Luke 1




Introduction (1:1-4)


1-2 For some years after Jesus’ death, the account of His life spread by word of mouth. It was told by eye-witnesses, those who had seen and heard Jesus, and by servants of the word, that is, His disciples.

Then some people began to write down the accounts of these eyewitnesses. For example, Peter, Jesus’ chief disciple, told what he knew to Mark, who then wrote Mark’s Gospel (see Mark: Introduction). But everything that was written was directly based on the testimony of those who had seen and heard Jesus with their own eyes and ears (see 1 John 1:1).

3-4 Luke obtained these written accounts and also talked with many people who had known Jesus. From all this information he wrote a history of the life of Christ, which is the Gospel of Luke.

He addressed his history to a man called Theophilus (Acts 1:1). It is not known who Theophilus was. Some believe that he was an official of the ROMAN EMPIRE who was sympathetic toward this new religion, Christianity.

Theophilus had learned some things about Christ and this new religion, but his knowledge was not complete. Perhaps he had heard some bad things about Christ. The Jews called Christ an imposter and blasphemer. The Romans called Him an agitator, a troublemaker.

Therefore, Luke wanted to give Theo-philus a true history of Jesus, an orderly account, so that Theophilus might know the certainty of the things he had heard. But Luke, according to God’s plan, did not write only for Theophilus; he wrote also for us. We too can know the certainty of the Gospel of Christ. Our faith is not based on myths, but on history.

But to know with certainty is not enough. We must also believe in our hearts that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; for it is only by believing in Jesus that we can receive life in his name (John 20:31).


The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (1:5-25)

5-7 In the time of King Herod3 there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. (This Zechariah is different from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, and he is also different from the other prophet Zechar-iah mentioned in Matthew 23:35.) He was a priest of the division of Abijah. The Jewish priests were divided into twenty-four divisions, and Abijah’s was one of these (1 Chronicles 24:10).

Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth was also the daughter of a priest, and a descendant of Aaron.4 They had had no children, because Elizabeth was barren. The Jews believed that if a woman was barren it was because of some sin; but according to Luke, both Zechariah and his wife were upright in the sight of God (verse 6). They had prayed to God that they might have a child (verse 13), but God had not yet granted their request.

8-10 Each of the twenty-four priestly divisions had the duty of serving in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for two weeks each year. Twice a day incense was burned in an inner room of the temple called the Holy Place (Hebrews 9:2). Since there were many priests in each division, the one selected to burn incense was chosen by lot each day (verse 9). While the priest was burning the incense inside the Holy Place, the people who had come to worship waited outside (verse 10). Then after burning the incense, the priest would come out and bless the people.

On this particular day Zechariah had been chosen to burn the incense.

11-13 While Zechariah was inside the Holy Place, an angel appeared to him and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. They were to name their son John, which means, “God is gracious.”

14-15 The angel said that John would be great in the sight of the Lord. John the Baptist was indeed great. Jesus said that in his time John was the greatest man born of woman (Matthew 11:11). The angel also said that John would be filled with the HOLY SPIRIT. In the Old Testament, God’s Holy Spirit came upon men of God for short periods to help them accomplish some special task. But in John’s case, the Holy Spirit filled him even from birth (verse 15), and remained with him always.

16 The angel said that John would bring back to the Lord many of the people of Israel (the Jewish nation). That is, John would turn many Jews back to God by preaching a baptism of REPENTANCE for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). And indeed, one of John’s main works was to exhort the Jews to repent of their sins and turn back to God.

17 And he will go on before the Lord. John’s other main work was to prepare the Jews to receive the Lord, Christ, their Messiah,5 their Savior—that is, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

The angel said that John would do this in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah was a great Old Testament prophet, who the people expected would one day return to earth (see Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:13-15 and comment).

John would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. The children were the present Jewish generation and the fathers were their ancestors. By leading the present generation of Jews to repent, John would, in a sense, be satisfying their righteous ancestors. Luke also means that reconciliation would take place within the families of the present generation. When children repent, parents turn to them with forgiveness.

