1-4I am writing for you, mighty lover of God, # 1:1–4 The Greek text can be translated “most excellent Theophilus.” The name Theophilus means “friend of God” or “lover of God.” The Greek word means “most honorable” or “mightiest.” Some scholars believe there was no individual named Theophilus mentioned in Luke’s writings. This becomes instead a greeting to you and all the lovers of God. an orderly account of what Jesus accomplished and fulfilled among us. Several eyewitness biographies have already been written, # 1:1–4 It is likely that Matthew and Mark are two of the Gospel accounts Luke refers to here. using as their source material the good news preached among us by his early disciples, who were from the beginning loving servants of the Living Expression. # 1:1–4 Translated literally from the Aramaic text. The Greek word is logos. Some have translated this rich term as “Word.” It could also be translated “Message” or “Blueprint.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the creative Word, and the Word made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in his humanity. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has expressed himself in Christ. Now I am passing on to you this accurate compilation of my own meticulous investigation # 1:1–4 The Greek word used here is actually “to see with the eye” or “autopsy.” Autopsy is a relevant word, since we know that Luke was a physician. Also, note that Luke’s sources would have included all he heard from Paul and others on their missionary journeys. And, he likely had the opportunity to interview Mary, Jesus’ mother. based on numerous eyewitness interviews. It is appropriate for me to write this, for he also appeared to me # 1:1–4 Translated literally from the Aramaic text. The Greek text uses the same term for “coming from above” found in John 3:31 and 19:11. Luke is revealing that the Lord Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to compile his inspired Gospel. See 1 Cor. 15:3–5, regarding the direct revelation Paul similarly received and would have passed on to Luke. so that I would reassure you beyond any shadow of a doubt the reliability of all you have been taught of him.
Angelic Prophecy of the Prophet John’s Birth
5During the reign of King Herod the Great of Judea, # 1:5 Herod the Great ruled in Israel under the Emperor of Rome, the first of a succession of Herodian “kings.” there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah # 1:5 Zechariah means “God has remembered.” Elizabeth means “oath” or “covenant of God.” The gospel of Luke opens and closes with the story of a priest. It begins with Zechariah, the fallible human priest after the order of Aaron, and ends with our perfect High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, Jesus Christ. who served in the temple as part of the priestly order of Abijah. # 1:5 King David organized the priests into twenty-four divisions, and Abijah was the head of one of the priestly families. See Neh. 12:12, 17; 1 Chron. 24:6–10. His wife, Elizabeth, was also from a family of priests, and was a descendant of Aaron. 6They were both righteous before God, living virtuously and following the commandments of the Lord blamelessly. 7But they were childless since Elizabeth was barren, and now they both were quite old.
8-9One day, Zechariah’s priestly order was on duty and he was serving as priest. He was chosen by the casting of lots (according to the custom of the priesthood) so the honor fell upon Zechariah to enter the Holy Place # 1:8–9 Some have said there were twenty thousand priests in Christ’s time, so that no priest would ever offer incense more than once. This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Zechariah. The burning of incense before the Lord was done twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon (Ex. 30:7–8). and burn incense before the Lord. 10A large crowd of worshipers had gathered to pray outside the temple at the hour when incense was being offered. 11All at once an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing just to the right of the altar of incense. # 1:11 The angel appeared on the south side of the Holy Place, between the altar of incense and the golden lampstand.
