Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
Analysis and Annotations I. The Birth and Childhood -- Chapter 1-2:52
I. The Birth and Childhood -- Chapter 1-2:52
1. The Introduction. (Luke 1:1-4) 2. Zacharias and Elizabeth; the Vision. (Luke 1:5-12) 3. John the Baptist, his birth and ministry announced. (Luke 1:13-17) 4. Zacharias’ Unbelief and Punishment. (Luke 1:18-26) 5. The Angel’s Announcement to the Virgin Mary. (Luke 1:27-33) 6. Mary’s Question and the Answer. (Luke 1:34-38) 7. Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45) 8. The Virgin Mary’s Hymn of Praise. (Luke 1:46-56) 9. The Birth of John. (Luke 1:57-66) 10. The Prophetic Song of Zacharias. (Luke 1:67-80.)
2. Zacharias and Elizabeth; the Vision. (Luke 1:5-12)
3. John the Baptist, his birth and ministry announced. (Luke 1:13-17)
4. Zacharias’ Unbelief and Punishment. (Luke 1:18-26)
5. The Angel’s Announcement to the Virgin Mary. (Luke 1:27-33)
6. Mary’s Question and the Answer. (Luke 1:34-38)
7. Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)
8. The Virgin Mary’s Hymn of Praise. (Luke 1:46-56)
9. The Birth of John. (Luke 1:57-66)
10. The Prophetic Song of Zacharias. (Luke 1:67-80.)
The third Gospel begins in a way that no other Gospel does. It begins in a very human and humble way corresponding beautifully with the purpose of the Gospel. Yet it is couched in the choicest language. “Not only is it written in most classical Greek, but it reminds us by its contents of the similar preambles of the most illustrious Greek historians, especially those of Herodotus and Thueydides” (Prof. F. Godet). From the introduction we learn that Luke was not an eye-witness and minister of the Word; he did not belong to those who walked with the Lord during His earthly ministry. We do not know who the “many” were who had written on the great things which had taken place on earth and which all Christians believed. The remark has no reference to Matthew or Mark. Some have found in this simple introduction, in which Luke has nothing to say about a divine commission to write, an evidence that he did not write by inspiration. Others have pointed out the fact that the words “from the very first” mean literally “from above” (so rendered in John 3:3) and found in these words an evidence that Luke was inspired. This, however, is incorrect; Luke does not assert his own inspiration. The entire introduction rather shows the guidance of the Spirit of God.
“It is a beautiful example of how naturally the Spirit of God works, or may work, in what we term inspiration. The instrument He uses is not like a mere pen in the hand of another. He is a man acting freely--for ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty’--as if from his own heart and mind alone. He uses all the means he has got, and uses them diligently. You are quite prepared to find in his work the character of the writer: why should not He who has prepared the instrument, use it according to the quality of that which He has prepared? Why should He set aside the mind which He has furnished, any more than the affections of the heart which He has endowed?”--Numerical Bible.
For about 400 years the Lord had sent no communication to His people Israel. The silence of heaven is at last broken. The ministering Priest Zacharias beholds the Angel Gabriel, the same wonderful being, who brought heaven’s messages to Daniel. The names of the aged and pious couple are significant. Zacharias means “Jehovah remembers,” and Elizabeth is translated “the oath of God.” If we join them together we have the sentence “Jehovah remembers the oath of God.” The time of remembrance had come. Prophecy is about to be fulfilled.
John’s birth and ministry are announced. “John” means “Favor of Jehovah.” It fits in beautifully with the names of Zacharias and Elizabeth. “Jehovah remembers the oath of God” and the blessed result of the remembrance is “the Favor of Jehovah.” Gabriel (which means: “God is mighty”) announces that Zacharias’ prayer had been heard and the answer was now given. The prayers of many years had not been forgotten. God’s time for the answer had come. John is not Elias, but he came in the spirit and power of Elias. Malachi 4:5-6 is yet to see its fulfillment before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
The announcement of the birth of a son was not believed by Zacharias. Like Abraham and Sarah he looked to earthly circumstances. He did not reckon with the power of God. Disbelieving the words of Gabriel he was struck dumb. He should have shouted praises; instead, he expressed his doubt. Unbelief insults God; the character of God demands judgment upon unbelief.
