In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
These are real people with real problems
The angel proclaims good news
Always good news, not always good responses
When we study God’s Word, it should lead us to both rejoicing and repenting.
- What stands out to you from the text?
- What questions or comments do you have about it?
- In what ways did you find yourself encouraged and/or rejoicing when you heard the message?
- In what ways were you challenged to repent or change when you heard the message?
- How did the teacher connect this passage to Christ? What other connections do you see between this message and the redemptive work of Christ?
- What is one thing that you want to remember from this sermon?
- Why is that important to you?
Herod family. Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews by the Romans in 40 bc, and ruled from 37 to 4 bc. He was of an Idumaean (Edomite) family, and married a number of wives, including Mariamme, a granddaughter of Hyrcanus, the last legal *Hasmonaean ruler. By ruthlessness and genuine ability he kept the peace for 37 years in a country very hard to rule. During his reign Christ was born, and the story of the Massacre of the Innocents (Mt. 2:16) fits his reputation. On his death his territory was divided between his sons: Archelaus, as ethnarch of *Judaea, Idumaea, and Samaria; Antipas, as tetrarch of *Galilee and Peraea; and Philip, as tetrarch of the remaining territory to the NE (Lk. 3:1). Archelaus was deposed in AD 6 and his territory put under Roman prefects, of whom Pontius *Pilate was the fifth. Antipas, the ‘Herod the tetrarch’ of the Gospels (4 bc-AD 39), who married Herodias and beheaded St *John the Baptist, and Philip (4 bc-AD 34) were ruling at the time of Christ’s ministry. In 37–41 all these territories were successively conferred on Agrippa I, the son of Herod the Great’s second son by Mariamme Aristobulus (d. 7 bc); he ruled till AD 44 with the title of King. It was he (called ‘Herod’ in Acts) who put St *James the Apostle to death and died ‘eaten of worms’ (Acts 12). Agrippa II, his son, was made king of various territories in N. Palestine c. 50, and ruled until c. 93 or 100. He was the ‘King Agrippa’ before whom St *Paul appeared (Acts 25:13 ff.). Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 766). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Gabriel (Heb.), ‘man of God’. One of the seven *archangels. He is mentioned in Dan. 8:15 f. and 9:21 f., where he assists Daniel in the understanding of his visions. In the NT he foretells the birth of St *John the Baptist to his father, *Zachariah, and announces the conception of the Lord to the BVM (Lk. 1:11 f., 1:26). As the messenger of Divine comfort, he is accorded in Jewish theology the place of highest rank after *Michael. Feast day in the E., 26 Mar.; in the W., formerly 24 Mar. (i.e. the day before the *Annunciation); now, with Michael and *Raphael, on 29 Sept. Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 651). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
John the Baptist, St, the ‘Forerunner of Christ’. Acc. to (Lk. 1:5–25), he was the son of *Zachariah, a priest of the *Temple, and of *Elizabeth, a kinswoman of the BVM, to whom he was born in old age. His birth had been foretold by an angel (1:13–20), who had instructed Zachariah that he should be called John. On the fulfilment of this injunction his father uttered the *Benedictus (q.v.). All the Gospels record his appearance c. ad 27 as a mission preacher on the banks of the *Jordan demanding repentance and baptism from his hearers in view of the approach of the *Kingdom of God. His dress and diet (locusts and wild honey) were reminiscent of the OT prophets, though some of his preaching foreshadowed that of Christ. Large crowds were attracted to him and among those who submitted to his baptism was the Lord Himself. Later his denunciation of *Herod Antipas for his marriage led to his imprisonment and subsequent beheading (Mt. 14:1–12). His influence 20 years later is attested in Acts (18:25, 19:1–7). Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 893). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Priestly division of Abijah. The service of the temple was divided into twenty-four divisions, and each provided for the needs of the temple service for a week at a time, twice a year. During the major religious festivals (Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles) all the divisions served. Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 73). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
1:9 He was chosen by lot. This indicates that God’s providential leading caused Zechariah to be chosen. For Luke this was not the result of “chance” or “fate.” God was clearly in control of this event. See Introduction 8 (1).Since so many priests served the temple (about eighteen thousand), entering the holy place to clean the altar of incense and to offer fresh incense usually occurred only once in the lifetime of a priest.
Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 74). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink. This could refer to John’s being a Nazirite (Num 6:2–5; Judg 13:4–5; 1 Sam 1:11) or to a requirement to abstain from strong drink since he was to live an ascetic life (7:33) and serve God in a special way (Lev 10:9). The latter is more likely, for other things required of a Nazirite, such as not cutting the hair, are not mentioned. Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 76). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Nazirites (so modern translations of the Bible; AV ‘Nazarites’). A body of Israelites specially consecrated to the service of God who were under vows to abstain from eating or drinking the produce of the vine, to let their hair grow, and to avoid defilement by contact with a dead body (Num. 6). Originally the vow seems to have been for life (e.g. that of *Samson), but later it was limited to a definite period (30 days, acc. to the *Mishnah, ‘Nazir’, 1. 3). If the Nazirite suffered defilement by the sudden death of someone beside him, he must undergo purification by shaving and burning his hair and renewing his vow. St *Paul demonstrated his loyalty to Judaism by joining with certain Jewish Christians who were completing such vows at Jerusalem (Acts 21:23–6). Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 1141). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
1:16 Will … bring back. “Bring back” is a technical term for conversion in the NT Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 76). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Secondly, the awesome once-in-a-lifetime privilege of serving in the temple must have carried Zechariah’s mind beyond the personal tragedy of childlessness to the even more poignant longings of the nation to which he belonged. In short, we may take it that his prayer was for the coming of Israel’s Saviour; and the ‘good news’ which the angel brings is not so much that Elizabeth shall bear a son, as that she shall bear a son who is to announce the Saviour’s immediate coming. Wilcock, M. (1979). The Savior of the world: the message of Luke’s gospel (pp. 33–34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
We trace through the rest of this chapter the reason why its subject is so important. We have already seen in the first incident, how when the angel tells Zechariah that his wife is to bear a son in spite of their old age and her barrenness, the birth of that son is called ‘good news’ (1:19)—it is ‘gospel’. For John is to be the herald of salvation; salvation more than anything else is to be the basic theme of Luke’s story; and salvation is what makes the news so good. Wilcock, M. (1979). The Savior of the world: the message of Luke’s gospel (pp. 34–35). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.