Study Guide

Gospel of Luke Chapter 1:57-2:40

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Chapter 1:57-2:40

Goo-Goo Ga-Ga

  • Elizabeth's due date comes around, and her son is born. Looks like Gabriel was right again.
  • Her neighbors and relatives are happy for her and recognize this as an act of God's mercy.
  • In accordance with the rules (see Genesis 17:12), Elizabeth and Zechariah circumcise the child when he's eight days old.
  • Everyone expects the kid to be named Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth insists, "No! John's his name" (1:60).
  • That's a shocker. No one in their family is named John. They might as well have named him Batman. It's outrageous.
  • They want to know what Zechariah thinks.
  • Because he is still unable to speak (rewind to 1:20), Zechariah motions for a tablet and writes, "His name is John" (1:63). That settles it. Zechariah's not messing with Gabriel any more.
  • Suddenly, Zechariah's mouth and tongue work again, and his first words after nine months are praise for God.
  • Okay, let's size things up. First, an old barren woman gives birth. Second, they name him baby Johnny. And now daddy Zach can speak again.
  • This is crazy stuff. It trends well throughout Judea (#babyJohnny) and everyone follows @JohnB to see what he'll do next.
  • The Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, who prophesizes, just like his wife did earlier (glance back at 1:41).
  • Wake up! Here's another super important poem known as the "Benedictus" (1:68-79). Luke likes throwing these bones to us readers.
  • Zechariah says: the God of Israel is a Jolly Good Fellow.
  • The reason? God's paying Israel a visit and working redemption for his people.
  • What kind of redemption? Well, God is raising a high-stakes roller from old king David's house who will deliver Israel from their opponents.
  • It's happening right here, right now. It's exactly what the prophets foresaw and God promised to Abraham (take a look at Genesis 22:16-18 and 26:3).
  • Israel will be free and fearless, able to serve God with holiness and justice their whole lives.
  • Zechariah now addresses his words to his newborn baby, whose destiny is to be a prophet who will prepare the way of Lord (Zechariah's alluding to Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3).
  • Baby Johnny will also one day enlighten Israel with the knowledge of the deliverance that comes when their stupid errors are forgiven. God's mercy is the engine behind all of this.
  • Fast forward a bit: Baby Johnny grows up and becomes a spiritual heavyweight in the desert.
  • Now it's Mary's turn again.
  • Grab a Root Beer and puzzle out these dates. Luke places the birth of Jesus in "those days" (2:1)—the days of King Herod's reign over all of Judea and Galilee (40-4 BCE), when Caesar Augustus was the Roman emperor (27 BCE-14 CE).
  • Luke says that there was an empire-wide census during these years, specifically at the time when Quirinius was in charge of Syria.
  • But there are two big problems: (1) No empire-wide census is mentioned in any other source, although smaller-scale regional census-registrations did in fact occur from time to time. (2) Quirinius was active as the governor of Syria starting in 6-7 CE, about eight years after King Herod's death, at which time Quirinius did undertake a census. But the dates simply do not jive. How "accurately" (remember 1:3) does Luke write? Stew on that for a while.
  • Back to the story: Everyone goes to the city of their birth for the registration.
  • Joseph and Mary, who is still pregnant, depart from Nazareth for Bethlehem, which is King David's hometown.
  • In Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to Jesus, wraps him up all nice and cozy, and puts him in a trough because all the accommodations typically provided for travelers were booked.
  • At night, a heavenly messenger appears to local shepherds, who are very afraid, just like Zechariah and Mary were (1:12, 28). After all, everything's glowing with "the glory of the Lord" (2:9). The angel's like a super-worldly glow stick.
  • The angel tells them not to worry because he's bringing them good news.
  • There's been born in David's city (a.k.a. Bethlehem) one serious little baby, who bears some bigwig titles: Savior, Christ (a.k.a. Messiah, who's supposed to repair the broken world), and Lord.
  • Take a second to enjoy the shocking fact that a newborn baby is described this way. This cute little guy is still drooling and pooping in his swaddling clothes.
  • Suddenly, the whole angelic Marine Corps appears shouting acclamations to the Commander in Chief. Glory! Peace!
  • After the heavenly troop withdraws, the shepherds decide to make the trek to Bethlehem in order to witness this major event for themselves.
  • When they find the situation exactly as the otherworldly messenger described it, the shepherds tell Mary and Joseph what they heard about this kid.
  • After eight days, the baby is circumcised just like baby Johnny (1:59), and the kid is named Jesus, just as Gabriel instructed in 1:31.
  • Several days later, Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus to the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, they are very careful to act in accordance with the Torah. For the laws they're following here, look over Leviticus 12:2-8 and Exodus 13:2, 12, and 15.
  • In the temple, there's a guy named Simeon who is very devoutly expecting that great things are in store for his country.
  • He's filled with the Holy Spirit, like Elizabeth and Zechariah before him (rewind to 1:41 and 67). Whenever the Holy Spirit crops up, we better pay attention because something important is about to happen. It's like one of those flashing signs in Las Vegas.
  • It turns out that the Holy Spirit had informed Simeon that he wouldn't die until laying his eyes upon God's Messiah.
  • When he sees Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the temple, Simeon embraces the child and gives a shout-out to God.
  • He tells God that God can let him die now, for he's seen God's Messiah just like the Holy Spirit had told him. This kid will mean salvation for Israel and other nations, and will also be a kind of flashlight that will help even non-Jews find their way.
  • Mary and Joseph's jaws drop open at these words.
  • Simeon tells them that they're pretty good, too. Then he tells Mary that this kid will lead many people in Israel to fall and rise.
  • The baby's going to cause a lot of arguments, and the deepest, most private thoughts of many people will come to the surface. Even Mary's own soul will be run through by a sword.
  • Um, ouch.
  • Also in the temple is a prophetess named Anna, an eighty-four-year-old widow who had spent many years after the death of her husband praying and fasting around the clock.
  • Like Simeon, Anna gives a shout-out to God and starts to tell everyone there all about baby Jesus.
  • After performing everything required of them by the Torah, Mary and Joseph return to their home in Nazareth of Galilee.
  • The little guy grows up, eats his Wheaties, and fills up with wisdom and favor from God.

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