Luke writes the facts about Jesus
1Many people have written about the things that have happened in our country. 2Some people were present when these things started to happen. They saw everything that happened and they told us about it. They are the people who wrote down the Good News for us. 3I have checked the facts about what really happened. So now, I know about all the things that happened from the beginning. I am writing to make the facts clear to you, my important friend Theophilus. 4People have already taught you about these things. Now you can be sure that they are true.
What happened before John the Baptist was born
5There was a man whose name was Zechariah. He lived when Herod was king of Judea. Zechariah was a priest and he belonged to a group of priests from the family of Abijah. He had a wife called Elizabeth. She also was from the family of the priest called Aaron. #1:5 This Herod was called Herod the Great. He was king in Judea from the year 37 BC to the year 4 BC. #1:5 A priest is a special servant of God. He worked at the Jewish meeting place or at God's Great House in Jerusalem. All the priests came from the family of Aaron. He was the brother of Moses. They both lived a long time before Jesus. We can read about Aaron in the book called Exodus. There were 24 groups of priests. One group at a time worked in God's Great House. Every group had a name. Zechariah was in the group of Abijah.
6Zechariah and Elizabeth obeyed God all the time. They obeyed God's rules and they did not do wrong things. They lived in a way that pleased God. 7But they had no children. Elizabeth could not have a baby and they were both getting old. #1:7 At that time, people without children thought that God was angry with them. Elizabeth and Zechariah would have felt very sad because they had no children.
8One day, Zechariah's group was working at God's Great House. He had a special job to do there. 9The priests chose one of their group to go into a special room inside God's Great House. This time they chose Zechariah. His job was to burn incense there. #1:9 They did a special thing to know who would go into the room. It was something like a game that we play. But it was serious and important.
10While Zechariah was burning incense in the special room, many men were outside in the yard. They were praying to God. #1:10 The Jews made incense from special sticky liquid that they got from certain kinds of trees. It makes a sweet smell when it burns. They used it in God's Great House. They burnt incense in God's house while they prayed. God had said in his rules that they should do this.
11The incense was burning on a special altar, when one of God's angels appeared to Zechariah. The angel was standing at the right hand side of the altar. #1:11 An angel is a servant of God that brings his messages. The ‘right hand side’ means the place of importance.
12When Zechariah saw the angel, he was very surprised and very afraid. 13The angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid. God has heard what you prayed. He will give you what you asked for. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a baby boy. You will call him John. 14-15He will be very important to the Lord God. So, he will make you very happy. Many other people will also be very happy because he has been born. He must never drink anything with alcohol in it. From the time that he is born, the Holy Spirit will live inside him.
16He will teach many people in Israel. Then they will turn their lives back to the Lord their God and they will obey God again. 17John will prepare the people for the Lord to come to them. The Holy Spirit will lead John as he led Elijah. John will do powerful things as Elijah did. He will help fathers to love their children. He will teach people who do not obey God. Then they will know what things are right. And they will do them. Then they will be ready when the Lord comes.’ #1:17 God chose Elijah to speak for him. The Holy Spirit showed him what to say. Elijah gave special messages from God to his people. He taught them to stop doing the things that God did not like. He told them that they should obey God. We can read about Elijah in 1 Kings 13. #1:17 The people of Israel came from the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their children. We call them Jews. God chose them as his special people. He gave the name Israel to Jacob. We can read about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the book called Genesis.
18Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure about this? You know that I am an old man. My wife is also old.’
19The angel answered, ‘I am called Gabriel. My place is to stand in front of God. I am always ready to work for God. He has sent me to speak to you. He told me that I should tell you this good news. 20Now listen to me. Because you did not believe my message, you will not be able to speak. You will not speak again until the time that your son is born. My message will really become true at the right time.’
21While this was happening, the people outside were waiting for Zechariah. They were thinking, ‘Why has Zechariah stayed for such a long time in the special room? Why has he not come out yet?’ 22When he did come out, he tried to talk to them. But he could not speak. So they knew that God had showed him something special in the room. He was moving his head and his hands about, to tell them what had happened. But still he could not speak.
23When Zechariah had finished his work in God's Great House, he returned home. 24Soon, a baby was growing inside his wife Elizabeth. She stayed in her house for five months. 25‘The Lord has now given me a baby,’ she said. ‘He has been kind to me. Because of this, other people cannot say bad things about me now.’
What happened before Jesus was born
26When Elizabeth's baby had grown inside her for nearly six months, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth. Nazareth is a town in Galilee. 27Gabriel went there to visit a young woman. Her name was Mary. She had never had sex with anyone. She had promised to marry a man called Joseph. He belonged to the family of King David. #1:27 David had been a king of Israel. We can read about him in 1 Samuel 16.
28Gabriel went to Mary and said, ‘Hello, Mary. The Lord God loves you very much. He is very near to you.’
29Mary had a lot of problems in her mind about what Gabriel said. She did not understand why he said it. 30‘Do not be afraid, Mary,’ Gabriel went on to say. ‘God has been kind to you. 31Listen! A baby boy will grow inside you. When he is born, you will call him Jesus. 32He will be great. People will call him the Son of the powerful God who is over all. The Lord God will make him king. He will rule as his ancestor King David ruled. 33He will rule over the family of Jacob for all time. He will be king for all time, without end.’ #1:33 Both Joseph and Mary came from the family of King David. #1:33 The family of Jacob means all the Jews.
