herself for five months, possibly because she was old in age and she may have felt embarrassed. It’s more likely, as the text implies that she simply wanted to spend that time just praising God for what He had done. He had shown her His favour and removed the disgrace of not having children from her, Genesis 30:23 / Psalms 33:18.

The Birth Of Jesus Foretold

‘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

Elizabeth is now six months pregnant with John, Luke 1:36, and the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:19, was sent by God to deliver a message to Mary.

There are only two angels named in the Scriptures, Gabriel being one and the archangel Michael being the other. But have you ever wondered why God sent Gabriel to Nazareth? Why didn’t He send him to Jerusalem or Capernaum?

I believe that Luke mentions Nazareth was a city of Galilee because most of his readers were Gentiles and the Jews would already know where Nazareth was. And when you think about it, no one would ever imagine that an angel would be commissioned by the God of all creation to visit a village like Nazareth.

A village which was situated in a district, the very name of which announced it as a place of the despised Gentiles. The name Galilee means ‘the district of the pagans’.

So why did God choose Nazareth? Not only to fulfil the prophecy that Jesus would be a Nazarene but because as we all should know by now, God doesn’t do things the way we would do things.

He chooses people we would never choose, He chooses places we would never choose and Nazareth is one of those places. When Philip was speaking to Nathanael concerning Jesus, Nathanael said to Philip “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” John 1:46. So Nazareth might not be our choice for the announcement of a King to be born but it certainly was God’s choice.

The pledging or the betrothal as the King James Version says, of one person to another for marriage was common practice amongst the Jews at this time. The Jewish engagement was not as binding as marriage, but it was more than a promise of marriage.

The engagement took place about one year before the couple actually lived together after a formal marriage. But it was a binding relationship in terms of it was established before the marriage vows were made and the union consummated.

Luke tells us that both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David of Israel, Luke 1:69 / Luke 3:23ff. But twice in one verse he’s quick to point out that the woman chosen was a virgin.

In today’s society, a virgin is seen as someone who hasn’t had sexual relations but in Bible times a virgin was seen as someone who had never been married. But because they had never been married, this usually meant that they had never had sex with anyone anyway.

But why would Luke mention that Mary which was a common name in those days, was a virgin? Why would he mention it twice in one verse?

Luke is emphasising that Mary would be the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, he’s reminding his readers that the virgin would conceive a son in order to bring forth the Messiah, Isaiah 7:14.

In other words what God said to Satan a way back in Genesis was about to be fulfilled in Mary, Genesis 3:15. The long-awaited Messiah is coming and God is going to use Mary to bring Him into the world.

I don’t know about you but this would have scared the life out of me. You can imagine Mary going about her daily business, doing the same old things, being all excited and preparing for her upcoming marriage to Joseph.

When all of a sudden an angel appears in front of her but not just any angel this is Gabriel. I can imagine Mary being stunned and in awe, as Gabriel basically says to her, ‘Mary, God has chosen you to give birth to the incarnate Son of God’. Matthew 1:23.

‘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 favour 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 1:29-33

It’s no wonder at this point Mary didn’t understand all that was happening, and she didn’t understand why she was being selected by God to bring the Messiah, the Son of God into the world.

No wonder she’s troubled by this whole experience. The awesome presence of the mighty Gabriel would be more than enough to strike terror into the heart of anyone, never mind this young maiden in the village of Nazareth.

Whatever an angel looks like, he’s not a cute being who looks like a baby with a halo and wings. Angels were mighty beings and remember whenever an angel appeared to anyone, the Jews believed that that was a sign that they were about to die. And so Gabriel had to reassure her first by telling her ‘not to be afraid’.

Mary wasn’t chosen because she was holier than any other woman who was around at that time. She wasn’t chosen because she was especially good, she didn’t earn the right to be chosen for this unique work of God to bring the Redeemer into the world.

She was chosen purely because of the grace of God, that’s what Luke means when he writes that she has ‘found favour with God’. The word ‘favour’ is the Greek word ‘Charis’ which means grace. In other words, there was nothing special about Mary, she was simply chosen because of the grace of God.

And if Gabriel appearing and talking to her wasn’t scary enough, imagine how she feels when he tells her that she’s going to have a child?

I can imagine her saying to herself, ‘Hey Gabriel, your telling me I’m about to become pregnant, I’m not even married yet, I’m about to get married to Joseph and I dread to think what kind of explanation I’m going to have to give him, my whole life is about to be ruined’.

