Thanks for joining us for 24 Days with Jesus. I am praying for you! As you take time each day to read a chapter from the book of Luke may your heart, mind and soul be touched by God’s word. Feel the support and encouragement as you join many others in this experience. I am excited about what is ahead.
Luke Chapter 1 is the longest chapter in the whole book! 80 verses is about twice as long as the rest of the chapters. Hang in there the rest of the chapter’s average around 40.
There are 5 major sections in Chapter 1. I have included commentary, additional thoughts and explanation below for each section – there is a lot of information!! And each colored verse 1:1-2 can be clicked on to allow you to see that verse.1. Luke’s Purpose in Writing / 1:1-4 2. An Angel Promises the Birth of John to Zechariah / 1:5-25 3. An Angel Promises the Birth of Jesus to Mary / 4. Mary Visits Elizabeth / 1:39-56 5. John the Baptist Is Born / 1:57-80
Also I have included a LIFE APPLICATION in each section. (PS I am a HUGE fan of the Life Application® Bible’s and Commentaries.) You may only want read the LIFE APPLICATION sections.
Please read and use the stuff that’s most helpful to you.
Lastly, please feel free to join the discussion and add your own comments and personal insights at the bottom of each day’s post. It would be great to hear from you.
1. Luke’s Purpose in Writing / 1:1-4
Luke is the only one of the four Gospel writers who stated his method and purpose at the beginning of his book. He was familiar with other writings about Jesus’ life and the message of the gospel (v. 1). His purpose was to show the certainty of the things he had been taught by writing out an orderly account of the events in Christ’s life. Luke identified himself with the believers (v. 1).
*LIFE APPLICATION- DECIDE FOR YOURSELF -Because truth was important to Luke, he relied heavily on eyewitnesses. Christianity doesn’t say, “Close your eyes and believe,” but rather, “Check it out for yourself” (John 1:46; 21:24; Acts 17:11-12). No halfhearted investigation will do, however. Approach the life and impact of Jesus with expectation and intensity. Thoroughly investigate the Bible’s claims about Jesus because your conclusion about him is a life-and-death matter.
1:1-2. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark were written at about the same time as Luke, and apparently many other witnesses and writers had also written about the events that took place during Jesus’ life and ministry, using as their source material the reports circulating from the disciples and other eyewitnesses. Luke perceived a need to put the facts from these other written sources into an account written especially for a Gentile believer who needed to understand Jesus’ story. Believers today owe the Gospels and the book of Acts to writers who, like Luke, took the carefully preserved oral information from eyewitnesses and wrote it down.
Theophilus literally means “one who loves God.” While this may be a general term for all believers, it is a proper name and with the title, most honorable, indicates a person of some rank or distinction. The book of Acts, also written by Luke, is likewise addressed to Theophilus (Acts 1:1).
1:3-4 Luke, as an educated Gentile believer and a medical doctor, paid attention to details: he carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, and then wrote a careful summary. Luke wanted to reassure Theophilus of the truth of all he had been taught.
2. An Angel Promises the Birth of John to Zechariah / 1:5-25
Luke started at “the beginning” (1:3). But for Jesus’ life, the beginning was not his birth, but instead the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist—the person who would prepare the way for Jesus.
1:5 As a good historian should, Luke gave his readers the historical setting. The story begins when Herod was king of Judea. This was Herod the Great, confirmed by the Roman Senate as king of the Jews but never accepted by the Jewish people as their king (although half-Jewish, Herod was not part of the royal line of David). For the Jews living in Judea, this was a time of oppression. Although they were not in slavery, they were not completely self-governing either. Herod had expanded and beautified the Jerusalem Temple, but he had placed a Roman eagle over the entrance and also had built pagan Temples. When he helped the Jews, it was for political purposes—not because he cared about them or their God. Evil and ruthless, Herod the Great later ordered a massacre of infants in a futile attempt to kill the infant Jesus, whom some were calling the new “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). Herod the Great ruled from 37–4 b.c.
Zechariah was a priest, a minister of God who worked at the Temple managing its upkeep, teaching the people the Scriptures, and directing the worship services. At this time there were about twenty thousand priests throughout the country. Priests were divided into twenty-four separate groups of about one thousand each, according to David’s instructions (1 Chronicles 24:3-19). Zechariah was a member of the order (or division) of Abijah. Each division served in the Jerusalem Temple twice each year for one week.
Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Elizabeth descended directly from Aaron, brother of Moses and Israel’s first high priest (Exodus 28:1). As a priest, Zechariah would have been required to marry a virgin Israelite, but not necessarily one from a priestly family. Zechariah was especially blessed to have a wife with such a background.
1:6-7 Zechariah and Elizabeth both were righteous in God’s eyes. This does not mean that they were sinless, but that they loved God and obeyed him. But they had no children. To ancient readers, this would have seemed like a contradiction. Children were considered to be God’s greatest blessings. Certainly such God-fearing and God-honoring people as Zechariah and Elizabeth should have been blessed with children. But Elizabeth was barren. Not only that, but Luke adds the detail that they were both very old, meaning that they could not expect any change in their situation. For Elizabeth, being childless in old age would be painful and lonely; but during this time she remained faithful to God.
*LIFE APPLICATION – BLAMELESS -Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t merely go through the motions in following God’s laws; they backed up their outward compliance with inward obedience. Unlike the religious leaders whom Jesus called hypocrites, Zechariah and Elizabeth did not stop with the letter of the law. Their obedience was from the heart, and that is why God viewed them as righteous. Does your life reflect careful obedience and high regard for God’s will? As your life shows your love for God, others will be drawn to him.
1:8-9 Zechariah’s division of priests was on duty in the Temple during this particular week (see 1:5). Each morning, one of the priests would enter the Holy Place in the Temple to burn incense, which was burned twice daily. Lots were cast to decide who would enter the sanctuary, and one day during that week Zechariah was chosen by lot. Offering the incense before the Lord was considered a great privilege. A priest was allowed to do so only once in his lifetime; many priests never had the opportunity. But it was not by chance that Zechariah was on duty and that he was chosen that day to enter the Holy Place.
1:10 The other priests and people would wait outside for the chosen priest to offer the incense and pray on behalf of the nation. When the people would see the smoke from the burning incense, they would pray. The smoke drifting heavenward symbolized their prayers ascending to God’s throne. This great crowd were the faithful in Israel who were waiting and praying for deliverance. Faithful believers had been doing this since their captivity in Babylon six centuries before. This time, their prayers received a very special answer.
1:11 As Zechariah discharged his duty in the Holy Place, an angel of the Lord appeared. That the angel was standing to the right of the incense altar indicates a position of favor or blessing, perhaps indicating that the message was good. The exact location where the angel stood is a detail passed along by Zechariah himself and kept intact by writers (1:1-3). Gabriel (1:19) delivered a special message to Zechariah. This was not a dream or a vision; the angel was a royal herald of God. The angel appeared in visible form and spoke audible words to the priest.
*LIFE APPLICATION-ANGELS – Angels are spirit beings who live in God’s presence, do his will, and carry out his work on earth. They bring God’s messages to people (as here to Mary, 1:26), protect God’s people (Daniel 6:22), offer encouragement (Genesis 16:7), give guidance (Exodus 14:19), carry out punishment (2 Samuel 24:16), patrol the earth (Zechariah 1:9-14), and fight the forces of evil (2 Kings 6:16-18; Revelation 20:1-2). There are both good and bad angels (Revelation 12:7). Bad angels are allied with the devil and thus have considerably less power and authority than good angels. Eventually the main role of angels will be to offer continuous praise to God (Revelation 7:11-12).
1:12-13 Angels are powerful beings, certainly awesome in their appearance. No wonder Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear. So the angel’s first words to him were, “don’t be afraid.” While Zechariah had been burning incense on the altar, he had also been praying, most likely for Israel’s deliverance and for the coming of the Messiah. The angel’s awesome words must have astounded him: “God has heard your prayer.” Then the angel made a seemingly unrelated statement: “Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son.” The angel even told Zechariah what to name the baby. John means “the LORD is gracious.” Through the birth of this son, God was gracious to Zechariah and Elizabeth, and ultimately to all people, for this son would prepare people’s hearts for the Messiah.
*LIFE APPLICATION-GOD’S TIMING – God answers prayer in his own way and in his own time. He worked in an “impossible” situation—Elizabeth’s barrenness—to bring about the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. If you want to have your prayers answered, you must be open to what God can do in impossible situations. And you must wait for God to work in his way and in his time.
1:14-15 The special son to be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth would fulfill a predetermined purpose before God. John was to be set apart for special service to God. He may have been forbidden to drink wine as part of the Nazirite vow, an ancient vow of consecration to God (see Numbers 6:1-8).
