New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us- "The things ["matters"]" believed are those of Acts 8:12, the things about the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. But the "things" of the gospel are the "things" of the gospel records. The gospels are transcripts of how e.g. Luke preached the gospel. So the gospel message, "the things" of the Gospel, are to be found in the gospels. The gospel is not a theology collected from the whole New Testament.

Luke saw the whole of the Old Testament as having its fulfilment in the story of Jesus. He introduces his Gospel record as an account “of those matters which have been fulfilled” (Lk. 1:1 RV). And “those matters” he defines in Lk. 1:2 as the things of “the word”. The RV especially shows his stress on the theme of fulfilment (Lk. 1:20, 23, 37, 45, 54, 55, 57, 70). In essence he is introducing his Gospel just as John does.

1:2 Even as they delivered them to us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word- The "many" of :1 who had tried to draw up a narrative of the Lord's life and work had handed their eyewitness accounts to Luke, who was now collating them. Perhaps Luke did this in preparation of evidence for Paul's trials at Caesarea and / or Rome. Luke says that the eyewitness accounts had been handed to "us". He may be using the 'royal we' [i.e. referring only to himself] or to a group for whom he acted as inspired secretary. So Luke’s inspired Gospel was compiled from the testimonies of “those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and servants of the word” (Lk. 1:2,3). Some of the events he records could only have been told him by women; and so the Spirit accepted their witness, and encouraged them to make it because God accepted their witness. Only women were witnesses of the Lord's burial- yet belief in His burial is listed by Paul as an essential part of the faith. Yet the only reason the early believers had  to believe this was the testimony of women.

 Luke saw the link between the Lord’s death and His whole life when he says that they had been “eyewitnesses" of the Lord’s ministry, using the Greek word for autopsy- Luke saw his record of the Lord’s life as being an autopsy of His death (Lk. 1:2). Here we find what we shall often note throughout Luke's writings- the usage of medical language.

1:3 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- Luke's Gospel was written for the purpose of preaching to Theophilus, who had already been 'catechized', taught by rote (:4), one of the Gospels (probably Mark), but who wanted to have a more detailed and factual account. Luke later describes his Gospel as his logos, his 'word' about all Jesus did (Acts 1:1 Gk.). The Lord seems to have foreseen this when He spoke of how "Whereever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, which this woman has done, be told for a memorial of her" (Mt. 26:13). There is evident connection with the Lord's prophecy of how the Gospel would be preached in all the world (Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15). He seems to have seen the 'Gospel' that would be preached as a re-telling of His life and incidents in it, such as the woman's anointing of Him. It is significant that her anointing is mentioned in all four Gospel records. In Mk. 14:9 we read that wherever the gospel was to be preached, what she had done would be narrated in memory of her. So ‘preaching the Gospel’ is defined there as a narration of the events and sayings of the Lord Jesus in His ministry. Luke's address to "Most Excellent Theophilus" may be a reference to the Roman-imposed High Priest of Israel between AD 37 and AD 41, Theophilus ben Ananus.

1:4 That you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught- The history of Jesus was something in which a new convert was “instructed” or [Gk.] catechized, as if the Gospel record was learnt by repetition. This is understandable given the largely illiterate nature of society at the time. Luke as a serious historian mentions his sources, describing them as "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word". The Greek hyperetes which translates "ministers" is the Greek form of the Hebrew hazzan. The word recurs in Lk. 4:20, about the "minister of the synagogue". The task of the minister was to look after the scrolls- "the chest with the books was brought in to the synagogue when required from an adjoining room and brought back there afterwards". Luke's idea is that instead of humping a bunch of scrolls around, the 'ministers' were the eyewitnesses who recited what they had heard of Jesus. But because they would die out, there was a need for people like Luke to compose documents which recorded their testimony.

1:5 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- Luke is careful throughout to present everything with detailed historical accuracy, and his inspired accounts have held up against the bitterest critics. Any uninspired account would surely have gaping holes in it which the critics would by now have exposed. For writing history of events over a 50 year period in those days would surely reveal errors of history, geography and other fact unless the account was inspired.

1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless- These words are applied to us all in Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 3:13. We are to have the serene spirituality, all down the years, of Zacharias and Elizabeth. 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. Paul talks of being "righteous before God" in Romans, perhaps also borrowing this language; and he argues that we have this status only by faith in imputed righteousness. For of ourselves, none can be right before God. Nor of course can any man apart from the Lord Jesus claim to walk in the Father's laws "blameless". In God's sight / presence no man is justified (Ps. 143:2). It could be that this status was applied to them through their faith in forgiveness, in the implications of the promises to David and Abraham, which Zechariah so well understood according to his song of praise at the end of this chapter.

1:7 And they had no child, because Elisabeth was barren and they both were now well stricken in years- The record is deconstructing the common idea that the fruit of the womb would be given to the righteous, and withheld from the unrighteous. They walked blameless, as Job apparently did (Job 1:1), but still "trouble came".

1:8 Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his division- The very process of service and obedience leads to greater faith in practice. It was whilst Zacharias went about his service to the Lord that we was given the news that he would finally have a son. And we all find this true. As we enter more deeply and more passionately into the things of the Lord, so He leads us further into new understandings and fresh areas of endeavour. According to the AV of Gen. 24:27, it was whilst Abraham's servant was "in the way" of going God's path, that he was led by God to find the fulfilment of his mission in getting a wife for Isaac: "I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren". There is a similar idea in Acts 13:2: "And as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said: Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work unto which I have called them".

1:9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense- This honour was chosen by lot, and it fell upon Zacharias. And surely we have here an example of how the drawing of lots is at times overruled by God (Prov. 16:33). It was a tradition that no priest ever did this twice (T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 26. 1), and there were apparently 20,000 priests at this time. So Zacharias had waited all his life for this honour, and he was surely being nudged to see that he could also receive something he had waited all his life for, a child. This burning of incense had its reflection in the heavenly tabernacle (Rev. 8:3); or rather, the earthly tabernacle was a reflection of the heavenly. Hence elohim is used in the OT for both priests and Angels; the priests were to act as a copy of the Angelic system in the heavenly throne room. This is a common idea in Revelation, the comfort being that situations on earth are acted out in heaven, and through the operation of the vast Angelic system above us, man is not alone in this world. The incense represented prayer, not only of the people but of the offering priest personally; and Zacharias was being again nudged towards believing that his lifetime of prayer was actually getting through to God. But his disbelief of the answer indicates that he failed to perceive these things as intended.

1:10 And the whole crowd of the people were praying outside in the hour of incense- There is a triple emphasis on Israel praying to God in the lead up to the Lord's birth (Luke 1:10,13;  2:37). Joel 2:17 and many other passages suggest that the faithful remnant will likewise devote themselves to prayer in the last days; for the events at the Lord's first coming are typical of those at His second coming. The prayer of the crowd was represented by the cloud of incense. But Zacharias failed to perceive as he might have done that the incense also represented his own personal prayers; he was too focused upon the external service, and the general concept of prayer, that he overlooked this.

1:11  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense- Here we see the priest's offering of incense paralleled with the prayer of the people, and in reply to these prayers and those of Zacharias an Angel comes and stands at the right hand of the altar of incense to announce the granting of the peoples' request (for forgiveness), and Zacharias' request for a child, in the form of the birth of John and his ministry of reconciliation with God. The incense altar represented the offering of prayer- the Angel coming to stand at the right side of the altar indicates answered prayer. The command from the altar (of incense?) in Rev. 9:14 to the sixth Angel telling Him to loose other Angels was maybe from this same Angel of answered prayer. All these suggestions need very careful development, especially guarding against making the  Angels rather than Jesus our mediator. There is only one mediator (1 Tim. 2:5).

1:12 Zacharias was disturbed when he saw him, and fear fell upon him- The contrast is with Mary, who after her initial surprise, rejoiced that an Angel had come to answer her prayers for the Messianic child. His fear was related to a sense of sin that had not been dealt with; even though as noted on :6, God counted him righteous. This is comfort indeed; that we may feel guilty for sin, fear before God in a wrong sense, when in fact we are counted righteous by Him. We can take false guilt [as opposed to the true guilt we at times need to feel]. 

1:13 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- "Fear not" is said so often when Angels appear to men, and we will likely need to hear those words when the Angels are sent forth to gather us to judgment. Divine presence convicts of sin, and yet we are of course just as much in that presence constantly.

Because God responds to our spirit, our overall situation, sometimes He does things which seem to be an answer of prayers which were not properly believed in by the person who prayed. Examples include: Gen. 30:16,17; Ex. 14:10,11 cp. Neh. 9:9; Ps. 31:22; Lk. 1:13. Belief and unbelief can quite comfortably co-exist in a man (Mk. 9:24; Jn. 12:39-43). These prayers were answered because God saw the overall situation, He read the spirit of those who prayed and responded appropriately, even if their faith in their specific, vocalized prayers was weak. Perhaps in similar vein, James 4:6 appears to teach that God will hear the prayers of the humble man when a proud man is praying at the same time; faith is not mentioned here. In the light of this we notice how all the prayers of Zacharias are called in the singular "your prayer".

