In the last post, we talked about some events that took place in chapter 2, but now we will be going back to the beginning.
Let's read in chapter 1.
'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. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 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. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 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.”' Luke 1:13-17
Zachariah is a priest in the temple, his wife, Elizabeth, is from the line of Aaron (Moses' brother, also the first High Priest). Both, Zachariah and Elizabeth have lived a righteous life in the eyes of God. But they both have waited and prayed for a son for a long time. (Sound like anyone else's story in the Bible?) And they are old in age with no children to call their own.
The High Priest was the one who kept the altar of incense burning while the people prayed outside. Zachariah's position was considered the highest religious position of all those who served at the temple. He was also considered the presiding officer of the Sanhedrin (supreme council of the Jews who met in Jerusalem).
It's a normal day.
Zachariah wakes up and probably kisses his wife goodbye and leaves for the temple. As he is on duty inside the temple, he notices something that scares the daylight out of him. An angel is standing on the right of the altar of incense!
The angel that is standing beside the altar is named Gabriel.
The name, Gabriel (Hebrew: גַבְרִיאֵל), meaning: "God is my strength" or "God is my strong man."
This angel, Gabriel, has brought other news before this moment.
In the 8th chapter of Daniel, we see that Gabriel appears to Daniel telling him of what is to come at the end of time. Daniel is so terrified that he passes out. Later on, in chapter 9, Gabriel returns to Daniel and explains the vision of God.
Gabriel is one of the only angels of the Lord that we get to know. Michael (Jude 1:9), Lucifer/Satan (Isaiah 14:12), and Apollyon (Revelation 9:11) are the only other angels mentioned by name in the Bible.
'But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah-'"
In verse 13, Gabriel says, do not be afraid, the prayer Zachariah has prayed for many years is finally going to be answered.
We do not really know what Gabriel's appearance is like, other than he is shaped like a man and he brings a lot of fear upon people. However, he has a very important role in the story of the gospel.
Gabriel tells Zachariah that his wife is going to have a son and his name will be John.
The baby will be filled with the Holy Spirit while in the womb.
Now, this has never happened before. Nor will it ever happen again. This baby will already know the Lord before it even speaks or thinks logically. Every human has a choice to make when they come to the age of maturity, to believe in God or not. The fact that God chose this moment in history to fill this being with His Spirit for a very important purpose is amazing!
Now, you may be wondering, why isn't John the promised Son that is prophesized from the beginning? Wouldn't this baby be the Son of God - if, in fact, he is going to be born with God's Spirit within Him?
Because John, later known as John the Baptist, was not born by virgin birth.
I'm not going to spoil the story, but... there is a prophecy concerning John and Jesus.
'A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.' Isaiah 40:3
The fact that John was filled with the Holy Spirit is amazing, but this does not make him the Christ. Yes, John has a very special purpose, however, he is not Jesus. John was not born from a virgin.
I listened to a sermon by Adrain Rogers and he discusses the importance of the virgin birth:
"If Jesus had been born like we are, a son of Adam—a sinner—He couldn’t have been innocent, so he couldn’t be anyone’s substitute: not mine, not yours, no one’s. The only sin He could die for would be His own. Jesus had to be a sinless or His sacrifice would never do."
"The virgin birth doesn’t depend on our understanding to be true. Vance Havner said, “I don’t understand electricity, but I’m not going to sit around in the dark until I do.” Lots of things we don’t understand, but we still experience them."
Okay, time to get back to the story.
As many of us would probably have doubted or thought we lost our marbles, especially after hearing from an angel telling you that you will have a son in your old age. Zachariah, questions Gabriel after hearing this bizarre message :
'And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”' Luke 1:18
Because of the High Priest's lack of faith, Gabriel tells him that until John is born, he will not be able to speak. And he became mute that very moment.
'Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.' Luke 1:57-58,64
Now while Elizabeth was pregnant with John, she received a special visitor.
'And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ' Luke 1:41-43
Elizabeth is the first woman to see Jesus as Lord, even though she really couldn't see Him. She knew that He was here. That the Messiah has finally come!
Can you imagine knowing that the Son of God is being transformed into a baby inside of you?
I am not a mother, but I have a strong desire to be a mother one day. From what I have gathered from many women in my life, they all say pregnancy is a wonderful feeling. Knowing something is being knitted together and created inside of you that one day is going to be a person you get to touch and know personally.
Both Anna and Elizabeth are the first 2 women who get to praise the Lord for the Messiah that has arrived. Read more about Anna in my first study in Luke!
Mary remains with Elizabeth and tells her all that has happened. How an angel named Gabriel visited her...
'In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.' Luke 1:26-27
'And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.' Luke 1:28-30
Mary, chosen among women. The word, favor comes from the root word: charis, which means grace. What amazing thing to be found in grace by God. We all have this chance to be found in favor of the Lord - only because of Jesus.
I cannot even imagine the emotions that were filling Mary's heart at this message. The first thing she responds with isn't, "I am too young, let me grow up and have my own dreams-" or "I don't want to be or pregnant or have kids!" Her response is logical and shows that she is very mature and willing.
'And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” ' Luke 1:34
Her purity is revealed here. God chose Mary, knowing that she is a virgin still.
You see, the virgin birth is one of the most important miracles of the gospel. Without the virgin birth, the prophecies wouldn't be completed.
The Lord spoke to Ahaz, a King in the 700's BC:
'Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.' Isaiah 7:14
After Mary asks how she can have a baby since she has not been with any man.
Gabriel answers her response and tells her how she will conceive.
'And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.' Luke 1:35
The Most High. Son of God.
There is only one that deserves this name - Son of God.
Many years later, some Jews believed that Jesus was simply an angel or a prophet. Catholics believe that the real savior of the story is Mary. Even some people think that John the Baptist was actually the promised Messiah.
The amazing thing about Jesus is, He doesn't force you to believe in Him. The writer of this story, Luke, was very careful to give us all of these perspectives so that we can come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Most High, on our own.
Is Jesus the Most High to you?
Mary and many others have waited for the Messiah for a long time. At this time in history, the Jews are under great oppression by the Romans. Their laws are even more strict than before and many have fallen away from the faith.
The moment that all History has been waiting for has arrived in the form of a baby.
Why do you think the Most High would come in the form of a baby?
I personally have wondered this for many years. God likes to promise things, but He also wants us to see the bigger picture. If you look back through the Bible, you will see a lot of waiting. A lot of promises and prophecies.
God is in the waiting. He proves this point by giving us a baby that will be born in a lowly manger.
God is in the seasons. He works not by our way of thinking, but in a way that reveals how almighty He is.
Instead of sending us a mighty warrior, fully grown, Jesus. God sends Him in the form of a baby in the womb of a young Jewish girl.
I hope and pray that as you have read this remarkable story from the gospel of Luke that you will think about the beauty of the gospel.
Thank you for reading! I know I'm sort of all over the place with this post, but I hope you have learned something new about this story! There are so many things that I think are worth sharing, yet a lot of verses I know I have probably missed. Share below anything you would like to add!