And so Gabriel continues and tells her that she was to name the child Jesus. We know that the name Jesus is the New Testament form of the Old Testament name Joshua, which means ‘The Lord is salvation.’ Interestingly, Gabriel says that Jesus is called ‘the Son of the Most High.’

And I say that’s interesting because in Mark 5 when Jesus went into the region of Gerasenes, he was met by a demon-possessed man and what did he say when he saw Jesus? “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Mark 5:7.

A lot of people don’t recognise Jesus for who He really is but the demons know who He is. This suggests to me that this is one of the titles given to the Son of God throughout the unseen world of angels and demons.

Luke says, “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.”

What he’s doing here is reminding us of another prophecy in which Jesus would be the fulfilment, 2 Samuel 7:12-13. The writer isn’t talking about an earthly reign but a heavenly one.

After the ascension, Jesus began His reign and He is now reigning and will reign at the right hand of God until He comes again, Daniel 7:13-14 / 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

And so Gabriel isn’t talking about a physical reign of Jesus on this earth, he’s talking about a spiritual reign in the hearts of men and women, John 18:36.

But what does Gabriel mean when he says that Jesus will ‘reign over Jacob’s descendants forever’? This is the house of Israel, the spiritual Israel of God as Paul describes, Galatians 3:7 / Galatians 6:16.

In other words, among all things over which Jesus now reigns, He reigns over all those who have submitted to His word, Psalm 89:36-37 / Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14.

And according to Gabriel this reign in this new kingdom wouldn’t end until Jesus returned that reign back to the Father, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:28.

We can only imagine Mary trying to digest all these words in her mind and so it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that Mary has a question for Gabriel.

‘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. 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.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.’ Luke 1:34-38

Remember when God promised Abraham and Sarah a child, they were going to have to wait a few years. But here with Mary, she’s just been told she is going to become pregnant straight away. And so what’s she’s basically asking is, ‘Gabriel, how can I become pregnant now when I’m not even married yet?’

Mary is astonished that she is to have a son before her marriage, Luke 1:27 / Matthew 1:23. And so Gabriel has to explain how this is going to work. This is not your everyday event, the Holy Spirit Himself would be the One who would make Mary pregnant.

And I love this idea of the ‘Most High overshadowing Mary’ because it takes our minds back to the time when the cloud overshadowed the tabernacle during the wilderness wandering.

In other words, this whole scene is talking about the conception of Jesus which was the miraculous work of God. Jesus would be the ‘only begotten’ Son of God, John 1:14-16.

Many people don’t believe in the miraculous conception of Jesus. But if Jesus was to be the Son of God, then we shouldn’t expect any other kind of conception than the miraculous.

It’s impossible to accept Jesus as the Son of God without accepting His miraculous conception. And so it’s almost as if Gabriel wanted to settle the matter in Mary’s mind and give her some kind of proof that this is going to happen. Even though Mary hadn’t requested a sign, Gabriel gave her one.

The sign was that her relatives Zacharias and Elizabeth are going to have a child in their old age, in fact by this time Elizabeth was actually already six months pregnant. And if you remember back in Luke 1:5-25, God also miraculously opened the womb of Elizabeth in order that she conceives through her husband Zacharias.

But with Mary, it was going to be different because the Holy Spirit Himself would miraculously make it possible for Mary to conceive by the power of God.

And Gabriel quickly points out to Mary that God never breaks His promises, Jeremiah 32:17. In other words, what man can’t do, God can do and it’s only God who can bring the Saviour of the world into the world, by miraculous conception.

No wonder Mary in totally humility accepted God at His word and declared herself a servant. But how is she going to explain her being pregnant to Joseph? What are the neighbours going to say?

She’s facing the real possibility of being stoned to death which was the punishment for having sex outside of marriage in Biblical times. She’s going to have to demonstrate in her life what every single Christian has to demonstrate in their lives and that is faith.

Before moving on it would be helpful to look at Joseph and what happened to him.

As I mentioned earlier, being pledged in marriage was a legal agreement that was as binding as a contract, Matthew 1:18. If either one broke the agreement they would be considered an adulterer. And like we read a few moments ago Mary was pregnant with Jesus before Joseph and Mary had sexual relations. At the time Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, despite her not being married yet.

And we could argue all day long about what was the greatest miracle recorded in the New Testament. We could argue that the virgin birth was the greatest or Jesus walking on water or His resurrection. But surely the greatest recorded miracle in the New Testament has to be Jesus Christ Himself.