This is Luke’s first mention of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Luke refers to the Holy Spirit more than any other Gospel writer does; it was a major focus for him (see 1:35, 41). That John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth, indicates a special choice of this child. This also signals the restoration of the prophetic work of the Holy Spirit that had not been present in Israel for over four hundred years (since the days of the prophet Malachi).
1:16-17 John’s role was to be almost identical to that of an Old Testament prophet—to encourage people to turn away from sin and back to the Lord. The angel explained to Zechariah that John would go before God with the spirit and power of Elijah, a great prophet who was known for not mincing words and for standing up to evil rulers (1 Kings 17–19; 2 Kings 2:9, 15; see also Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13).
*LIFE APPLICATION- HEART TRANSPLANT – In preparing people for the Messiah’s arrival, John would “turn people’s hearts”—in effect, he would do “heart transplants.” Through John’s words, God would take stony hearts and exchange them for hearts that were soft, pliable, trusting, and open to change. (See Ezekiel 11:19-20 and 36:25-29 for more on “heart transplants.”) Are you as open and receptive to God as you should be? Or do you need a change of heart?
John’s mission would be turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. This phrase comes directly from the prophecy of the Messiah’s forerunner found in Malachi 4:5-6. The meaning of the phrase is not immediately clear, but it may mean that John’s messages of repentance would unify broken family relationships, help fathers in their parental responsibilities, or change the lives of disobedient children so that their fathers would approve of them. In light of the Malachi reference, “fathers” may refer to the patriarchs, great men of faith who would be greatly displeased with their descendants’ faithlessness toward God. John’s call to repentance would change the disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom by bringing many of his contemporaries back to God.
1:18 Zechariah’s response to the angel’s word came perilously close to doubt. Zechariah wanted more than the word of this heavenly visitor, he wanted a sign: How can I know this will happen? Zechariah saw only the obstacle—he and Elizabeth were both past childbearing years, so he reminded the angel of this fact as if it had somehow been overlooked. Contrast his response with that of Mary who saw the opportunity and merely asked how God would perform the miracle (1:34).
1:19 The angel explained that he himself was sign enough for Zechariah. “I am Gabriel,” he exclaimed, “I stand in the very presence of God.” Gabriel had come with an extremely important message—Gabriel himself described it as good news. The old priest ought not have doubted anything the angel said.
1:20 Unbelief ultimately results in punishment. Zechariah asked for a sign, and received it. He would be unable to speak until the child is born (in light of 1:62, it appears that he was deaf as well as mute). The angel’s words would certainly come true at the proper time, whether Zechariah believed or not. God’s plan had been set in motion, and nothing could stop it.
1:21-22 The people were waiting outside (1:10) for Zechariah to come out and pronounce the customary blessing upon them as found in Numbers 6:24-26. It seemed that the priest was taking an unusually long time in the Holy Place, so they became anxious. Finally, when Zechariah appeared, he could not pronounce the blessing because he couldn’t speak to them. The angel’s words had already begun to come true; the sign of fulfillment had taken place right in Zechariah’s life. Apparently he made gestures to them and they realized that he must have seen a vision. Zechariah knew that God was moving forward in his plans to bring the Messiah to his people. But Zechariah would remain silent until his promised son arrived.
1:23-24 Zechariah completed his term of service (a week) and then returned home to the hill country (see 1:39) south of Jerusalem. The promise of a son to Zechariah and Elizabeth came even before this child was conceived. But, true to the angel’s words, Elizabeth became pregnant. She may have gone into seclusion until her condition would be obvious to others.
1:25 Zechariah and Elizabeth had been childless for many years, but God was waiting for the right time to encourage them and take away their disgrace. Elizabeth realized that in this impossible pregnancy, God had performed a miracle. She praised God for taking away her disgrace of having no children (see 1:7).
3. An Angel Promises the Birth of Jesus to Mary / 1:26-38
Luke placed the story of the announcement of Jesus’ birth right after the announcement of John’s birth. By doing so, he highlighted the similarities and differences between the two births.
1:26-27 Six months after Gabriel delivered God’s message to Zechariah (1:11-20), God sent the angel with another message, this time to a virgin named Mary. The angel Gabriel had also appeared to the prophet Daniel more than five hundred years earlier (Daniel 8:15-17; 9:21). Each time Gabriel appeared, he brought important messages from God. This time was no exception.
