I began reading this morning through Luke once again, since part of my regular reading of the Scriptures is to go through the gospels every 3 months, beginning today in chapter 1; Luke is perhaps what I would call the “richest” of the gospel writers; Luke’s writing has a richness and life to it that seems unique- unique because it is unique. He is the only writer to give the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son and his is the only gospel that was written as a letter to a friend as a personal detailed investigated report on the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.
Luke obviously gives the most detail of all the gospels regarding the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. And I would put it this way- the Divine is in the details- Luke shares riches with us that not only instruct us about what occured, but warm the heart and can fill us with reality and an eternal perspective.
Here’s a few thoughts:
The Ispiration & Innerancy of Scripture (1: 1-4)
Luke tells Theophilus that since he has had “perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (1:3), he has now written him an “orderly account” of the gospel record, so that, Theophilus can “know the certainty concerning the things he has been taught”. (1:4) Here Luke is speaking of the absolute truthfulness of all he has written, and that the reader (Theophilus and anyone after him) can have certainty about what is written. There is no doubt left. Scripture is not only inspired, infallible, but perfectly inerrant and trustworthy.
The Birth and Ministry of John the Baptizer (1: 13-18)
John’s birth, life, and ministry is taken up even in the first chapter, as Luke shows the supernatural nature of the calling and ministry of John, who is called “the prophet”. (1:76)
– John’s birth would bring joy and gladness to his parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth. (1:14)
– Many would rejoice at his birth. (1:14)
– He would be great in the sight of the Lord- if a person is great in God’s sight, it does not matter if he is great in the world’s eyes. (vs. 15)
– John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from the time he was in his mother’s womb.(vs. 15)
– His was not just a symbolic ministry of coming on the scene before Christ arrived- His was a powerful saving ministry, as he would, in the power of the Holy Spirit, “turn many to the Lord their God and turn hearts- the hearts of children to their parents and the hearts of the rebellious to the truth; he would also have a ministry that would uniquely “make ready” a people for the Lord. (vss. 16-17)
Zechariah’s Unbelief (1:8-80)
As Zechariah was serving his priestly duties, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the temple, and began to give him awesome and amazing news, that He and Elizabeth, even though they were old, would have a son whose name would be John. The angel then gives to Zechariah quite a bit of information concerning what would be true of John’s life and ministry, and that he would be the forerunner of the Messiah. (1:16-17)
How did Zechariah respond? How would you and I respond? With fear, trembling, and unbelief; Zechariah’s human logic and reasoning cancelled out faith at that point; even after being given a supernatural and perfect revelation of what God would do, Zechariah responded, not with a question motivated by submission but one motivated by unbelief– “How can this be? We are old people.” Zechariah was seeing and believing only that which was humanly possible.
How often are we like that as well? We often only believe to the degree that we see something to be humanly possible. But if it is impossible with man, we doubt and fail to believe what God has said. Zechariah’s response was outright unbelief, even though an angel had personally and visibly appeared and brought a word straight from heaven to him.
Well, this was no small angel, no entry-level heavenly messenger, who was just practicing his first angelic assignments. It was none other than Gabriel himself. Gabriel’s response is insightful. When Zechariah responds with unbelief, what was Gabriel’s response to Zechariah?
“I AM GABRIEL, who stands in the presence of God; I was sent to you to bring you this good news.” Zechariah, do you realize who is standing before you? I am one of the arch-angels and I dwell in the very presence of Jehovah Himself; I have been sent to you to bring you this good news.”
If Gabriel comes with a word from God to this man, Zechariah should have believed what he had been told; there is no valid reason to doubt and give in to unbelief; he could have believed it; If Gabriel can show up announcing that God will give an old couple a baby, why does Zechariah have to think that their having a baby is impossible simply because they are old? What is impossible with man is possible with God; He is not hindered by the natural laws which govern the physical universe and the world of mankind. It was pure unbelief, and the text tells us so: “Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words.”
But notice one glorious and encouraging thing– our unbelief does not nullify or hinder God’s certain promises from being fulfilled. “Until the day that these things take place . . . which will be fulfilled in their time.” God will do what He has promised; He will keep His Word and bring it to pass, regardless of the struggles of His people to believe Him. My struggling or weak faith at times will not keep God from being faithful. Though we believe not, yet He abideth faithful- He cannot deny Himself.
Mary, the mother of Jesus
Mary, on the other hand, is different than Zechariah. Hers is not a question of unbelief, but rather of submission and wonder. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (1:34) Gabriel, who has now also appeared to Mary, tells her that this will come about by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, for nothing will be impossible for God. (1:31-37)
Now, which is more difficult to occur. at least on the human level–to have a baby when you are old or to have a baby when you are still a virgin and have never known a man? When Zechariah failed to believe that they could have a child, Mary believed she could because she believed what God had said. Mary’s response to the news was: “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word.” And Elizabeth gives later (vs. 45) what seems to be one of the greatest definitions of faith in all the Scriptures: “Blessed is she [Mary]who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (vs. 45)The point is simply this when it comes to faith: God has no more difficulty in giving a child to a virgin than He does to an elderly woman or a 25 year old. Nothing earthly, circumstancial, or human can hinder God from doing what He has promised He will do in our lives.
We learn from Mary that true faith is being persuaded in the heart that God is faithful to do what He has said He will do; Whatever God has said or promised, it is impossible for it to not come to pass. Faith says in the heart, “God has said this; He is almighty, He is true, He is faithful; He must do–He will do all that He has promised; I believe God, that it will be even as it was told me.”
Mary’s magnificat is so wonderful, as it is found in Luke 1. May it be the truth that fills our hearts and spirits in these days: And Mary said,
“My soul does magnify the Lord,And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour;For He has looked upon the humble estate of His servant,For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;For He who is mighty has done great things for me,And holy is His name.
And His mercy is for those who fear Himfrom generation to generation;He has shown strength with His arm;He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;He has brought down the mighty from their thronesAnd exalted those of humble estate.
He has filled the hungry with good things,And the rich He has sent empty away.He has helped His servant Israel In remembrance of His mercyAs He spoke to our fathers,To Abraham and to His offspring forever.”
What a book we have in Luke’s gospel, what promises and what riches, what supernatural working of God, what a God and what a Saviour !
– Mack T.