Spurgeon, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Is he not rightly called Wonderful? Infinite and an infant! Eternal, yet born of a woman! Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast! Supporting the universe, yet needing to be carried on a mother’s arm! King of Angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph! Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son! Wonderful art thou, O Jesus! And that shall be thy name forever?’

We can only imagine how upset and disappointed Joseph must have been feeling when he heard about Mary being pregnant but Joseph didn’t want to embarrass Mary and since the pledge to be married was as binding as a marriage contract, Joseph sought to secretly divorce her in order that she is not publicly shamed, Matthew 1:19.

Remember the word ‘divorce’ in Greek is the word ‘apoluo’ and it means to ‘put away’. When Jesus talks to religious leaders of His day about divorce, He’s not condemning them because they were practising divorce, He’s condemning them for the manner in which they were practising divorce.

He was condemning them because they were divorcing without making it legal, they were sending their wives away without giving them a certificate of divorce.

Joseph desired to show mercy to the one who appeared, in his eyes, to be guilty of sin. But this tells us a lot about the character of Joseph himself, doesn’t it?

He is a noble character who desired to shield Mary and under those circumstances, he needs to be commended for wanting to do so in the way he wants to do it. People are always quick to expose other people’s sins, Proverbs 11:13, but Joseph wasn’t like that.

We don’t know if the angel who came to Joseph was Gabriel or not, Matthew 1:20-21, but since Gabriel has just finished talking with Mary the chances are it probably is.

But when this angel appeared in his dream, Joseph was afraid and so the angel wanted to calm Joseph’s anxiety. And so he assured Joseph that God was at work in the conception, Mary wasn’t involved in an adulterous affair.

Something to keep in mind is that most people don’t name their children until they know what sex the child is. And remember that they didn’t have six-week scans etc. back then like we do today, to find out the sex of a baby before it’s born.

But here both Mary and Joseph are told not only what sex the child will be but what to name Him. The child inside of Mary was a boy and His name was to be Jesus.

And remember this was not an unusual name among the Jews, in fact, it was quite common. But what was unusual was this Jesus’s mission, even before He was born.

Most parents have dreams and aspirations for their children, they want them to grow up to do great things. And Mary and Joseph are no exception, however, at this point in time they have no idea just how great this child was going to become.

Because even before Jesus was born, we are told as to why He was coming into the world. Not for secular reasons, not for political reasons but for redemptive reasons, He came to save the world from its sins.

Now, why did God plan for Jesus to be born like this? Why couldn’t He just shout from the clouds how He wanted people to be saved from their sins? Matthew 1:22-23.

The prophet in question is the prophet Isaiah and he said back in Isaiah 7:14-15 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right”

The Son of God was to be born of a virgin, and so He would be the fulfilment of the prophecy we looked at earlier in Genesis 3:15. The reason God came to earth in the form of Jesus is because God wanted to live with us, that’s what Immanuel means, ‘God with us’.

It doesn’t mean God was with us or God will be with us, it means God is with us or to use it as Isaiah meant it to be used, God in the flesh.

This beautiful prophecy not only reveals the virgin birth but also sets forth the dual nature of Christ. His name means God with us but His diet is that of a man, ‘curds and honey’. Was Jesus fully God? Was Jesus fully man? Well yes, He was both, He was the God-man.

I’m sure the local gossip would have been talking about them both and telling everyone this baby boy looks nothing like his father Joseph.

And I’m sure there would have been neighbours who by doing their calculations, worked out how many months pregnant Mary was and the date Mary and Joseph got married.

There were no DNA tests back then but that result would have been interesting. But Joseph like Mary demonstrated great faith in doing everything God asked him to do, Matthew 1:24-25.

The Catholic Church believe that Mary was a virgin all her life and all her children were miraculously conceived. But notice that Joseph had no sexual relations until after Jesus was born, that word ‘until’ implies that he did afterwards.

And we know he did afterwards because Matthew 13:55-56 gives us the names of four of Jesus’ brothers and even mentions his sisters.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

‘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. 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 fulfil his promises to her!” Luke 1:39-45

After speaking with Gabriel, Mary hurriedly leaves Nazareth, Luke 2:4, to visit Elizabeth where she stayed with her for around three months, Luke 1:56.

Notice that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb. This signified that God was present in the pregnancy.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and therefore, she exclaimed in a loud voice, that Mary was blessed, Luke 1:28, because she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus, along with the child she was carrying.

Notice also that Elizabeth acknowledges that Jesus is Lord. In other words, she recognised that God was at work in and through Mary, Acts 6:3.