Nazareth in Galilee was Joseph’s and Mary’s hometown. Mary was not a prophet or a priest; she was not in God’s Temple performing acts of service. Instead, she was simply a young woman who was living at home and planning her wedding, for she was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. In ancient Jewish marriages, the word “engaged” (or “betrothed”) had a different meaning than today. First, the two families would agree to the union and negotiate the betrothal, including a price for the bride which would be paid to the bride’s father. Next, a public announcement would be made. At this point, the couple was “pledged” to each other. This is similar to engagement today, except that it was much more binding. At this point, even though the couple was not officially married, their relationship could be broken only through death or divorce. Sexual relations were not yet permitted. This second step lasted for a year. During that time, the couple would live separately, with their parents. This waiting period would demonstrate the bride’s purity. If she were found to be pregnant during that time, the marriage could be annulled. After this waiting time, the couple would be married and begin living together. What Mary was about to hear from the angel would have significant impact on her engagement.
*LIFE APPLICATION-WAIT FOR THE LORD -Zechariah thought it unbelievable that he and his wife, at their old age, could conceive a child. But what God promises, he delivers. And God delivers on time! You can have complete confidence that God will keep his word. His promises may not be fulfilled the next day, but they will be “at the proper time.” If you are waiting for God to answer some request or to fill some need, remain patient and “wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 40:31). No matter how impossible God’s promises may seem, what he has said in his Word will come true at the right time.
That Joseph was a descendant of King David is important for Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem (2:1-4) and for the fact that Jesus would be born into the royal line of David. (Although Joseph was not his father, Jesus would be considered in the royal line through the rights of adoption.)
1:28-29 When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he called her favored woman because she would be a special recipient of God’s grace. This young maiden was confused and disturbed as to why she was being greeted in such a way by this heavenly visitor.
*LIFE APPLICATION-GOD’S CHOICES – Mary was young, poor, female—all characteristics that, to the people of her day, would make her seem unusable by God for any major task. But God chose Mary for one of the most important acts of obedience he has ever demanded of anyone. You may feel that your ability, experience, or education makes you an unlikely candidate for God’s service. Don’t limit God’s choices. He can use you if you trust him. Take him at his word.
1:30-33 Gabriel told Mary that God had decided to bless her. The words did not point out any special virtue in Mary—she was not sinless. God chose Mary, blessed her, and she humbly accepted his call to be the mother of Jesus. The result of this blessing came in God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Gabriel explained that this child would grow in her womb, be born as all human children are born, and be named Jesus. This son will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The word “Son” was a designation of the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior (Genesis 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:9-16; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7; 11:1-3). Jesus, a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, was a common name meaning “Yahweh saves.” Just as Joshua had led Israel into the Promised Land (see Joshua 1:1-2), so Jesus would lead his people into eternal life. The symbolism of Jesus’ name was not lost on the people of his day, who took names seriously and saw them as a source of power. In Jesus’ name people would be healed, demons would be banished, and sins would be forgiven.
Centuries earlier, God had promised David that his kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, a direct descendant of David (1:27). Jesus was born in the line of David and thus could be a king to reign over Israel forever. His will be an eternal Kingdom that will never end. God had promised to continue the dynasty of David forever. David’s earthly dynasty ended four centuries after his reign, but Jesus Christ, a direct descendant of David, was the ultimate fulfillment of this promise (Acts 2:22-36). Christ will reign for eternity—now in his spiritual Kingdom and in heaven, and later, on earth, in the new Jerusalem (Luke 1:30-33; Revelation 21).
1:34 Unlike Zechariah who desired a sign as proof of the angel’s words (1:18), Mary’s question displayed her faith. She merely asked how this miraculous event could occur because she was a virgin. She was engaged to be married and probably planned on having children. Engagements usually occurred when girls were in their early teens. Mary may have been as young as thirteen when this event took place. Her question reveals spiritual perceptiveness; she understood that Gabriel was referring to a miracle child to be born while she was still a virgin, prior to her marriage to Joseph. She naturally wondered how this was going to occur.
The birth of Jesus to a virgin is a miracle that many people find difficult to believe. Jesus’ miracles, transfiguration, and resurrection were all actual, historical events that defy explanation. They were acts of God in a human world. Christians’ faith, however, rests not on the virgin birth—indeed two of the four Gospels don’t even mention it. Faith rests on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not on his virgin birth. However, the virgin birth reveals two important facts:
(1) In Jesus, God began a “new creation,” for through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, sin’s power would be broken. In Jesus, people can come to God for a personal relationship and be freed from the power of sin.
