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My Commentary On The Gospel Of Luke

Next Section - Chapter 1:39 - 80

ch. 1:1-4    ch. 1:5-25    ch. 1:26-38



This commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible. The chapter headings in this commentary correspond to those in the NIV which makes for easier study.

We know that Luke was a doctor (Col. 4:14) and a very close friend of Paul. He traveled along side of Paul a lot. We know that he was a Greek (C ol. 4:10-14), a Gentile, not a Jew. Most think that Luke was from Antioch and that is where Paul met up with him.

In Acts 11:20 Ė 21 we see that after a great persecution in Jerusalem some Jews fled the city and went north and preached the gospel to Jews. But some of them actually preached to Greeks. Many think that it was then that Luke became a Christian.

It is interesting to note that Luke wrote about 25 percent of the New Testament. Paul influenced Luke a lot and therefore we can see how important Paul is to Christian thinking and the Bible. We know that Paul wrote many books of the Bible, Luke wrote 2 large books and was influenced by Paul, Peter wrote 2 letters and by his own admission learned from Paul (2 Pet. 3:15), and then there was Mark who was also influenced by Paul who wrote a gospel. Then there was James, who most likely wrote his letter because of Paulís teaching, trying to balance faith with works. You can certainly see how important Paul was to the N. T. Cannon of Scripture.

No one knows for certain when Luke wrote his 2 books. He obviously wrote his gospel before Acts, because he says so in Acts 1:1. Acts ends with Paulís house arrest in Rome. Many say that Luke did not write more because anything more had not yet happened. If this is the case then Acts was written around 62 AD, putting Lukeís gospel somewhere around 58 to 61 AD. Some suggest that Luke wrote his gospel while Paul was in prison in Ceasarea. Otherís suggest that he wrote both of his books in Rome while Paul was in house arrest, or possibly later when Paul was in prison in Rome for the second time. If this is the case, then while in Rome Luke would have got much of his information from Peter, who was also in Rome at the time. Yet there is no Biblical account of Paul being in prison the second time. This is assumed because those who think this believe that Paul was set free from house arrest, and then was re-arrested, put in prison and then executed.

It is thought that Paul was killed in Rome in 66 AD, while Peter was executed in 64 AD, also in Rome. Both Luke and Mark knew Peter and Paul, and Mark would have gained much knowledge from Peter for his gospel as well. So I believed that the gospel of Luke was written before 64 AD.

Some do believe that Luke wrote his gospel as late at 75 to 80 AD. They say this because of the accuracy of his record of the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. They suggest that Luke heard about the prophecy from Peter and lived through the fulfillment. He then wrote the prophecy in light of his knowledge of its fulfillment. I find this perspective hard to believe since this could have compromised what prophecy is all about. There is no other place in the Bible where prophecy was recorded after its fulfillment.

Introduction (ch.1:1-4)

Luke tells us that "many have understood to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled". We know of 3 other men who have drawn up such an account, Matthew Mark and John. Whether three men constitutes many is hard to say. Maybe others had written a gospel book as well.

The Greek word "plerophereo" is the word that is translated as "fulfilled" in verse one. The KJV translates this word as believe. The word means "to bring to full measure", thus fulfill is most likely the better word.

Luke thus wanted to write a book concerning the fulfillment of things prophesied which would be found in the life of Jesus. The things that were prophesied would be in reference to O. T. prophecy.

Luke states how he found the material to write this book since he did not have an eye witness account of the things he writes about. He says, "just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye witnesses and servants of the word". Many speculate that Luke wrote his gospel in the early 60ís AD while in Rome. One of his main sources for his book would have been Peter, who was an eye witnesses. Yet it appears that since witnesses is in the plural, there was more than just Peter that gave him his information.

Luke concludes that since he has "carefully investigated everything" he felt it good to write this book to Theophilus". No one knows for sure just who Theophilus was. Most suggest that he was a very important man since Luke calls him "most excellent".

