Luke 1 Prelude to the Births of Jesus and John
Summary

Luke begins his gospel by emphasizing the certainty of the things he wrote — he investigated them carefully (1:1-4). His narrative begins with Zacharias and Elizabeth, an older couple who are still hoping for their first child. When Zacharias goes to the temple to conduct worship as a priest, God tells him that Elizabeth will have a child. Meanwhile the same angel visits Mary. He tells her that she will have a special son and that he will fulfill promises made to David in the Old Testament. Mary visits Elizabeth and they rejoice in the expected birth of the children. When John the Baptist is born, Zacharias is able to speak again and pronounces a blessing upon this special child.

Dedication to Theophilus

1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[1] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Question 1

Who were Zacharias and Elizabeth and what difficulty did they have?

8Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”

Question 2

How was that difficulty solved?

18And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25“Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed[2] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[3] 29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[4]

35And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[5] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[6] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Question 3

What did God promise Mary? How was this done?

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be[7] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Question 4

What happened when Mary visited Elizabeth?

Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Question 5

What happened when John was born?

Zechariah's Prophecy

67And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us[8] from on high 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

People
  • Luke
  • Companion of Paul, physician, author

  • Theophilus
  • One to whom Luke/Acts addressed

  • Zacharias
  • Priest, father of John the Baptist

  • Elizabeth
  • Relative of Mary, mother of John

  • Mary
  • Virgin, mother of Jesus, wife of Joseph

Places
  • Jerusalem
  • Zacharias served in Jerusalem in the temple

  • Nazareth
  • Gabriel spoke to Mary at Nazareth in Galilee

  • Hebron
  • Mary visited the home of Elizabeth, possibly near Hebron in hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39)

  • Judea
  • John lived in deserted areas in Judea when he grew up (Luke 1:80)

Dedication to Theophilus

1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:3

“Theophilus” means “lover of God.” Probably a particular person but perhaps any lover of God.


Luke 1:4

This is Luke’s purpose for writing to Theophilus

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[1] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Luke 1:5

This Herod is Herod the Great who ruled Judea during the early life of Jesus.


Luke 1:5

The family of Aaron was of the tribe of Levi (the priestly tribe). Both of John’s parents were Levite. The priests were divided into 24 divisions for service at the temple; Abia (Abijah) was the eighth.

8Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”

Luke 1:10

The offerings were made at about 6:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon.


Luke 1:13

The name “John” means “given” or “bestowed mercifully.” He was a gracious gift from God.

18And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

Luke 1:19

Gabriel is one of only two angels named in the Bible.

God sent Gabriel to explain:

Daniel 8:16Daniel 9:21Luke 1:25-38

God used Michael to defeat evil:

Daniel 10:13Daniel 10:21Daniel 12:1Jude 9Revelation 12:7-8

24After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25“Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed[2] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[3] 29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Luke 1:27

Both Jesus’ earthly parents were from David’s lineage. But Mary conceived as a virgin:

  • She is called a “virgin” (parthenos is the purest Greek word for a true “virgin”).
  • Matthew confirms this as fulfilling Isaiah 7:14 (see Matthew 1:22-23).
  • Isaiah and Matthew say this would be a “sign” — it wasn’t a sign if a normal conception. Isaiah and Matthew state that His conception confirms Him as God with us (Immanuel). Isaiah 9:6-7 also says: “unto us a child is born” (humanity); “a child is given” (divinity).
  • The conception is clearly attributed to the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20).
  • Notice: “before they came together;” “I do not know a man;” “did not know her till…” (Luke 1:34; Matthew 1:18, 25). Mary committed fornication if she was not a virgin!

Luke 1:31

His name would be Jesus (“the Lord is Salvation”):

Matthew 1:21Luke 2:11


Luke 1:32-35

He would be the Son of God. He would be the King to sit on the throne of David.

34And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[4]

35And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[5] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[6] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be[7] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke 1:41

John is identified as a “babe” and a “son” before birth. Something to consider before abortion.

Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zechariah's Prophecy

67And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us[8] from on high 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Perspectives

We should trust God’s providence in our lives to provide wonderful blessings. And we should glorify Him and fully obey His will as revealed to us just as Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Mary did.

Jesus was born after conception by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. He is the Son of God.

John the Baptist was to go before Jesus to prepare His ways (76).