(2) Jesus was God’s Son before he was even conceived in Mary’s womb. He did not become God’s Son at a later time. He was not accepted as God’s Son because of good behavior or obedience. He was not a man promoted to that position. God’s Son was born God’s Son. In the birth of Jesus, God himself became human and entered the world—for fallen human beings! Therein lies the miracle! People are not meant to explain it, prove it, or ignore it—they are meant to believe it and worship God who made it happen.
1:35 Gabriel explained how Mary would become pregnant and yet remain a virgin. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you—these words picture the powerful presence of God coming upon Mary (see Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). This would indeed be a special baby, for he will be holy. Jesus was born without the sin that had entered the world through Adam. He was born holy, just as Adam had been created sinless. Believers must be careful not to explain that Jesus was sinless simply because he did not have a human father. To do so would mean that Mary would have been sinless, which she was not. Jesus’ sinlessness rests not on his miraculous birth to a virgin girl, but on the basis of his position with God. Through the birth of Jesus, God himself entered the world in human form.
The title, Son of God, shows that Jesus has a special role in God’s purpose, and that he is the expected Messiah. The mention of the Holy Spirit gives the name greater significance for it shows that God, through the Spirit, has a special role in creating this child. The connection of “Son of God” to “Son of the Most High” states Jesus’ divinity. In contrast to Adam, who disobeyed God, Jesus would completely obey his Father, enabling him to absolve the sins of the world (Romans 5:14-19).
*LIFE APPLICATION –JESUS UNDERSTANDS – Why is the Virgin Birth important to the Christian faith? Jesus Christ, God’s Son, had to be free from the sinful nature passed on to all other human beings by Adam. Because Jesus was born of a woman, he was a human being; but as the Son of God, Jesus was born without any trace of human sin. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Because Jesus lived as a man, human beings know that he fully understands their experiences and struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16). Because he is God, he has the power and authority to deliver people from sin (Colossians 2:13-15). People can tell Jesus all their thoughts, feelings, and needs. He has been where they are, and he has the ability to help.
1:36-37 Mary did not ask for a sign, but it seems that Gabriel gave her one by stating that Mary’s relative Elizabeth was also pregnant as the result of God’s grace. Gabriel gave Mary a person to whom she could go for support during what could prove to be a difficult time for Mary as she humbly fulfilled God’s will. This also illustrated for Mary the fact that nothing is impossible with God.
1:38 God’s announcement of a child to be born was met with various responses throughout Scripture. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, laughed (Genesis 18:9-15). Zechariah doubted (1:18). By contrast, Mary submitted, knowing that she was merely the Lord’s servant. She believed the angel’s words and agreed to bear the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances, even with difficult social consequences. A young unmarried girl who became pregnant risked disaster. She risked losing Joseph, her family, and her reputation. And her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit risked her being considered crazy as well. Still Mary said, despite the risks, “May everything you have said come true.” She took the risk of faith, for she knew that God was asking her to serve him.
*LIFE APPLICATION–FAVOR WITH GOD – God’s favor does not automatically bring instant success or fame. His blessing on Mary, the honor of being the mother of the Messiah, would lead to much pain: her peers would ridicule her; her fiancé would consider leaving her; her son would be rejected and murdered. But through her son would come the world’s only hope, and this is why Mary has been praised by countless generations as the young girl who “found favor with God.” Mary’s submission was part of God’s plan to bring about salvation. If sorrow weighs you down and dims your hope, think of Mary and wait patiently for God to finish working out his plan.
- 4. Mary Visits Elizabeth / 1:39-56
Mary is the type of woman who puts her faith into action. She not only says “Lord, your will be done” (see 1:38), but she also “hurries” to see God at work in the life of her relative Elizabeth. The journey to Judea that Mary undertook was not a simple drive to the next town; it was a difficult journey that would have taken at least three days at that time. Mary did not let that stop her from going to Elizabeth, rejoicing with her, and praising the Lord for fulfilling his promises.
1:39-40 Elizabeth and Mary were related (1:36). Perhaps Mary felt the need to take her news to someone who would understand. So Mary left Nazareth and hurried to the hill country of Judea, although the town where Zechariah lived is unknown. The trip from Nazareth to the hill country was probably fifty to seventy miles—a major trip for a young woman alone and on foot.
1:41 The visit from Mary no doubt came as a surprise, but the Holy Spirit made Elizabeth suddenly aware of both Mary’s pregnancy and the identity of Mary’s baby. The beautiful interweaving of the lives of Elizabeth and Mary before their children were born is a touching picture of God’s grace upon his servants. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months (1:56). How they must have talked, wondering at what God was doing in their lives and what he was planning for their very special children.