1:14 And you shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth- The Angel hoped that "many" would perceive in John's birth the good news of Messiah's soon appearing; for the rejoicing was to be because of his significance in God's plan (:15). But did "many" rejoice in this sense? Perhaps as with many such predictions, it is stating a potential rather than an actual truth. "Joy and gladness" is a term only used elsewhere about all of us as we look forward to the Lord's coming (1 Pet. 1:8). Zacharias and Elisabeth are therefore set up as every believer. See on :16.

1:15 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- Paul seems to have admired the humility John the Baptist manifested in his preaching. He knew he had been chosen from the womb for his mission, as John had been (Gal. 1:15 =  Lk. 1:15). Paul was keen for others to copy John the baptist, to find in him the inspiration which he too had found. So he encourages his Ephesians not to drink wine but instead be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18)- the very language of John (Lk. 1:15). In other words, 'Be like that Spirit-filled zealot John rather than enjoying the sloppy pleasures of this life!'.

"John did no miracle" (Jn. 10:41) and yet he was filled with the Spirit. The promises of our likewise being filled with the Spirit are often discounted because we do not have the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. But being filled with the Spirit is not the same as having the ability to do miracles. John was filled with the Spirit from the womb; so the filling of the Spirit is not solely in response to our own efforts. The idea here is that God had a plan for John, and John chose to follow it and walk in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). This is why Paul can lament that in one sense the Corinthians had been filled with the Spirit, but were "not spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1), they were not living according to the potential made possible by the gift of the Spirit which is purely on God's initiative. The same term "filled with the Spirit" is used of both John's parents (:41,67). This was a little family open to being filled with the Spirit, and so they were filled. The appeal to allow ourselves to be "filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18) shows we are to live open to and receptive of such filling.

1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall be turned to the Lord their God- “Many” – relatively- would be converted to the true ways of God by the work of John the Baptist, whilst numerically the majority of those who heard John’s message eventually turned away from it, culminating in their crucifixion of the Messiah. See on Mt. 20:16. Or it could mean that many potentially could have been converted. Or many were converted- but fell away. This is the sense in which "many" is used in :14. "Many" were to rejoice at John's birth and significance before God. But how many did? "Many" potentially could have done.

The idea of hearts being turned to the Lord alludes to the intended work of the historical Elijah (1 Kings 18:37) which was to be achieved by the Elijah prophet who heralded Messiah (Mal. 4:6). This was only potentially true; Elijah only converted a minority. John the Baptist is prophesied as achieving this with "many"; but again, this did not happen. And so the prophecy is rescheduled for fulfilment in the work of the latter day Elijah prophet. As we go out into this world and meet apparent disinterest, we need to remember that potentially, people can respond. They are actually actively resisting what is potentially possible for them.

We note too that this passage and 1 Kings 18:37 speak of the Elijah prophet turning hearts to the Lord their God, whereas Mal. 4:6 speaks of hearts being turned in reconcilliation within families, the fathers to the children and vice versa. This is the two dimensional approach taken in the New Testament, especially in John's letters; reconcilliation to God involves reconcilliation with our brethren, and the two cannot be divorced from each other.

1:17 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- As noted on :16, if hearts turn to God then they turn to their own brethren. We cannot turn to God without turning to our brethren; baptism is into the body of Christ and not simply into a totally individual relationship with the Father and Son. Latter day Israel will turn to the Lord their God, and part-and-parcel of this process will be the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children (Lk. 1:16,17). When Israel earlier played traitor to their brethren, by doing so they broke their marriage covenant with God (Mal. 2:10); their attitude to their brethren was essentially their attitude to their Heavenly Father. Our God and our brethren simply can't be separated. Asa’s broken relationship with God resulted in him ‘crushing’ the people at the same time (2 Chron. 16:10 AVmg.). See on Jn. 8:42.

Lk. 1:17 gives the Spirit's commentary upon Elijah's achievement. The "spirit and power" of Elijah had been to turn "the disobedient to the wisdom of the just" and to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord". And yet Elijah felt his ministry had been a failure; that nobody had responded. And yet his achievement with a minority is used as a prototype for the later achievement of both John the Baptist and the latter day Elijah prophet. There's a great encouragement for us here. We may feel our witness, our ministry, even our life's work- be it in formal preaching, in raising children, in seeking to be the salt of the earth- has been without fruit. But actually, according to the pattern of Elijah, we may achieve far more ultimately than we realize, even if the fruits are seen after our death. What's important, as it was in Elijah's life, is the spirit and power we personally develop and set as an example; even if concretely and materially we don't achieve what we aim to in the lives of others. It was in this sense that God used Elijah, and uses us. Elijah's own "spirit" was imperfect- elitist, judgmental, angry etc. But his more essential spirit was focused upon by a loving, positive Father. This comforts us in our immaturities, and encourages us to view positively our brethren who seem stuck within the parameters of their natural personality and cannot, it seems, overcome all weaknesses of their spirit.

John's ministry failed, in that he did not prepare much of a people for the Lord Jesus. They crucified Him. But it was potentially possible. "Prepared" in Greek carries the idea of to create or build; there is introduced here the idea of a new creation of persons who would have their existence in the new order predicated upon their faith in Jesus.

1:18- see on Lk. 22:45.

And Zacharias said to the angel: How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years- Mary likewise had this question as to "how shall this be", but the same words were spoken with a different attitude. She believed, but was naturally curious to know the machanical side of how a virgin was going to conceive. Zacharias asked the same question but from a motive of unbelief. The same words may be found on different lips, but are judged differently by God. This shows how we should not judge others' words not least because we cannot judge, we cannot see to the heart which is behind the external words and actions. In this case, like us so often, Zacharias listed all the human barriers to the fulfilment of God's word, and considered them more powerful than the word of God.

It seems Zacharias probably said far more than "How shall I know this?" when Gabriel told him he would soon have a son. It would seem the conversation went on for so long that the people outside wondered why he was staying so long. Presumably he remonstrated with the Angel with other, graciously unrecorded words, and thereby earnt the punishment of dumbness. At the shores of the Red Sea, it seems Moses' faith wavered, and he prayed something at best inappropriate. All we read is God's response: "Why do you cry to me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward" (Ex. 14:15). It seems again that Moses' "cry" isn't recorded- by grace.

1:19- see on 3 Jn. 11.

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- Answers to prayer are uttered in the heavenly throne room, in the presence of God and the Angels. Zacharias had been demonstrating this by offering the incense which passed into the holiest place, visually teaching that prayer really does get through to the presence of God. But he failed to grasp the reality that his prayers actually were like this. And an Angel had been sent from that Heavenly presence to a man on earth with good news of an answer which had already been decided- and the man failed to believe it. This is the case with how the "good tidings" of the Gospel have likewise been issued and taken to men- and they disbelieve.

1:20 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- Again, the case of Zacharias is compared unfavourably with that of Mary who believed, and who opened her mouth in joyful praise after accepting the good news. His unbelief must have been stubborn and pronounced; as noted on :18, his words of disbelief must have been extended enough for the people to wonder why he delayed so long in the temple. The words of Zacharias were to be limited because he had not believed God's words. Therefore when his mouth was opened, he spoke God's prophetic words; his words were God's words.

1:21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple- As noted on :18, the delay was long because he had apparently argued back with the Angel in denial that his prayers of his youth really could be answered now. It took half an hour to burn the incense (Rev. 8:1-3); the long delay means that he may have argued back with the Angel for at least another half an hour.

1:22 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- He was unable to utter the blessing of Num. 6:23-27. His lack of faith therefore resulted in a lack of blessing for the people he served. The lack of blessing was surely a hint that something was wrong with Israel; they needed repentance and radical reformation.

1:23 And it came to pass, when his time of service was ended, he went to his home- This could suggest that he retired from the priesthood. The raising of John the Baptist and preparation for Messiah were perceived by him as more important than continuing the Mosaic rituals. "Ended" is the same word used for how Zacharias and Elisabeth were "filled" with the Spirit (:41,67). We surely have here a hint at the passing over from the ministry of the law to that of the Spirit.

1:24 And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying- To sleep with her on returning home was surely an act of faith. Perhaps this was why he went straight to his home (:23) rather than remaining in the temple. She "hid herself", perhaps by simply not going out of the house, in order to focus upon her relationship with the Father, and to avoid being caught up in all the inevitable gossip and conspiracy theories which would have arisen. The idea is that she hid herself because the Lord had done things to her.

1:25 Thus has the Lord done to me in the days wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men- She felt the Lord was looking upon her during her pregnancy; but she was blameless "before God", in His eyes / presence (:6). Yet the wonder of her status in His eyes was unappreciated as it might have been. We have the same problem. Her joy was that her "reproach among men" had been taken away, quoting the words of unspiritual Rachel in Gen. 30:23; we would think that she might instread have focused upon the huge significance of John in God's salvation purpose. But for all these human weaknesses, she and her husband were accepted before God.

1:26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth- The "sixth month" was presumably of Elisabeth's pregnancy. She concealed her pregnancy for five months (:24) and then announced it. Mary would have heard this, and been given the potential encouragement that with God, pregnancy was possible. And having been thus prepared for her challenge of faith, the angel comes and gives it to her. We too are prepared for our challenges to faith, often by meeting or hearing of others who have likewise endured. God chose a poor village girl who dreamt of being Messiah's mother, not one of the Jerusalem elite. The word "Nazareth" may mean nothing to us in our age, but in first century Israel it was a term of contempt, for nothing good ever came out of that town (Jn. 1:46). To that dumb mountain village, to an illiterate teenager, there came an Angel with the amazing news that she had been chosen to bear God's Son.