Luke wants Theophilus to "know the certainty of the things he has been taught". Whether Theophilus was a true believer at the time of writing, we canít say for sure, but it is clear that he was taught the things that Luke was writing him about.


The Birth Of John The Baptist Foretold (ch. 1:5-25)

Luke begins his narrative with the story of John the Baptistís birth. He does not give you an exact date, but he does tell you that these things happened during the reign of King Herod. Herod became king in 37 BC and ruled over Judea, the area of which we would call the Holy Land, or Palestine. He was made king by the Roman authorities. Judea was a Roman province.

Luke introduces Zechariah into his book. He was a priest, after the order of Abijal. There were many orders within the Jewish priesthood, yet after the Babylonian captivity of the Jews only 4 orders were restored, yet each order had 8 sections within them. The "division of Abijah" was one of these parts.

The next name that is introduced is Elizabeth, who was a descendent of Aaron, the first Jewish priest. Luke says that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright and Godly people. They were both fairly old, so old that Elizabeth could no longer have children, which is important to the story Luke is about to tell.

In the Temple, twice a day a priest burnt incense on the golden alter. The priest who was chosen to perform this duty was chosen by drawing lots, as Luke says. A priest could only do this once in his whole life. Zechariah, now quite old, finally got to burn incense on the alter. His lot had finally been drawn. (ch.1:9)

Since there was a good amount of people outside of the Temple the burning of the incense by Zechariah most likely took place in the afternoon, 3 PM, one of the times of prayer. The other time when incense would have been burned was just before dawn.

While standing at this alter in the Holy Place, which was in front of the heavy curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, an angel appeared at the right side of the alter. Verse 12 says that "Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear". I am sure you and I would be gripped with fear as well if we stood a foot or two away from a real angel who just unexpectedly appeared in front of us.

After telling Zechariah not to fear, the angel tells him that his prayer has been answered. What prayer is the angel speaking of? Zechariah was praying for a son. Whether this prayer was prayed years ago when Elizabeth was young enough to have children, or whether this prayer continued on throughout his life, even when Elizabeth was old, we donít know. Whatever the case, the angel told Zechariah that he would finally have a son, and that his name would be called John. Thus John was named by God Himself. The name John means, "Yahweh is, or has become gracious". Of course, this name is very significant. The message that John would speak would be from God, and that is Godís graciousness will soon be seen in the One who would follow him. John foretold of the Grace of God that was found in Jesus.

The angel tells Zechariah that his son "will be a joy and delight " to him and his wife. Of course most new born babies are a joy and delight to their parents, but because of the specialness of their son, even more joy and more delight will come their way. And not only they will have joy, but "many others will rejoice because of his birth". Those who hear and accept the message that John will speak will find great rejoicing in that message.

The whole event surrounding the birth of John was quite miraculous. We know little about Johnís childhood, and by the time he was old enough to carry out the task God had set for him, His parents might have been dead.

Verse 15 says that John "will be great in the sight of the Lord". Can you imagine an angel telling this to you about your son. Once again, it is quite possible that Zechariah did not see the greatness of his son. You might wonder how Zechariah and Elizabeth felt while growing up, knowing that there son was special but not seeing a visible presence of this greatness. It is interesting to me that Johnís ministry for which he was considered great, only lasted a few short months. Here was a man, his sole destiny was to speak of the One to follow him. His job which was given to him by God Himself, lasted such a short time, and ended in his execution due to his job. It shows that Godís ways of doing things are quite different than ours.

In verse 15 the angel is speaking to Zechariah of what kind of man John will be. He will be great in the sight of God. He will also not drink wine or any other fermented drink. Some think that the angel was suggesting that John would be a Nazarite. Nazarites were a certain Jewish group who did not drink wine. Neither did they cut their hair. But this is not substantiated in the text . The angel did not say that John would be a Nazarite. He simply said that he would not drink wine or any other fermented drink.

The life and ministry of John was not a glorious life. He lived in the desert. He did not dress or eat well at all. The point to him not drinking wine might be only that he would not have the opportunity for such a luxury, which in that society was not really classified as a luxury. This shows you that Johnís life was pretty sub-normal once his ministry began.