*LIFE APPLICATION– FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT -Christians are urged to be filled with the Spirit as part of normal growth in the Lord (see Ephesians 5:18), but the filling Elizabeth experienced was different, spontaneous, entirely God-given, much like that of Peter in Acts 4:8. This filling captures the emotions with a God-centered joy and creates in the heart an excited sense of God’s loving purpose in your life. This filling makes you want to sing, pray, shout, and dance. When God moves your heart this way, let it show.
1:42-45 Elizabeth had not even yet been told that Mary was pregnant. Elizabeth spoke words given to her by the Spirit (1:41) as she recognized Mary’s blessed condition, knowing that Mary had been specially chosen by God, much as Elizabeth had. As Mary had rushed off to visit her relative, she must have been wondering whether the events of the last few days were real. Elizabeth’s greeting surely strengthened her faith. Mary’s pregnancy may have seemed impossible, but her wise relative believed in the Lord’s faithfulness and rejoiced in Mary’s condition. The Spirit also showed Elizabeth the identity of Mary’s child, for she knew that this child was also blessed—God’s Son, the promised Messiah, with a unique identity and role to fulfill. Mary would be the mother of the Lord. Only the Holy Spirit could have revealed this to Elizabeth. Mary and Elizabeth (and Zechariah—although he had been stricken deaf and mute, 1:20) were the first people on earth to see God’s hand moving to fulfill hundreds of years of promises.
Under inspiration of the Spirit, Elizabeth interpreted the movement in her womb as the child’s joy at hearing Mary’s greeting. Elizabeth repeated that Mary was blessed because she believed that the Lord would do what he said.
1:46-50 This song is often called the “Magnificat,” the first word in the Latin translation of this passage. Mary’s song has often been used as the basis for choral music and hymns. Like Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10), Mary glorified God in song for what he was going to do for the world through her. Notice that in both songs, God is pictured as a champion of the poor, the oppressed, and the despised.
As Mary journeyed from Nazareth to visit her relatives, she had much time to think about what she had heard from the angel and what she understood about God’s plan for the Jewish people. When she arrived and Elizabeth spoke to her, Mary’s joy overflowed and she could say with her whole heart, “How I rejoice in God my Savior!” Mary humbly understood that she was just a lowly servant girl chosen by God. She recognized that what he was doing in her life would have a profound impact on the world and future generations. Mary focused on God’s power, holiness, and mercy. Her insight into God’s character formed the basis for her confidence in him.
1:51-53 The arm of God is used in the Old Testament to describe his strength and power (see, for example, Exodus 6:6; Isaiah 51:5). Mary pictured God’s strength being revealed to the sinful world as he scatters the proud, brings down the princes, and sends the rich away with empty hands. By contrast, God’s power shows in his mercy to his own—lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things. The tense of the verbs indicates that, while yet future, Mary was speaking prophetically of these events so certain to occur that they could be spoken of as having already happened.
*LIFE APPLICATION – YOUR GIFTS – When Mary said, “From now on all generations will call me blessed,” was she being proud? No, she was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her. If Mary had denied her privileged position, she would have been throwing God’s blessing back at him. Pride is refusing to accept God’s gifts or taking credit for what God has done; humility is accepting the gifts and using them to praise and serve God. Don’t deny, belittle, or ignore your gifts. Thank God for them and use them to his glory.
1:54-55 The words he has helped . . . Israel are in the same verb tense as the previous verses—this is a future event so certain that it is mentioned in the past tense. This “help” for Israel is the Messiah, who will come according to the promise God made to the Jews’ ancestors, specifically Abraham (Genesis 22:16-18). Jesus’ birth fulfilled the promise, and Mary understood this as the Spirit revealed it to her. Some of God’s promises to Israel are found in 2 Samuel 22:50-51; Psalms 89:2-4; 103:17-18; Micah 7:18-20.
1:56 Because travel was not easy, long visits were customary. Mary must have been a great help to Elizabeth, who was experiencing the discomforts of being pregnant in her old age. In addition, Elizabeth certainly helped Mary. During these three months, Mary surely discussed with Elizabeth how to handle what would be an extremely difficult social predicament. She would have to return home and explain her pregnancy to her family and her fiancé. Hopefully, when Mary went back to her own home, three months pregnant, she was even more strengthened in her faith by Elizabeth’s faith (1:6), ready to face all that the future would hold.