John would turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous; that is, he would cause the present rebellious generation of Jews to turn from sin and begin again to fear and obey God. To fear God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).

18-20 Zechariah doubted what the angel told him. “How can I believe you?” he asked. The angel said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God. Therefore, what I speak is true.”

Gabriel is the chief messenger of God; he is one of the greatest of God’s angels (Daniel 8:15-16; 9:20-23). Angels stand in the presence of God (Matthew 18:10; Revelation 5:11) and carry out His bidding (Hebrews 1:14). To disbelieve an angel is to disbelieve God.

How can I be sure of this?” Zechariah asked (verse 18). He wanted a sign. So the angel gave him a “sign”; he caused him to be deaf and dumb as a punishment for his unbelief.

21-25 When Zechariah came out of the Holy Place after burning incense, he could not speak and bless the people as was customarily done. Then, after his period of service in the temple was finished, he returned home and his wife became pregnant. “The Lord has … taken away my disgrace,” she said (verse 25). For a woman, to fail to bear children was considered by the Jews to be a disgrace (Genesis 30:22-23).


The Birth of Jesus Foretold (1:26-38)

26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a young virgin named Mary, who lived in the town of Nazareth. She was engaged to be married. At that time she had not slept with any man.

29-32 The angel told Mary that she would give birth to a son, and that he should be named Jesus, which means “savior.” This son would be called the Son of the Most High—that is, the Son of God. He would inherit the throne of his father DAVID, the great king of the Jews (see Matthew 1:1 and comment). From this we know that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was descended from David. Joseph, the man Mary was engaged to marry, was also a descendant of David (see verse 27).

33 The angel also said that Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob forever. The house of Jacob is Israel, the Jewish nation.6

Jesus Christ will rule over a new spiritual Israel, that is, His church. His kingdom will be a spiritual kingdom; therefore, it will last forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89:3-4).

34 Mary asked, “How will this be?” She didn’t ask, “How will I know this?” as Zechariah had asked. His question arose from unbelief. Her question arose from a desire to know the way in which God would perform this great miracle.

35 Then the angel told Mary that her son would not be born by a human father, but by God’s own Spirit. Jesus would truly be the Son of God (see Matthew 1:18 and comment).

When Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he decided to divorce her (Matthew 1:19). But an angel spoke to him also and told him not to divorce Mary, because she was pregnant not by a another man but by the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 1:2021,24-25 and comment).

36-38 Then the angel told Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Elizabeth was a relative of Mary on the side of Mary’s mother. Let Mary not doubt. If God could give an old barren woman like Elizabeth a child, He could also give a virgin a child (Genesis 18:10-14; Mark 10:27).


Mary Visits Elizabeth (1:39-45)

39-40 When Mary heard about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, she went to visit her at her home in Judah (the province of Judea) south of Jerusalem.

41-44 When Elizabeth saw Mary, the Holy Spirit filled her and she knew at once that Mary would be the mother of the Messiah, the Savior. She called Mary the mother of my Lord (verse 43). As a sign that what the angel had told Mary was indeed true, Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb.

45 Then Elizabeth blessed Mary for believing God would fulfill His word to her.


Mary’s Song (1:46-56)

46-49 When Mary heard Elizabeth’s words, she began to praise God for choosing her, an ordinary village woman, to be the mother of the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 and comment). No woman has ever received a greater honor. She called God her Savior, because through His Son in her womb, He would save all who believe in Him (1 Timothy 2:3).

50-56 Then Mary praised God for His mercy to His servant Israel, that is, the Jewish nation (verses 54-55). In particular, she praised Him for His mercy in fulfilling, through her son Jesus, the promise He had given to ABRAHAM and his descendants (Genesis 17:7; 22:17). Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation.

God always shows mercy to those that fear Him (verse 50). He casts down the proud and exalts the humble (verses 51-52). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6). He helps the poor, but turns the rich away empty (verse 53). And now, through Mary, God was going to show His greatest mercy, His greatest love to the world, by sending His own Son into the world to save men (see John 3:16 and comment). How can Mary not praise such a God? How can we, too, not praise Him?


