by Dr. Samuel Lee   11/11/1995     0 reads


Luke 1:1-25

Key Verse: 1:6

  "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all

the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly."

Study Questions

1.  What was Luke's motivation in compiling the gospel account? (1-4)

  Why were the birth, life and death of Jesus such epochal events in

  human and biblical history? (1-4)

2.  In what respects was Zechariah's life of faith like a lamp burning

  in dark times?  What shows the darkness of the times? Why were these

  two old people called upright? (5,6)

3.  Describe Zechariah's encounter with the angel Gabriel. What does

  this event reveal about Zechariah's prayer life? (8-13)

4.  Why was John called great before God? (14-17)

5.  Why was Zechariah rebuked by the angel Gabriel? How did God train

  him and what was the purpose of the training? What was Elizabeth's

  confession of faith?  What does this show about her faith?



Luke 1:1-25

Key Verse: 1:6

  "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all

the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly."

The birth of John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah had

been prophesied long ago (Is 40:3). At last, the prophecy was about to

be fulfilled by the announcement concerning the birth of John the

Baptist. In this passage, there is another story about two senior

citizens who prepared the spiritual environment for the birth of John.

They were Zechariah and Elizabeth. Today we learn about John's parents,

Zechariah and Elizabeth, and a little about John.

First, St. Luke's motivation in compiling the gospel account (1-4).

In the world, there are many autobiographies and biographies written

by many in the hope that their achievements or their good deeds might

be remembered by their descendants. But their lives and works impress

us as sad and fatalistic instead of making us happy. In fact, they

tried hard to survive and died sorrowfully.

But Jesus' story about his life and work marks a new era of human

history. For example, BC changed into AD, Anno Domini--"in the year of

our Lord." This indicates a historical landmark. In terms of

bibliology, Jesus' life and work divide the Old Testament era and the

New Testament era. What is astonishing, many have undertaken to draw up

an account of Jesus' life and work. Their numbers, throughout the

generations, are uncountable. But only four of them completed writing

the story about Jesus' life and work. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke and

John. There is a story about a despotic king. The king wanted to rule

his nation based on Chinese positivism. In order to maintain his

policy, he killed 8,000 Christians. Once, after he became old, he said

to his wife, "I want to grant one request to you, whatever it may be."

Then the queen, who had been very faithful to the king, said very

quietly, "I request your permission to receive baptism. I want to

receive eternal salvation from sin and eternal life and the kingdom of

God" (Jn 5:24). Then the king said, crying, "Your request is granted."

Christian faith spread mainly to the servant-class as well as to the

slave-class people. They heard Jesus' word that all men are equal in

God. One slave asked a Christian evangelist, "If all human beings are

equal, then are we slaves equal with the king?" "Yes, you are," the

evangelist answered. Then the slave was happy to die for the sake of

proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

At that time, there was no written Bible book. Some people had Old

Testament scrolls. But mostly, Jesus' story about his life and work and

his words were handed down by word of mouth, mainly by his disciples,

who were the eyewitnesses of God's work and the servants of God's word.

Luke, the historian and evangelist, realized that this life-giving word

of God must be spread to the whole world. So he assumed the task of

compiling the story about Jesus' life and work, and Jesus' words. In

doing so, he carefully investigated everything from the beginning and

dedicated his gospel to Theophilus. The word "Theophilus" has the

impression of an emperor or a king. But it is not. "Theophilus" means

those who love God.

Second, Zechariah's life of faith (5-7).

The period from 40 BC to 4 BC was a time when King Herod ruled Judea

(5), and it was a time of tragedy for the people of Israel. Herod was a

puppet of the Roman Empire and an instrument of Satan. This Herod

strangled his two sons, suspecting that they would be his possible

political opponents. What was worse, when he heard that the King of the

Jews had been born, he became fearful, not knowing that he was a

spiritual king. So in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, he ordered all

the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under

to be killed (Mt 2:16). "In the time of Herod," thus points to a period

of tragedy in the history of Israel (16). The lamp of God seemed to

have been extinguished. But it was not.  There were still many devout

people who were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Among them,

Zechariah and Elizabeth were a good example. Luke says they were

upright before God.  Why were they upright? Look at verse 6. "Both of

them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's

commandments and regulations blamelessly." In other words, they studied

the Bible diligently. Humanly speaking, Zechariah and Elizabeth were

very fatalistic people because they had no child in their old age (7).

