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The Gospel According to Luke: Chapter 1

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1Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, a Or for a long time to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

5In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” a Other ancient authorities add Blessed are you among women 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” b Gk I do not know a man 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born c Other ancient authorities add of you will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a Or believed, for there will be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

46And Mary b Other ancient authorities read Elizabeth said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

67Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69He has raised up a mighty savior a Gk a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon b Other ancient authorities read has broken upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Notes:

a Or for a long time

a Other ancient authorities add Blessed are you among women

b Gk I do not know a man

c Other ancient authorities add of you

a Or believed, for there will be

b Other ancient authorities read Elizabeth

a Gk a horn of salvation

b Other ancient authorities read has broken upon

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

4.12–17 (Mk 1.14–15; Lk 4.14–15):

The mission opens in Galilee, where the Great Commission ( 28.16–20 ) will occur.

12 :

Arrested (lit.“handed over”) is used for Judas's betrayal and the divine delivering of Jesus (see Isa 53.6 ). Withdrew, typical of Jesus' response to danger (see 12.15; 14.13 ).

13 :

Capernaum, home to Peter and Andrew, will be Jesus' own city ( 9.1 ).

15–16 :

Isa 9.1–2 . Matthew emphasizes Galilee's gentile * connection; here the Great Commission ( 28.19 ) begins.

17 :

Summarizes Jesus' message; repent reflects the Hebrew “Tshuva,” “return” or “change direction.”

4.18–25 .

18–22 (Mk 1.16–20; Lk 5.1–11; Jn 1.35–42):

The abrupt calling of the disciples is common in Hellenistic * and Hebrew stories (see 1 Kings 19.19–21 ).

23–25 :

Only Jesus teaches and proclaims.

23–24 :

Good news is “gospel.” Their synagogues * need not indicate alienation; Jesus restricts his mission to Israel ( 10.5b–6; 15.24 ).

8.1–13 :

2–4 (Mk 1.40–44; Lk 5.12–14):

Leprosy (see Lev 13–14 ) refers to various skin diseases. Lepers required priestly sanction to reenter society.

5–13 (Lk 7.1–10; Jn 4.46–53):

The gentile * centurion. Verse 7 may be read as a question—Shall I heal him?—anticipating a negative answer. Elsewhere Jesus restricts his mission to Jews ( 10.5b–6 ), and prior to the resurrection he displays reluctance at extending it to gentiles ( 15.24 ).

8 :

Matthew's Jesus never enters a gentile's home (contrast Mk 7 ).

9 :

Centurions command between 50 and 100 soldiers; here the centurion admits his helplessness and faith in Jesus' power.

11 :

May refer to Diaspora * Jews or to gentiles.

12 :

Heirs (lit. sons) of the kingdom refers in v. 13 to Jesus' followers: Even those inside the church may forfeit salvation through improper action and belief.

8.14–22 .

14–15 (Mk 1.30–31; Lk 4.38–39):

Peter's mother-in-law “serves”; the term derives from the Greek term for “deacon.” Peter's wife is not mentioned.

15–17 (Mk 1.32–34; Lk 4.40–41):

Another fulfillment citation; prior to the Gospels, this passage, like many other fulfillment citations, was not viewed as referring to the messiah. *

17 :

See Isa 53.4 . Matthew lacks Mark's commands for the demons' silence.

18–22 (Mk 4.35; Lk 8.22; 9.57–60):

Itinerancy marks Jesus' mission and that of his followers (see ch. 10 ).

19 :

Teacher is used by those who are not disciples; in Matthew, Jesus calls disciples; followers do not apply for the position.

20 :

Son of Man means “human being” (Ezek 37 ), but it also carries divine connotations (Dan 7.13–14 ).

21–22 :

Jesus' saying shocks; nothing, not even one's own family, takes precedence over service to him.

21.1–11 (Mk 1.1–11; Lk 19.28–38; Jn 12.12–18):

Preparations for Jerusalem. In Matthew (and Mark), this is Jesus' first entry into Jerusalem: Luke and John depict earlier visits. Although this event is traditionally called “Palm Sunday,” palms are mentioned only in John; in Matthean chronology, the entry occurs on Monday.

