Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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 ACCORDING TO LUKE Commentary by David Brown
The writer of this Gospel is universally allowed to have been Lucas (an abbreviated form of Lucanus, as Silas of Silvanus), though he is not expressly named either in the Gospel or in the Acts. From Col 4:14 we learn that he was a "physician"; and by comparing that verse with Col 4:10, 11—in which the apostle enumerates all those of the circumcision who were then with him, but does not mention Luke, though he immediately afterwards sends a salutation from him—we gather that Luke was not a born Jew. Some have thought he was a freed-man (libertinus), as the Romans devolved the healing art on persons of this class and on their slaves, as an occupation beneath themselves. His intimate acquaintance with Jewish customs, and his facility in Hebraic Greek, seem to show that he was an early convert to the Jewish faith; and this is curiously confirmed by Ac 21:27-29, where we find the Jews enraged at Paul's supposed introduction of Greeks into the temple, because they had seen "Trophimus the Ephesian" with him; and as we know that Luke was with Paul on that occasion, it would seem that they had taken him for a Jew, as they made no mention of him. On the other hand, his fluency in classical Greek confirms his Gentile origin. The time when he joined Paul's company is clearly indicated in the Acts by his changing (at Ac 16:10) from the third person singular ("he") to the first person plural ("we"). From that time he hardly ever left the apostle till near the period of his martyrdom (2Ti 4:11). Eusebius makes him a native of Antioch. If so, he would have every advantage for cultivating the literature of Greece and such medical knowledge as was then possessed. That he died a natural death is generally agreed among the ancients; Gregory Nazianzen alone affirming that he died a martyr.
The time and place of the publication of his Gospel are alike uncertain. But we can approximate to it. It must at any rate have been issued before the Acts, for there the 'Gospel' is expressly referred to as the same author's "former treatise" (Ac 1:1). Now the Book of the Acts was not published for two whole years after Paul's arrival as a prisoner at Rome, for it concludes with a reference to this period; but probably it was published soon after that, which would appear to have been early in the year 63. Before that time, then, we have reason to believe that the Gospel of Luke was in circulation, though the majority of critics make it later. If we date it somewhere between A.D. 50 and 60, we shall probably be near the truth; but nearer it we cannot with any certainty come. Conjectures as to the place of publication are too uncertain to be mentioned here.
That it was addressed, in the first instance, to Gentile readers, is beyond doubt. This is no more, as Davidson remarks [Introduction to the New Testament, p. 186], than was to have been expected from the companion of an "apostle of the Gentiles," who had witnessed marvellous changes in the condition of many heathens by the reception of the Gospel. But the explanations in his Gospel of things known to every Jew, and which could only be intended for Gentile readers, make this quite plain—see Lu 1:26; 4:31; 8:26; 21:37; 22:1; 24:13. A number of other minute particulars, both of things inserted and of things omitted, confirm the conclusion that it was Gentiles whom this Evangelist had in the first instance in view.