But they were not victimized by fatalism because they believed in God

through regular Bible study. Second, they were upright before God

because, not only did they study the Bible, but also they lived up to

the teachings of the Bible. One medical doctor was the only one who

completed all the Bible study material assigned to the Chicago UBF

leaders. The doctor was happy. The other day fellowship leaders were

invited to a Christmas dinner. The doctor said, "I really want to bring

my wife to the dinner." So his wife was invited to the dinner.

What then is the key point of the law of God? It is to love God

wholeheartedly and to love our neighbor as ourself (Mk 12:30-31).

Zechariah and Elizabeth loved God and they loved their neighbors in

that dark generation. The townspeople may have said, "They have no fun,

not even a goat." But they really liked Zechariah and Elizabeth as

their parents. Zechariah and Elizabeth were happy all the time because

they had God in their hearts. The townspeople were happy whenever they

saw Zechariah and Elizabeth. Compared with the great military power of

the Roman Empire, these two old persons' life of faith seemed to be

unimportant. But to God, these two old persons' life of faith was more

powerful than the military power of Rome. And they were the lamp of

God, and the whole church of God.

Third, Zechariah's life of prayer (8-13).

In the ancient Jewish world, many thousands of priests wanted to

have the privilege of burning incense in the temple, and most of them

died without enjoying the privilege. But Zechariah was chosen by

fortune to carry out the priestly duty in the temple (8,9). It was a

great day in his life. Insomuch as he was thrilled with the privilege,

he was obliged to pray for his people, calling their names one by one.

When Zechariah was alone in the temple burning incense, an angel of the

Lord appeared (11). When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was

gripped with fear (12), for the Hebrew people thought that they would

die if they saw God with their own eyes. This might be one reason why

he was afraid. Still, there was another reason. Look at verse 13. "But

the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has

been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to

give him the name John.'" While he should have been praying for his

people and his nation as his priestly duty, Zechariah did not pray for

the people, but he prayed for himself, saying, "O Lord, give me a son!"

Zechariah did not mean to pray for himself. But his habit of praying

for a son to be given him was habitually repeated. Thus he revealed the

basic selfishness of humankind. And Zechariah's performance of priestly

duty was not excellent. However, we cannot deny the fact that Zechariah

prayed. We are greatly inspired by Zechariah to have a hope of raising

10,000 young American Bible teachers through selfish people's prayer.

Maybe Zechariah began to pray for a son after 10 months of married

life. Then he prayed for a son for three years, but when he looked at

his wife's stomach, he saw no sign. He prayed another three years and

looked at her. Still, he saw no sign. In this way, he must have prayed

for a son all his lifetime. Prayer is a measure of faith. Even though

he lived in an unbelieving generation, he was a man of prayer. It is

interesting to know that Zechariah had one prayer topic all his

lifetime. By nature, human beings are forgetful. If people were not

forgetful, they would die because of all the unhappy memories of the

past. In his wisdom, God made men forgetful. So we don't have to worry

that we are forgetful. But Zechariah never forgot his one prayer topic

all his lifetime, for a son to be given him. God used this man of

prayer as the father of John the Baptist. This part reminds us of Mark

11:24. It says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer,

believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

It is important to know that God uses praying people. To the eyes of

worldly people, Zechariah in the temple burning incense and the crowd

of people praying outside looked like a handful of mountain goats. But

in God's sight, these praying people were main members in God's

history, and God was ruling the world through them.

Fourth, John is great before God because God chose him (14-17).