2–3 :

See comment on Mk 11.2 .

4–5 :

The ninth fulfillment citation, from Isa 62.11; Zech 9.9 .

7 :

Matthew takes literally Zechariah's poetic reference to two donkeys.

9 :

Hosanna, * originally a plea for salvation, became a festive shout. The citation comes from Ps 118.25–26 , the last Hallel Psalm sung at Passover. * One who comes has messianic connotations.

1.1–4 :

Prologue. These four verses are one complex sentence, providing a formal introduction like those in Greek and Roman histories. The first two verses state the condition (Since many have undertaken …), and the last two the result (I too decided …). Orderly account (vv. 1, 3 ) means both writing a coherent narrative * and following the sequence of what happened.

1 :

To say these events have been fulfilled among us is to affirm them as God's way of keeping the promises made in Israel's scriptures.

2 :

The servants of the word probably interpreted the scriptures and proclaimed the word ( 4.20–21; Acts 1.21–22; 13.5; 26.16 ).

3 :

Theophilus may have been a patron of the Christian community or of the writing of Luke and Acts, perhaps providing financial support (Acts 1.1 ).

4 :

The truth here means the “firm basis” or “assurance,” since Theophilus has already been instructed, perhaps as a Christian catechumen.

1.5–2.52 :

This story is told by means of two angelic announcements (annunciations) of special conceptions ( 1.5–25 , John, and 1.26–38 , Jesus), the mutual blessing of the mothers ( 1.39–56 ), two announced births ( 1.57–80; 2.1–40 ), and the return to the Temple * of the child Jesus ( 2.41–52 ). These stories echo the birth of Samuel, who anointed * David as king of Israel (1 Sam 1–2; 16.13; see also Lk 3.21–22; Acts 10.37–38 ).

1.5–25 :

The announcement of John's birth.

5 :

Herod, “the Great,” was an Idumean appointed king of the Jews by the Romans (see Mt 2; Lk 23.3, 12, 38 ). Zechariah and Elizabeth both have priestly lineage (1 Chr 24.1–19; Neh 12.4 ).

6 :

Righteous before God means they observed the law (see Simeon and Anna in 2.25 ; Joseph of Arimathea in 23.50–51 ; Paul in Acts 24.16–18 ).

7 :

In biblical history, God brought special blessing through children of once barren women (see Sarah and Isaac in Gen 16–21 , and particularly Hannah and Samuel in 1 Sam 1–2 ).

9 :

To be chosen by lot meant to be designated by God (see Acts 1.24–26 ).

10 :

The incense offering was to be made in the morning and the evening (Ex 30.7–8 ).

11 :

The angel of the Lord is God's messenger Gabriel ( 1.19; see also Dan 9.20–27 ).

12–13 :

Fear in the presence of a divine manifestation is a sign of wisdom (Prov 1.7, see also Isa 6.5–6; Lk 1.65; 2.9; 5.26; 8.37; Acts 2.43; 5.5, 11; 19.17 ).

15 :

Like Samuel (1 Sam 1.11 ), John's prophecy and spirit would not come from wine or strong drink (see also Hannah in 1 Sam 1.12–16 ), but from being filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2.12–17 ).

17 :

The spirit and power of Elijah means to call Israel to prepare for God's coming by repentance (see 3.3–17 ).

18 :

Zechariah's question, “How will I know that this is so?,” is regarded as disbelief by Gabriel (see v. 20 and Gen 15.8; 17.17; 18.12–15 , and contrast with Mary's question in v. 34 ).

20 :

His mute condition is a temporary sign of judgment, awaiting inspired speech ( 1.64–79; see also Acts 13.11 ).

25 :

Her pregnancy is what the Lord has done for me (see Sarah and Hannah in Gen 16.2; 1 Sam 1.1–18 ).

1.26–38 :

The announcement of Jesus' birth.

