Luke chapter 2, 1-24

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These events serve to underline to our souls that God is in control.  He moves Caesar in Rome to set conditions for a census of everyone under Roman dominion.  Joseph and Mary are caught up in that, but Jehovah is ensuring that His Son, in accordance with the prophetic scriptures, would be born in Bethlehem.  Little do we realise how God still controls events today as He works out His purposes that you and I are part of.

The shepherds are among the remnant few who were waiting for the Messiah to come.  God rewards their faith with an angelic choir and an announcement that filled their hearts with joy.

We too ought to find our joy in Christ the Son of God.  What they had heard and seen made a difference to their testimony and worship.  So ought we to “make it known abroad” that Jesus is still the only Saviour for sinners.

The Decree (verses 1-5)

God moves the most powerful man in the world, Caesar, to issue a decree to order everyone under Roman dominion to be taxed.  Luke makes the historical note that this happened when Cyrenius was governor in Syria. It meant that everyone had to go to register in the city of their birth to complete the census Caesar had commanded.

Joseph was forced then to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judah, because he was descended from David the King and Bethlehem was the city of David.  So Joseph made the journey and took with him Mary to whom he was betrothed, and Mary was very near to the delivery of her child.

The Days were accomplished (verses 6-7)

While there at Bethlehem, Mary delivered her child.  The birth is simply stated and happened in a natural way.  Mary wrapped the child in swaddling bands and laid Him in a manger.  They had evidently tried to find a place at the inn, but, because of the amount of people registering for taxation, there was no room for them in the inn.

The Display of glory (verses 8-14)

Near to Bethlehem, shepherds watched their flocks in the fields.  They must have been part of the remnant of Israel waiting for Messiah to come. So the angel of the Lord appears and the glory of the Lord shines around them.  Fear filled their hearts, but reassurance is immediately given by the angel with the simple instruction to “Fear not.”  The revelation of the Saviour’s birth is then proclaimed and the sign of the babe in swaddling clothes in the manger given to guide them.  Suddenly the whole sky was lit up with a whole host of angels praising God and saying “Glory to God” and “good will toward men.”

The Decision of the shepherds (verses 15-20)

Once the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds determined to go immediately to see the things they had been told and hurried on their way to Bethlehem.  So they found Mary and Joseph, and the child in the manger, as directed by the angels.  When they had taken in the scene, they made known to everyone round about what had been revealed to them about this child by the angels.  This caused great wonder amongst the people at what had come to pass.  However, Mary kept her thoughts to herself about these momentous things and simply kept turning them over in her mind and heart.  The shepherds then returned full of joy and worship to God because of the great privilege they had been given to witness these events.

The Duties of the law (verses 21-24)

As with John Baptist, so now with the Lord, He is circumcised on the eighth day and given the name Jesus, as the angel had decreed to Mary. Then, after 40 days, the little family made their way to Jerusalem so that Mary could make an offering for her purification.  It was required that the firstborn son should be presented to the Lord according to Exodus 13.  We also learn here how poor Mary and Joseph were, in that they could offer only the lowliest of sacrifices for Mary’s cleansing in the turtledoves or young pigeons (see Leviticus 12.1-8).

Luke Chapter 1, 57 – 80

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It is a good thing to rest in the promises of God. Zacharias and Elisabeth learned to do that here, and saw the promise fulfilled.

2nd Peter 1.4 records that there are given unto us “exceeding great and precious promises” and we need to lay hold upon them today.

Another feature of this section is the reliance put upon what scripture has stated. Zacharias in his song quotes from Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi. It reminds us how dependable and inerrant the Holy scriptures are, and we can have the same confidence in them that Zacharias did in this passage.

May we be like Sarah in Hebrews 11.11 who “judged Him faithful that promised.”

The Birth of John the Baptist

The delivery of a son

The time arrived according to the mercy of God that Elisabeth gave birth to a son. Back in verse 13, Gabriel had predicted this event and told Zacharias it was the result of answered prayer.

The demonstration of God’s mercy

Newberry says in his marginal reading that the Lord was “magnifying His mercy with her.” We receive the benefit of God’s mercies every day, but sometimes that mercy is revealed in an exceptional way, as it was for Elisabeth here.

The delight of her family

Their neighbours and relatives were filled with great joy at the birth and they rejoiced with Elisabeth. We are encouraged to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and the birth of a new child is a great occasion to do so.

Circumcision according to the law

On the eighth day, they gathered to circumcise the child according to Leviticus 12.3, and this reminds us of the personal obedience of this couple as recorded in chapter 1.6. How obedient are we to all the word of God?