Verse 14 says that John's birth would bring great joy to his mother

and to his father and to all the neighbors. Why? It was because he was

born in the providence of God. The angel said to Zechariah, "You are to

give him the name John." The name John means, "gracious gift of God."

God chose John as the forerunner of Jesus. So John was great because he

was chosen by God to do the work of God. Some people act as if they are

doing God a favor when they do something for God. We must know that we

did not choose God. God chose us. John 15:16 says, "You did not choose

me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit...." John is

great because he was chosen as the forerunner of the Messiah.

John is great before God because he lived a pure life. Look at verse

15b. "He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be

filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth." John lived a pure life

before God against the corrupt worldly way of life. In order to live a

pure life, he did not take wine or other fermented drink. In most

cases, drinking was the starting point of all the evil-doings. When

John lived a pure life before God, people said, "He is demon-possessed.

He is not corrupt like one of us" (Mt 11:18). He slept in crevices of

rocks. He ate locusts and wild honey. When he lived a pure life, God

gave mighty powerful spirit to him. At that time, the world was immoral

and violent. As we know well, corruption makes a man utterly powerless

to do anything. But when John lived a pure life, God gave him spirit

and power in his inner man.

John is great before God because he had God's holy mission. John was

sent to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. His mission was to

preach the message of repentance to all kinds of people (16,17). In

time past and present, people are proud because of their sins. So they

hate most to hear the word, "repent." John was appointed to carry out

the mission of preaching the message of repentance. For this, John

rebuked people's corruption and perversion. John rebuked many runaway

fathers to repent and come back to their children. He rebuked

disobedient children to repent and live in the wisdom of God. His life

of mission ended with imprisonment and martyrdom. But the Bible history

says that he was not a victim of the vicious cycles of the world, but

that he was a great man in the sight of God.

John is great before God because he is a man of spirit. What was his

source of power as a man of God? John was like a reincarnation of the

prophet Elijah (17). He came in an epoch similar to that in which

Elijah had lived. In the time of Elijah the prophet, King Ahab and

Queen Jezebel ruled Israel. No one dared to rebuke King Ahab and Queen

Jezebel's wickedness. But Elijah, a man of God's Spirit, rebuked them

to repent their wickedness.  Likewise, John, a man with God's Spirit,

rebuked Herod the tetrarch to repent of his sin of adultery (Mk 6:18),

even though Herod the tetrarch was a most cruel man who could kill

anybody, anytime. John's power to rebuke came from the Spirit of God

(17). A nation's power does not depend on the size of its highways. It

depends on the spiritual condition of its people.

Fifth, God trains Zechariah (18-25).

The angel's message to Zechariah was God's promise to give him a

son. In his embarrassment, Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I

be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years"

(18). He was a man of prayer. He had faith in God's sovereign rule in

history. But when his prayer was answered, he was too happy to believe

it. Momentarily, he fell into human thinking, forgetting that nothing

is impossible with God.

So the angel Gabriel rebuked him: "I am Gabriel. I stand in the

presence of God...And now you will be silent and not able to speak

until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words..."

(19,20). Though Zechariah had received enough training through his

childless situation, he needed more training in order to have faith in

God's words. For this, God gave him dumb training--training not to

speak unbelieving words for nine months. When Zechariah came out to the

people, suddenly he became a pantomime artist; he tried to speak with

sign language. The multitude waiting outside did not know what had

happened inside the temple.  So the people assumed that he had seen a

vision. The interpretation was better than the dream.  Anyway, God was

training John's father in preparation for the birth of John.

After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months

remained in seclusion.  Through five months of seclusion, she came to

the conclusion that God is almighty, and said, "The Lord has done this

for me" (25). We also must experience God's mighty work in us until we

can confess, "The Lord has done this for me."

Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright in the sight of God. In other

words, these two old persons studied the Bible diligently in that dark

generation and loved God wholeheartedly.  They also loved their

neighbor as themselves. May God help us to study the Bible diligently

and love God and our neighbors wholeheartedly.