Next God’s messenger is sent to Nazareth of Galilee to carry the greatest message, which was ever given to an angel. He appears in Nazareth and came in to the Virgin Mary. How simple and beautiful is the narrative! Here is the woman, the Virgin of Prophecy, who is to bring forth the long promised Son. She is to conceive; bring forth a Son; His name is to be called Jesus; He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest. Even so it came to pass. Then we have an unfulfilled part of the announcement. “The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” When He comes the second time, not in humiliation, but in power and great glory, He will receive the throne of His father David and the promised Kingdom. “Let us beware of spiritualizing away the full meaning of these words. The house of Jacob does not mean ‘all Christians.’ The throne of David does not mean the office of a Saviour to Gentile believers. These words will yet receive a literal fulfillment, when the Lord Jesus comes a second time. The Kingdom of which he speaks is the glorious Kingdom of Daniel 7:27.” (Bishop Ryle.)
The Virgin’s question “How shall this be, seeing that I know not a man?”--is not the result of unbelief. She believed, presupposing the absolute reality of the promise, in asking the exact manner of its fulfillment. The blessed mystery of the incarnation, how the Son of God should take on the human form and become man, is made known. It is a great mystery. “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee” means that the human nature of our Lord was produced in the Virgin by a creative act of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18-20). And therefore He possessed an absolutely holy nature. “And the Power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.” This is not a repetition of the first statement. It means that the Son of God, who is the Most High, overshadowed the Virgin, uniting Himself with the miraculously prepared human nature. He is designated in His Being “that holy thing” because He cannot be classified. And because He is holy there could be nothing in Him, who was born of the Virgin, which is unholy. And beautiful is the submission of the Virgin to the will of God.
Mary then visited her cousin Elizabeth. How perfectly human is the whole account! And how beautiful the language of the elder woman calling the Virgin “the mother of my Lord.” Surely this was a great revelation she received. With holy reverence we also should use that worthy Name. Well has it been said, “Let us remember the deep meaning of the words ‘the Lord’ and beware of using them lightly and carelessly.” Then she blessed Mary. “Blessed is she that believed.”
The marvelous outburst of praise which comes from Mary’s lips is a beautiful echo of the Old Testament Scriptures. The pious Virgin knew the Word of God; her heart was filled with it and the Holy Spirit used the Word in the expression of her praise. Many Psalms are touched upon, but especially are we reminded of Hannah’s inspired song. (1Samuel 2:1-36.) Notice also Mary’s deep humility and her acknowledgment of the need of a Saviour. The invention of Rome, of the sinless and immaculate person of Mary, is disproved by everything in the Word of God.
When John is born Zacharias’ tongue is loosed. He is a type of Israel. Now that people is dumb; some future day when “the Grace of Jehovah” is acknowledged by them, when they see and believe, the remnant of Israel will praise and bless God. No doubt Zacharias was also afflicted with deafness. The last written word of the Old Testament is a curse, Malachi 4:6; the first written word of the New Testament is “grace”--Bengel, “Gnomen” (John: Grace of Jehovah).
Zacharias prophesies. He praises God for the fulfillment of His promises spoken by the mouth of His holy Prophets. The Lord of salvation is Messiah. It denotes strength and power. He brings deliverance, salvation from enemies and the promised covenant mercies. (Psalm 132:17-18). He beholds the blessings of the promised Kingdom and beholds the blessed results of the visit of the day spring from on high. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the O.T.) translates the word branch in the Old Testament with “day spring.” Christ, the Branch, is also the day spring from on high. The fulfillment of Zacharias’ prophecy takes place with the second coming of the Lord.