12Zechariah was startled and overwhelmed with fear. 13But the angel reassured him, saying, “Don’t be afraid, # 1:13 Luke uses this phrase, “Don’t be afraid,” seven times in his gospel (1:30, 2:10, 5:10, 8:50, 12:7, 12:32). Zechariah! God is showing grace to you. For I have come to tell you that your prayer # 1:13 The Greek verb allows for a possible translation of “prayer you don’t even pray anymore.” for a child has been answered. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son and you are to name him John. 14His birth will bring you much joy and gladness. # 1:14 Luke is the gospel of joy! There are nine reasons for joy in this book: (1) The joy of Christ’s life, 1:14. (2) The greatness of Jesus, 1:41. (3) The joy of heaven over the birth of Christ, 2:10. (4) The joy of God’s Word in our hearts, 8:13. (5) The joys of a ministry of power and our names written in heaven, 10:17, 20. (6) The heavenly joys of salvation, 15:7, 10. (7) The joys of condescending love, 19:6. (8) The joys of overwhelming mysteries, 24:41. (9) The resurrection and the blessings that are ours in Christ, 24:52. Many will rejoice because of him, 15and he will be one of the great ones in the sight of God. He will drink no wine or strong drink, # 1:15 Most likely, John was to be a Nazarite from birth, one totally set apart for God and who would fulfill the Nazarite vow found in Num. 6:1–12. but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even while still in his mother’s womb. 16And he will persuade many in Israel to convert and turn back to the Lord their God. 17He will go before the Lord as a forerunner, with the same power and anointing # 1:17 Or “spirit.” as Elijah the prophet. He will be instrumental in turning the hearts of the fathers in tenderness back to their children and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of their righteous fathers. And he will prepare a united people # 1:17 The words “united people” are found in the Aramaic text. who are ready for the Lord’s appearing.”
18Zechariah asked the angel, “How do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is too old to give me a child. What sign can you give me to prove this will happen?”
19Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel. # 1:19 The name Gabriel means “God’s hero” or “God’s mighty one.” I stand beside God himself. He has sent me to announce to you this good news. 20But now, since you did not believe my words, you will be stricken silent and unable to speak # 1:20 Since Zechariah asked for a sign rather than believe the word of the Lord, he was given the sign of silence. Unbelief keeps a priest from speaking until faith arises. until the day my words have been fulfilled at their appointed time and a child is born to you. That will be your sign!” # 1:20 This is the first spoken message from heaven in more than four hundred years. The last person before Zechariah to receive a message given by angels was also named Zechariah. See Zech. 1:6.
21Meanwhile, the crowds outside kept expecting him to come out. They were amazed over Zechariah’s delay, # 1:21 They were waiting outside for the priest to come out and speak over them the customary Aaronic blessing found in Num. 6:24–26. wondering what could have happened inside the sanctuary. 22When he finally did come out, he tried to talk, but he couldn’t speak a word, and they realized from his gestures that he had seen a vision while in the Holy Place. 23He remained mute as he finished his days of priestly ministry in the temple and then went back to his own home. 24Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for the next five months. 25With joy she exclaimed, “See how kind it is of God to gaze upon me # 1:25 This phrase is translated from the Aramaic text. and take away the disgrace of my barrenness!”
Angelic Prophecy of Jesus’ Birth
26-27During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent from God’s presence to an unmarried girl # 1:26–27 Many translations have the word virgin. It is a possible translation of the Greek word parthenos, but its most common usage implies “a girl of marriageable age.” It is made explicit in Matt. 1:25 and Luke 1:34 that Mary was indeed a virgin. named Mary, living in Nazareth, a village in Galilee. # 1:26–27 The Aramaic word translated “Galilee” here means “revealed.” It is only fitting that God would first be “revealed” in a village in Galilee. Nazareth means “branch.” Jesus grew up as the “Branch” of the Lord in the city of the “branch.” She was engaged # 1:26–27 This betrothal period usually lasted one year, and unfaithfulness on the part of the bride during the engagement would have been punishable by death. to a man named Joseph, a true descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Rejoice, beloved young woman, for the Lord is with you # 1:28 For Gabriel to say, “the Lord is with you,” could mean that Jesus, our Master, had been conceived in her womb. This was what bewildered Mary. and you are anointed with great favor.”