1:27 To a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary- As she was a betrothed virgin, we can assume she was still a teenager; as most girls were married by 20. She was "of the house of David" and therefore her child would have in any case been the legitimate Davidic king of Israel. Over 90% of Luke’s Greek is taken from the Septuagint. All the time he is consciously and unconsciously alluding to the Old Testament as having its fulfilment in the things of Jesus. As an example of unconscious allusion, consider Lk. 1:27: “A virgin betrothed to a man”. This is right out of Dt. 22:23 LXX “If there be a virgin betrothed to a man…”. The context is quite different, but the wording is the same. And in many other cases, Luke picks up phraseology from the LXX apparently without attention to the context.

1:28 And he came in to her and said: Greetings, you that are highly favoured, the Lord is with you!- See on :38. Mary is set up as the representative and epitome of all Israel / the people of God should have been. She was the seed of David, the daughter of Zion from whom Messiah came. The “highly favoured… blessed” woman is the daughter of Zion of Joel 2:21-27; Zeph. 3:14-17; Zech. 2:14,15; 9:9. She “rejoiced” as the daughter of Zion was to rejoice at the coming of her king. She was the “servant Israel”, the “handmaiden” (the female form of “servant”) who was now “holpen” by God (Lk. 1:54). “Blessed be the fruit (LXX offspring) of your womb” (Dt. 28:1,4) was the promise made to Israel- and these words are applied to Mary in Lk. 1:42. See on Rev. 12:5; Mt. 5:6.

Mary was “highly favoured”; yet the only other place the word occurs is in Eph. 1:6, where we are told that “He has made us accepted [highly favoured] in Christ”. Thus in the thinking of Paul and the Spirit, Mary is to represent all of us.  

Hannah’s song was clearly a major influence in the mind of Mary. But there are some background similarities as well as the verbal ones. The LXX of 1 Sam. 1:18 [not the Hebrew text] speaks of Elkanah and Hannah staying in a katalyma on their journey to Shiloh- the very word used of the “inn” in whose stable Mary had to stay. If we ask why Mary based her song so heavily on that of Hannah, we find a clue in considering how she was greeted by the Angel as “favoured” (Lk. 1:28). The Greek kecharitomene virtually translates the Hebrew name ‘Hannah’. The record is written in Greek, but Mary was a Jewess and spoke Aramaic and Hebrew; and probably the Angel spoke to her in those languages. So the link would have been all the stronger- ‘Hail, Hannah-like one’. And this set the mind of Mary thinking about Hannah, and in the days between hearing these words and meeting Elisabeth, Mary had perceived the similarities between her position and that of Hannah. She allowed the spirit of Hannah to genuinely become hers, in perceptive obedience to the Angel’s bidding. She came to share God’s perception of her as a woman like Hannah. ‘Hannah’ comes from the Hebrew root hnn – favour. Mary is told that she has been favoured / ‘Hannah-ed’ by God (Lk. 1:30)- as if to lead her to see the similarities between her and Hannah. And she responds magnificently, by alluding to Hannah’s song so closely. Tragically as we shall see, she later came to be more influenced by the world’s perception of both herself and her Son. The theme of joy is very great in her song- again, because she was obedient to the greeting “Hail!”, literally, ‘rejoice!’. The points of connection between the songs of Hannah and Mary's Magnificat are really quite detailed: 
1 Samuel     Luke / Magnificat
1:3           1:7
1:18         :38, 30
2:1           :46
1:11         :48
2:2           :49
2:4           :51
:3             :51
:4             :52
:8             :52
:5             :53
:10           :69
:26           2:52
:10 anointed LXX “His Christ”- the first occurrence of ‘Messiah’ in the O.T. 
And there are plenty of allusions in the Magnificat to other parts of Scripture and well known Apocryphal writings, especially the Psalms, which Mary evidently had committed to memory: 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has found gladness in God my Saviour; Ps 35:9 Then my soul will find gladness in the Lord; It will take pleasure in His salvation. I Sam 2:1,2 (Hannah’s hymn): My heart is strengthened in the Lord; My horn is exalted in my God…I delight in your salvation. 
Hab. 3: 18 (Habakkauk’s hymn): I shall find gladness in the Lord; I shall rejoice in God my Savior.
Because He has regarded the low estate of His handmaid-
I Sam 1:11 (Hannah praying for a child): O Lord of Hosts, if you will look on the low estate of your handmaid,
Gen 29:32 (Leah after childbirth): Because the Lord has regarded my low estate.
4 Ezra 9:45 (Zion speaking as a barren woman): God heard you’re your handmaid and regarded my low estate, And considered my distress and gave me a son.
For behold, henceforth all generation will call me fortunate-
Gen 30:13 (Leah after childbirth): Fortunate am I, for all women call me fortunate.
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me.
Deut. 10:21 (Moses to Israel): He is your God who has done great things in you.
Zeph. 3:17: The Lord your God is in you, A Mighty One will save you.
And holy is His Name,
Ps. 111:9: Holy and awesome is His name.
And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him.
Ps 103:17:
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him.
Psalms of Solomon 13:11: His mercy upon those who fear Him.
He his shown His strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones
and has exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
I Sam 2:7-8 (Hannah’s hymn): The Lord makes poor and makes rich: He reduces to lowliness and he lifts up. He lifts the needy from the earth, and from the dung heap He raises up the poor to seat them with the mighty, making them inherit a throne of glory.
Ps. 89:11(10- a hymn praising God’s action for the Davidic king): You have reduced the proud to lowliness like a wounded thing: And by your powerful arm you have scattered your enemies.
Sirach 10:14: He has put down the thrones of princes and has seated the humble before them.
Job 12:19: He has overthrown the mighty.
1QM xiv 10-11: You have raised the fallen by your strength, and have cut down the high and mighty.
Ezek 21:31 LXX (26 Heb.): Having reduced the proud to lowliness, and having exalted the man of low degree.
Ps 107:9: He has filled the soul of the hungry with good things.
He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke unto our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever.
Isa. 41:8-9: You, O Israel, My servant Jacob whom I chose, seed of Abraham whom I loved, whom I have helped from the ends of the earth.
Ps. 98:3: He has remembered His mercy to Jacob and His goodness to the House of Israel.
Psalms of Solomon 10:4: And the Lord will remember His servants in mercy.
Micah 7:20: You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Israel, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.
2 Sam. 22:51 (David’s hymn at the end of his life) Showing mercy to His anointed one, to David and his posterity forever.
And a few more:   
1:47 = Gen. 21:6
1:48 = Ps. 138:6 LXX; Gen. 30:13
1:49 = Ps. 126:2,3; 111:9
1:50 = Gen. 17:7
1:51 = Ps. 118:14,15.

1:29 But she was greatly disturbed at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of greeting this might be- She has a natural reaction of shock to the news, but unlike Zacharias, she gets over it and joyfully believes her ambitious prayers have been ansewred. "Cast in her mind" translates a word often used in Luke about people struggling within their minds to process the challenge of Christ, and coming down on the side of unbelief. Mary alone comes down on the side of belief (Lk. 3:15; 5:21,22; 12:17; 20:14). We all have these struggles, in which our faith and our unbelief struggle together. She wondered whether in fact the news was bad or good. And she came down to the obvious truth- that the Gospel of Christ is good news. Why should we wonder whether such positive greeting, "highly favoured... blessed" should in fact be a bad kind of greeting? We also have such language applied to us. The message of Christ is either the sickest trick- or what it claims to be, good news. Many refuse to believe it because we are wired to not believe good news, pure grace. But she is set up as an example to us all.

1:30 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary. For you have found favour with God- The emphasis is that she had found favour with God, and she need not doubt the truth of those words of grace; see on :29.

When the LXX and Hebrew readings are combined, it becomes evident that the Angel is inviting Mary to see herself as the “daughter of Zion”: 

Zeph. 3

Luke 1:28-31

Rejoice [LXX chaire], daughter of Zion (Zeph. 3)

 Rejoice [chaire]…[Mary]Notice how chaire is also addressed to the Daughter of Zion in Zech. 9:9, a passage also applied to Jesus in Mt. 21:5; Jn. 12:14,15.

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in the midst of you [en meso sou] (Zeph. 3)

 The Lord is with you [meta sou]. “The king of Israel” was a well known Messianic title. He was in the midst of Mary in the sense that He was now in her womb.

Do not be afraid, Zion (Zeph. 3)

Do not be afraid, Mary

The Lord your God is with / in you (Zeph. 3)- the Hebrew can imply ‘in your interior parts’, cp. the womb

You have found favour with God.  We can perceive a double meaning now in Zephaniah’s words- the Lord God was with Mary, but was also within her manifest in His Son.

The mighty one will save you (Zeph. 3)

 “God my Saviour”- as if Mary picked up the allusions and responded to them.


Lk. 1:30 is alluded to in Heb. 4:16. When you ask for forgiveness, be like Mary in her spiritual ambition in asking to be the mother of Messiah.

1:31 And you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus- "You shall" may have the emphasis upon "shall"; her prayers for these things would indeed be answered. The whole language of conception, bringing forth, and the future tenses all combine to preclude the theory of any physical pre-existence of the Lord Jesus. He began, as a cell, dividing and subdividing until it became a foetus. And that was His personal beginning.