34Mary asked, ‘How can this happen? I have never had sex with anyone.’ 35Gabriel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of God who is over all will cover you like a shadow. So, your child will be special to God. He will be completely good. He will be called God's Son. 36Another thing! Your cousin, Elizabeth, is very old. People said that she could not have a baby. Listen! She also will have a son. The baby has grown inside her now for nearly six months. 37There is nothing that God cannot do.’
38Mary answered, ‘I am the servant of the Lord. I have heard what you have said. I want it to happen to me just like that.’ Then the angel left her.
Mary visits Elizabeth
39After that, Mary prepared herself to travel. She hurried to a town in the hills of Judea. 40When she arrived at the home of Zechariah, she said ‘hello’ to Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary speak, she felt her baby move quickly inside her. The Holy Spirit filled her. 42She spoke to Mary in a loud voice, ‘God has made you very happy. He has been good and kind to you more than to other women. He has also been good and kind to your baby. 43You are the mother of my Lord and I am not an important person. So it is very good that you have visited me. 44Listen! When I heard you say, “Hello” to me, my baby moved quickly inside me. He was very happy. 45The Lord has told you what will happen. And you believed what he told you. Because of that, God has made you a happy person.’
46Then Mary said,
‘All of me wants to praise God and say,
“Lord, how good and great you are!”
47I thank God because he is the one who saves me.
48I know that I am not an important person.
God knows this, and he has been kind to me.
Listen! From now on, all people will say that God has made me happy.
49Yes, God has done great things for me.
He is very powerful and strong. He is good in every way.
50He is kind to people who respect him.
He will always be kind to people like that.
51He has shown how strong he is to do great things.
Some people think that they are very important.
But he has sent them away in different directions.
52Some people were ruling countries.
But he has taken their power away from them.
He has given power to people who do not feel important.
53He has fed hungry people with good things to eat.
But he has sent rich people away with nothing.
54He promised that he would be kind to his people, Israel.
Now he has come and helped them.
55He made a promise to Abraham and to our other ancestors.
Now he has done what he promised.’ #1:55 Mary is very happy. She knows that God has been good to her and to Elizabeth. She sings about God. She sings about the great things that he has done. She sings that he will use his power to be kind. He will also use his power against people that do not obey him. Mary is a Jew. She remembers God's promise to the Jews.
56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months. Then she returned to her home.
John the Baptist is born
57The time arrived for Elizabeth to have her baby. She had a son. 58Her family and the people who lived near her heard about her baby. They knew that the Lord had been very kind to her. They saw that she was happy. So they were happy too. 59When the child was eight days old, people came to circumcise the child. They wanted to call the child Zechariah. This was the same name that his father had. #1:59 They circumcised all baby boys in Israel on the eighth day. It means to cut off the skin from the end of the sex part of a boy or a man. For the Jews, it was a special mark. It showed that they were the people of God. Friends and people that lived near would also be there. They had a party and they gave a name to the boy. We can read about this in Genesis, chapter 17.
60Elizabeth said, ‘No. His name will be John.’
61They replied, ‘But you do not have anybody in your family called John. That cannot be right.’ 62So they used signs and asked his father. They wanted to know the boy's name.
63Zechariah asked for something to write on. He wrote, ‘His name is John.’ Everyone was very surprised at what he wrote. 64Immediately, Zechariah could speak again. He could speak without difficulty. He began to thank God loudly. #1:64 Everything had happened quite as the angel had said. We can read what the angel said in Luke 1:19-20.
65The people who lived near Zechariah and Elizabeth were very surprised. They saw how great God was. Many people who lived in the hills of Judea also talked about all these things. 66Everyone who heard about these things thought about them. They asked each other, ‘When this child becomes a man, what will he be?’ They could see that God really was with him.
67The Holy Spirit filled John's father, Zechariah, so that he spoke God's message:
68‘The Lord God of Israel is a great God.
He has come to save his people. He has come to make them free.
69He has sent a very strong person who will save us.
This person comes from the family of his servant, King David.
70Long ago, God promised that he would do this.
He gave his own prophets this message to speak.
71God will save us from our enemies.
He will save us from everyone that hates us.
72He has promised to be kind to our ancestors.
He will remember to do the things that he promised.
73Yes, he will remember the strong promises that he spoke to Abraham. #1:73 Because Christians are a part of the family of Abraham, God promised this to them too.
74God said, “I will keep you safe from your enemies.
Then you can serve me and not be afraid.
75You can live in a way that is good and right.
You can do this all your lives.” ’ #1:75 Zechariah's song shows how happy he is. God has been good to him and to Elizabeth. God has shown him how important John will be. Zechariah thanks God. He tells the people that God is great. Jesus is the strong person that God sent (1: 69).
76Zechariah then spoke to John:
‘You, my child, will be called a prophet of the powerful God who is over all.
You will go in front of the Lord to prepare a way for him.
77You will tell God's people how God can save them.
They have done wrong things but God will forgive them.
78Our God will forgive us because he is very kind.
He will send someone from the highest place.
When this person comes, it will be like the sunrise for us.
79He will bring light to people who are living without God.
It is like those people are living in the dark. They are afraid to die.
But he will shine on them.
He will show us how to live so that we will not be afraid.’ #1:79 The ‘sunrise’ (1:78) is a picture in words. It describes Jesus when he came to earth. God told Zechariah what John would do. John would speak to the people. He would tell them that Jesus was coming. Zechariah also knew why Jesus was coming to the earth.
80Zechariah's child grew. God made him strong in his mind. He went into the wilderness and he lived there for many years. Later, God sent him to Israel's people, to teach them. #1:80 You can read what John taught the people in Luke 3.