Theophilus and Zechariah
(Luke 1:1-17)

Father God we thank you that you first of all gave us your Son to die for our sins. Help us as we study your servant Luke's gospel to see more of Jesus, learn more of Him and draw even closer to Him. Clear our minds of the stress of the day and help us to focus on your Word. Father help us to grasp an understanding of the marvelous plan of salvation that you put into action before the world was created. Let us appreciate your timing and planning to bring about our deliverance from the kingdom of satan. Father we desire a fresh glimpse of Jesus! A fresh anointing of your Spirit. Help us be more like you.

satan we come against you in the mighty Name of Jesus and bind you and rebuke you and cast you out of this room! We come against any plans you've made for disruption or dissention in Jesus Name!

Holy Spirit we invite you to be our teacher, and help us be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. In Jesus Name AMEN. Praise You Father, Thank You for loving us, In the Name of Jesus. AMEN

The Gospel of Luke is one of my favorite books. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do. It was written specifically for non-Jews, or Gentiles, or pagans, and presents Jesus as the perfect man, our ideal. It is the longest book in the New Testament, and along with Acts, which Luke also wrote, makes up about 25% of the whole New Testament.

First, for the introduction to the book. Luke is called a Gospel, which means good news, from the old English godspell, and a translation of the Greek euangelion. It was a new form of writing developed by Christians to record the "good news" about Christ.

There are four gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and are composed of scenes and sayings from Jesus' life remembered by His disciples and passed on, probably word for word. Each gospel was written by a different author and has a different purpose and audience. On my web site I post the notes of each study and additional materials that may help in your understanding.

On the web site, I'll post a table comparing the four gospels. Basically Luke is writing to a Gentile audience - that's most of us. The rest of the books in the New Testament, except for Revelation, are letters, also called epistles, which were written from one of the apostles to other Christians. Revelation is a book of prophecy. Most scholars attribute the book of Hebrews to Paul, but whoever wrote it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and most likely an apostle. Luke was smart, but the writer of Hebrews was very familiar with the temple worship, and Luke was a Gentile - couldn't participate. Paul is the best candidate in my opinion, but let's go on...

The four gospels were a new writing format developed to record the life of Jesus. They were different from any thing written previously. The theme of the Gospel of Luke is the nature of Jesus' Messiahship and mission, particularly as it relates to Gentile believers. Jewish believers were included too - because one of Luke's goals was to show that Jesus came to save us all, Jew, Gentile, poor, rich, slave, free, etc!

The key verse is 19:10 - "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Praise the Lord! I was lost, and He came and sought me out and saved me! How about you!

Luke is the most complete Gospel: it covers the life of Jesus from His forerunner (John the Baptist) to His ascension up to Heaven. The purpose of Luke was to write a historically accurate and chronologically correct account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, from the forerunner of the Messiah to His ascension into Heaven, so that his readers should be well grounded in their faith, "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught".

Lioness - Since Luke was a physician, he seemed to write in a more exact style; med people observe, record and report...He did too!

The key word is "Son of Man". "The term "Son of man" is used 26 times. It speaks of more than just the Lord's humanity in contrast to His deity, "Son of God." It means He is the perfect, ideal Man, the true representative of the whole human race." Now Luke wrote primarily to the Greeks, and one of the most important parts of Greek culture was the search for the ideal man. Luke was attempting to show them that Jesus was that ideal they were searching for.

vali - Luke also had a purpose.. to show that Christ was not only divine but also human

The author is Luke, Paul's beloved physician, probably a Gentile by birth from Antioch in Syria. He most likely went to school in the nearest university, which was in Tarsus, Paul's hometown. Luke was well educated in Greek culture, and a companion and friend of Paul. We don't know when they met for the first time, but by the time Paul started his missionary journeys, Luke was his companion and friend. We also don't know when Luke became a Christian.

Along with the book of Acts, the Gospel of Luke was addressed to most excellent Theophilus, "lover of God", who was a wealthy Roman patron of Luke and publisher and distributor of this work, and a government official. Luke may have been a former slave, who was trained as a physician and then freed by his master. Names ending in as (Lucas) were particularly common among slaves. He may have even been born in the household of Theophilus, a wealthy government official in Antioch. One of Luke's themes is the poor and suffering, which may be a reflection of such a childhood. We don't know that for sure, but it would explain his compassion for the suffering. When I know something to be a fact, I'll tell you. A lot of what we know about Luke as a person is speculation and educated guesses.

