Dedication to Theophilus
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But 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. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for 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. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 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 for the Lord a people prepared.”
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And 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. And 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.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And 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. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “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
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And 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 will be called holy—the Son of God. And 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
The Birth of John the Baptist
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and 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.
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Luke 1 Commentary
by Hank Workman
He’s the only author of the Gospels who was a Gentile. Luke was a physician and companion of Paul who traveled alongside on many of his journeys. As he was a doctor his attention to detail is shown through the two letters he wrote which became part of the New Testament as he reflects upon the history and life of Jesus the Christ. Having written 2 books, he wrote more of the New Testament than any other.
Commentators say the Gospel of Luke is the most comprehensive and detailed book of Jesus. He often focuses on the Gentiles who are placed in a favorable position in his writings. He also places an interest in the role of women, children, and outcasts. He captures the heart of Jesus and His love for those who would have been the least of these.
Beyond this, Luke focuses on seven different prayers of Jesus and places a huge role on the power and movement of the Holy Spirit. I find these thoughts fascinating as Luke was one who was so affected by the life of Jesus as an outsider, a Gentile, whose trajectory of his own life was forever changed by his Master.
As both books are addressed to a gentleman named Theophilus it begs the question who was this man? There are not a lot of solid answers on this except he was more than likely a Roman government official. David Guzik states there’s potential these letters were written in Paul’s defense as he waited trial before Caesar since the book of Acts leaves the reader hanging as Paul awaits trial. Whoever this man was, it’s more than likely he already knew of the faith as Luke writes “in which you were instructed” in regards to it.
This introduction of Luke and his Gospel is the reality of a changed life by the Savior. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our past has been, Jesus meets us where we are. All too often, it can be easy to read over stories we are familiar with, in particular when it comes to the Gospels. Instead, the challenge is for each of us to not skim but let the Holy Spirit drive our thoughts to whatever story or promise we can claim for this day.
As Luke is the only author who pens what is known as the Magnificat of Mary, her song of praise to God after meeting her cousin Elizabeth, let these words resonate deep to your own situation at the moment. It begins with her proclamation, “What the Lord has said…will be accomplished.” Where do you need to trust Him with such thoughts? Read on; soak in the tremendous praise to God from a young girl who would be not only the mother of Jesus but one who faced such upheaval through an act of God that would change the course of history.
Luke 1 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Who made the most significant contribution to the New Testament in terms of total verses? Most would say Paul or maybe even John, but those answers would be incorrect. Who was the only non-Jewish author of the New Testament? Who wrote a Gospel about Jesus but (potentially) never met Him during His earthly ministry? The answer to all these questions is Luke, the historian, and physician. The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts make up 1/4 of the entire New Testament!
Luke introduces himself as someone who wants to write an “orderly account” of the events surrounding Jesus so that “the full truth about everything which you have been taught” would be known. More interesting than that, however, is the fact that Luke introduces both his gospel account as well as the book of Acts with the same salutation: “Dear Theophilus.”
This begs the question, who was Theophilus and why was Luke writing to him? There are many interesting theories. Some speculate he was a Roman official while others believe he was a wealthy and influential man from Antioch. It’s also possible he was writing to Theophilus ben Ananus who was a high priest in Jerusalem from A.D. 37-41. Yet another theory speculates that Theophilus funded a grant in order for Luke to research the origin of Christianity.
Probably the most interesting theory I stumbled upon is that Theophilus was Paul’s lawyer and that Luke’s writings were addressed to him as a defense of Paul and of the Christian movement in general. What we know with certainty is that Theophilus was a man of honor and rank because Luke addresses him as “Your Excellency.”
We also know for a fact that Luke spent several years gathering all the facts and data regarding Christ and the early church. Being a doctor and historian, he was a man of science and information, so we can assume that his process was meticulous and his findings were accurate. German papyrus expert Carsten Thiede concluded in 1994 that the copies of Matthew (which Luke would have used to write his Gospel) date very close to the time of Jesus.
Luke consistently expresses the humanity and compassion of Jesus in his letters. Knowing that Luke spent a great deal of time examining the facts, it comes as no surprise we see the most complete account of Jesus’ birth, development, and lineage in this gospel. Simply put, Luke’s gospel is the most comprehensive, and since he was most likely a Gentile, his gospel is also considered the most universal.
Luke’s gospel also has more references to prayers than others. With regard to Jesus alone, there are seven prayers that do not occur in any of the other writings. His emphasis includes the role of women, children, and people who were socially marginalized. He also emphasizes the Holy Spirit and the joy of Christ in his work.
In this chapter, we are introduced to John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Their stories are beautifully interwoven by Luke and are accurate and detailed. An angel visits Mary and Zechariah and promises them each a child. To Zechariah, John the Baptist, who would pave the way for Mary’s son, The Messiah, Jesus Christ. These two amazing promises contain the prophecy, the evidence of that prophecy being fulfilled, and finally, the praise response. Both Mary and Zechariah are encouraged, and both sing a song of praise after their promise is delivered.
Another interesting note in this first chapter of Luke is how he is particularly descriptive when it comes to painting the social norms, authority figures, and status markers. Luke is careful to include religious purity, family heritage, land ownership, vocation, ethnicity, gender, education, and age as he works through the narrative. A beautiful example of this is his introduction to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.Luke 1:5-7 NASB
In just 3 verses, Luke outlines many specifics surrounding the characters in this story. He leaves the reader with no doubt as to who he is describing and what they are like by providing vivid details. These are the types of qualities that we will come to appreciate about Luke and his writing style as we study the rest of his gospel.