For an introduction to this series, click here.
Feb. 11, 2007
The book of Luke opens with a dedication to Theophilus. We are not sure who Theophilus was, other than he is a believer and his name means "lover of God." Maybe he was a rich man who paid Luke for his work. He seems to be an important person, maybe he was a governor or some sort of government official.
Luke is the only writer who gives us any detail about the family of John the Baptist. His father Zechariah was a priest. When the levitical priesthood first started, there weren't that many priests. They all had a lot to do. But as the generations passed, there were so many priests they had to take turns doing service in the Temple. The priests were divided into families, and each family served a certain time of the year, I think a month. Luke tells us that Zechariah was chosen by lot to offer the evening incense. This would have been a rare honor, maybe the only time in his life he would have had the opportunity to do this. Of course Zechariah saw an angel who told him that he was going to have a son in his old age.
One observation I have made is a kind of humorous detail in the story of Zechariah. When Zechariah questions the angel, the angel pronounces a curse upon him: "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.” (1:20) Then when John is born 9 months later, Elizabeth, John's mother, informs the people around that the baby is to be named John. The people around are surprised, "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.'” (1:62-63, ESV) The angel said nothing about Zechariah being deaf, yet even his close friends apparently assumed that since he couldn't speak he also couldn't hear. Just a funny observation.
Meanwhile, Mary was about to learn something that would change the course of the world. I have always wondered what Mary told her folks, and what they would have thought. Of course no one else in history has ever had a virgin birth. It probably wasn't easy to explain. The fact that Mary went to see her "relative" Elizabeth (they must have been related through their mothers, since Elizabeth was a Levite and Mary was of the tribe of Judah) tells us that things might not have gone too smoothly.
The end of this chapter has two great psalms of praise- one from Mary and one from Zechariah. They are filled with prophecies about Jesus and how He will bring in the kingdom.