1:32 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- Again we note the future tenses, precluding any personal pre-existence of the Lord. "He shall be great" is what Zacharias had just been told in :15. The response of Mary and Zacharias is clearly compared and contrasted; and the illiterate teenage girl comes out presented as a far stronger believer than the legally obedient Zacharias. Mary's Biblical mind [for she alludes to Scripture with such felicity] would have figured that God had to be the Father of the Davidic seed; and a woman in David's line, just like herself, had to be the mother. But how that was to come about was of course a challenge to her faith.

1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end- The Lord Jesus will have a Kingdom, the house of Jacob, which shall have no end. According to Isaiah, "of the increase" of His Kingdom there will be no end; surely meaning that the Lord's domination of the believers' minds will grow and grow; our relationship with Him will grow progressively deeper. The Lord's kingship over Jacob would be eternal, uninterrupted. It has not therefore fully begun. "His kingdom" and "the house of Jacob" are paralleled. His domain, over which He is King, is therefore essentially a group of persons. 

1:34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be, seeing I do not know a man?- So great is the depth of Mary’s perception that I am led to make the suggestion that she may have actually comprehended that Isaiah 7:14 required a virgin to be made pregnant by God, and she was anticipating this happening. I am led to this possibility by musing upon her question here. She had been told that she was to bear the Son of God, Messiah, but initially she is not told that this would be due to the Holy Spirit coming upon her. Her response is to ask how this will be possible, seeing she doesn’t know a man. Yet she was engaged to a man, and engagements in Galilee rarely lasted longer than a year. The obvious deduction for her would have been to think that when her and Joseph married, their child would be Messiah. So why does she ask how it can be, seeing she doesn’t know a man sexually? Is there not here the implication that she had picked up on the Angel’s allusion to Isaiah 7:14 and realized that it required a virgin to conceive in order to make the Messiah both Son of God and son of David through a woman? And so she asks how actually this is going to come about; as if to say ‘OK I understand it requires a virgin conception, but how physically is it going to work out?’. Most marriages were arranged marriages; she had been betrothed to Joseph, but was earnestly praying to be mother of Messiah, and yet she realized that it required a virgin conception. And yet soon, she would be married. She must have feared that her life was going to become just like that of any other woman. But now with ecstatic joy she realized that God had heard her, and intervened. She was to have a virgin conception before she got married to Joseph! It must have all seemed too wonderful to be true, and yet she believed. One can only be impressed at the speed and depth of her response to the Angel. The Lord’s same ability was surely at least partly inherited from His mother.

1:35 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- The Holy Spirit came upon her, and so Mary’s spirit was full of gladness (:35,47). She walked in step with the spirit (Gal. 5:25). Because she believed that really the child she would bear would be “holy”, she can extol God as “holy” (1:35,49). She says that God “Has done to me great things”- she believed that what was promised would actually happen, to the point she felt it had already happened. Now this surely is the essence of faith.

The Angel’s description of Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary  could have sent her mind back to how the Spirit-Cherubim and the cloud of Spirit glory overshadowed the ark (Ex. 25:20; 1 Chron. 28:18). The LXX uses the word for “overshadow” about the cloud of glory overshadowing the ark in the wilderness (Ex. 40:35; Num. 9:18,22). If Mary’s mind had been alerted to this possibility, she would have seen the relevance of Elizabeth’s words: “Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43). For they are remarkably similar to the LXX of 2 Sam. 6:9, where David asks “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”. As a result of this question of David’s, the ark remained three months in the house of Obed-Edom (2 Sam. 6:11). And was this why Mary, seeing herself as the ark, remained for three months in the house of Elisabeth straight after hearing this same question asked (Lk. 1:56)? There are further links, between the gladness of Lk. 1:44 and the joy of 2 Sam. 6:12; and the loud cry of Lk. 1:42 and that of 2 Sam. 6:15. If one combines Lk. 1:31 and Jn. 1:14 we have the word of God becoming flesh and “tabernacling” among us in the womb and faith of Mary. If these connections are valid, then Mary would have felt that within her was He who would be the covenant of the Lord, the stones of the word of God made flesh in a little boy. This was perception indeed.

1:36 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- Elisabeth only announced her pregnancy at the end of five months. So this may have been a second encouragement to Mary, that non-standard pregnancies are no problem to God. Or perhaps it was the first Mary had heard of it. The lesson is that meetings with others, or news about them, are providentially brought into our lives in order to encourage us in situations which are about to come upon us.

1:37 For no word from God shall be void of power- The various possibilities in translation offer various possible interpretations. The idea could be that Mary was not to worry about the mechanics of how God's prophetic words about the virgin birth and the birth of the Messianic forerunner would come about; there was and is power within the prophetic word to bring about its own fulfilment. This principle has wide relevance. Not least, we need not worry how all shall be fulfilled in the last days, nor seek to force fulfilment of prophecy; for the power of fulfilment is lodged within the prophetic word itself. But "void of power" can also simply mean "impossible". The only other time the Greek word occurs is in Mt. 17:20: "If you have faith... nothing shall be impossible unto you". The 'possibility' of the fulfilment depends partially upon our faith. And this would have been so appropriate to Mary, who had prayed in faith to be the mother of Messiah. The prophetic word is "possible", but it is made actual by our faith. When Mary says "Be it unto me according to your word" (:38) she is as it were enabling the fulfilment of that word. See on :45. This is not to say that God does not have sovereign possibility of Himself; but clearly His preference is to work within the parameters of human faith.

1:38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it unto me according to your word! And the angel departed from her- Mary had probably said and later sung to the Lord Jesus: “Be it unto me according to your word”. In Mt. 15:28 we have the Lord addressing the Canaanite woman: “Woman….be it unto you even as you wish”. The Lord had called His mother “Woman…” in Cana. That woman restimulated memories of His dear mother.  We see here a window into His humanity, using language in reflection of how His mother had spoken to Him in childhood; and we see too Mary's abiding influence upon Him.

Not only did Mary see herself as representative of Israel [see on :28]; she also felt a strong connection between herself and her Messiah Son. Any woman would feel this connection and identity with her child; but in Mary’s case, her child was the Son of God, Messiah of Israel. And she had the spiritual ambition to see herself in some way, thereby, as Messiah. Consider the evidence: 
- Lk. 1:38 “the handmaid of the Lord” uses the Greek female form for “servant of the Lord”, a clear title of Messiah.
- She appropriates words spoken in the spirit of Christ to herself: “You have reduced the proud to lowliness like a wounded thing: and by your powerful arm you have scattered your enemies” (Ps. 89:10 cp. Lk. 1:51-53).
- She refers to herself in saying that God has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy; yet His Servant was Messiah, according to Isaiah’s servant songs (Lk. 1:54,55).
- Lk. 1:28,42 “blessed among women” alludes to Jud. 5:24, as if Mary was already as Jael who had killed Sisera, an incident typical of the Lord's destruction of sin with the hammer of God's word. Mary is tied up with her son's victory- for He was part of her. There is a parallel between Mary and the "fruit of your womb" , they were both to be blessed together (:42), as if God recognized this link between the mother and Son. The fact He ‘allowed’ this, rather than just using a cold ‘channel’ for His purpose, is simply surpassing in its wonder.
- Her words of Lk. 1:47 “my spirit shall rejoice in God” allude to Ps. 63:11: “But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that swears by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped”. Mary parallels herself with “the King”, seeing herself as connected with Messiah.
- “The servant of the Lord" would rejoice in God: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God" (Is. 61:10), and yet Mary as the female "servant of the Lord" also rejoices, sharing the joy of her Son.
- Lk. 1:48 has Mary rejoicing: “All generations shall call me blessed”, alluding to how in Ps. 72:17 “all nations shall call him [Messiah] blessed”. Mary is equated with her son, Messiah, and she recognized this. He was part of her.
- Mary understood that through her conception, God had put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted them of low degree (Lk. 1:52). This clearly alludes to Ez. 21:26, where the princes are to be put down and him that is low is to be exalted, i.e. Messiah. But Mary felt that she had been exalted; thus she shared Messiah’s exaltation because He was in her and she in Him. We too are in Him, and we should feel something of the pride and joy, along with the suffering, that comes from that identification. She parallels her low estate with them of low degree (Lk. 1:48,52)- perhaps referring to her and Jesus?
- She appropriated the promises to Abraham’s seed [which according to Gal. 3:16 is one man, Jesus] to her personally (Lk. 1:55). 

1:39- see on Lk. 2:19.

And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah- One is hard pushed to find women-only scenes in contemporary literature written during Biblical times. The women are presented in terms of the men with whom they inter-relate. Yet Elizabeth and Mary are recorded as having a conversation with no male present (Lk. 1:39-45); and there are other such passages in Scripture (Gen. 19:32,34; 30:14,15; Ex. 2:1-10; Jud. 5:28-30; Ruth 1:6-2:2; 3:16-18; 4:14-17; 2 Kings 5:2,3). The narrative of the women at the tomb and the resurrection is another example (Lk. 23:55-24:4). In all these passages, the reader is invited to share the woman’s perspective.