Lioness - Old Timer...People only had first names back then and only one with Jesus as well. Can you explain "Christ" for the newer ones?

Jesus was His Name. It comes from the Hebrew Joshua or Yeshua, meaning salvation. Christ (Greek Christos) or Messiah (Hebrew Mashiah) means "anointed one" and it is His Title. Messiah (Mashiah, Hebrew) and Christ (Christos, Greek) both mean "anointed one" and refers to the fact that our savior would be anointed by God's power by the Holy Spirit, as the Old Testament kings and prophets were. And Lord (Greek, Kyrios) means master, because God has exalted Him to be ruler of all things. Jesus is the Name of our savior, Christ is His title, and Lord is His position of authority.

Lioness - Christ means "The Anointed Savior" Anointed means to pour or smear. It also represents smashing yokes and removing burdens... So...Christ means, "Burden bearing, yoke destroying One who paints or pours His spirit on others"

Luke 1:1-2 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

Apparently other Christians had begun to record what the apostles remembered of Jesus' words and deeds. The Gospel of Mark may have been among several sources Luke had available when he wrote his "orderly account" (Luke 1:3) of Jesus ministry Luke himself did not witness the events in his Gospel. He is a historian that interviewed the ones that did. He IS an eyewitness to a lot in Acts though.

Luke was a physician and accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, and also went with Paul when he was arrested and imprisoned in Rome. He also had access to many eyewitnesses to the life and sayings of Jesus, including the apostles and Mary. The Greek for eyewitness is autoptai, seeing with one's own eyes, the same root word for autopsy. Many great attorneys and judges have studied this Gospel and say that the eyewitness evidence that Luke presents would hold up in any court in the land.

Shimmer - an after-the-fact Apostle?? why did I always think he was a direct witness to the events preceding Acts?

Shimmer, it's because Luke was so faithful in reporting what the eyewitnesses told him. It's as if he (and we) are really there! Luke himself was an eyewitness and participant in many of the events recorded in the book of Acts, as evidenced by the "we passages", where the narrative changes from they did so and so to "we did".

Luke had three sources - accounts already written (such as Mark), the eyewitnesses he interviewed, and the "servants of the word".

"Servants of the Word" refers to those disciples who memorized the details of Jesus' sayings and life and passed them on. They were people with a special function as tradition bearers, who passed on fixed truths about Christ with the approval of the Apostles and had a special ministry before the gospels were written. This verse specifically referred to a special group of believers who memorized and passed down Jesus' sayings until the gospels were written down.

Luke was probably from either Caesarea or Rome from 59 to 80 AD. Now this wasn't a large stretch of time - from 30-50 years after the events until the Gospel of Luke was written, and the Gospel of Mark was probably written even earlier. Some critics say that these servants of the word were not reliable witnesses in passing on Jesus sayings.

"Oriental disciples learned by committing their masters' words and actions to memory for imitation". Jewish rabbis taught their students to memorize the Law by repeating it over and over until they got it perfect. So did other teachers of that day. They were trained to memorize things in a way our educational system has lost, sad to say. The servants of the word did not write it down, they passed on Jesus sayings verbally.

"Been fulfilled among us" - The life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and of the expectations of the Jews for the coming Messiah. Can you imagine how exciting this would have been - to see prophecy fulfilled before your very eyes!

Luke 1:3-4 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

So Luke personally investigated these things and wrote an account of them. As a physician, "used his skills of minute observation and interview to give us precise accounts" of the events. Luke has been found to be a dedicated and truthful historical writer by modern critics and therefore on a judicial/historical level, a trustworthy account.


Roman Citizen*

Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts to Theophilus, who probably paid to have them published. We don't know who "Theophilus" was for certain. It was a common Greek name from theos - God and phileo - love. "Most excellent" suggests that he was a Roman or Greek aristocrat (ruler), highly educated, wealthy, and probably a recent convert to Christianity. The name also symbolizes all those who read this book to learn more about Jesus. Wouldn't it be wonderful if your life was so full of the love of God that you came to be called Theophilus too?

Luke wrote this account for Theophilus so that "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" Luke 1:1-4 is in the form of a traditional Greek literary prologue. Greek historians always had an introductory paragraph explaining the writer's purpose and methods. It was also customary to dedicate it to a personal friend and/or influential acquaintance.

