It is December 1st, the beginning of the Christmas season. Out of the gospels Luke is 24 chapters which fits perfectly for a study during the holidays. I encourage you to gather your friends and families and attend to this study reading one chapter a day together. It is a nice little tradition that you can form but also gives us a chance to remember the birth and life of Christ our King. Even better it is nicely wrapped up on Christmas eve. With that being said let’s begin.
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;Luke 1:1-2 KJV
First thing I wanted to point out. Luke is saying that he is a believer here but unlike the other Gospel writers he was not an eyewitness which suggests Luke became a believer sometime later. Strikingly there is not that much information about who Luke really was. We can make some guesses such as that Luke was a physician and a gentile. The physician part is made in refrences but also appears in his writing. The word eyewitness is “autoptai” (αὐτόπται) which is a medical term for autopsy. There is some heavy suggestion that Luke traveled with Paul off and on during his ministry.
There is also a suggestion that there were other gospels floating around at the time, not all of them good either. There is an established church at the time of writing this as well as “believed among us,” would suggest.
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.Luke 1:3 KJV
Luke is letting us know since he was not an eyewitness he is taking the role of researcher. This is actually what he would have been an expect at since physician work is all about gathering symptoms and signs and coming to an educated conclusion on how to treat whatever it is that is ailing the person commissioning your services. So approaching this as an investigation his work shows those who were not eyewitnesses how to find truth and faith.
Now, who is Theophilus. Well, Theophilus means “friend of God.” the fact he was called the “most excellent” Theophilus suggests he had some kind of honor bestowed onto him. There are all kinds of views from him being a Jewish priest, some say he was Paul’s lawyer, some suggest a Roman officer of some kind because of that little “most excellent”, there are a lot of theories, some more credible than others. If there is not much bible evidence for a theory, then it is a rabbit hole. You can go chase that one if you like but for the purposes of this study we are just going to look at what he did. Point is he most likely distributed Luke’s gospel after he had finished it. Maybe even was a scribe making more copies of it.
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.Luke 1:5 KJV
This makes perfect sense, right? If you are like me I got the first part pretty easily. During Herod’s time as king of Judaea, got it. A priest named Zacharias, no problem. Then it mentions in the course of Abia? What is Abia and what is the course of it?
Well a course in this sense is a set of priests. These courses were established during the time of King David. They had twenty four courses total and each of them had to perform their priestly tasks twice a year. So when it is saying that the course of Abia it is telling you Zacharias is part of that set of priests.
Before we continue I wanted to point out an interesting fact. Zacharias means “YHWH Remembers” and Elizabeth means “My God Is An Oath.” So what do you get when you put the two together “God Remembers His Oath”.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.Luke 1:6 KJV
I am not sure why Luke is making this a point. I suspect there was some kind of smear campaign against John going around and maybe that was tied to his parents in some way. Not sure, but establishing that God found the pair blameless is a pretty impactful statement.
7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.Luke 1:7 KJV
I find it odd how God chooses to use age as an indicator of his power. Woman that should be long passed their ability to have children, let alone healthy ones, are suddenly given the ability to conceive. He does this with Isaac, Samson, and Samuel. Likewise a greater miracle is performed through Mary who conceives as a virgin.
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.Luke 1:8-9 KJV
Here we see a gentile explaining the practices from an outsiders prospective. The even more astonishing part is how by chance he was chosen to perform this rite. Most likely this would be the only time in his life that he would do this task. It just so happens God worked it out that his one chance is when he is needed.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.Luke 1:10-12 KJV
So Zacharias went into the Holy Place of the temple which is located outside of the Holy of Holies. There is a spot called the Altar of Incense which is outside inside the Holy Place. This location is where all this was taking place. Outside he would have most likely heard the prayers while he was performing the rite of burning the incense.
During this, is when “AN” angel of the Lord appeared before Zacharias. I emphasize that because it is not “THE” angel of the Lord. This is an angel named Gabriel, generally he is considered a messenger of God. One of the arch angels in most traditions. He and Michael are the only two upright angels mentioned by name in the Bible.