Confirmation of his name

They wanted to call him Zacharias after his father, but Elisabeth said: “No, he shall be called John.” They argued with her that none of her relations was called John and signed to Zacharias that he should clarify what the child’s name ought to be. Zacharias wrote: “His name is John.” This is what Gabriel had revealed, and again they adhered exactly to what he had said. Everyone marvelled, the mouth of Zacharias was opened and the meaning of all the sayings about John and the manner of this child caused a great stir throughout that region.

Clear indication of Divine support

“The hand of the Lord was with him” (verse 66). What a blessing to be assured of the Lord’s power and the Lord’s presence!

The Song of Zacharias.

The prophetic scriptures realised

Zacharias is filled then with the Holy Spirit and he prophesies. He blesses the God of Israel for His visitation and redemption. He speaks of the promise of God through the prophets to raise up a deliverer from the house of David to save His people from their enemies.

The covenant of God remembered

He remembers the covenant God made with Abraham that would result in His people worshipping and serving God without fear in holiness and righteousness.

The service of John anticipated

He then speaks about John that he would be the prophet of the Highest. John would be the forerunner of the Lord, going before His face and preparing the way for Him who was to come. Isaiah 40.3 and Malachi 3.1 had predicted this very event. He would give knowledge of salvation to the people through the remission of their sins according to the mercy of God.

He speaks of Divine visitation and of the light that would shine upon the people who were in darkness and under the shadow of death, to guide them into the way of peace.

We are told of the growth of the child and the strength of his spirit and the seclusion that he knew living in the deserts waiting for the time when God would show him that he was to go with his ministry to the people of Israel. John, like many others, had to learn the necessity of private preparation before engaging in public service.


Luke chapter 1, 26-56

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The truth of the Incarnation is vital for our salvation. John in his gospel says: “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). Paul writes: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in flesh …” (1st Timothy 3.16). The writer to the Hebrews emphasises in chapter 2, verses 14-15 that, “as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

It was as a man that He redeemed men by the shedding of His blood at the cross.

Gabriel appears to Mary – (Verses 26–38)

It was in the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy that Gabriel was sent to Mary at Nazareth.

Gabriel’s Salutation – (Verses 26-28)

Mary’s heredity is first mentioned by Luke. Gabriel came to Mary who was of the house of David. Clearly there is a double link back to David the king through both Mary and Joseph. This is why we have two genealogies; Matthew taking up Joseph from the legal standpoint, and Luke taking up Mary. These are the only genealogies in the New Testament and are to prove the real humanity of the Lord Jesus.

Mary’s purity is also emphasised. She is called a virgin twice over in Luke 1.27, and there can be no doubt that this means a woman who has not had sexual relations with any man and who is still unmarried. Mary at this point was betrothed, she was promised in marriage but not yet actually the wife of Joseph. That she remained pure until after the birth of the Lord is also emphasised. Here, in verse 34, she says: “I know not a man.” In Matthew 1.18 she was found to be with child “before they came together,” and in Matthew 1.25 Joseph “knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”

Mary’s acceptability is clearly stated by Gabriel in verse 28. She is highly favoured, and verse 30 further states that her favour is with God. She is truly blessed among women, the idea being, well-spoken of. Maybe we should pause to consider how we ourselves might be spoken of in heaven?

Mary’s consternation is evident in verse 29.

Mary became physically agitated and her mind was reeling wondering what this could mean.

Gabriel’s Communication (verses 30-33) She would conceive in her womb and give birth to a son. 3 matters are stated about this Son.

  • He is to be called Jesus, “Jehovah the Saviour.”
  • He is Son of the Most High.
  • He is Sovereign over Israel and will reign forever.

These are 3 distinct Messianic truths about the child to be born.

Mary’s question is then raised, which enables further details to be furnished. “How shall this be seeing I know not a man?” – (verse 34)

Gabriel’s explanation (verses 35 – 37) must have been staggering to Mary.

Previously she had been told what would happen; now she is told how it will happen. The Divine Spirit was to come upon her. Note it is the action of a Divine Person. Here the work of the Holy Spirit is in view. In Hebrews 10.5, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me” attributes the work to the Father, and in John 1.14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” is the clear action of the Son. Thus Divine Persons together were involved in the incarnation. Then there is the operation of Divine power, “the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.” This is no doubt a reference to the overshadowing of the Shekinah. The glory of God was going to protect and permeate this One who would be born. Compare the cloud that overshadowed in Luke 9 at the transfiguration and the overshadowing of the mercy seat by the cherubim in Hebrews 9. Thus at His Incarnation, Transfiguration and in the work of Propitiation, the Shekinah is present!

