The story begins when Herod was king of Judea and there was an old priest named Zechariah who was a part of Abijah’s group. His elderly wife, Elizabeth, she too was a descendant of Aaron. They both stood right in God’s sight, consistently and conscientiously obedient to everything the Lord commanded. Still, they had no children; Elizabeth couldn’t conceive.
When it came time for Zechariah’s group’s to serve in the temple, Zechariah took part as a priest before God and it fell Zechariah’s lot, according priesthood custom, to be the one to enter the Lord’s temple and burn incense. When the time came for him to do so, all who had gathered outside to worship were praying.
As he stood at the right side of the altar of incense, a messenger from the Lord appeared to him. When Zechariah saw him, he was shaken and fear swept over him.
The angel said to him: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. God has heard your prayer. Elizabeth, your wife, will give you a son. Name him John. Because God will see him as a great man, he will be a joy and a delight to you and many others. He must never drink wine or any other spirit. Before he is even born he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Elijah’s spirit and power he will go on before the Lord and bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. The hearts of fathers will be reconciled with their children and the disobedient will be turned toward the good sense of those who stand right with God. All of this is for the purpose of getting people ready for the Lord.”
“How can I, an old man with an old wife, be certain what you say will happen?,” Zechariah asked the angel.
The angel said to him, “I, Gabriel, have been sent from God’s presence to tell you this and share this good news with you. But now, since you didn’t believe it, you won’t be able to speak or utter a sound until God truly brings about what he has said.”
Meanwhile, outside the temple, the people wondered what was taking Zechariah so long inside. When he finally did come outside, he couldn’t speak to them, but from his gesturing, they caught on to the fact that he had seen a vision while in the temple.
Zechariah went home after he had completed his time of temple service and his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant. For five months she stayed secluded away. She said, “The Lord has done this for me now and has shown me his grace and put an end to people looking down on me.” (Luke 1:5-25 DSV ~ The Birth of John)
1. Luke gives his story some general, historical parameters as to date when he mentions it took place during the reign of Herod (1:5). When did Herod rule and are there other general indicators of time in Luke’s Gospel?
2. What is the connection between having “no children” and yet being people who “obey” God (1:6-7,13,25)?
3. How did the priesthood’s service of the temple work?
4. What parallels of thought or similarity of themes are there between this Gospel’s prologue (1:1-4) and this opening section?
5. What does this section have to say about God and his interest and/or interaction with humans?
6. What does it mean that John will be “in the spirit and power of Elijah?” (1:17)
7. What specific subjects are first introduced in this section that will be brought up often throughout the rest of Luke’s Gospel (and/or Acts)?
8. What touches of irony are seen in this section?
9. Though Judaism in Jesus’ time was a male-dominated institution, Elizabeth, a Jewish woman plays a key role in this opening section. Where else do women get mentioned in Luke’s Gospel and play an important role? How does this compare or contrast with Matthew, Mark and John’s Gospels?
10. What role do angels play elsewhere in Luke and Acts?