Now Zacharias is stricken with fright. I am going to suggest it is not from his initial reaction of being jumped. I am kind of thinking it is the alien appearance of Gabriel who may or may not be one of the Holy Beasts mentioned in Revelation. Our view of angels are winged people, however the descriptions given in the Bible rarely affirm this view. So, as you would imagine Zacharias is terrified.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.Luke 13 KJV
I am going to make an interesting suggestion here as well. Fear not is most likely not Gabriel attempting to calm Zacharias about his presence. Instead he immediately says that his prayers were heard and that his wife Elisabeth shall bare a son. Now we all have personal prayers in our heart. I am going to suggest that Zacharias was praying for a son.
Now names when given to people are important. Especially when from God. So John must have a meaning to it. Well it does, John means “YHWH is Gracious”. Indeed he is. I am sure Zacharias thought this himself, as did Elizabeth who will later demand that be his name.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.Luke 1:15 KJV
So we are given an overview of John’s life before he is born. He will be a joy and a delight to you. He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will never drink fermented drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth. Sounds like he is going to be a guy with a real fire for the Lord. He was too. This John is John the Baptist.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.Luke 1:16 KJV
I don’t know about you but I heard a few stories about a guy named John the Baptist and I think the descriptions fit pretty well. Granted we are given all this post John’s ministry. None the less the account surely came from first hand accounts. Someone like Luke would not take hearsay as evidence as once again, he is a trained physician which is the same as an expert investigator.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.Luke 1:17 KJV
Elias, is also named Elijah, Gabriel is saying that John is going to be a mirror image of Elijah in many ways. Elijah was the prophet who faced King Ahab and the “Priests of Baal” which is where we get the term Cannibal from. He also was driven into the wilderness after his showdown by Jezebel. Like Elijah who turned the people from worshiping a devil named Baal, John is presented in the same fashion. He will bring back the people to worship God.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.Luke 1:18 KJV
Someone else did that too, if I remember correctly. Sarah, when THE angel of the Lord came to her and told Abraham she would conceive Isaac. Granted she did not speak it she thought it in her mind. Zacharias however spoke it to Gabriel.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.Luke 1:19 KJV
Gabriel declares his name finally. Now, I notice autonomy here. I am not sure though. God could have commanded this of Gabriel but somehow I see this as Gabriel acting on his will to curse Zacharias. He offended Gabriel. This reaction does not seem to be a gentle and understanding one but rather a burst of emotion. Like “How can you question God?” If this is true I think this is a beautiful display of God’s perfection.
Sarah very easily could have had the same kind of curse befall her but God did not curse her, at least not any that we are privy to. So, this shows God’s mercy and restraint is even above that of the angels who we tend to idolize as perfect as well. Perhaps he did not do wrong. I am not sure but it is something that I think about sometimes when coming across these things.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.Luke 1:21-22 KJV
Now we have Zacharias walking out, and the other priests praying outside have most likely stopped praying and were really puzzled as to what is going on. I would imagine they might have even began to hypothesize among each other as to what exactly has occured.
So when Zacharias walks out and everyone most likely rushed up to him asking him what took you so long, what happened in there. He starts using his hands and gesturing. Then once they realized he could not speak they knew something supernatural had occurred and in the Holy Place of all places. So they rejoiced. However, Zacharias could not share any of it, talk about burning to tell a secret.
23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.Luke 1:23-25 KJV
Now Zacharias finishes his duties at the temple and returns home. Imagine how that conversation went, or rather didn’t. I am sure he was accompanied by a fellow priest who explained what happened to Elizabeth. Though I like to consider that he did not. It is kind of a comical image.
Now there is something strange here and all the commentaries I have read never have any definitive answer to this. Why did she hide herself away? I do not know the answer to this one. People suggest it was that she devoted herself to praising God for five months, or that she wanted to avoid rumors, or that she wanted to be sure she was pregnant. I just think it is such a strange thing and the fact that detail is in there it must have been known to people at the time she did indeed do this. This would lend credibility to Luke.
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.Luke 1:26 – 27 KJV
So now we are following Gabriel to Galilee. A place that most Jewish people would consider to be, undesirable. Now it is interesting that Luke mentions that they were of the House Of David.
5 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.Jeremiah 23:5-6 KJV
So interesting little note, not so inspected here but both Joseph and Mary are of the line of David.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.Luke 1:28-29 KJV
Now this time we see Mary not being troubled by Gabriel but rather what he was saying. After all when someone shows up and is like “HEY, your highly favored! You are really a blessed woman!” it might be a little odd.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:Luke 1:30-32 KJV
So Gabriel explains himself more. I would imagine Gabriel is rather excitedly giving the news. After all he is announcing the coming of the King of Kings. So he makes it more clear the favor she has is from God. He also tells her she will have a son and his name will be Jesus “to rescue” “to save” “to deliver” so she would immediately understand the meaning of this conversation.