The conception was Divine, but the birth was perfectly natural and normal!

However, the Person presented from the womb was born Holy (“that which is begotten holy”) and called the Son of God. It is as if Gabriel anticipates the mystery of all this to Mary and gives her support to believe, through the confirmation of the conception of Elisabeth. Then Gabriel states absolutely, “with God nothing shall be impossible.”

Mary’s submission – (verse 38) “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Ultimately the Incarnation is a matter for faith and submission, and surely we rest today just where Mary rested!

Verses 39 – 45 record Mary’s visit to Elisabeth in the hill country of Judah, where she stayed for 3 months. At Mary’s greeting, two unusual events take place. The baby leaps in Elisabeth’s womb and, filled with the Spirit, she confirms the blessing of Mary and the certainty that what Mary has been told will be fulfilled.

Verses 46-56 bring out Mary’s praise to God for His grace towards her. Mary seeks to magnify God out of her joyful spirit and acknowledges here that God is her personal Saviour. She marvels that God should look on one so lowly as she is and appreciates the blessed place she will be given in the generations to come.

She records the attributes of God; He is mighty and holy and shows mercy to those that fear Him. He puts down, he exalts, he fills the hungry, he sends away the rich empty and he remembers His promises to Abraham and the fathers of the nation.

Luke 1, 1-25 – Zacharias and Elisabeth

Introduction (verses 1 – 4)

Luke was a doctor, and he accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. As well as writing this gospel, he also wrote the book of Acts, and each book is addressed to his friend Theophilus.  Theophilus appears to have been a person of some importance by the fact that he is addressed as “most excellent,” which was quite often the way officials in government were addressed.  Luke writes later than others, and he refers to the fact that many who were eyewitnesses have declared already the matters which are “most surely believed” among the Christians.  These witnesses are described by Luke as official ministers of the word (verse 2), and by this time both Matthew and Mark would have written their gospels.  Luke declares that “it seemed good to me also” to gather this material together, having checked its authenticity, and so to write.  However, what he wrote was under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit of God. Luke had acquired an accurate knowledge of the life of Christ from the very first and now wishes to set out the details in an orderly way, with method, to confirm the things Theophilus has already been taught.

Zacharias and Elisabeth (verses 5 – 25)

Fitness of the couple

Luke begins by telling us about the character of this godly couple, who were to become the parents of John the Baptist.  Both were righteous, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the law, blameless (verse 6).

Function of Zacharias’ service.

Officially Zacharias was a priest and functioned according to the course of priests to which he belonged by burning incense at the altar of incense in the temple holy place.  There were twenty-four courses of priests in the Jewish system, and he belonged to the course of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24.10).  Elisabeth was also of priestly descent and is called a daughter of Aaron, the original high priest.  They were now advanced in years but had no children, owing to Elisabeth’s physically barren condition.  The offering of incense was linked with prayer (Psalm 141.2 Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense), and as he offered in the Holy Place the people prayed outside.

Favour shown by God

It was then that Gabriel appeared on the right side of the altar.  The right side is usually the side of favour, and clearly God was showing His favour in what was to happen to this couple.

Fear of Zacharias

Understandably, Zacharias was terrified and agitated when he saw the angel (verse 12).

Foretelling of a son

He is told not to be afraid and that God has heard his prayer in the past and is now answering it.  (Note: Zacharias means remembered of Jehovah.) His wife will have a son and his name is to be called John.  He would bring them joy and gladness, and many others would also rejoice when John was born.

Features of John described

He was going to be great before God and would be a Nazarite.  Nazarites were separated to God, did not drink alcohol and made sure they were free from any defiling contacts in their lives.  That is, separated in: appetite, associations and appearance (compare Numbers 6).  John was to be filled with the controlling power of the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and would turn many of the Jews to God.  He was also to be the forerunner of Messiah, going before Him in the same zeal and power that Elijah had, to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord into the world.

Failure of Zacharias to believe

In verse 18, Zacharias can’t believe this can happen as both he and his wife were too old.  The angel then emphasises who he is, and where he has come from, and that this is the message God has sent him to deliver. As a consequence of not believing, Zacharias is to be struck dumb until the child is born.  By this time, the people waiting outside were becoming concerned that Zacharias was so long in the temple.  When he eventually came out and they saw he was dumb, they realised he had seen a vision from God in the temple.

Fulfilment in the conception of Elisabeth

When the work of Zacharias was finished at the temple he returned home. Just as the angel predicted, Elisabeth became pregnant and for five months was confined to her house.  She accepted that this was the Lord dealing with her and that he was treating her with favour in taking away the stigma of her previously barren condition.