29Mary was deeply troubled over the words of the angel and bewildered over what this may mean for her. 30But the angel reassured her, saying, “Do not yield to your fear, Mary, for the Lord has found delight in you and has chosen to surprise you with a wonderful gift. 31You will become pregnant with a baby boy, and you are to name him Jesus. 32He will be supreme # 1:32 As translated from the Aramaic text. and will be known as the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will enthrone him as King on the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign as King of Israel # 1:33 Or “House of Jacob.” forever, and his reign will have no limit.”
34Mary said, “But how could this happen? I am still a virgin!”
35Gabriel answered, “The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and almighty God will spread his shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory! # 1:35 The Greek word used as a metaphor, “spread his shadow over you,” is also the word used at Jesus’ transfiguration when the cloud of glory overshadowed Jesus on the mountain (Mark 9:7). This is why the child born to you will be holy, # 1:35 Jesus Christ is holy, born without sin in his bloodline, for his Father was God Almighty. He would become the only perfect sacrifice to take away our sin and remove its power and penalty from us. and he will be called the Son of God. 36What’s more, your aged aunt, # 1:36 The Greek word is “relative.” Many scholars believe Elizabeth was Mary’s maternal aunt. Elizabeth, has also become pregnant with a son. The ‘barren one’ is now in her sixth month. 37Not one promise from God is empty of power. Nothing is impossible with God!” # 1:37 This verse can be translated in two different ways: “There is nothing impossible with God” or “The word of God will never fail.” This translation has chosen to include both for this verse.
38Then Mary responded, saying, “Yes! I will be a mother for the Lord! # 1:38 As translated from the Aramaic text. As his servant, I accept whatever he has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.” And the angel left her.
Elizabeth’s Prophecy to Mary
39Afterward, Mary arose and hurried off to the hill country of Judea, to the village where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. 40Arriving at their home, Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41At the moment her aunt heard Mary’s voice, the baby # 1:41 The Bible calls Elizabeth’s yet-to-be-born son, John, a “baby.” within Elizabeth’s womb jumped and kicked. And suddenly, Elizabeth was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit! 42With a loud voice she prophesied with power:
“Mary! You are a woman given the highest favor
and privilege above all others,
for your child # 1:42 Or “the fruit of your womb.” This is the same word used for the “fruit” of the tree of life in Rev. 22:2. Jesus is “fruit” for us to take in as our life supply. is destined to bring God great delight.
43How did I deserve such a remarkable honor
to have the mother of my Lord # 1:43 An obvious prophetic revelation was given to Elizabeth from the Holy Spirit about what had happened with Mary. come and visit me?
44The moment you came in the door and greeted me,
my baby danced inside me with joy!
45Great favor rests upon you, for you have believed
every word spoken to you from the Lord.”
Mary’s Prophetic Song
46And Mary sang this song:
“My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God!
47My spirit bursts with joy over my life-giving God! # 1:47 Or “Savior.” The first recorded person to call Jesus Savior was his mother, Mary. She rejoices in God not simply as her Creator, but as Life Giver and Savior.
48For he set his tender gaze upon me, his lowly servant girl. # 1:48 The Aramaic text is “He set his gaze upon the willingness of his mother.”
And from here on, everyone will know
that I have been favored and blessed.
49The Mighty One has worked a mighty miracle for me;
holy is his name!
50Mercy kisses all who fear him,
from one generation to the next. # 1:50 Mary is quoting Pss. 103:17 and 111:9.
51Mighty power flows from him
to scatter all those who walk in pride.
52Powerful princes he tears from their thrones
and he lifts up the lowly to take their place.
53Those who hunger for him will always be filled, # 1:53 Mary is quoting Ps. 107:9.
but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.
54Because he can never forget to show mercy,
he has helped his chosen servant, Israel,
55keeping his promises to Abraham # 1:55 Mary understood by revelation that the Christ child would fulfill the promises of mercy that God gave to Abraham. See Gen. 22:16–18.
and to his descendants forever.”