When Mary believed the message which Gabriel shared with her, she had no doubts and so she was blessed because she believed.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Elizabeth’s use of the word ‘Lord’ here in Luke 1:45 and Luke 1:43 is significant. There it means ‘Messiah’, and here it means the Father in heaven. This testifies at once to the oneness of God and Christ, and to the fact of there being two different persons, hence, there can be no valid ground here for denominating Mary as the ‘Mother of God’.’

Mary’s Song

‘And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 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. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.’ Luke 1:46-56

Mary now glorifies God, Psalms 34:3, for considering her humble state and from this time forwards people would call her blessed, Luke 11:27. She proudly sings that God’s name is holy, Exodus 3:14 / Exodus 6:3 / Psalms 83:18.

God’s mercies are for those who fear Him, Psalms 111:10, from generation to generation. In other words, God’s mercy will descend on the children and children’s children of those that fear him and keep his commandments, Exodus 20:6.

God has done many powerful deeds with His arm, which is the symbol of strength. He scattered the proud in their inmost thoughts.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘He hath often done it in time of battle and war. When the proud Assyrian, Egyptian, or Babylonian had come against the people of God, He had often scattered them and driven them away from their armies. Those who were lifted up or exalted in their own view. Those who ‘thought themselves’ to be superior to other men.’

God didn’t come to the proud and rich of this world, He came to the lowly and common people. God had visited His people, Israel, in fulfilling the promise that was made to Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3 / Genesis 17:7 / Genesis 17:19. Jesus was the fulfilment of the seed-line promise, Genesis 3:15 / Genesis 49:10 / Isaiah 7:14 / Isaiah 9:6 / Daniel 7:13-14.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘There is a striking similarity between this song of praise by Mary and that spoken by ‘Hannah,’ 1 Samuel 2:2-9 / 1 Samuel 2.10. There are few pieces of ‘poetry’, for this is poetry, and almost the only poetry in the New Testament, more beautiful than this. It is the language of a humble, thankful, pious, female heart praising God. For his mercy to her, Luke 1:46-42 / Luke 1.49. For his mercy to all people, his ‘general’ goodness, Luke 1:50-42 / Luke 1.53, and, His special goodness to his people, Luke 1:54-42 / Luke 1:55.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home to Nazareth, Luke 2:4.

The Birth Of John The Baptist

‘When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.’ Luke 1:57-66

After nine months of pregnancy, Elizabeth now gives birth to John and it’s a time of great joy for her neighbours and relatives. They shared in her joy because the Lord had shown her mercy in her old age in being able to have a child, Romans 12:15.

John was to be circumcised on the eighth day which was in keeping with the law of God, Genesis 17:9-14 / Leviticus 12:3 / Romans 4:11 / Philippians 3:5. The reason for the eighth day is because vitamin K is at its highest level, vitamin K causes blood clots.

It was the custom of the Jews to name the son after the name of the father, Genesis 21:1-4, hence, why wanted to call the baby Zechariah, but Elizabeth objected and said his name was to be John, which means, ‘the Lord’s gift’, just as Gabriel had told her too, Luke 1:13 / Luke 1:63.

The people made signs to Zacharias because if we remember at this point Zacharias couldn’t speak or hear because he didn’t at first believe Gabriel when he was informed that Elizabeth would conceive, Luke 1:18-20. After asking for something to write on, Zachariah writes that the boy’s name will be John.

Notice what happened after he wrote the name John, he opened his mouth and began to speak. Zacharias’ first words were words of praise to God for the great things He was accomplishing through Elizabeth and himself.

As a result of him now being able to speak and praise God, everyone responded in awe and spoke to everyone about what God had done and was doing through Zacharias and Elizabeth.

The people were wondering what kind of child John would be, it’s clear that God was at work, since he has been conceived miraculously with his parents being old in age. They may not have fully understood, that the Lord’s hand was with John, but they couldn’t deny the Lord was with him.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The word ‘hand’ is used to denote ‘aid, protection, favour’. We stretch out the hand to aid those whom we wish to help. The expression here means that God ‘aided’ him, ‘protected’ him, or showed him favour. Some think that these words are a part of the speech of the neighbours, ‘what manner of child shall this be? God is so evidently with him!’

It’s possible that God providentially cared for John from the time of his conception and birth until it was time for him to die, Acts 11:21.