The rest of the chapter is distinctively Hebrew in style and content. However Luke makes a point of describing Jewish customs in detail, so a Gentile could understand them. It must have puzzled his Gentile readers a bit to go from a classical introduction to an account of offering incense at the Jewish temple!

Luke's research and study does not in any way lessen the concept of inspiration for his gospel. It was the Holy Spirit who guided him and kept him from error. The Greek word anothen in verse 3 translated "from the beginning" or "from the first", literally means "from above" and implies inspiration as well as accuracy.

Now Luke gets into the story. We're looking at it verse by verse, but take some time to read it in its entirety soon, so you won't lose the overall meaning of it. Imagine you are there in the temple, offering incense to God, and all of a sudden, an angel shows up!

Luke 1:5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.

One thing that sets Luke apart as a writer is his attention to historical detail, relating his gospel to events going on in the Gentile world. This not only placed the story in a historical setting, but separated it from the myths in the mist of time that were told in other religions of that day. And also has validated his gospel today, as more and more of the details he provided are found to be true and accurate through archaeological and textural studies.

Herod the Great ruled Judea from 40 to 4 BC. He is NOT the same Herod that judged Jesus towards the end of His life. But was the ruler when the events in Luke 1-2 occurred. And the one that Jesus family fled to Egypt to escape.

There were several Herods; that's why it's so confusing. It was almost a title, like pharoah. Herod the Great 37-4 BC was succeeded by three of his sons, who split the Kingdom. Herod Antipas, King of Galilee and Perea 4 BC-39 AD, Philip 4 BC-AD 34, Tetrarch of Itruaea and Tachonitis, and Archelaus Tetrarch of Judea, 4 BC and 6 AD. Herod Antipas was the one who tried Jesus, and who killed John the Baptist.

Now somebody made a mistake when our calendar was formed, and instead of Jesus being born in the year 0, He was actually born from 5-4 BC when Herod ruled. In the 6th century AD when the Christian calendar, which reckoned time before and after the birth of Jesus, replaced the old Roman Calendar, which dated from the founding of Rome (753 BC) the monk Dionysius Exiguus made an error of at least four years.

So we are introduced to a wicked ruler and two godly people - Zechariah who was a priest and his wife Elizabeth. A priest offered sacrifices for the people's sins in the Old Testament, and also offered up thank offerings and prayer offerings in the temple at Jerusalem.

Lioness - Priests came from the Tribe of Levi - which we no longer need, because we have the REAL one.

Both Zechariah and his wife were of priestly descent. Zechariah belonged to the 8th priestly division (Abijah) of 24 of the tribe of Levi. King David had established these divisions to make things more orderly and proper.

Luke 1:6-7 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

"Well advanced in years" means "bent over". Although Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright and blameless, they had no children. To the Pharisee, this barrenness was a sign that God was displeased with them, as divine disfavor and disgrace. But Luke tells us that was not the case.

vali - PRIESTS weren't thought of as some kind of gods were they?

No vali, priests were not Gods in the Jewish religion (maybe in some pagan ones), but they were ordained of God to intercede on behalf of the people, so they were honored and looked up to for that.

Lioness - No...They were just "set apart" like our ministers are today, vali.

They were expected to live a life of holiness, because they were responsible for the people's receiving remission of their sins. The Old Testament priests aren't the same as priests today. For one thing, we no longer offer sacrifices and the Temple no longer exists.

Sometimes in our lives, we will be criticized by those who think they speak for God, and they will point to problems in our lives as evidence that God does not love us. If you know that you are serving and loving God to the best of your ability, know that obstacles, adverse circumstances and problems are in your life to bring Him glory, IN GOD'S TIMING.

God didn't make Zechariah and Elizabeth barren to punish them for some transgression, as the Pharisees thought, but IN HIS TIMING, he wanted to bless them, AND Israel, AND us! God ALWAYS answers the prayers of His children. Sometimes He says, YES, sometimes NO. I think the hardest answer to prayer is WAIT .I'm sure that Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for children for years.

Luke 1:8-9 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

April - Boy ain't that true!!!!!!!!! WAIT BE PATEINT Only so he can grow our fruit *S*........one of the fruits of the spirit is patience… yeah I said someting and learned from it myself

Most priests lived outside of Jerusalem in the Judean countryside, and traveled to Jerusalem for a week each six months to serve their division's turn in the temple. Since there were many of them, duties were chosen by lot, and offering incense was usually a once in a lifetime honor! Placing incense on the altar was symbolic of the prayers of God's people.