26 :

This is the sixth month of Elizabeth's miraculous pregnancy (see 1.24 ).

27 :

Isa 7.14 prophesied that a virgin (Heb., “young woman”) will bear a son (see Mt 1.22–23 ).

28 :

To be a favored one is to be blessed by God and chosen for a special role ( 1.25, 30 ).

31 :

Jesus is a form of the common Hebrew name Joshua (“he saves,” see Mt 1.21 ).

32–33 :

The angel declares Jesus' “greatness” as fulfillment of God's promises to David and his kingdom (Ps 2; Isa 9.6–7; 2 Sam 7.12–14 ).

34 :

Mary's question, “How can this be?” is echoed as trust and wonder in her acceptance in v. 38 , “Let it be” (compare 1.18 ).

35 :

God's Holy Spirit and power overshadow Israel like a cloud to protect them from harm and shield them from God's holiness (Ex 19.16; 40.35; Lk 9.34 ). So also Mary is protected in a divine conception (see 2.48–49 ).

36 :

Elizabeth's pregnancy in her old age is a confirming sign.

37 :

Nothing will be impossible with God echoes God's word to Sarah's laughter about her pregnancy (Gen 18.11–15 ).

1.39–56 :

Elizabeth and Mary meet and prophesy.

41–42 :

The unborn child leaped in her womb in anticipation of his role (see Gen 25.22 ), and his mother spoke as a prophet * (filled with the Holy Spirit and with a loud cry). Mary is blessed both in her faithfulness ( 1.45 ) and in her bearing Jesus (see Judg 5.24; Lk 11.27–28 ).

43 :

Elizabeth's question to the mother of my Lord echoes recognition of King David (2 Sam 24.21 ) and recalls earlier messages about the Lord God ( 1.32, 45–47 ).

44–46 :

Joy and rejoicing are signs of God's blessing ( 1.14; Acts 2.46 ).

46–55 :

These verses are called Mary's “magnificat” because of the Latin translation of my soul magnifies. They closely parallel Hannah's song to God who rescues the poor (1 Sam 2 ).

47 :

God my Savior anticipates Jesus' role as Savior ( 2.11 ).

48 :

God's favor for Mary's lowliness is a sign of hope for all the lowly and hungry ( 1.52–53 ).

51–52 :

The strength with his arm is a biblical image of God's action in history (Ex 6.6 ). The proud and the powerful will no longer hide deceitful hearts (see 2.35; 11.17 ).

54–55 :

God's remembrance of mercy is a source of hope in trouble (Gen 8.1; 9.15 ) and trust in God's promise to bless Abraham (Gen 12.2–3; Acts 3.25 ).

1.57–80 :

The birth and presentation of John.

59 :

Elizabeth and Zechariah are again fully observant of the law to circumcise * John on the eighth day (Gen 17.12; Lev 12.3 ).

62 :

Motioning suggests they are coaxing a message from him in his limited means of communicating ( 1.22 ).

63–64 :

Obedience to the angel's naming the child John ( 1.13 ) restores his speech and praise of God.

66–67 :

What then will this child become?” is a question of faith (see 1.18, 34 ), prompting Zechariah's answer in inspired prophecy.

68–79 :

Zechariah's prophecy is sung in Christian worship as the “benedictus” (“Blessed be…”). Jewish prayers often pronounced a blessing on God for wonderful deeds (Ps 41.13; 72.18; 106.48 ).

69 :

The savior promised here is literally the horn of salvation (see note a, see also 2.11 ) from which a Davidic king was anointed * (1 Sam 2.10; Ps 18.2; 132.17 ).

76 :

John was the prophet * of the Most High to do the anointing * (see Acts 10.37–38 ), and Jesus was the Son of the Most High ( 1.32 ).

78 :

The dawn from on high is a promise of liberation from the darkness of captivity (Mal 4.2; Ps 107.10; Is 42.7 ).

80 :

Luke's “growth refrain” (the child grew…) echoes 1 Sam 2.21, 26 and is repeated twice for Jesus (Lk 2.40, 52 ).

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