Mary took the nudge from the Angel, to find encouragement at this time in the company of another believer who was going through a broadly similar experience. She would presumably have left Joseph at this time; and we see again his willing sacrifice in still marrying her despite this. To the worldly eye, it would look for all the world as if she had got pregnant whilst away in Judah, or had run off there after falling pregnant in Nazareth. But she was prepared for all that misjudgment of her, wanting to follow the Lord's leading in finding spiritual strength from a believer going through the same things, whose faith had also been amazingly rewarded.

1:40 And entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elisabeth- The usual girlie teenage thing would have been to go talk to her contemporaries about it. But not Mary. She went on probably the longest journey she had ever made, and probably alone, to see Elisabeth. She describes herself as the lowly, the hungry, who had been exalted and fed… whereas the proud and haughty had been disregarded. These words, and the evident allusions she makes back to Hannah’s song, could be read as reflecting what had actually been wrought in Mary’s own person and experience by some kind of persecution in her childhood. And it drove her within herself. It seems that she had been deeply humbled in order for her to be highly exalted. One wonders if she had been sexually abused. If Joseph was indeed much older than her, then we can understand how it happened that this girl, mature as she was beyond her years, got attracted to an older and spiritual man. Her spirituality and intelligence [for her allusions to Scripture indicate a fine appreciation of so much] would have been enough to spark plenty of village jealousy. Jn. 2:11,12 speak of three groups- the disciples, who believed, the brothers of Jesus who didn’t  (Jn. 7:5), and Mary, whose level of faith isn’t commented upon. She stands alone. Recognizing this tendency to isolationism within her, the Father seems to have encouraged Mary to open herself up to Elisabeth, encouraging her that her relative was in a somewhat similar position, having been barren for a lifetime and now expecting a child. Although Elisabeth was somewhat distant from Mary, Mary immediately goes to see her, following the prompting of the Lord. The record is styled to show the experiences of the two pregnancies as parallel:
- “The virgin’s name was Mary” (1:27) = “her name was Elisabeth” (1:5).
- Both were startled at the Angelic appearances (1:12,29), and were comforted not to be afraid.
- “You will call his name John… you will call his name Jesus”.
- “He will be great… he will be great”.
- “How am I to know this?”, and the Angel responded; “How shall this be?”, and likewise the Angel responded.
- Both were given signs- the dumbness of Zacharias, and the pregnancy of Elisabeth.
- Both John and Jesus are described as growing up and becoming strong (Lk. 1:80; 2:40).  

This is not the only time when we see circumstances repeating between Bible characters. The similarities were to direct them back to former and contemporary examples, to find strength. And this is one of the basic reasons for Christian fellowship amongst believers. Yet it would seem that as time went on, Mary became more introverted, she stored up “all these things” in her heart and couldn’t share them with others. Whilst due to her unique path this is understandable, it may be related to the loss of spiritual perception and activity which it seems set in after she gave birth to Jesus. 

1:41 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- The usual kicking within the womb [s.w. Gen. 25:22 LXX] was triggered by her being filled with the Spirit, just as the unborn child was filled with the Spirit within her womb (:15)- a good Biblical argument for the pro-life movement.

1:42- see on Lk. 1:28.

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!- Elisabeth is repeating the words and ideas of the Angel in :28. Mary would have realized that the Angel was indeed from God, and the same Spirit was speaking through Elisabeth as through the Angel. We see the Father's gentle grace in providing her with confirmation after confirmation of the strange and lonely path she was being led along.

1:43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?- Elisabeth found mutual encouragement from Mary, although Mary had gone to her for encouragement. This is the mutual nature of true Christian fellowship. Clearly Elisabeth perceived that her son was to be the Elijah prophet, and Mary's was to be Messiah whom her son would herald. There was however no jealousy at all, as at times happens between pregnant women who believe they are bearing significant offspring, but rather just a sense of gratitude for the grace of it all.

1:44 For when the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby jumped in my womb for joy- Elisabeth would have been greeted by Mary with the traditional "Shalom!", a wish of peace to her. And her sensitive mind perceived that that peace was the Messianic peace with God which would save Israel and the world.

1:45 And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord- See on :53. Mary at this point was an inspiration to Paul in his trial (Lk. 1:45 = Acts 27:25). Mary was blessed for believing, because therefore and thereby there would be a fulfilment of the things spoken to her (Lk. 1:45 RV). Without her faith, would those things have been fulfilled? She had to do her bit. And this is why she was called blessed. She made possible the prophetic word; see on :37. The Lord basically told the disciples to go into the world and preach in order that the prophesies of repentance being preached among all nations would come true (Lk. 24:48). Paul’s preaching to the whole world was likewise driven by a desire to fulfil the prophecy that Christ would be a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47).  

 In Jn. 20:29, Jesus unconsciously alludes to His mother's blessedness even after His glorification. Mary must have many times recounted the story of Elisabeth to Jesus, and His memory of it influenced His sentence construction even after His glorification. This gives a window into the extent to which we will be still who we are now in the Kingdom. Divine nature won't totally change who we are nor the influence of our parents upon us. This is a great encouragement to parents- who they influence their children to be, will be what they eternally will be. For Jesus alluded to the memory of His mother even in Divine nature.  

1:46 And Mary said: My soul does magnify the Lord- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. This is alluded to by Paul, when he uses the same Greek word in Phil. 1:2: “Christ shall be magnified in my body / soul”. If this is a valid allusion, then "the Lord" is a reference to Jesus. In Lk. 1:43 Elisabeth had just described Jesus as "my Lord". And then Mary here parallels "the Lord" with "God my saviour / my Jesus". She understood how God was to be manifest in Jesus, as she parallels “my soul" with "my spirit"(:47). It's amazing that an illiterate teenager should have risen to such heights of understanding, probably without learning much at all from the local synagogue.

1:47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. This rang in Paul’s mind (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Tit. 1:3). Mary’s words “my spirit has rejoiced” are alluded to by Jesus unconsciously in Lk. 10:21 [the only time the Greek phrase "spirit... rejoices” is used]. “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit" and thanked God that the humble not the wise had been chosen- showing exactly the spirit of Mary's words of Lk. 1:52,53, the words she had probably sung to Him around the house as a child. Unconsciously [?], the Lord Jesus was alluding to Mary His mother's attitude. Such was the Jesus-Mary relationship. Luke brings this out in his record in the connections he makes. Mary had an influence even on the Son of God- quite some encouragement to all parents and those who spend time with children as to the influence they have.  

1:48 Because He has looked upon the low estate of His handmaid- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. Mary’s quotations and allusions to the OT are nearly all from the LXX, and it is almost certain that she would have been familiar with some of the Apocryphal books bound up with the LXX at that time. Consider the words of 4 Ezra 9:45, where Zion speaks as a barren woman: “God heard your handmaid and regarded my low estate, and considered my distress and gave me a son”. Clearly she saw herself as the representative of Zion. Moses told Israel that God “has done great things in you” [in her womb?] (Dt. 10:21). She felt that God had helped her as “His servant Israel”- alluding to Ps. 98:3 LXX “He has remembered His mercy to Jacob”. Unto us, Israel, a son was to be given (Is. 9:6 cp. Lk. 2:11), but it was actually given to Mary. See on Lk. 1:28.

God recognized her “low estate” [humility] and exalted her above all women, just as He would His Son among men. He did not choose some well heeled Jerusalem girl, but a poor, barefoot teenager in despised Nazareth. The same Greek word is used in Acts 8:33: “In his humiliation [‘low estate’] his judgment was taken away”. It occurs too in Phil. 2:8: “He humbled himself”. In the cross, indeed throughout the seven stage self-humiliation of the Lord which Phil. 2 speaks of, He was living out the spirit of His mother. She taught Him the life and the way of the cross. Hence the way she insisted on being there at the end, and the comfort she would have given Him, and the love He showed by asking for the only one who really understood Him to be taken away, for her sake as well as His own. The Lord directly alluded to His mother’s pattern of humiliation and exaltation by using the same word again in Mt. 23:12: “Whosever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself [s.w. be abased- we must either humble ourselves or be humbled, it’s such a powerful logic] shall be exalted”. Thus the Lord Jesus alludes to His mother's words in order to set her up as our pattern [“whosoever”]. And yet He Himself showed the ultimate obedience to her pattern in the death of the cross. For this and many other reasons,  the Lord’s mind was upon His mother in His time of dying. And according to the Messianic Psalms, He even asks God to have mercy upon Him for Mary’s sake (Ps. 86:16; 116:16).

For from this time forward all generations shall call me blessed- When Mary spoke of all generations calling her blessed, her mind was in  Gen. 30:13: "The daughters [i.e. future generations of them] shall call me blessed", and yet at the same time on Zilpah the servant maid [cp. Mary the handmaiden] bearing Asher [happy]. These women were seen by Mary as representatives of herself. She was so humble to compare herself with the servant girl. Yet she also had in mind Prov. 31:28, where the virtuous woman is blessed by all. She saw herself as the virtuous woman who excelled all- yet she was so humble. She was the most highly favoured woman, but was so humble. It’s hard to know your true value without being proud about it. It seems to me that we must learn to value ourselves far more, to love our neighbour as we do really love / respect ourselves, without being proud. The ability to see your own worth and value in God’s purpose is crucial; we tend to be either proud, or too negative about ourselves. Mary was so spiritually ambitious to want to be the mother of Messiah, understanding He would be God manifest.  
Mary realized that her great honour was being given in response to her humility- God had regarded her “low estate", her humility. She was humble enough to know God had noticed her humility- and still not be proud about it. She had enough self knowledge to perceive this. It’s as if she is saying ‘'Thank you for taking note of my humility'. This is really a deep essay in humility-  to recognize she was humble without being proud about it. And to be able to say it sincerely. Mary’s humility was programmatic for Jesus on the cross; for there He humbled Himself that He might be exalted. This was the theme that, according to Phil. 2, was ever in His mind. 

