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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 1: September 13 Luke 1.1-38


My commentary will follow the scripture reading:


luke 1.1-38

The Gospel According to Luke
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Dedication to Theophilus
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,* 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.
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The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In 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.
8 Once 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.’
21 Meanwhile, 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.
24 After 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 favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’ 26 -->
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In 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, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’* 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 favour 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 for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’* 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* 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.



Comments: Notice that Luke is admitting that he is not an eyewitness to these things. He has set out to write and orderly account. How do you think Luke went about his research? We think that Luke was written between 70 and 90 AD. If that is the case many of the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus would be getting old, how does that change the urgency of what Luke is doing? One thing is clear Luke seems to see the world as a place through which the living God is moving and moving with a purpose.


What I find interesting is the fact that Zechariah and Mary are both visited by an angel. We would think that Zechariah--the religious professional--would have known to trust God, even when hearing such incredible news, but he seems to have doubts and so Gabriel closes his mouth until the birth of John. Mary on the other hand would seem to be less likely to comprehend the angelic visit, but she, a young girl, outside of Jerusalem, with no formal education, she is the one who apparently greets the word of God with faith. How often we assume we know whose 'religious' and whose not!


But notice one thing, both Mary and Zechariah ask a question: Mary: "How can this be since I am a virgin; Zechariah: "How will I know this is so? For I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years." To question is not wrong. But Mary seems to question within the possibility of faith. She ponders how can such a thing happen. Zechariah on the other hand seems to want proof. He'll get his proof, God will act; but how wonderful for those who like Mary can live in expectant faith.

2 comments:

  1. At first I thought it was unfair that Gabriel should punish Zechariah and not Mary for questioning the possibility of the unbelievable, but after your commentary I see the difference regarding "proof."

    I wonder why John will be forbidden wine and strong drink in his life. Because he is already in the womb filled with the Holy Spirit? Does God want him to thirst all his life, to always be searching to satisfy his thirst, because was water really safe to drink without wine or spirits in that time? Then there is all the WATER associated with the one who baptizes, who baptizes even Jesus, like John is destined to be this dry person who can do no other but fulfill his purpose and be drawn to the water. I guess there is a pragmatic answer in that if John is known to take any strong drink people would attribute his clearing the way for Jesus as a symptom of drunkenness.

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  2. Howdy Paige, great question and insight. Most folks think that John the baptizer was under a "Nazarite" vow. You find this in Numbers 6.1-27. Here is Numbers 6.1-4 which talks about the wine and drink:

    "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When either men or women make a special vow, the vow of a nazirite,* to separate themselves to the Lord, 3they shall separate themselves from wine and strong drink; they shall drink no wine vinegar or other vinegar, and shall not drink any grape juice or eat grapes, fresh or dried. 4All their days as nazirites* they shall eat nothing that is produced by the grape-vine, not even the seeds or the skins."

    Wine was associated with joy, the joy of the fruit of the harvest. It was (and in my opinion continues) to be a good thing--when not abused. By refusing to drink wine or the 'fruit of the vine' the Nazarite was saying that he/she was waiting upon an even greater joy--the joy of the Lord.

    The strict dietary restrictions of the Nazarite also might help explain why John the baptizer eats bugs and wild honey, and the rest of his appearance! Peace! PJ

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