The Birth of John the Baptist (1:57-66)

57-60 All Jewish male babies were CIRCUMCISED on the eighth day of life (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3). Usually Jewish children were named at birth by the father, but Zechariah was still deafand dumb from the time he had seen the angel Gabriel (verse 20). Then Elizabeth, in obedience to the command of the angel (verse 13), said, “He is to be called John.7

61-63 Then Zechariah confirmed that the child’s name was John.

64-66 As soon as he had written, “His name is John,” Zechariah received again his power to speak. The friends and neighbors who had come for the circumcision ceremony were filled with fear and amazement. They knew that God had given John some special work to do because of the amazing circumstances of his birth.


Zechariah’s Song (1:67-80)

67 Then Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Whenever the Old Testament prophets prophesied, they did so by the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit, that is, God Himself, spoke through the prophets’ mouths and through their writings (see 2 Peter 1:19-21 and comment).

After Christ’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and remained with them. Jesus said to them, “[The Holy Spirit] lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). For Christians, the Spirit doesn’t come only at special times. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer constantly (see 1 Corinthians 6:19).

68-69 Zechariah knew that his son was appointed to make ready a people (the Jews) prepared for the Lord (verse 17). He knew that that Lord was now in Mary’s womb. Therefore, he praised God, “because he has come and has redeemed his people” (verse 68). God had sent the Messiah, the Redeemer, to earth. Zechariah called him a horn8 of SALVATION (verse 69), a Savior, descended from the house of David. The Savior came to redeem His people; that is, He came to pay the price for their sins and thus reconcile them to God.

70 God had said through His prophets in the Old Testament that He would send such a Savior. Now these prophecies had been fulfilled.

71 The Jews believed that the Messiah, the Savior, would deliver them from their enemies. In Jesus’ time, Israel had fallen under the control of the Roman Empire. They had lost their freedom. They were a persecuted people. Therefore, they looked to the Messiah to save them from their enemies, the Romans.

72 God raised up a “horn of salvation” to show mercy to the Jews and to remember his holy COVENANT. This covenant was the agreement made between God and the Jews. God said that if the Jews obeyed His law, He would be their God and would protect and guide them (Exodus 19:5-6).

73-75 God also raised up a “horn of salvation,” that is, a Savior, to fulfill the oath He made to Abraham, the first Jew, two thousand years before the time of Christ. Because Abraham was obedient to God, God promised to bless his descendants (Genesis 22:15-18), and to rescue [them] from the hand of [their] enemies (verse 74). He promised to give them a land (Genesis 15:18), in which they could live in safety without fear, and serve God in holiness and righteousness (verse 75).

76 At this point Zechariah’s song changes from a song of praise to a song of prophecy. Zechariah prophesied that his son would be a PROPHET of the Most High—that is, a prophet of God (Matthew 11:9)—and that he would prepare the way for the Lord, Christ (see Mark 1:2-3; Luke 1:17 and comment).

77 John was to give his people, the Jews, the knowledge of salvation, the salvation of their souls, spiritual salvation. Most of the Jews thought only about worldly “salvation,” that is, deliverance from their worldly enemies. But John came to tell them that what they really needed was deliverance, or salvation, from their spiritual enemies—their sins (see Matthew 1:21 and comment). This salvation would only come to them if they confessed their sins and received forgiveness. That is why John came preaching repentance and baptizing people, so that they might be cleansed of their sins (see Mark 1:4 and comment).

78 Man’s salvation is possible because of the tender mercy of God, who sent His Son Jesus, the rising sun, from heaven to save His people, Israel.

79 Here Zechariah says that Jesus will be a shining light in the darkness guiding men into the path of PEACE, that is, peace with God (seeMatthew4:16; John 1:4; 8:12; Romans 5:1 and comments). And John the Baptist will be the one who announces the coming of Jesus, the Savior (John 1:6-9).

All these things that Zechariah prophesied came to pass exactly as he had foretold.

80 John the Baptist grew up in the desert. He remained there until he began his public ministry. He didn’t need the education of schools; he received his education directly from God.