Herod's (The Great) Temple*

Luke 1:10-12 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.

Now try to picture this. The people were outside the temple praying. Zechariah goes in to offer incense. The people were waiting for him to return and pronounce a blessing on them. Zechariah expected to go in, offer the incense and come out. All of a sudden an angel appeared to the right of the incense altar.

The appearance of heavenly visitors in the Bible always gripped the one visited with fear, possibly because of their awesome appearance in glowing white garments. Not only was Zechariah startled because he was supposed to be alone, but there must have been something awesome about this angel's appearance! There are two types of fear in the Bible: fear as reverent awe of God's holiness and fear as a spirit of timidity and apprehension.

We kind of take approaching the throne of grace for granted. But before Jesus, no one had that right, and they had an awesome reverence and fear of God's power. They didn't really expect a visitation from God or His messengers to turn out in their favor!

don & lonestar59 - well I know what all I've done wrong.....I'd be scared because I'd know I was about to be held accountable

Look at some of the things that happened in the Old Testament - such as a destroying angel killing the first born of Egypt, or destroying the five cities of the plain with fire and brimstone. We see angels as little chubby cherubs that flitter around. But, Zechariah well knew of the angels of the Lord's army, mighty warriors not to be trifled with!

Which brings me to the popularity of "angels" today. Beware of all the "angel stories" that circulate today. First of all, test what these "angels" say and do by the Word. All angelic visitations are not from God.

Shimmer - and thank you, OT for that warning--so VERY true!

2 Corinthians 11: 13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

You can go into the religion or "New Age" section of any bookstore and find dozens of books on angels. But what you need to ask is, WHOSE angel are YOU? Also, test who is doing the witnessing. What are their motives? What are their beliefs? Be aware of those who will try to seduce you to WORSHIP angels:

I Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons [fallen angels].

Shimmer - OT--that's like "testing the spirits"...right?

Right Shimmer! Test all things by the Word.

Colossians 2:18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.

This sends a shiver up my spine, folks! The deceptions of satan are coming closer to the real thing. If you don't know the Word, know the Word, know the Word, you can get sucked right in!!!!!

Shimmer - OT-that's because satan knows the Word a whole lot better than most Christians do... in a heart beat

The point is, we do need to focus on Christ! And a true angel will never bring honor to himself, but will always testify of Jesus. This is one test to see if it is a godly angel or demon.

4GVN - Amen to that OT. It's just sad nowadays angels are given more importance than the message it brings

That IS the point 4gvn, not to get caught up into angel worship! Worship God!

David P - Galatians chapter 1 verse 8 "but if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you let him be accursed"

Thanks David! Another place that tells us to test "angelic wisdom" by the Word or gospel!

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John."

But godly messengers always reassure the hearer not to fear. The priest offering up incense offered up the traditional prayer for the deliverance of Israel from oppression. Zechariah was probably also thinking of his personal prayer for a child, which had not been answered. And this angel gave some awesome news. The elderly Zachariah and Elizabeth were to have a son named John. John (Hebrew Johanan) means "God is gracious".

Luke 1:14-15 "He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth [from his mother's womb]. "

All babies are (or should be) a joy and a delight, especially one as longed for as John was. Notice how many times joy or rejoice is mentioned in this chapter. But this was a special child that would bring rejoicing to many outside of his family, and he was going to be "great in the sight of the Lord".

Now when we meet John the Baptist later in Luke, he was NOT great in the sight of some, especially those to whom he preached repentance. But what is important with John, and with us, is to be great in the sight of the Lord. Jesus is the one we need to be concerned about pleasing, not man.

Being great in the sight of the Lord. That's my prayer, for you and myself as well. Lord let us not get caught up in trying to please men, or get sidetracked by someone's visions or angelic visitations, but concentrate on pleasing you!

David P - don't look to any thing but the head of the body which is Christ

Remember to read the whole chapter to get an insight into the whole story.

Thank you Lord for this study. Help us to be doers of the word and not hearers only!

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice!

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*Picture Source: Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger's Bible Handbook. Revised by Gary N Larson. Moody Press, Chicago, 1966: 1984.
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