We have already adverted to the classical style of Greek which this Evangelist writes—just what might have been expected from an educated Greek and travelled physician. But we have also observed that along with this he shows a wonderful flexibility of style, so much so, that when he comes to relate transactions wholly Jewish, where the speakers and actors and incidents are all Jewish, he writes in such Jewish Greek as one would do who had never been out of Palestine or mixed with any but Jews. In Da Costa's'S Four Witnesses will be found some traces of "the beloved physician" in this Gospel. But far more striking and important are the traces in it of his intimate connection with the apostle of the Gentiles. That one who was so long and so constantly in the society of that master mind has in such a work as this shown no traces of that connection, no stamp of that mind, is hardly to be believed. Writers of Introductions seem not to see it, and take no notice of it. But those who look into the interior of it will soon discover evidences enough in it of a Pauline cast of mind. Referring for a number of details to Da Costa, we notice here only two examples: In 1Co 11:23, Paul ascribes to an express revelation from Christ Himself the account of the Institution of the Lord's Supper which he there gives. Now, if we find this account differing in small yet striking particulars from the accounts given by Matthew and Mark, but agreeing to the letter with Luke's account, it can hardly admit of a doubt that the one had it from the other; and in that case, of course, it was Luke that had it from Paul. Now Matthew and Mark both say of the Cup, "This is my blood of the New Testament"; while Paul and Luke say, in identical terms, "This cup is the New Testament in My blood" (1Co 11:25; Lu 22:20). Further, Luke says, "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying," &c.; while Paul says, "After the same manner He took the cup when He had supped, saying," &c.; whereas neither Matthew nor Mark mention that this was after supper. But still more striking is another point of coincidence in this case. Matthew and Mark both say of the Bread merely this: "Take, eat; this is My body" (Mt 26:26; Mr 14:22); whereas Paul says, "Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you" (1Co 11:24), and Luke, "This is My body, which is given for you" (Lu 22:19). And while Paul adds the precious clause, "This do in remembrance of Me," Luke does the same, in identical terms. How can one who reflects on this resist the conviction of a Pauline stamp in this Gospel? The other proof of this to which we ask the reader's attention is in the fact that Paul, in enumerating the parties by whom Christ was seen after His resurrection, begins, singularly enough, with Peter—"And that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve" (1Co 15:4, 5)—coupled with the remarkable fact, that Luke is the only one of the Evangelists who mentions that Christ appeared to Peter at all. When the disciples had returned from Emmaus to tell their brethren how the Lord had appeared to them in the way, and how He had made Himself known to them in the breaking of bread, they were met, as Luke relates, ere they had time to utter a word, with this wonderful piece of news, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon" (Lu 24:34).
Other points connected with this Gospel will be adverted to in the Commentary.
It appears from the Acts of the Apostles, and the Apostolic Epistles, that the earliest preaching of the Gospel consisted of a brief summary of the facts of our Lord's earthly history, with a few words of pointed application to the parties addressed. Of these astonishing facts, notes would naturally be taken and digests put into circulation. It is to such that Luke here refers; and in terms of studied respect, as narratives of what was "believed surely," or "on sure grounds" among Christians, and drawn up from the testimony of "eye-witnesses and ministering servants of the word." But when he adds that "it seemed good to him also to write in order, having traced down all things with exactness from their first rise," it is a virtual claim for his own Gospel to supersede these "many" narratives. Accordingly, while not one of them has survived the wreck of time, this and the other canonical Gospels live, and shall live, the only fitting vehicles of those life-bringing facts which have made all things new. Apocryphal or spurious gospels, upheld by parties unfriendly to the truths exhibited in the canonical Gospels, have not perished; but those well-meant and substantially correct narratives here referred to, used only while better were not to be had, were by tacit consent allowed to merge in the four peerless documents which from age to age, and with astonishing unanimity, have been accepted as the written charter of all Christianity.
1. set forth in order—more simply, to draw up a narrative.
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
2. from the beginning—that is, of His public ministry, as is plain from what follows.
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
3. from the very first—that is, from the very earliest events; referring to those precious details of the birth and early life, not only of our Lord, but of His forerunner, which we owe to Luke alone.
in order—or "consecutively"—in contrast, probably, with the disjointed productions to which he had referred. But this must not be pressed too far; for, on comparing it with the other Gospels, we see that in some particulars the strict chronological order is not observed in this Gospel.
most excellent—or "most noble"—a title of rank applied by this same writer twice to Felix and once to Festus (Ac 22:26; 24:3; 26:25). It is likely, therefore, that "Theophilus" was chief magistrate of some city in Greece or Asia Minor [Webster and Wilkinson].
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
4. that thou mightest know—"know thoroughly."
hast been instructed—orally instructed—literally, "catechized" or "catechetically taught," at first as a catechumen or candidate for Christian baptism.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Lu 1:5-25. Announcement of the Forerunner.
5. Herod—(See on Mt 2:1).
course of Abia—or Abijah; the eighth of the twenty-four orders of courses into which David divided the priests (see 1Ch 24:1, 4, 10). Of these courses only four returned after the captivity (Ezr 2:34-39), which were again subdivided into twenty-four—retaining the ancient name and order of each. They took the whole temple service for a week each.
his wife was of the daughters of Aaron—The priests might marry into any tribe, but "it was most commendable of all to marry one of the priests' line" [Lightfoot].