Later Scripture seems to allude to Mary’s words of praise in Lk. 1 and set her up as a representative of us all. She speaks in Lk. 1:49 of her “low estate”, alluding to  Ps. 136:23, which describes us all in this way.

1:49 For He that is mighty has done to me great things, and holy is His name- The Magnificat shows that Mary had a fair appreciation of God’s Names, in that she refers to Him as “He that is mighty”, interpreting for us the Old Testament idea of El Shaddai, the God of fruitfulness [Heb. shad = ‘breast’]. Note how neither Mary nor the NT writers transfer the OT Hebrew titles of God, e.g. ‘Yahweh’, rather they interpret them. She sees her conception of the Son of God as an example of how “holy is His Name” (Lk. 1:49). The Lord Himself understood that “Hallowed be Your Name” is to be paralleled with the Father’s will being done. The Name of God speaks of His actions; because He is who He is, He will articulate this in how He acts. This is why all His actions are understandable and broadly predictable in terms of the basic characteristics that comprise His Name. The Name is not just a word, a lexical item. And Mary perceived all this- that the Holy Name of Jehovah was to be manifested ultimately and supremely in the Son she would bear. For this is the climax of God manifestation. Because “Holy is His Name”, she would bear a “holy thing” that manifested that Name. There is in Hebrew an ‘intensive plural’, whereby the plural form is used to reflect the greatness of a singular thing. Thus ‘Jehovah Elohim’, Jehovah who will be mighty ones, can be read as a specific prophecy of His definitive revelation in the ‘mighty one’ of His Son. And could it be that Mary grasped all this? I for one think she did.  

1:50 And His mercy is to generations and generations on them that fear Him- The subsequent generations who would bless her would do so because through her Son, "mercy" wsa experienced. She perceived that Messiah would bring mercy to sinners, indeed to all; rather than just the re-establishment of Israel's political Kingdom.

1:51 He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. Through the Lord, God "scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts" (Lk. 1:51). This is quoting from Gen. 6:5 LXX concerning the wicked imagination of man's heart at the flood. This is even more evidence that we can read the events of the flood as typical of two things; our salvation from the judgment upon sin, and also of the events of the last days, when that salvation will be physically manifested. We are in Noah's position; we can see clearly the judgments which must come upon sin.

Such a Bible minded woman inevitably had faith. For faith comes by hearing the word of God. Mary believed the Angel’s words fully- hence her rejoicing. The aorist tenses of Lk. 1:51-53 seem the equivalent of prophetic perfect tenses in Hebrew- Mary firmly believes that what is still future is as good as happened. She had the faith that considers what has been promised to have actually happened. At that moment it was as if God had scattered the proud, the rulers and the princes- even though this would only be achieved by the Lord’s life, death and glorification (Acts 2:33; 4:24-27; 5:31).

1:52 He has put down princes from their thrones and has exalted them of low station in life- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. Despite all the undoubted spiritual perception in the Magnificat, she didn’t have totally pure understanding. It seems from her allusion here to Ez. 21:26 [the mighty being put down from their thrones and the humble one exalted] that she thought that Ezekiel’s prophesy about Messiah’s restoration of the Kingdom had already been fulfilled in her conception of Jesus. It could be that she was so sure that her child would one day do this that she saw the time of the coming of “Him whose right it is” as being right there and then; and yet we know that it is in fact still future. Likewise “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” may imply [although not necessarily] that she hadn’t grasped the implications that Messiah must be the result of a virgin birth, as per Is. 7:14. Yet for all this, she still had acceptability before God, and the required spiritual ambition to be Messiah’s mother. 

Mary perceived the importance of humility. Her song of rejoicing is a consciously arranged poem by her. It is in two strophes, each climaxing with the themes of lowliness / exaltation. She saw humility as the true exaltation, and the structure of her little song reflects this. She perhaps prepared the song in her mind as she walked down from Nazareth to the Judaean hills to meet Elisabeth; there is a rhyme established by the last  words of the four lines in Lk. 1:52,53: thronon with agathon, and tapeinous with kenous. In all this she reached a new paradigm for humility was a concept foreign to the first century mind. Strength, wealth and ability were to be demonstrated; to show strength by being humble was just unheard of. Only those who were forced into humble submission by the stronger were ‘humble’. To clean the toilets when nobody else notices, and the host of other such opportunities for service in ecclesial life... this is the true humility, the real strength and exaltation before God. 

1:53 The hungry He has filled with good things and the rich He has sent away empty- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. Not only was the Lord Himself influenced by His mother. Paul and Peter allude to Mary and her words in their writings. The hymn to Jesus which Paul wrote in Phil. 2 is full of themes taken from Mary’s song- the same themes of God’s manifestation in His Son, humiliation and exaltation, occur there. There are several connections between the accounts of the early preaching of the Gospel in Acts, and Mary’s song of praise. Her words came to influence the brethren who stood up there and preached. Perhaps Mary, who was meeting with them (Acts 1:14), sung the words to them and they all memorized it. Raymond Brown claims there are 18 words or items shared by the preaching of Peter (Acts 3:12-26) and the Magnificat [Mary’s song of praise] (The Birth Of The Messiah, New York: Doubleday, 1993 p. 354). Mary had quoted Ps. 107:9 about how she had been filled with good things; but Zacharias quoted the next verse, Ps. 107:10, shortly afterwards (Lk. 1:79). Surely Mary had gotten him thinking in the same paths as she did. And she should likewise influence us.

Mary felt that through her being granted the honour of bearing Jesus, the hungry had been filled. The Lord in Lk. 6:21 alludes to all this. He speaks of how blessed [=Mary] are the hungry who will be filled, using the same three words as in Lk. 1- blessed was Mary, the hungry, who was filled in her stomach.  He states that there is a blessedness upon all of us who believe (Jn. 20:29)- just as His mother was proclaimed blessed for her belief (Lk. 1:45).  Mary had felt that God had “Filled the hungry [i.e. their stomach, cp. the womb of Mary] with the good thing [Gk.]”- Jesus (Lk. 1:53). He calls Himself this good thing, using the very same Greek word in Mt. 20:15: "I am the good one"; Jn. 1:46; 7:12 [where the "good thing" is Messiah]. Her perception of Him became His. And so with us; if we perceive our children as future brethren, so, hopefully and prayerfully, they will be. Jesus could have sinned; He could have failed. But Mary right from His babyhood believed that He wouldn’t. She believed in Him and in His succesful completion of His destiny from when she first conceived Him. And surely this is a pattern for Christian mothers too.

1:54 He has given help to Israel His servant, that He might remember mercy- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song. As noted on :28, she saw herself as the "Servant" Israel. "Mercy" is a real theme with her; she saw Messiah as enabling mercy for multiple generations (see on :50). The fulfilment of the prophecies in Messiah she saw as a mercy, a grace, even though it was her faith which enabled them to work out as they did. "Given help" is literally to take hold of, and she is alluding to Is. 41:8,9 LXX, where God helps or takes by the hand His servant Israel; but this was only going to be possible through Messiah, her son, because she realized that Israel of themselves had refused Yahweh's outstretched arm towards them. She was very far from the nationalism which was tied up with Messianic expectation at the time. She saw Messiah as the channel for the grace and mercy upon Israel which their sinfulness required.

1:55 (As He spoke to our fathers) toward Abraham and his seed for ever- See on :38 for the allusions to Hannah's song.
She speaks in Lk. 1:55 Gk. of “the seed of him”- she understood the seed of Abraham to be Messiah, her son, and makes many references and allusions to the promises to Abraham. She had clearly reflected upon the way that the things of the Gospel were all promised to Abraham (Gal. 3:8).  

1:56 And Mary stayed with her about three months and then returned home- As noted earlier, she took lessons from Elisabeth's example. She too therefore hid herself during the early part of her pregnancy. She must have returned home just before Elisabeth gave birth (cp. :36), seeking to avoid the public eye by being present at the birth of John. It was presumably at her return that she was "found with child" (Mt. 1:18), as the end of the first trimester of pregnancy would have given her certain evidence that she was really pregnant.

1:57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son- "The time came" alludes to how the prophetic words "shall be fulfilled in their time" (:20).

1:58 And her neighbours and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified His mercy towards her; and they rejoiced with her- The idea of magnifying mercy is that we live by God's mercy, but in this open answer to prayer, that mercy was magnified, made the more visible before all. We can logically deduce from this that God's mercy is there even when prayer is apparently not answered; it is just that answered prayer magnifies that pre-existing and ever present mercy. We note the emphasis upon Elizabeth here- the time came for her to give birth, and the neighbours heard of God's mercy towards her, and they rejoiced with her. This is typical of Luke's inspired emphasis upon the importance of women; a secular account of those times would have focused upon how the famous priest Zacharias was now having a son etc. To claim the Bible is somehow against women is facile; it was far ahead of its time in being careful to honour both genders.