56Before going home, Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months. # 1:56 The cultural practice of the Hebrews was for the mother to do nothing but rest during the first three months of pregnancy.
The Birth of the Prophet John
57When Elizabeth’s pregnancy was full term, she gave birth to a son. 58All her family, friends, and neighbors heard about it, and they too were overjoyed, for they realized that the Lord had showered his wonderful mercy upon her.
59When the baby was eight days old, according to their custom, all the family and friends came together for the circumcision ceremony. # 1:59 This ceremony was an important time of celebration in Jewish culture, for another child was born under the covenant of God with Israel. See Gen. 17:4–14; Lev. 12:1–3. Everyone assumed that the parents would name the baby Zechariah, after his father, 60but Elizabeth spoke up and said, “No, his name is John!”
61“What?” they exclaimed. “No one in your family line has that name!”
62So they gestured to the baby’s father to ask what to name the child. 63He motioned for a writing tablet, and to the amazement of all, he wrote, “His name is John.” # 1:63 The name John means “God’s gift” or “God is gracious.”
64Instantly Zechariah could speak again. And his first words were praises to the Lord.
65The fear of God fell on the people of their village, and the news of this astounding event traveled throughout the hill country of Judea. Everyone was in awe over it! 66All who heard this news were astonished and wondered, “Since a miracle brought his birth, what on earth will this child become? Clearly, God’s presence is upon this child in a powerful way!”
67Then Zechariah was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied, saying:
68“Praise be to the exalted Lord God of Israel,
for he has seen us through eyes of grace,
and he comes as our Hero-God to set us free!
69He appears to us as a mighty Savior,
a trumpet of redemption # 1:69 Literal translation of the Aramaic. The Hebrew is “a horn of salvation,” which signifies strength and fighting power. from the house of David, his servant,
70just as he promised long ago
by the words of his holy prophets.
71They prophesied he would come one day and save us
from every one of our enemies
and from the power of those who hate us. # 1:71 Zechariah is quoting from Ps. 106:10.
72Now he has shown us the mercy promised to our ancestors,
for he has remembered his holy covenant. # 1:72 There is amazing Hebrew poetry contained in this passage. The names of John, Zechariah, and Elizabeth are all found in this verse. “He has shown us mercy” or “God’s gracious gift” is found in the name John. “He has remembered” is the name Zechariah. “His holy covenant” is the name Elizabeth.
73-75He has rescued us from the power of our enemies,
fulfilling the sacred oath he made with our father Abraham.
Now we can boldly worship # 1:73–75 Or “serve.” God with holy lives,
living in purity as priests # 1:73–75 The word translated as “purity” here is a Hebraic homonym for “priesthood.” in his presence every day!
76And to you I prophesy, my little son,
you will be known as the prophet of the Most High.
You will be a forerunner,
going before the face of Lord Yahweh, # 1:76 Literal translation of the Aramaic.
to prepare hearts to embrace his ways. # 1:76 Zechariah quotes from Mal. 3:1.
77You will preach to his people the revelation of salvation,
the cancellation of all our sins, to bring us back to God.
78The splendor-light of heaven’s glorious sunrise # 1:78 Some believe this is a quote from Mal. 4:2. Jesus the Savior is the dawning light of a new day to this dark world. This “sunrise” is the appearing of Jesus, our Dayspring.
is about to break upon us in holy visitation,
all because the merciful heart of our God is so very tender.
79The word from heaven will come to us # 1:79 Or “manifestation from heaven” as translated from the Aramaic.
with dazzling light to shine upon those
who live in darkness, near death’s dark shadow. # 1:79 Zechariah is quoting from Isa. 9:2 and 59:8.
And he will illuminate the path that leads to the way of peace.”
80Afterward, their son grew up and was strengthened by the Holy Spirit # 1:80 Both of John’s parents were full of the Holy Spirit (vv. 41, 67). John was raised in a Spirit-filled home. and he grew in his love for God. John chose to live in the lonely wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.