5. John the Baptist Is Born / 1:57-80
Zechariah’s song prophesied about the coming Messiah—Jesus. He was the promised One from David’s royal household, the One who would provide salvation for all of God’s people. Zechariah’s son, John, would be the one who would prepare the way for Jesus (1:76).
1:57-58 Elizabeth gave birth to a boy, just as the angel had said (1:13). From the wording of this verse, it seems that no one had known about Elizabeth’s pregnancy. So when the neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very kind to her, they rejoiced.
*LIFE APPLICATION– MERCY It seems like an outdated word.But where God is worshiped and honored, mercy may still be found—in the close call that could have been tragic, in the phone call that lifted your spirit, or as for Elizabeth here, in the fulfillment of a dream.
Look around today for moments of God’s mercy to you. Be God’s channel of mercy for someone else. Surprise someone with a quality all but forgotten in the rush to get more done.
1:59-60 In observance of the law, when the baby was eight days old, he was circumcised. God had commanded circumcision when he was beginning to form his holy nation (Genesis 17:4-14), and he had reaffirmed it through Moses (Leviticus 12:1-3). The circumcision ceremony was an important event for the family of a Jewish baby boy. This ceremony was a time of joy when relatives and friends came to celebrate the baby’s becoming part of God’s covenant nation.
The day of circumcision was also the day when parents would formally announce the child’s name. Family lines and family names were important to the Jews. The people naturally assumed the child would receive Zechariah’s name or at least a family name. Thus, they were surprised that Elizabeth wanted to name the boy John. Apparently Zechariah had communicated to Elizabeth all that the angel had told him, so she knew what the child’s name was to be (1:13). Zechariah and Elizabeth knew what family and friends did not know—that John had been given his name by God, and that he had a God-given mission to fulfill.
*LIFE APPLICATION –CONVICTION – Stubbornness wants its own way at any price. It’s the quality of someone who will not listen to a better idea, who acts simply in order to exert the power of his or her will. Conviction is the settled confidence that God is leading and you intend to follow, come what may. Conviction isn’t your will against the sound advice of others; it’s your will surrendered to God’s will in a way that other Christians verify as good. Elizabeth had a conviction to name her son John. Stubbornness compensates for a feeling of weakness. It’s an “I’ll show you” strategy of empowering the self. Conviction—Elizabeth’s quality in the naming of her son—is the courage to depend on God’s strength alone, the confidence that God has said, “I’ll show you the way.” Trade your stubbornness for God-guided conviction.
1:61-64 After Elizabeth gave the surprising name to her son, the relatives and friends took the situation to the head of the household who had been unable to speak since the day he had seen the vision in the Temple (1:20). It was customary to name a child after his father or grandfather, especially when they were esteemed men. The people could not believe that Elizabeth would choose a name that no one in the family had ever had. Apparently Zechariah had been stricken deaf as well, because they had to communicate to him by making gestures, asking him to name the child. In writing, Zechariah agreed with his wife in naming their son “John.” After fulfilling God’s command spoken through the angel that he name the child John, instantly Zechariah could speak again. With his first words, he began praising God. The last words Zechariah had spoken months before had been words of doubt; his first words when all was being fulfilled, even the name of the child, were words of praise to God for all God had done and all he would do through this special child.
1:65-66 This baby’s birth to an elderly couple, their strange insistence on an unusual name, the supernatural muteness and then the instantaneous cure caused wonder to fall upon the whole neighborhood. Unusual news travels fast, and as the story spread, everyone reflected on these events. Certainly this was a special child with a special destiny. It was obvious to everyone that the hand of the Lord was on John in a special way.
1:67-68 Zechariah praised God with his first words after months of silence. In a song that is often called the “Benedictus” after the first words in the Latin translation of this passage, Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit (see also 1:41) gave a prophecy of the coming of a Savior who would redeem his people. All the Old Testament prophecies were coming true—no wonder Zechariah praised God. These words were a common way to introduce a thanksgiving (see 1 Kings 1:48; 1 Chronicles 16:36; Psalms 41:13; 72:18; 106:48), thus Zechariah’s words offered thanksgiving to God. Like Mary, Zechariah spoke of the coming redemption of Israel as though it was occurring: God has visited his people and redeemed them. Indeed, the Messiah was already on the way—although few people knew it. In Zechariah’s song is a reminder that Jesus came as the fulfillment of all God’s purposes and promises in the Old Testament.