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
6. commandments and ordinances—The one expressing their moral—the other their ceremonial—obedience [Calvin and Bengel], (Compare Eze 11:20; Heb 9:1). It has been denied that any such distinction was known to the Jews and New Testament writers. But Mr 12:33, and other passages, put this beyond all reasonable doubt.
And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
7. So with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife.
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
9. his lot was to burn incense—The part assigned to each priest in his week of service was decided by lot. Three were employed at the offering of incense—to remove the ashes of the former service; to bring in and place on the golden altar the pan filled with hot burning coals taken from the altar of burnt offering; and to sprinkle the incense on the hot coals; and, while the smoke of it ascended, to make intercession for the people. This was the most distinguished part of the service (Re 8:3), and this was what fell to the lot of Zacharias at this time [Lightfoot].
And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
10. praying without—outside the court in front of the temple, where stood the altar of burnt offering; the men and women in separate courts, but the altar visible to all.
the time of incense—which was offered along with the morning and evening sacrifice of every day; a beautiful symbol of the acceptableness of the sacrifice offered on the altar of burnt offering, with coals from whose altar the incense was burnt (Le 16:12, 13). This again was a symbol of the "living sacrifice" of themselves and their services offered daily to God by the worshippers. Hence the language of Ps 141:2; Re 8:3. But that the acceptance of this daily offering depended on the expiatory virtue presupposed in the burnt offering, and pointing to the one "sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor" (Eph 5:2), is evident from Isa 6:6, 7.
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
11. right side—the south side, between the altar and the candlestick, Zacharias being on the north side, in front of the altar, while offering incense [Webster and Wilkinson]. But why there? The right was the favorable side (Mt 25:33) [Schottgen and Westein in Meyer]; compare Mr 16:5.
And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
13. thy prayer is heard—doubtless for offspring, which by some presentiment he even yet had not despaired of.
John—the same as "Johanan," so frequent in the Old Testament, meaning "Jehovah's gracious gift."
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
14. shall rejoice—so they did (Lu 1:58, 66); but the meaning rather is, "shall have cause to rejoice"—it would prove to many a joyful event.
For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
15. great in the sight of the Lord—nearer to Him in official standing than all the prophets. (See Mt 11:10, 11.)
drink neither wine nor strong drink—that is, shall be a Nazarite, or "a separated one" (Nu 6:2, &c.). As the leper was the living symbol of sin, so was the Nazarite of holiness; nothing inflaming was to cross his lips; no razor to come on his head; no ceremonial defilement to be contracted. Thus was he to be "holy to the Lord [ceremonially] all the days of his separation." This separation was in ordinary cases temporary and voluntary: only Samson (Jud 13:7), Samuel (1Sa 1:11), and John Baptist were Nazarites from the womb. It was fitting that the utmost severity of legal consecration should be seen in Christ's forerunner. He was the Reality and Perfection of the Nazarite without the symbol, which perished in that living realization of it: "Such an High Priest became us, who was Separate from Sinners" (Heb 7:26).
filled with the Holy Ghost, from … womb—a holy vessel for future service.
And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
16, 17. A religious and moral reformer, Elijah-like, he should be (Mal 4:6, where the "turning of the people's heart to the Lord" is borrowed from 1Ki 18:37). In both cases their success, though great, was partial—the nation was not gained.
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
17. before him—before "the Lord their God" (Lu 1:16). By comparing this with Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3, it is plainly "Jehovah" in the flesh of Messiah [Calvin and Olshausen] before whom John was to go as a herald to announce His approach, and a pioneer o prepare His way.
in the spirit—after the model.
and power of Elias—not his miraculous power, for John did no miracle" (Joh 10:41), but his power "turning the heart," or with like success in his ministry. Both fell on degenerate times; both witnessed fearlessly for God; neither appeared much save in the direct exercise of their ministry; both were at the head of schools of disciples; the success of both was similar.