Gabriel further details that he will be the “Son of the Highest” think Son of God (because he is the Highest), and not only that but he is going to reclaim the throne of David, which at this time is not in existence as it was destroyed in 586 BC.
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.Luke 1:33 KJV
The house of Jacob is Israel, Jacob was often referred to as Israel. So Gabriel is saying that Jesus is going to rule over all of the Israeli people from the throne of David. A prophecy to be fulfilled.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?Luke 1:34 KJV
Now we see once again Mary questioning Gabriel… so curse time!?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.Luke 1:35 KJV
There is a difference between Mary and Zacharias as Gabriel cursed Zacharias for his doubt, but Mary he did not, instead he explained the method. So what is the difference here? I think it is an answer of heart. Mary was curious whereas Zacharias thought Gabriel was preposterous. This goes to show that the temperament of God and his angels are really focused on the internal actions of a person and the sincerity of one’s own heart. If you trust in the Lord he will bless you. If you doubt God, he will curse you.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.Luke 1:36-37 KJV
Gabriel further tells Mary news of her cousin Elisabeth (much much older cousin), that she is preggers too. This is also a confirmation that God is in control of the further actions. Which no doubt being told you are going to have the honor and responsibility of raising the Savior King of Israel, its a pretty daunting task. Any reassurance would be greatly beneficial to her. Some how I doubt that she needed it though. Considering the way Gabriel approached her.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:38 KJV
I like to point this out. A lot of people like to say stupid things like God forced Mary to have his child. They make this a point of contention as if woman are given no value. Mary right here is not only consenting but she considers it an honor. She accepts this willingly and then Gabriel leaves after.
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:Luke 1:39-41 KJV
Of course after Mary hears the news that Elisabeth is pregnant, she goes to visit. When Mary arrives John being filled with the holy spirit kicks. He has an emotional response to Mary’s presence because she carried Christ within her.
I want to make a point of this. ABORTION IS AN ABOMINATION! We are seeing a six month old fetus react to the presence of God here. Any Christian should be convicted because before John was in the womb he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This means from the point he was a single celled zygote the Holy Spirit was within him. There is no defense. A Christian should stand adamantly against this act of murder. Furthermore Christ at this point is a zygote. Only a few hundred cells at most. So stop accepting this heresy. It is a crime against humanity.
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.Luke 1:42-43 KJV
I am puzzled by these verses. Not because of John, though the idea of the Holy Spirit at birth being within someone also is something to think about, the puzzle I am confronted with is how did Elizabeth know? This suggests to me because she carried John, that by osmosis the Spirit was also within her.
It is also important to know that there is no delineation of royalty among Elizabeth’s words. She is not saying Mary is the Queen of Heaven or above all women or the greatest woman, rather she is saying she is the most honored by God. It is her receiving something; not her ownership of anything.
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,Luke 1:46 KJV
Some people have taken this out of context misreading the words. I have heard it suggested that Mary is claiming her soul magnified the Lord. Rather she is saying that her soul highly proclaims God’s greatness.
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.Luke 1:47 KJV
This displays that Mary already knows of the future for her child. Remember the accounts written in the Gospels are summaries of these events, rather than direct line for line accounts. There could have been much discussion from Gabriel or God could be directly communicating with Mary while in the womb.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.Luke 1:48 KJV
Mary is saying God has uplifted her even though she was of a low estate or poor. That everyone will recognize her as the mother who brought Jesus into the world. That God has blessed her greatly. This is true too. Mary is almost synonymous with Jesus today.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.Luke 1:49 KJV
The great things are not detailed but one of them for sure is the virgin conception.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.Luke 1:50 KJV
I want to really stop and look at this statement. This is a very interesting characteristic of God. He is not a bully. Those who fear him have his mercy. From generation to generation means that he does not change. God does not change. He says this many times and here is another way of saying it.
51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.Luke 1:51-52 KJV
Now we have a contrast. If you do not fear God, and stand against him, he will utterly ruin you.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.Luke 1:53 KJV
Once again displaying God’s values are not man’s values. Riches are not evil in themselves, nor is being poor a good thing. However, honor and respect for God is. Those who follow God’s ways are blessed by them.