The word redeemed literally means “accomplished redemption.” In the Old Testament, “redemption” pictured the rescue by God of the Israelites from Egypt and their return from captivity in Babylon (see Deuteronomy 7:8; Jeremiah 31:11). “Redemption” means recovery of something or someone upon payment of a ransom. The climate of Israel in the first century was again a “captivity,” for the Jews were subject to the Romans. The Jews were looking for a political Messiah to “redeem” them once again. But Messiah’s redemption would be different from current expectations. Jesus would bring redemption from sin.
1:69-71 Zechariah praised God because he has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David. Again, Zechariah was speaking in the past tense about an event still future, albeit in the near future. The Messiah was already being “sent,” for God had begun to set his plan into motion. The “royal line of . . . David” refers to the ancestral line through whom the Messiah was to come, as God had said through his holy prophets (see, for example, 2 Samuel 7:11-13, 26; Psalms 89; 132:17; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Amos 9:11-12; Hebrews 1:1).
The words, saved from our enemies and from all who hate us, clearly indicate what was happening in that society. Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would bring deliverance. The Jews were eagerly awaiting the Messiah, but they thought he would come to save them from the powerful Roman Empire. They were ready for a military Savior, but not for a peaceful Messiah who would conquer sin. Zechariah’s words would come true, but in a different manner than most expected. Thirty years later, when Jesus began his public ministry, he would be misunderstood and rejected for not being the mighty warrior for whom the Jews had been hoping.
1:72-75 Through the coming Savior, God has been merciful to the Jewish people and their ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant with them, specifically the covenant that he gave to Abraham. Recorded in Genesis 22:16-18, the oath to Abraham promised that the enemies of Abraham’s descendants would be subdued and that blessing to his descendants would result from Abraham’s obedience. God keeps his promises (see Micah 7:20). Yet the fulfillment of these promises means opportunity for God’s people—that they might serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness forever.
1:76-77 After recalling hundreds of years of God’s sovereign work in history, beginning with Abraham and going on into eternity, Zechariah personalized the story. His son had been chosen for a key role in the drama of the ages. Although God has unlimited power, he chooses to work through frail humans who begin as helpless babies. Zechariah proclaimed what the angel had told him (1:16-17), words that Zechariah had at first doubted. John will be called the prophet of the Most High. Zechariah speaks these same amazing words in a land where the voice of prophecy had been silent for over four hundred years. John would prepare the way for the Lord, as had been predicted by Israel’s last prophet, Malachi (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6), telling his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. The “salvation” referred to in 1:69-71 is here spelled out as “forgiveness of sins.” John would explain this to people as he prepared the way for the Messiah. His message would be “repent,” for only through repentance can sinners find forgiveness (see 3:3-18).
*LIFE APPLICATION –A PARENT’S PRAYER – As Zechariah looked at his baby son, so full of potential and promise, could he see what John would become—how John would challenge Roman immorality, how John would die in prison? No, Zechariah could see none of that—only John’s little life to be blessed and used by God.
Every Christian parent can echo Zechariah’s dreams. Before Jesus comes again, many prophets (preachers, teachers, enablers) will tell the world about God’s salvation. Will your child endure hardship along the way? Don’t worry, God is in control. Pray that your child will prepare the way of the Lord, helping many find God’s mercy and eternal life.
1:78-79 The light from heaven refers to that visitation of God to humanity in the form of the Messiah. These words echo Old Testament promises (Isaiah 9:2-3 ). This message of light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death was fulfilled in the birth of Christ and the establishment of his eternal Kingdom. He came to deliver all people from their slavery to sin. (See also Isaiah 58:8, 10; 60:1-3.) He will also guide us to the path of peace. This peace would not merely be political, but spiritual. All of this would occur because of God’s tender mercy and compassion on sinful humankind.
1:80 Luke briefly gave a glimpse of John’s growing-up years. Became strong in spirit could refer to moral development, but could also refer to strengthening in God’s Spirit. That John lived out in the wilderness refers to his isolation from people as he prepared for ministry. His parents, already old when he was conceived, presumably did not live very long into his growing-up years. John would have been on his own. Some scholars have suggested that John may have joined the community of the Essenes (a Jewish sect that required communal living) after his parents passed away. It’s possible, but not mentioned.
Thanks again for joining this journey! Today is the longest chapter, but it’s still good stuff. Remember, I am praying for you. Please make any comments or posts of how God’s word is speaking to you. Until tomorrow,
DarrellSources: Bible Knowledge Commentary, Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary, Mastering the New Testament, A Book-by-Book Commentary by Today’s Great Teachers, LUKE For more about The Ridge Fellowship or Darrell Koop, go to www.ridgefellowship.com