Another characteristic of John, and a very important one at that, is that he "would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth". Unlike you or I who receive the Holy Spirit when we are born again, John was born with the Spirit living within him. How John lived as a youth having the Holy Spirit in his life would be very interesting to know, but we donít know anything of his youth. Yet it is only logical to think that his years growing up were special for Zechariah and Elizabeth, if not for any other reason than he had the Holy Spirit within him.

Much of Israel had fallen far from the ways of God. They went through the motions of their religion, but their heart was far from being right before God. The angel tells Zechariah that John will bring many of these Jews back to their God. How Zechariah must have felt when he heard these words cannot be put into words. The angel was describing to Zechariah one great prophet.

In verse 17 the angel says that John "will go on before the Lord". John would thus become the "forerunner" to the Lord. It is important to note the word "Lord" in this verse. Zechariah would not have understood "Lord " to be Jesus". The Lord, is the Lord God of the Old Testament. Zechariah thus would understand that his son would be a forerunner to the Lord Himself, which in the minds of all Jews would mean the Messiah. All Jews believed that there would be one to come that would precede the Messiah, and that was Elijah. They believed that Elijah would be re-incarnated to introduce the Messiah to Godís people and the world.

Therefore, the angel was in fact telling Zechariah that God was coming, and that Johnís message was to announce the coming of God, their Messiah. This must have been extremely perplexing to Zechariah. His son would indeed be the Elijah that was foretold long ago. (see Mal. 4:5)

The angel says that John will come in the "spirit and power of Elijah". As I have just said, the Jews believed that Elijah would return to earth, that is to be re-incarnated, to announce the coming of the Messiah. Yet the angel says that John would come "in the spirit and power of Elijah". He does not say that Elijah will physically return. Therefore, John was not the real Elijah, but only came in the same power that Elijah had. The Elijah reference should then be interpreted as symbolic. This is one reason why the Jews rejected both John and Jesus. They were looking for a litteral re-incarnation of Elijah, not John. They were also looking for a King style Messiah, not a suffering servant as Jesus was.

You can note in Mat. 17:10 Ė 11 that the disciples said that the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first. Jesus answers by saying that Elijah did come but they rejected him. This reference is to John the Baptist. Once again, John was not Elijah incarnated, but he had the same spirit and power as Elijah. In fact in John 1:21 we read that the Jewish leaders asked if John was Elijah, and he clearly answered that he wasnít.

The angel refers to what the prophet Malachi said concerning turning the heartís of fathers to their children and the disobedient to righteousness. In Malachi 4:5 the prophet prophecies that Elijah will turn the hearts of the father to his children and the heartís of the children to the father. The wordís of this angel is not a direct quote from Mal. 4:5, he leaves part of the verse out. He says that the disobedient will turn to righteousness. The disobedient that the angle speaks of here is the children the prophecy speaks about in Malachi.4:5.

It is this passage in Malachi that the Jews got their teaching on Elijah returning to usher in the Messiah. Yet as we have already said, the angel clarifies this teaching by saying that it is not really Elijah, but John, in the spirit and power of Elijah.

The goal to Johnís ministry was to "make a people ready for the Lord". Johnís message was all about "repenting". Before one can really come to true faith, true trust in Jesus, he must "repent". True faith cannot be found without repentance.

In verse 18 Zechariah asks, "how can I be sure of this"? This question was similar to Abrahamís question after the Lord gave him a promise. In Gen. 15:8 Abraham asks, "O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it"? It is said of Abraham, that he believed God. So it seems Abraham wanted re-assurance, or an understanding of how the promise would come about. His question that was directed towards God was not based on doubt. Yet Zechariah doubted what the angel told him. His question was not based on re-assurance, but "prove to me what you are saying is right".

The angel gives his answer in verse 19. He says, "I am Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you the good news". The angel basically told Zechariah, "hey, I stand in the presence of God, I know what I am talking about".

