This week, we wade into the Gospel of Luke as a whole and into the first twenty-five verses which introduce Jesus in a way that is completely unique to Luke. Below is a list of observations about the first twenty-five verses.
1. Luke is writing to Theophilus (vs. 4) as he also does in the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1). It is the opinion of Ambrose (Bishop of Milan and teacher of Augustine c. 333-397) that Theophilus represents a particular audience, a community of those who love God - the baptized and those to be baptized. He writes, "So the Gospel was written to Theophilus, that is, to him whom God loves. If you love God, it was written to you. If it was written to you, discharge the duty of an evangelist." - Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Volume III - Luke (ACCS)
2. Luke was a physician and companion of the Apostle Paul who is mentioned in the New Testament in Philemon 24, Colossians 4:14, and 2 Timothy 4:11.
3. Luke tells us that he received his account of Jesus from "eyewitnesses...of the word (vs. 2)" and writes "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (vs. 4 NIV)."
4. Luke places Jesus in the historical period of King Herod of Judea (vs. 5). Herod reigned in Israel until 4 BC. Jesus was likely born in 6 BC and lived to 27 AD.
5. He tells us of two people who would become the parents of John the Baptist, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Both of them are descendants of Aaron. Zechariah serves in the priestly division of Abijah (read more in 1 Chronicles 24:1-10). They were "upright" and "blameless." This is important because we often say that there were no Jews who were able to fulfill the Law or fully live by the Torah. Zechariah and Elizabeth are said to be blameless in this matter.
6. Zechariah is visited by the angel Gabriel (vs. 19) during his service at the temple in Jerusalem and told that he and Elizabeth will have a child in their old age. This should remind us of the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18 who are visited by divine beings and told that they would have a child in their old age. The child that Zechariah and Gabriel will have will come in the "spirit and power of Elijah". This is a prophetic and messianic reference from Malachi 4:5-6 which states that the Prophet Elijah would come before the "great and dreadful day of the Lord." Zechariah and Elizabeth's son will complete the ministry foretold in Isaiah 40:1-5 making ready a people prepared for the Lord.
7. The strong point of the first twenty-five verses is found in verses twenty-four and twenty-five. Luke is trying to tell us something in these verses...about the nature of this Gospel account...about the One (Jesus) he will be writing about...and the ministry that Messiah Jesus will bring. Elizabeth's words in verse twenty-five hearken to the same words of Rachel in Genesis 30:23 when she became pregnant with Joseph. It also echoes the words of the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 25:8. Jesus will come to fulfill God's ministry of removing disgrace from humanity.
Question: how does this passage (especially the words from Elizabeth in verse 25) relate to John 2:1-11 where Jesus changes water into wine? How is Jesus' purpose in the miracle at Cana similar to God's purpose of giving Elizabeth a child?
Challenge: Read Luke 1:1-25 slowly as many times as possible this week. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you each time you read. What will God say to you through this passage?