The Christmas Story: Love is Born (Luke 1:5-25)
Verse 5 Luke sets the dates of these events for us in the history of Palestine.
- Luke references Herod the Great who reigned over the Jewish people for Rome.
- Herod received his commission to rule from Mark Anthony and the Roman Senate in 40BC but did not actually return to rule until 37BC.
- This was an interesting time for the Jews.
- They weren’t exactly free; they didn’t have a Jewish king. But they weren’t enslaved in a foreign country.
As verse 5 continues… Luke now introduces us to a Priest named Zachariah.
- The name Zechariah means “Yahweh remembered” which is appropriate given this story.
Luke 6 This was not righteousness as we now understand it through Christ but this was an OT righteousness.
- That is, they followed the Law or God’s commands and regulations.
Luke 7 In this time period the absence of children was generally seen as a problem.
- There must be something wrong in your life, there must be sin in your life. God’s curse
- But the couples’ “uprightness” shows that their barrenness was not the result of judgment or sin.
Verse 8-9 Through the casting of lots Zechariah was chosen to have the honor of giving the sacrifice.
- This would determine which priest would offer the incense with the whole burnt offering.
Verse 10 This was probably an evening sacrifice since that is when people would gather to pray.
Verse 11-12 Zechariah now sees an angel.
- After 400 years the Lord is about to speak again.
- The position of the angel on the right side of the altar of incense places it between the altar and the candlestick in the Holy place
- It says that Zechariah was startled and terrified or gripped with fear. “Troubled”
Verse 13 The first words of the angel are “do not be afraid.” First words in 400 years.
- The Lord is looking for a response of awe but not fear.
Verse 14 The first word used here is joy.
- But the second word here translated as delight is the word for extreme joy. Joy and Extreme Joy.
Verse 15 The angel says that John will be great in the eyes of the Lord, it the Hebrew word “mega”
- The command to not drink wine or other strong drink is very similar to a Nazirite vow taken in the OT.
- But other things like not cutting hair are not mentioned. (Numbers 6)
- This presence of God’s Spirit with John also emphasizes his prophetic role.
Verse 16 The angel now states that John’s ministry will be to the nation Israel.
- John will act like a prophet and call the nation to reform – turn to God and live differently.
Verse 17 The angel says that John will operate with the same spirit and power that Elijah did.
- John will be parallel to Elijah in the same way that Elijah also called for repentance.
Verse 18 Zechariah isn’t concerned with the great and glorious things the angel has said will happen.
- Zechariah is in good company with many others in his position have had the same question and doubts, Abraham in Gen 15:3-8; 18:11-12, Gideon in Judges 6:37, Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:8, and Ahaz in Isa 7:11 all asked for a sign.
Verse 19 Zechariah’s objection, is met with a statement from the angel about its authority and position.
- The angel stands in God’s presence and has direct access to God.
- Throughout scripture we see the angel Gabriel’ tied to eschatological events and prophecy.
Verse 20 Zechariah now receives both a sign and his punishment for his unbelief.
- This sign will stay with him until all that the angel said comes true as a reminder of his unbelief.
Verse 21 The crowd outside now realizes that Zechariah has been in the Holy Place longer than was the custom.
- In fact, the verb structure seems to indicate that this was a quite a bit of a wait.
Verse 22 When Zechariah emerges from the Holy Place it is clear that something unusual has happened.
- Zechariah was unable to speak.
Verse 23 Zechariah completes the rest of his week of priestly duties and then returns home.
Verse 24 True to the word of the angel Zechariah’s wife becomes pregnant.
Verse 25 Both Mary and Zechariah have long songs of praise recorded as their response to their children’s impending birth but Elizabeth only gets this one verse.