The angel continues by telling Zechariah that he will not be able to speak until the promise comes about, because he "did not believe". So we see the difference between Abraham and Zechariah. Abraham believed Godís promise, while Zechariah didnít.

This conversation obviously took a while. The people outside the temple wondered what was taking Zechariah so long. When he appeared to them he couldnít speak to explain why he was delayed. He had to make hand signs, and then they understood that he had seen an angel.

After Zechariah was finished with his duties at the temple he went back home. While at home Elizabeth got pregnant. It should be thus clear that after Zechariah was struck speechless, he must have believed, otherwise he would not have tried to get his wife pregnant. I wonder how surprised Zechariah was when first of all his body could now perform as it once did.

Elizabeth was very happy that God had favour on her in helping her have a baby. The prevalent thinking among Jewish women in those days was that if you could not get pregnant, that meant God was punishing you. The more children you had, the more God was blessing you. So in the eyes of the women around Elizabeth, she was being punished by God, because she had no children, even though she was a godly woman. This is why she says that the Lord "has taken away her disgrace among the people. (ch.1:25)


The Birth Of Jesus Foretold (ch. 1:26:38)

Luke now begins the story of the birth of Jesus. Gabriel once again is involved as he was with the birth of John the Baptist. Gabriel comes to Mary and says, "greetings, you who are highly favoured. The Lord is with you".

Luke says that Mary was "pledged to be married to a man named Joseph". The word "pledged" refers to the Jewish system of betrothal, which is not like our western way of engagement.

Briefly, this is how the betrothal and marriage system worked in Jewish society. There was a public exchange of vows made by a man and woman. This exchange was considered binding. This was not the wedding vows, but vows of committed. This is called "betrothal". After these vows were spoken the man was called husband, and the woman called wife. At the commitment ceremony was exchanges of gifts, which was part of the covenant that was made. The man would give gifts to both the woman and to the womanís father. The father would give gifts to the man. At some future date, the wedding would take place with the consummation of the marriage that followed. No sexual relations were allowed in the betrothal period.

So we have Joseph who was betrothed to Mary, yet had not gone through the wedding vows, thus they had no sexual relations with each other. This would become somewhat of a problem once everyone knew that Mary was pregnant, and when she became pregnant would be evident. Appearances would suggest that Joseph had sexual relations with Mary during the betrothal period, which was not lawful. If he claimed that they had not had any sexual relationship, then the suggestion is that Mary would have committed adultery, both of which we know did not happen.

We also need to note that Joseph was in the lineage of David, (as was Mary) which would be important to prophecy. Joseph would be the legal father, as seen in Jewish law, therefore for Jews, it would be important for them to know that Joseph was a descendent of David.

So the angel tells Mary that she is "highly favoured". What does this mean? Catholic doctrine makes more out of this statement than is necessary. For some reason which we donít know, God chose Mary to give birth to Jesus. Of course this makes Mary special, for no other woman in the world has ever found herself in such a situation. Yet this specialness ends at this point. Mary is still a human, like the rest of us. She needed to find salvation like everyone else. There is no clear teaching in Scripture that says Mary has a special place in Godís rule other than being the mother of Jesus. She does not sit at Godís side. She does not intervene on our behalf. We are not taught to pray to her.

Gabriel told Mary that the Lord would be with her, which would certainly be needed. Right away, as soon as people found out that she was pregnant rumors would abound. Then to raise this Son, see His ministry, and watch Him die on the cross Ė in all of these things Mary needed the Lordís presence in her life.

Verse 29 says that Mary was "quite troubled and wondered what kind of greeting this might be". This is a natural reaction. An angel suddenly appears to you and says that you are favoured with God and that He will be with you. You and I would wonder too. Maybe Mary wondered what was going to happen to her that required this special appearance and the assurance that God would be with her. She might have thought that something bad was about to happen to her. Then of course, there is the underlying fear of the moment.

Gabriel told Mary not to fear, as angels seem to always have to tell people when they appear to them. The angel then proceeds to tell her why she was so favoured. She would give birth to a son. Right away in Maryís mind she would have varying thoughts concerning when and how this would happen.