fathers to the children—taken literally, this denotes the restoration of parental fidelity [Meyer and others], the decay of which is the beginning of religious and social corruption—one prominent feature of the coming revival being put for the whole. But what follows, explanatory of this, rather suggests a figurative sense. If "the disobedient" be "the children," and to "the fathers" belongs "the wisdom of the just" [Bengel], the meaning will be, "he shall bring back the ancient spirit of the nation into their degenerate children" [Calvin, &c.]. So Elijah invoked "the God Abraham, Isaac, and Israel," when seeking to "turn their heart back again" (1Ki 18:36, 37).
to make ready, &c.—more clearly, "to make ready for the Lord a prepared people," to have in readiness a people prepared to welcome Him. Such preparation requires, in every age and every soul, an operation corresponding to the Baptist's ministry.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
18. Whereby, &c.—Mary believed what was far harder without a sign. Abraham, though older, and doubtless Sarah, too, when the same promise was made to him, "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." This was that in which Zacharias failed.
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
19. Gabriel—signifying "man of God," the same who appeared to Daniel at the time of incense (Da 9:21) and to Mary (Lu 1:26).
stand, &c.—as his attendant (compare 1Ki 17:1).
And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
not able—deprived of the power of speech (Lu 1:64). He asked a sign, and now he got it.
until the day that these things shall be performed—See on Lu 1:64.
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
21. waited—to receive from him the usual benediction (Nu 6:23-27).
tarried so long—It was not usual to tarry long, lest it should be thought vengeance had stricken the people's representative for something wrong [Lightfoot].
And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
22. speechless—dumb, and deaf also (see Lu 1:62).
And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
24. hid five months—till the event was put beyond doubt and became apparent.
Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Lu 1:26-38. Annunciation of Christ.
(See on Mt 1:18-21).
26. sixth month—of Elisabeth's time.
Joseph, of the house of David—(See on Mt 1:16).
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
28. highly favoured—a word only once used elsewhere (Eph 1:6, "made accepted"): compare Lu 1:30, "Thou hast found favour with God." The mistake of the Vulgate's rendering, "full of grace," has been taken abundant advantage of by the Romish Church. As the mother of our Lord, she was the most "blessed among women" in external distinction; but let them listen to the Lord's own words. "Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." (See on Lu 11:27).
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
31. The angel purposely conforms his language to Isaiah's famous prophecy (Isa 7:14) [Calvin].
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
32, 33. This is but an echo of the sublime prediction in Isa 9:6, 7.
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
34. How, &c.—not the unbelief of Zacharias, "Whereby shall I know this?" but, taking the fact for granted, "How is it to be, so contrary to the unbroken law of human birth?" Instead of reproof, therefore, her question is answered in mysterious detail.
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
35. Holy Ghost—(See on Mt 1:18).
power of the highest—the immediate energy of the Godhead conveyed by the Holy Ghost.
overshadow—a word suggesting how gentle, while yet efficacious, would be this Power [Bengel]; and its mysterious secrecy, withdrawn, as if by a cloud, from human scrutiny [Calvin].
that holy thing born of thee—that holy Offspring of thine.
therefore … Son of God—That Christ is the Son of God in His divine and eternal nature is clear from all the New Testament; yet here we see that Sonship efflorescing into human and palpable manifestation by His being born, through "the power of the Highest," an Infant of days. We must neither think of a double Sonship, as some do, harshly and without all ground, nor deny what is here plainly expressed, the connection between His human birth and His proper personal Sonship.
And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
36. thy cousin—"relative," but how near the word says not.
conceived, &c.—This was to Mary an unsought sign, in reward of her faith.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
37. For, &c.—referring to what was said by the angel to Abraham in like case (Ge 18:14), to strengthen her faith.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
38. Marvellous faith in such circumstances!
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
Lu 1:39-56. Visit of Mary to Elisabeth.
39. hill country—the mountainous tract running along the middle of Judea, from north to south [Webster and Wilkinson].
with haste—transported with the announcement to herself and with the tidings, now first made known to her, of Elisabeth's condition.
a city of Juda—probably Hebron (see Jos 20:7; 21:11).
And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
40. saluted Elisabeth—now returned from her seclusion (Lu 1:24).