1:59 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- 'John' means 'Yahweh's grace / favour'; "Zacharias" means 'Yahweh has remembered'. God did indeed remember the prayers of Zacharias; and 'remembering' when used about God is a Hebrew idiom used about God answering prayer. But Zacharias had not lived up to his name. Instead the prayer was heard by grace, and righteousness was imputed to Zacharias, as noted on :6. It was therefore appropriate that there should be a break with tradition, and the child named 'John' rather than 'Zacharias'.

1:60 But his mother answered and said: No, he shall be called John- One of Luke's themes is the equality and dignity of women before God. For a woman to stand up against her male relatives and take the decision about the naming of a child, in defiance of tradition whereby a male firstborn child must have the name of his father, was quite something. Mary took encouragement from this by naming her child 'Jesus' rather than some form of 'Joseph'.

1:61 And they said to her: There are none of your kindred that are called by this name- This break with tradition was to reflect how God was beginning a new creation, in which family ties and names were of no significance. This was radical stuff for a kinship oriented society. We too, in our own times and over our contemporary issues, are asked to radically step out from societal expectations.

1:62 And they made signs to his father, what he wanted him called- The family, as noted on :60, were shocked that a woman could assert such dominance in this matter of naming the child. They refused to let her get away with it without at least some semblance of male agreement.

1:63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, saying: His name is John. And they all marvelled- Perhaps he had used the same tablet in explaining to his wife what had happened in the temple, and the need to name the child 'John'.

1:64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed and he spoke, blessing God- This recalls the opening of Ezekiel's mouth so that he too could speak prophetic words. The context was similar- of a sinful Judah facing judgment unless they urgently repented and accepted God's prophetic word. The idea of the tongue being loosed is another example of wrong medical ideas being used to express healing; and the same is done with the idea of demons. The immediacy of healing demonstrated that the naming of the child was hard for Zacharias, who would have been tempted to want his own name continued in his only son. But he overcame that struggle in faith and obedience to the Father's revealed word.

1:65 And fear came on all their neighbours. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea- We might rather have expected 'joy'. But their secular joy turned to fear when they realized how close God was in all these things. And this in essence is why people struggle to believe the good news of the Gospel. The intellectual search is one thing, but coming face to face with 'John', Yahweh's grace, is quite another. And it is at that point that many turn away.

1:66 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- Mary and Elisabeth are likewise described by Luke as laying these things up in their hearts. There was clearly a psychological expectation amongst the people that John was going to be significant. Somehow they perceived that God's hand was with the child and was going to use him; they were being prepared to be potentially open to the message he would preach. The "hand of the Lord" being "with" people is the language of the exodus (Dt. 6:21; 7:8; 9:26 and often). There was a sense that deliverance from bondage was at hand through this man's ministry. But of course they failed to perceive that the bondage in view was to sin rather than to Rome; and the freedom was not immediate political freedom, but the priceless gift of freedom from sin and death.

1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying- Just as Ezekiel's dumbness was ended by "the hand of the Lord" (Ez. 33:22) and he was able to immediately prophesy; it was the same hand of the Lord that was operating here (:66). 

1:68 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people- Zacharias' song of praise was largely about the salvation to be achieved in the Lord Jesus, whom his son John was to herald. Zacharias therefore assumed that the work of John was going to be ultimately succesful and thereby enable the Lord Jesus to appear and bring salvation. "He has visited His people" is a quotation from Ruth 1:6. The same miraculous creation of a family that happened to Ruth and the elderly Boaz was happening to the family of Zacharias. Zacharias understood the Divine visitation of Israel to be through the dawning of the Messianic sun of righteousness (:78; 7:16). He doesn't glory in his own son, but rather in Mary's son. This is an essay in how Christ-centredness will displace our natural tendency to be self-centred. Mary would have taken great encouragement from this song; she would have recognized it was a Divinely inspired (:67) statement that John's birth guaranteed the birth of her son. The stress of the journey to Bethlehem, the lack of accommodation there etc. would have all been assuaged by meditating upon these Divine statements that the birth of John guaranteed, as it were, that of her son.

1:69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David- This again is a reference to the Lord Jesus and not to John; for John was a Levite whereas the Lord was from Judah via David. Zacharias was focused not upon his own son and his natural joy, but upon the far greater spiritual things portended by it. We need to likewise not focus solely upon our own immediate family experiences but to see the far greater picture in the perspective of the Lord Jesus. The horn of David was Yahweh's anointed or Christ, which would sprout fruit (Ps. 132:17). For David, Yahweh was the horn of his salvation (2 Sam. 22:3); the idea is that this Divine salvation would appear as a horn arising within the family of David. This is the kind of human and Divine fusion which was implied in the great promises to David about his seed; this seed would be God's son and also David's son. The only way that could be achieved was through the virgin birth. Zacharias would have reflected on these things, recalling that Mary was in the line of David. His own son John is not in view at all, for he was a Levite. The focus of Zacharias was so completely upon the Lord Jesus, Mary's son, rather than his own son. And he seems to have passed on to his son John this focus upon the Christ.

1:70 (As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets that have been since the world began)- The promised Messianic seed was the message of all the prophets, and Luke concludes his Gospel with the Lord explaining these things from all the prophets to the two on the way to Emmaus. This is one of many points of contact between the opening and closing of the Gospel. The beginning of the world was seen as the time when the prophets began, presumably referring to Adam. The world and its beginning as presented in the Bible began then. All angst about the ultimate origins of the earth, previous creations, the process of creation etc. is all misplaced. We are asked to see the time when God's prophetic word began to be spoken as the beginning of the world.

The words could also be read as meaning that all the prophets somehow preexisted at the beginning. This language of pre-existence is therefore not to be read literally, but in terms of them being within the Father's prophetic plan from the beginning. And this empowers us to better understand the language of the Lord's 'pre-existence'- not literally, but within the purpose of God.

1:71 Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us- See on Lk. 7:19. Clearly he understood Messiah as the One who would bring immediate relief from the Roman occupation. He'd misread, as many Jews do today, the Old Testament prophecies and types which involve two comings of Messiah, and the need for Him to firstly die the death of rejection. But all the same, we find no hint of condemnation, but rather of commendation, for this Godly man.

1:72 To show mercy towards our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant- This cannot mean that mercy was now given to the fathers, but that the fulfilment of the promised mercy to them had now come. This is why "mercy and truth" is a phrase used about the fulfilment of the promises to the fathers- the promised mercy had in truth been fulfilled, now in the utter "truth" which was and is Jesus Christ (Gen. 24:27; Ps. 98:3 and often in the Psalms; Is. 16:5; Mic. 7:20). The fulfilment of the promises was in the Christ and not in John the Baptist; but the focus of Zacharias is totally upon the Lord whom his son would testify to.

1:73 The oath which He spoke to Abraham our father- The path to Abraham was understood as "mercy" (:72). Peter likewise interprets the promises to Abraham as being ultimately about the turning away of his seed from sin, and personal salvation (Acts 3:25,26).

1:74 To grant to us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, should serve Him without fear- The promises were "to us". “Salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22) in the sense that the promises concerning salvation were made only to Abraham and his seed. We can only have those promises made to us if we become in the seed, by being baptised into Christ (Gal. 3:22-29). Then, all that is true of the Lord Jesus becomes true of us. Thus Zecharias quoted prophecies about the seed of Abraham and David as applying to all believers (Lk. 1:69,73,74). As noted on :72 and :73, the essential salvation promised in Christ was of mercy towards our sins. These are our enemies, from which we are to be delivered in Christ; we can serve Him now "without fear"- the fear of ultimate failure, of condemnation. The same word is used in 1 Jn. 4:18 of how we can now live without fear, secure in his love and salvation by grace. This is the good news of the Gospel. The idea of serving without fear is in conscious contrast to the repeated Old Testament commands for those under the law to serve God with fear (Dt. 6:13; 10:20; Josh. 24:14; Ps. 2:11 and often). It would have been a strange, novel and challenging idea; and yet it was in fact implicit in the promises to Abraham. This is the good news.

1:75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days- We read in :6 that Zacharias and Elisabeth "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless". But that holiness is now possible for all Israel, not just the Levites and dedicated religionists like that pious couple. And this holy walk in daily life and thought is motivated by the fact we are freed from fear of condemnation, the fear of ultimate spiritual failure; for we are saved by grace. This is a far stronger motivation than striving for obedience to any legal code, in the hope that we shall somehow one day be possibly saved by our obedience.

1:76 Yes, and you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High- We can imagine Zecharias now turning his eyes to his own newborn child. If he had received no more information than what is recorded, then he had done well to perceive that this child was the Elijah prophet, and therefore Mary's child was to be Messiah.

For you shall go before the presence of the Lord to make ready His ways- John the Baptist was to “prepare” the way for the Lord’s coming- evidently a process- in reflection of how God had been working a long time to “prepare” [same Greek word] the way for His Son’s coming (Lk. 1:76; Lk. 2:31; Lk. 3:4). We likewise, in our preaching work in these last days, are working in tandem and in step with God. The idea of God 'preparing' implies that there is therefore a gap between the plan being made, and it being executed- hence “The Lord has both planned and done what He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon” (Jer. 51:12; Jer. 4:28; Lam. 2:17; Is. 22:11; Is. 37:26; Zech. 1:6; Zech. 8:14). See on Mt. 20:23.