Gabriel told Mary to call her son Jesus. The next statement must have shooked her heart. In verse 32 the angel tells her that her son will be "the Son of the Most High". Now that would be a hard concept to get your mind around. If I were Mary at this point, I would be totally confused and bewildered, wondering if I was in my proper mind.

In verse 32 Gabriel continues by saying, "the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, His kingdom will never end". Much has been said about these words over the centuries and many end time preachers give varying meanings to these words. Without getting into all of the end time implications, we can at least say the following about these words. Jesus is a ruler of a kingdom that will last forever.

The usage of the words "throne of David" and "house of Jacob" are O. T. references that Mary would have some understanding about. Again, without getting into the prophetic meaning of these words, Mary would understand that her son would be the promised Messiah that the Jews were waiting for.

In verse 34 Mary replies by asking "how shall this be"? Remember that Zechariah asked a similar question, but his question was based on doubt. Mary did not seem to doubt Gabriel. She believed him, but simply wanted to know how this would happen.

Part of Maryís perplexity concerning having a baby was that, as in her words, "she was a virgin". How could she have a baby and be a virgin at the same time. Now Catholic teaching translates this verse to mean that Mary was a "perpetual virgin". This means that she was always a virgin, even though married to Joseph. First of all, this is a poor translation. Second of all, Mary in her betrothal vows would have already promised or covenanted herself to Joseph. If she was now saying that she is a virgin for life, then sheíd be breaking that vow. Then of course one has the problems concerning Jesusí brothers. How were they born, and to whom?

Gabriel answers Maryís inquiry by saying, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you". At some point after Gabriel leaves Mary, when we donít know, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary. When this happened we donít know. How Mary felt, if she felt anything, we donít know. We simply know the fact that it happened. I would suggest that Mary knew when she conceived. If you look at any place in the N. T. when the Spirit of God came on someone, they knew it. Something dramatic happened. So I would not think that it would be any different with Mary.

In verse 35 Gabriel clearly says that the baby to be born to her "will be called the Son of God". This statement is beyond our capabilities to totally understand. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be Godís son, thus God would be in Jesus.

The angel proceeds to tell Mary of her aunt Elizabeth having a baby in her old age. The one who was called barren will soon conceive, because at the time of the visitation of Gabriel to Mary, Elizabeth was already pregnant for 6 months.

Mary was greatly humbled by the visit from Gabriel and the message he had for her. In verse 38 she says that she is "the Lordís servant". I can imagine Maryís heart sinking to her heart, her knees weak, her mind overwhelmed Ė simply feeling greatly humbled. What else could she think and say. After what she had just heard, she emphatically states that she is the Lordís servant. "May it be to me as you have said", she says. Mary is telling Gabriel that she is Godís servant, He can do with her whatever He wants and she will not resist. She fully trusted in God.

There is one thing to note here concerning Joseph.  Deuteronomy 24:1 through 4 states that Jewish men had the legal right to divorce their wives if they found some kind of sexual indecency about her, which would include pre-marital sex with another man.  If Joseph hadn't believed that the child within Mary was conceived through the Holy Spirit, he might well have divorced her.  I'm sure that went through his mind when he first found out about her pregnancy.  Joseph clearly submitted to the will of the Lord.  I end this section with an article I wrote on Luke 1:30 to 33.  

Verse 30 -  "But the angel (Gabriel) said to her (Mary) Ö"   Gabriel means "the strong man of God".   He appears 4 times in the Bible.  In Daniel 8:15 Ė 27 and  9:20 Ė 27 he explained certain end time events to Daniel.  In Luke 1:8 Ė 20 he foretold the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth .  Here in Luke 1:26 Ė 38 he foretold the birth of Jesus to Mary.  Gabriel appears to be significant when it comes to prophetic history.  