Zechariah’s Song

‘His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:67-79

Zechariah, now filled with the Holy Spirit began to prophesy, 1 Corinthians 14:3.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The twelve verses recording Zacharias’ words could be briefly summarized as a thanksgiving for the arrival of the times of the Messiah. It was God’s blessing and mercy manifested by his fulfilling, at last, the ancient prophecies of the Old Testament, his breaking the centuries of silence after Malachi, and his establishing the promised reality of the covenant with Abraham that dominated the major part of Zacharias’ prophecy. Not until the last four verses did he speak of his precious son and the share he would have in such a glorious fulfilment of God’s word.’

He thanked God for coming to redeem His people but notice, that he doesn’t speak of his own son, John, to begin with, speaks about Jesus in the past tense, even though Jesus hasn’t been born yet. Speaking in the past tense magnifies the fact the fulfilment was certain, it’s as though it has already happened.

Jesus is the horn of salvation, the horn signifies strength, Deuteronomy 33:17 / Daniel 7:7-27 / Daniel 7:21 / Psalms 148:14. The horn of salvation would come from the house of David, Luke 1:32.

God’s holy prophets spoke of the Messiah from long ago, Genesis 49:10 / Deuteronomy 18:15 / Isaiah 9:6-23 / Isaiah 53:1-23 / Luke 24:27 / Revelation 19:10. Jesus came to save us from our ultimate enemy, that is the devil, Genesis 3:15 / Matthew 1:21.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verses 72-73.

‘These words show the connection between the old and the new covenants. The covenant with Abraham had envisioned the blessing of ‘all the families of the earth’ through the glorious Seed, singular, which is Christ, Genesis 12:1-3. Moreover, God had confirmed the covenant promise to Abraham with an oath, Genesis 22:16 / Hebrews 6:13-15. Just as God’s promise to Abraham of a son was delayed of fulfilment until it seemed no longer possible, so also the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom had been held in abeyance for centuries, the last voice of prophecy having expired with Malachi but wow all was to be fulfilled. As to who was, and who was not, true sons of Abraham and thus entitled to the promise, there was a widespread misunderstanding. The materialistic, secular priests, and a majority of the people, thought that mere fleshly descent from Abraham was all that mattered; but, of course, it was only to the ‘spiritual seed’, the people of like faith and character with Abraham, that the promise really pertained. It was the great mission of John the Baptist to enlighten Israel on this very point.’

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The salvation brought by Jesus Christ consists in the following things.’

1. We are to be delivered out of the hand of our enemies, and from all that hate us so that sin shall neither have dominion over us nor existence in us.

2. We are to worship God, to render him that service and adoration which the letter and spirit of his religion require.

3. We are to live in holiness, a strict inward conformity to the mind of Christ and righteousness, a full outward conformity to the precepts of the Gospel.

4. This is to be done before God, under the continual influence and support of his grace, and with a constant evidence of his presence and approbation.

5. This state is a state of true happiness, it is without fear. Sin is all cast out, holiness is brought in, God’s power upholds, and his approbation cheers and comforts, the believing heart. Thus misery is precluded, and happiness is established.

6. This blessedness is to continue as long as we exist, all the days of our life, in all ages, in all situations, and in all circumstances. What a pity to have lived so long without God in the world, when so much happiness and glory are to be enjoyed in union with him!

Zechariah near the end of his prophecy, verses 76-79, now speaks of his son John. John will be a prophet of the Most High, Luke 1:32 / Luke 3:5-42. He will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, Isaiah 40:3 / Matthew 3:3, in other words, John will be the forerunner of Christ, Malachi 4:5-6.

He was to teach people knowledge concerning salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, Jeremiah 31:31ff, based upon God’s mercy. The salvation which was about to be offered was that which was connected with the pardon of sin.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 79.

‘Here there is a certain reference to salvation for the Gentiles, as more pointedly stated by Matthew, who explained Jesus’ residence in Capernaum as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah 9:1-2.’

The rising sun, Malachi 4:2, is clearly a reference to Christ Himself, Isaiah 60:1-23, who is the light of the world, John 1:9 / John 8:12 / 2 Peter 1:19 / Revelation 22:16. He is the light who shines in the darkness, Matthew 4:16, He is the One who guides our feet into peace, Ephesians 2:14.

‘And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.’ Luke 1:80

Notice how Luke compresses thirty years of John’s life into one sentence. He tells us that John grew, mentally, physically and spiritually, Luke 2:40 / Luke 2:52. John lived in the wilderness until he was spiritually prepared to appear in public in Israel.

He lived in Hebron, and in the hill country where his father resided and he lived there until he was thirty years old, Matthew 3:1-10 / Luke 3:1-10.

Go To Luke 2

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