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Luke 1

CHAPTER 1
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, 2 even as they delivered them to us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

The conception of John the Baptist
5 There was in the days of Herod, king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah, and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because Elisabeth was barren and they both were now well stricken in years.
   8 Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole crowd of the people were praying outside in the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was disturbed when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zacharias, because your prayer is heard; your wife Elisabeth shall carry a son and you shall call his name John. 14 And you shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, 15 for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. And he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall be turned to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 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.
   18 And Zacharias said to the angel: How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years.
   19 And the angel answering said to him: I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you these good tidings. 20 And you shall be dumb and not able to speak until the day that these things shall come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
   21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, and he continued making signs to them and remained dumb.
   23 And it came to pass, when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying: 25 Thus has the Lord done to me in the days wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.

The conception of Jesus
   26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came in to her and said: Greetings, you that are highly favoured, the Lord is with you! 29 But she was greatly disturbed at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary. For you have found favour with God. 31 And you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be, seeing I do not know a man? 35 And the angel answered and said to her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. Therefore also the holy thing which is begotten within you shall be called the Son of God. 36 And Elisabeth your kinswoman, she who was called barren, has in her old age also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month of her pregnancy. 37 For no word from God shall be void of power. 38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it unto me according to your word! And the angel departed from her.
   39 And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the baby jumped within her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she lifted up her voice with a loud cry and said: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For when the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby jumped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord.
   46 And Mary said: My soul does magnify the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour, 48 because He has looked upon the low estate of His handmaid. For from this time forward all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For He that is mighty has done to me great things, and holy is His name, 50 and His mercy is to generations and generations on them that fear Him. 51 He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart, 52 He has put down princes from their thrones and has exalted them of low station in life. 53 The hungry He has filled with good things and the rich He has sent away empty. 54 He has given help to Israel His servant, that He might remember mercy 55 (as He spoke to our fathers) toward Abraham and his seed for ever.
56 And Mary stayed with her about three months and then returned home.

The birth of John
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58 And her neighbours and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified His mercy towards her; and they rejoiced with her. 59 And it came to pass on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child, and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of the father, 60 but his mother answered and said: No, he shall be called John. 61 And they said to her: There are none of your kindred that are called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, what he wanted him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, saying: His name is John. And they all marvelled. 64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbours. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying: What then shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.
   67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: 68 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David 70 (as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets that have been since the world began), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us, 72 to show mercy towards our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant. 73 The oath which He spoke to Abraham our father, 74 to grant to us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, should serve Him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 Yes, and you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High. For you shall go before the presence of the Lord to make ready His ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the remission of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, when the sunrise shall dawn upon us, 79 to shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

 

Commentary

1:6 Zacharias was " blameless" in God's sight, even though in this very period of his life he was in some ways lacking faith that his prayers would be answered. He was counted by God as righteous- “righteous before God”.

1:13 He had prayed so long for a child that maybe it became a formality and he couldn’t believe the answer had come. Our prayers may be heard and answered, but it may take years for the answer to be delivered. And all that time we think God’s not answered. Daniel had a similar experience in Daniel 10.

1:19 Angels are sent all the way from God’s presence to earth in order to answer our prayers. A guy standing at a bus stop praying to God can call forth an Angel to be sent to earth in answer to his prayers.

1:30 Found favour- She had the spiritual ambition to ask to be the mother of Messiah. Hence her reaction was joy rather than “Oh no! I’m pregnant without a husband!”. And she was likely an illiterate, barefoot teenager. She was of low social status (:48,53).

1:32 Shall be- Note all the future tenses. Jesus didn’t pre-exist as a person before His birth. Jesus was “conceived” within Mary (v. 31). He didn’t literally come down from Heaven as a person. He began inside Mary. David was his father or ancestor because Mary too was an ordinary woman, who was in the line of David. Jesus only became God’s Son when He was born (v. 35). The Son of God therefore didn’t exist from creation, as the false doctrine of the Trinity requires.

1:35 The Holy Spirit is paralleled with the power of “the Highest”. The Holy Spirit refers to God’s power; it isn’t a person. God is “the highest”, and therefore neither Jesus nor the Holy Spirit are equal to Him; they are lower than Him as He is the highest.

1:36 Often God arranges that someone else, e.g. a family member, has a similar experience to us- so that by fellowship with them we can find comfort and encouragement.

1:46 Mary’s song is full of allusion to the song of Hannah when she was enabled to conceive Samuel (1 Sam. 2). Although she was illiterate, she knew her Bible well. She had memorized it and felt herself into it. She saw the similarities between herself and Hannah. We too should ponder Scripture and see the similarities between ourselves and others we read of there, so that they become our heroes and inspirations.

1:53 The rich Jewish women no doubt wanted to be mother of Messiah. But God delights to work through the low, poor and humble who love His word.

1:74 Zacharias shared the common Jewish misunderstanding of Messiah as the One who would bring salvation from the Romans. But it’s also possible to understand his words spiritually, in terms of our freedom from sin. A faithful man can still hold misunderstandings, and God didn’t reject him because of it.

1:77 If we really feel God’s forgiveness, then we know salvation; but such wonderful experience comes from appreciating the seriousness of our sins. The proud and self-righteous have no feeling for the wonder of God’s forgiveness.