"Do not be afraid Mary".  This phrase is translated from the Greek word "phobeo" which is a present middle imperative Greek verb.  This means that Gabriel commanded Mary not to allow fear to grip her at that precise moment.  She was about to hear some incredible news that would change her lowly life forever.  

"You have found favour with God".  The only thing special about Mary was that she was born into the lineage of King David.  Other than that, she was an ordinary teenager who God sovereignty predetermined to be key in a once in an eternity event.  She lived in the uncultured hick town of Nazareth , tucked away in the hills of Galilee .  There was nothing special about Nazareth either.  Nathanael correctly asked.  "Can anything good come out of Nazareth "? (John 1:46)  Everyone knew Nazareth wasn't up to much, but leave it to the Lord to pick a town of ill repute to accomplish His will.  

Verse 31 -  "You will be with child and give birth to a son".  This would have blown Mary's mind.  Joseph and her hadn't been intimate.  How in heaven's name could she give birth to a son, but of course, it was in heaven's name that this miracle would take place.  "And you are to give him the name Jesus".  Jesus means "Yahweh is Saviour".  I can't imagine how Mary felt at the precise moment.  

Verse 32 - "He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High".  This could have easily floored Mary.  The term "Most High" finds its roots in the Hebrew word "Elyon".  Elyon was Yahweh, the eternal I AM; He who has always been and always will be; He who exists in the eternal present.  This had to have been bewildering.  A woman giving birth to divinity would have sounded like a pagan concept in Mary's day.  

"The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David".  Mary might well have been intrigued by this one.  David was one important guy in prophetic history.  His life and rule as King of Israel centuries earlier was prophetic of the life and rule of Israel 's Messiah, who would soon be squirming around in Mary's womb.  How mind boggling.  Would her son become the much anticipated Israeli revolutionary who would free Israel from Rome ?    

We should know that Jesus sits on a throne right now in heaven, but it's not the throne of David spoken of by Gabriel.  David's throne was a literal throne in the literal city of Jerusalem .  It wasn't in heaven.  We can't put words in Gabriel's mouth.  We must understand these words as Gabriel understood them, not as Replacement Theologians understand them.  Mary would have caught onto Gabriel better than many Evangelicals today on this point.  She was raised to eagerly anticipate her Israeli Messiah coming to rule from Jerusalem and freeing Israel from her enemies.  David's throne isn't going to be a spiritual throne in the midst of the church as Replacement Theology teaches.  

Verse 33 -  "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever".  Forever means forever and the house of Jacob means Israel .  Clearly, Israel hasn't been replaced by the church.  She will return to international prominence.  After the Lord brings Israel to her knees in judgment, He "will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn ..." (Zechariah 12 : 10 Ė 13)  In that day Israel will submit to the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will rule on David's throne in Jerusalem , and He will do so forever.  "His kingdom will never end", Gabriel added.  If forever means forever, then Jesus' rule from Jerusalem has to extend beyond His thousand year rule spoken of in Revelation.  I see His rule extending into the New Earth as seen in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21.  In that day and throughout eternity the nations of the world will bring their splendor into the New Jerusalem in acknowledgment of the King of the earth. (Revelation 21:24)   

The grammatical structure of Gabriel's words say as much as the words themselves.  In Greek grammar there is what is called the "indicative mood".  This means that when a sentence expresses an action with the use of a verb, the action expressed is a certainty.  If the action took place in the past, you can be assured that it did take place.  If the action is happening in the present, you can stand back and watch.  If the action is to take place in the future, you can count on the action coming to pass.  This passage is riddled with indicative verbs as seen in; "you will be with child, He will be great, God will give Him the throne of David, He will rule, there shall be no end to His kingdom".  These are all indicative verb phrases.  Everything Gabriel told Mary has either come to pass, or with no uncertainty, will come to pass.  The New Testament is full of such indicative certainties.  Thank the Lord for the Greek grammatical verb tense known as the indicative mood. 

You may want to reflect on what Gabriel spoke to Mary.  He spoke just as much about the return of Jesus to earth that ends this age as he spoke about His birth into humanity that began this age.



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