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
41. babe leaped—From Lu 1:44 it is plain that this maternal sensation was something extraordinary—a sympathetic emotion of the unconscious babe, at the presence of the mother of his Lord.
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
42-44. What beautiful superiority to envy have we here! High as was the distinction conferred upon herself, Elisabeth loses sight of it altogether, in presence of one more honored still; upon whom, with her unborn Babe, in an ecstasy of inspiration, she pronounces a benediction, feeling it to be a wonder unaccountable that "the mother of her Lord should come to her." "Turn this as we will, we shall never be able to see the propriety of calling an unborn child "Lord," but by supposing Elisabeth, like the prophets of old, enlightened to perceive the Messiah's Divine nature" [Olshausen].
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
43. "The mother of my Lord"—but not "My Lady" (compare Lu 20:42; Joh 20:28)" [Bengel].
For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
45. An additional benediction on the Virgin for her implicit faith, in tacit and delicate contrast with her own husband.
for—rather, as in the Margin, "that."
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
46-55. A magnificent canticle, in which the strain of Hannah's ancient song, in like circumstances, is caught up, and just slightly modified and sublimed. Is it unnatural to suppose that the spirit of the blessed Virgin had been drawn beforehand into mysterious sympathy with the ideas and the tone of this hymn, so that when the life and fire of inspiration penetrated her whole soul it spontaneously swept the chorus of this song, enriching the Hymnal of the Church with that spirit-stirring canticle which has resounded ever since from its temple walls? In both songs, those holy women, filled with wonder to behold "the proud, the mighty, the rich," passed by, and, in their persons the lowliest chosen to usher in the greatest events, sing of this as no capricious movement, but a great law of the kingdom of God, by which He delights to "put down the mighty from their seats and exalt them of low degree." In both songs the strain dies away on Christ; in Hannah's under the name of "Jehovah's King"—to whom, through all His line, from David onwards to Himself, He will "give strength"; His "Anointed," whose horn He will exalt (1Sa 2:10); in the Virgin's song, it is as the "Help" promised to Israel by all the prophets.
My soul … my spirit—"all that is within me" (Ps 103:1).
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
47. my Saviour—Mary, poor heart, never dreamt, we see, of her own "immaculate conception"—in the offensive language of the Romanists—any more than of her own immaculate life.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
54. holpen—Compare Ps 89:19, "I have laid help on One that is mighty."
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
55. As he spake to our fathers—The sense requires this clause to be read as a parenthesis. (Compare Mic 7:20; Ps 98:3).
for ever—the perpetuity of Messiah's kingdom, as expressly promised by the angel (Lu 1:33).
And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
56. abode with her about three months—What an honored roof was that which, for such a period, overarched these cousins! and yet not a trace of it is now to be seen, while the progeny of those two women—the one but the honored pioneer of the other—have made the world new.
returned to her own house—at Nazareth, after which took place what is recorded in Mt 1:18-25.
Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
Lu 1:57-80. Birth and Circumcision of John—Song of Zacharias and Progress of the Child.
And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
59. eighth day—The law (Ge 17:12) was observed, even though the eighth day after birth should be a sabbath (Joh 7:23; and see Php 3:5).
called him—literally, "were calling"—that is, (as we should say) "were for calling." The naming of children at baptism has its origin in the Jewish custom at circumcision (Ge 21:3, 4); and the names of Abram and Sarai were changed at its first performance (Ge 17:5, 15).
And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
62. made signs—showing he was deaf, as well as dumb.
And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
63. marvelled all—at his giving the same name, not knowing of any communication between them on the subject.
And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
64. mouth opened immediately—on thus palpably showing his full faith in the vision, for disbelieving which he had been struck dumb (Lu 1:13, 20).
And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
65. fear—religious awe; under the impression that God's hand was specially in these events (compare Lu 5:26; 7:16; 8:37).
And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
66. hand of the Lord was with him—by special tokens marking him out as one destined to some great work (1Ki 18:46; 2Ki 3:15; Ac 11:21).
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
68-79. There is not a word in this noble burst of divine song about his own child; like Elisabeth losing sight entirely of self, in the glory of a Greater than both.