1:77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people in the remission of their sins- See on Mt. 3:11. The experience of forgiveness is a foretaste of salvation; as John's gospel puts it, we have eternal life now. Not in that we shall not die, but in so far as we live in the experience of sin forgiven, without fear of condemnation should the Lord return right now... for this is "salvation", the present experience of the great salvation to be brought to us at the Lord's second coming. And we can share this knowledge of salvation with others; Paul alludes to these words, showing that he was to bring others to the light just as John had (Lk. 1:77,79 =  Acts 13:47; 26:18,23). Luke is the only evangelist to continue the quotation of Is. 40 to include the words “all mankind will see God’s salvation”. And he focuses especially upon the wonder of forgiveness (Lk. 1:77; 7:48; Acts 13:38). Only he records the parable of the prodigal (Lk. 15:11-32), and only he describes the great preaching commission as relating to “repentance and remission of sins” (Lk. 24:47).

The principles God will use in the final judgment are manifested now, and have been reflected in His previous judgments of men. In our very personal lives, there are foretastes of that future judgment. When we receive forgiveness we experience the essence of the future salvation (Lk. 1:77). Indeed, whenever man meets with God, whenever His ways have contact with those of men (which so often happens in the life of the believer) there is a judgment experience; His holiness, His demands, the imperatives which lay within His very being, reveal quite naturally our failures. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s ‘meeting’ with men is also used in the senses of ‘summoning’ or gathering to a trial (Ex. 30:6). And positively, the degree to which we have responded to Him will be revealed by our meeting with Him.

1:78 Because of the tender mercy of our God- The fact that God has a “heart of mercy”- a lovely phrase- is His glory. It leads Him to glory in overlooking sin. And on this basis John appealed to people to repent and claim that forgiveness, thus allowing God to glory. In the light of all this, one wonders in what tone of voice John spoke. The cold printed words in our Bibles can lead us to imagine him speaking in a gruff, austere manner.

When the sunrise shall dawn upon us- "The sunrising (AVmg.) from on high hath visited us" through the Lord's mission, fulfilling the prophecy of Mal. 4:2 about Him as the sun of righteousness in the first century, although it clearly has reference also to the greater dawning yet to come. 


Many of the incidents in the first coming of the Lord Jesus are intended to point us forward to events which will happen at the his second coming. There is clear indication in the records of Luke 1 and 2 that there were a faithful remnant in Jerusalem at the time of our Lord's birth, whose attitude points forward to that of the latter-day remnant at the time of His second coming. Whilst only Zacharias, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna are mentioned, we can be sure that there were others in this group - Anna "spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38); "many" rejoiced even at the birth of John, on the understanding that he was Christ's forerunner (Luke 1:14). It is possible that the shepherds, too, were in this group, which would confirm the impression that the 'remnant' were in the lower ranks of society - Zacharias a superannuated priest, Anna a servant of the temple (Luke 2:37) - the equivalent of a modern office cleaner. This connects with the 'remnant' left in the land by Nebuchadnezzar being the poorest of the poor (2 Kings 24:15 cp. 25:11,12), and suggests a working-class Jewish 'remnant' in the last days.

There is much language used concerning the birth of Jesus which is easily applicable to His second coming. This in itself encourages us to see the record of those awaiting His first coming as typical of the last days. The birth of John and Jesus is described as God 'visiting and redeeming his people' (Luke 1:68);  what better way of describing God's latter-day intervention? "The sunrising from on high hath visited us" (Luke 1:78 A.V. mg.) was Zacharias' comment upon God's purpose in John and Jesus, making an unmistakeable allusion to Mal. 4:2 concerning Christ's second coming being like the rising sun. Note how this sun rising is upon the righteous remnant of the last days (Mal. 4:12) - identifying Zacharias with them. The Angels rejoiced that through Christ's birth there was "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14), although this will only be fully done in the Kingdom. Simeon spoke of the baby Jesus as "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32), although this will only be fully true after the second coming (Is. 42:6; 49:6). The remnant "looked for redemption (to appear) in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38); they could only have figured this out from realizing that the Old Testament 'kingdom' prophecies concerning Jerusalem, which we normally associate with the second coming, had a primary fulfilment in the birth of Christ.

John the Baptist commented that he preached repentance and baptized in Israel, so that the Messiah might be manifest to Israel (Jn. 1:31). His work was a pattern for the Elijah ministry of the last days. It could be argued that Messiah was only manifest in the first century because of the success of John's work- for large numbers were baptized of him. Could it be that the timing of the final revelation of Messiah likewise depends upon the success of the Elijah ministry in leading Israel to repentance? And what implications are there in this, if actually we are the voice of that ministry...
We can now scan the record for more detailed latter-day typology:-
-  The remnant were in or around Jerusalem - as it seems the latter-day faithful will also be.   They looked for Messiah to appear in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).   If latter-day Jewry are persecuted to the extent that the only Jews left alive in the land are in Jerusalem (see previous studies, especially Chapter 8), then they, too, will expect Messiah to come to them in that same city. Note that the woman whose intense pleadings represent the prayers of the latter day remnant (Lk.18:2-8) "was in a city" - Jerusalem?
-  They eagerly looked for the Lord's birth as a fulfilment of the Abrahamic promises, that through his seed "we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve (God) without fear" (Luke 1:74).   Likewise the latter-day remnant will meditate how the Abrahamic promises concerning freedom from their (Arab) enemies are so relevant to them - perhaps due to the Elijah ministry turning their hearts to the Jewish "fathers", a phrase often used about the patriarchs who received the promises (Mal. 4:6).
-  Israel in the first century were under the domination of Rome, the fourth beast of Dan. 7:23.   In the latter-day application of this, necessitated by the image upon which the beasts are based standing complete in the last days, the fourth beast with its horns corresponds to the Arab coalition which will then dominate Israel.
-  Some of the remnant had the Spirit gift of prophecy (Luke 1:41,67;  2:26,36).   The latter-day remnant may also experience this - their old men (cp. Zacharias and Simeon) and young people (cp. Mary), may have the gift of prophecy around the time of the Lord's return - "before the great and terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:28-31).
-  The shepherds watching at night while the Lord was born (Luke 2:8) echoes the Passover.   There is good reason to think that the second coming may be associated with Passover time.   The vision of Angels which they saw may correspond to the remnant in Jerusalem seeing a literal "sign of the (coming of the) son of man in (literal) heaven" (Matt. 24:30), composed of the Angel-cherubim.   This "sign of the son of man in heaven" must be alluding back to the literal portent which the shepherds saw in the sky, pointing to the Lord's first coming. Thus there will be no need to say "See here; or see there", because the Lord's return will be so evidently public (Lk. 17:23).
-  Zacharias and Elisabeth "were both righteous before God" (Luke 1:6) amidst a corrupt Jewish world that refused to prepare itself for God's manifestation in Christ, despite the availability to them of God's Word, which clearly prophesied it.   This recalls the description of Noah as being "righteous before God" (Gen. 7:1) in the context of the flood coming upon the world.   We have earlier shown this to be full of reference to the last days.
-  There is a triple emphasis on Israel praying to God in the lead up to Christ's birth (Luke 1:10,13; 2:37). We know from Joel 2:17 and many other passages that the remnant will likewise devote themselves to prayer in the last days, as will spiritual Israel.
-  The appearance of Angels before Christ's birth (Luke 1:12,26) is similar to their visiting Israel under persecution during the times of the Judges, bringing the news of deliverance from their Arab enemies through a 'saviour' ('Jesus').
-  The conception of John (the Elijah prophet of the first century) preceded that of Christ - he was Christ's forerunner - there is therefore a necessity for this type to be fulfilled in the literal coming of the latter-day Elijah as a prelude to Christ's manifestation to Israel.
-  The "joy and gladness" (Luke 1:14) of the remnant at Christ's birth will be but a dim foretaste of the ecstasy which the embattled remnant of the last days will experience at their Lord's return.

1:79 To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace- Without Messiah, Israel under the law were in darkness and under the shadow of death. This would have been hard for proud Judaism to swallow. The allusion is clearly to the Messianic prophecy of Is. 9:2, but sitting in "the shadow of death" means to live in the prospecct of imminent death. And that is in fact where all humanity are situated- if only they would perceive it. For we are all terminally ill, on borrowed time, with an urgency to get out from under that shadow. The result of the Messianic sun would be to guide feet into the way of peace with God, living before Him without fear of death and condemnation because they are assured of their salvation in Him (see on :74,77). It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps into that way of peace; it is the Lord's work to guide human feet into that way. That guidance is by His Spirit, by grace. 

1:80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day he appeared publicly to Israel- The reference to "spirit" could be to the work of the Spirit, active in the formation of his character from his mother's womb (:15). God's Spirit and John's spirit are clearly connected here; and this is how the Holy Spirit works in our spirit / lives too, through a collaboration, a conspiracy of the willing.Presumably at some point in his youth, John left his parents, or perhaps they died, and went to live "in the desert". He may have encountered the Essenes there, or even lived with them, for there are undoubted points of contact and allusion between his teaching and theirs.