BibleProject | Upside-Down Kingdom / Part 1 - Luke


Luke investigates many of the earliest eye witnesses of the life of Jesus and then composes his Gospel account. The story begins up in the hills of Jerusalem where Israel’s ancient prophets said that God himself would come one day to establish his Kingdom over all the earth.

One day in Jerusalem’s temple, a priest named Zacharias is working when he sees a vision that freaks him out. An angel appears and says that he and his wife will have a son. This is strange because Luke tells us that Zacharias and his wife are very old and have never been able to have children. With this detail, Luke is setting up a parallel to compare their story with Abraham and Sarah, the great ancestors of Israel. They too were very old and could never have kids until God miraculously gave them a son, Isaac, through whom the whole story of Israel began. So Luke’s implying here that God is about to do something just as significant once again. The angel tells Zacharias to name his son John. He says that his son will be the one to whom Israel’s ancient prophets were pointing when they said that someone would come to prepare Israel to meet their God when he arrives to rule over Jerusalem. Zacharias can hardly believe it, and he becomes speechless until John’s birth.

The same angel also visits a virgin named Mary with similarly shocking news. She too will miraculously have a son who was promised by Israel’s prophets. The angel tells her to name him Jesus and that he would be a king like David who will rule over God’s people forever. She learns that God will bind himself to humanity in her womb and that she will give birth to the Messiah. So just like that, Mary goes from a small town girl to the mother of the future king. She’s amazed and breaks out into a song about how the reversal of her own social status points to a greater upheaval to come. Through her son, God is going to bring down rulers from their thrones and exalt the poor and humble. He is going to turn the whole world order upside-down.

Read, Reflect, and Respond:

  • Compare the experiences of Zacharias and Elizabeth with that of Abraham and Sarah. How do both couples struggle and overcome to believe God’s promises? See Luke 1:5-25 and Genesis 15:1-6, 16:1-4, 17:15-22, 18:9-15, 21:1-7.

  • How do Mary and Zacharias respond to the angel’s shocking news? Note the differences in their follow-up questions to the angel. Zacharias wants to know how he can be sure that it will happen, while Mary wants to know the manner in which it will happen. One is doubtful, and one is curious. What is your response to the announcement of God’s Kingdom?

  • Compare Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55) to Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10). What do you notice? How do Mary and Hannah’s songs communicate the upside-down nature of God’s Kingdom?

  • Let your reading and reflection prompt a prayer. Talk to God about what inspired amazement, and how you agree with his message. Be honest about your doubts, and ask him for what you need.