Lord God of Israel—the ancient covenant God of the peculiar people.
visited and redeemed—that is, in order to redeem: returned after long absence, and broken His long silence (see Mt 15:31). In the Old Testament, God is said to "visit" chiefly for judgment, in the New Testament for mercy. Zacharias would, as yet, have but imperfect views of such "visiting and redeeming," "saving from and delivering out of the hand of enemies" (Lu 1:71, 74). But this Old Testament phraseology, used at first with a lower reference, is, when viewed in the light of a loftier and more comprehensive kingdom of God, equally adapted to express the most spiritual conceptions of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
69. horn of salvation—that is "strength of salvation," or "mighty Salvation," meaning the Saviour Himself, whom Simeon calls "Thy Salvation" (Lu 2:30). The metaphor is taken from those animals whose strength is in their horns (Ps 18:2; 75:10; 132:17).
house of … David—This shows that Mary must have been known to be of the royal line, independent of Joseph; of whom Zacharias, if he knew anything, could not know that after this he would recognize Mary.
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
70. since the world began—or, "from the earliest period."
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
72. the mercy promised … his holy covenant …
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
73. the oath … to … Abraham—The whole work and kingdom of Messiah is represented as a mercy pledged on oath to Abraham and his seed, to be realized at an appointed period; and at length, in "the fulness of the time," gloriously made good. Hence, not only "grace," or the thing promised; but "truth," or fidelity to the promise, are said to "come by Jesus Christ" (Joh 1:17).
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
74, 75. That he would grant us, &c.—How comprehensive is the view here given! (1) The purpose of all redemption—"that we should serve Him"—that is, "the Lord God of Israel" (Lu 1:68). The word signifies religious service distinctively—"the priesthood of the New Testament" [Bengel]. (2) The nature of this service—"in holiness and righteousness before Him" (Lu 1:75)—or, as in His presence (compare Ps 56:13). (3) Its freedom—"being delivered out of the hand of our enemies." (4) Its fearlessness—"might serve Him without fear." (5) Its duration—"all the days of our life."
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
76-79. Here are the dying echoes of this song; and very beautiful are these closing notes—like the setting sun, shorn indeed of its noontide radiance, but skirting the horizon with a wavy and quivering light—as of molten gold—on which the eye delights to gaze, till it disappears from the view. The song passes not here from Christ to John, but only from Christ direct to Christ as heralded by His forerunner.
thou child—not "my son"—this child's relation to himself being lost in his relation to a Greater than either.
prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before him—that is, "the Highest." As "the Most High" is an epithet in Scripture only of the supreme God, it is inconceivable that inspiration should apply this term, as here undeniably, to Christ, unless He were "God over all blessed for ever" (Ro 9:5).
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
77. to give knowledge of salvation—To sound the note of a needed and provided "salvation" was the noble office of John, above all that preceded him; as it is that of all subsequent ministers of Christ; but infinitely loftier was it to be the "Salvation" itself (Lu 1:69 and Lu 2:30).
by the remission of … sins—This stamps at once the spiritual nature of the salvation here intended, and explains Lu 1:71, 74.
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
78. Through the tender mercy of our God—the sole spring, necessarily, of all salvation for sinners.
dayspring from on high—either Christ Himself, as the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2), arising on a dark world [Beza, Grotius, Calvin, De Wette, Olshausen, &c.], or the light which He sheds. The sense, of course, is one.
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
79. (Compare Isa 9:2; Mt 4:13-17). "That St. Luke, of all the Evangelists, should have obtained and recorded these inspired utterances of Zacharias and Mary—is in accordance with his character and habits, as indicated in Lu 1:1-4" [Webster and Wilkinson].
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
80. And the child, &c.—"a concluding paragraph, indicating, in strokes full of grandeur, the bodily and mental development of the Baptist; and bringing his life up to the period of his public appearance" [Olshausen].
in the deserts—probably "the wilderness of Judea" (Mt 3:1), whither he had retired early in life, in the Nazarite spirit, and where, free from rabbinical influences and alone with God, his spirit would be educated, like Moses in the desert, for his future high vocation.
his showing unto Israel—the presentation of himself before his nation, as Messiah's forerunner.