54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.Luke 1:54-55 KJV
Mary is thanking God for his protection over Israel and the covenant he swore with them. She is also thanking God for remaining faithful even when the sons of Israel are not.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.Luke 1:56 KJV
Three months is around the time when John would have been born. She either left just before his birth, most likely helping Elizabeth. This would also be the time when Mary has begun to show. Remember Mary is NOT married to Joseph at this time. She is an unwed woman who is showing. In a Jewish village that is a good way to get accused of adultery or fornication. Both things which can get you stoned. This could also be another possible motive for Mary going back to her home in Galilee where it is far more acceptable.
57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.Luke 1:57-58 KJV
Ok, here I have to laugh a little. I can imagine when Elisabeth first allowed people to know of her pregnancy people talked. Most likely suggesting this like “That old hag pregnant, sure, she is just getting fat.” We all know what people say behind peoples backs and this time period is no different. I am sure this was the talk of the town.
Now when she walked out of her home with baby John swaddled in her arms, I bet that was a proud moment for her. She most likely felt vindicated and peoples head’s exploded. It was a miracle and no one could deny it. She was far too old to have a natural born child.
59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.Luke 1:59-60 KJV
This is what is called a bris. It is done on the eighth day according to God’s law. Funny thing is when circumcising you want a lot of Vitamin K so the blood clots fast. It just so happens on the eighth day, Vitamin K is at it’s highest. Only God could have known that when forming this tradition.
It is customary to name a child after someone in the lineage. Names are important and this also happens normally during the bris. The idea is that by that time the parents have had a chance to see the personality of the child. It is mostly ceremonial. However, Elizabeth demands that he be called John.
A question that arises… how did she know?
61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.Luke 1:61-62 KJV
So naturally when they hear her response it broke tradition. This is unusual and they all recognized this. So they made signs for Zacharias to read. Now this is funny because being hard of hearing was not part of the curse. Is this something new?
63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.Luke 1:63 KJV
I think this is more evidence of God’s hand. Now the priests performing the bris most likely were confounded. What a strange thing?
64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.Luke 1:64 KJV
And the prophecy fulfilled; the curse is lifted. I am not an expert on the mechanics of how curses work or what sustains their power. I am going to assume God has control over that. However, it is clear that curses are a thing. I just point that out to remind people not to fool around with this stuff. They have real life applications and consequences.
65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.Luke 1:65-66 KJV
John now has instant credibility by virtue of his fantastic history. The word of all these things would spread around the Hebrew communities and no doubt people would be making plans for him. This would be a credit to him when he begins his ministry. People would remember the stories surrounding him and naturally be drawn to his presence.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,Luke 1:67 KJV
We are seeing the Holy Spirit born into the world through a vessel as well at this point. A parallel. Jesus being the son of God and John being filled with his spirit. We have seen this spirit transfer through his family so far. It goes from him first being filled with it at birth, then to his mother who carries him and now to his father having been freed from the curse because of his given name. I will share one of my secret thoughts with you. I think there is a spiritual lesson here about freedom from sin but I have not wrestled with it enough.
68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,Luke 1:68 KJV
Knowing that Mary is carrying Jesus Zacharias is praising God with his first words. Letting people know that the savior is now among them. Redemption is at hand.
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
Zacharias is making a direct connection to the prophets here. He is telling everyone to look back because the answers to the coming events lays in their history. Even more he details this.
71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,Luke 1:71-74 KJV
He is reminding them of God’s promises to deliver them. The Oath God swore to Abraham.
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.Luke 1:75 KJV
Word like this would spread fast through Israel. Sadly this would be misinterpreted by many. They expected a military commander as a savior. Instead they forgot the suffering servant first comes to bring light to the world.
80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.Luke 1:80 KJV
Like Elijah lived in the wild, so does John. There are many parallels between the two. This is not a normal thing to do for a child. To just leave his family and go live in the wild. Granted I would imagine his parents may have passed away so this is why he had chosen to do this. It also may be that many around Israel had agendas and he wanted to avoid the hassle. These of course are nothing more than baseless conjectures.
I hope you all enjoyed the first chapter of Luke. I know it is a long chapter but it does give you a chance to really dive into the word and discover so many possibilities. The questions are endless when dealing with the Bible. You can read it a thousand times and find something new every single time.