Today, Luke begins Jesus’s story in a surprising place, not with the story of Mary and Joseph but with the story of Zechariah. Join the Pastors for a conversation about the priesthood, what it means, how it connects Jesus with the Old Testament prophets, and much more!
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00:00:00:45 – 00:00:29:34
Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us. Welcome back. Continuing through the gospel of Luke today, verse eight of the first chapter Yesterday, we were introduced to Zachariah Elizabeth, and today we learn why we were introduced to them. Reading from verse eight here for a little bit. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by Lord, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense.
00:00:30:07 – 00:00:53:33
Now, at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of people was praying outside. Then there appeared an angel to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zacharias saw him, he was terrified and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zachariah. For your prayer has been heard.
00:00:54:09 – 00:01:18:14
Your wife Elizabeth, will bear you a son. And you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness. And many will rejoice at his birth. For 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. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord.
00:01:18:14 – 00:01:40:22
Their God with 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. So we get this behind the scenes look and we run into some typical themes in the Gospel of Luke.
00:01:40:49 – 00:02:07:17
One is particular to the Christmas season, the Christmas stories. It’s one of the features of Luke’s early gospel. It happens later, I suppose, but it’s fundamentally, I think we see it here whenever an angel shows up to do something, the person is terrified. And so in in this early part of Luke, Do not be Afraid is the most common greeting.
00:02:07:39 – 00:02:47:24
It’s the most common Christmas phrase. As we move through the stories, it gets repeated later in the book as well. But it is a standard of the stories that we’re going to be in for the next week or so. Interesting, Michael. He’s doing his job. He’s in the sanctuary. This note that there are people praying outside. And then curiously, while we were told yesterday that Elizabeth and Zacharias didn’t have children here, we learn that that has been on Zacharias heart, that we have heard your prayers, God has heard your prayers.
00:02:47:42 – 00:03:07:42
We weren’t told at this point that they were expecting or asking anything like that. We don’t know if this is recent, if this is distant, but we see here that the angel at least connects this announcement with some longing or some wish on Zacharias Elizabeth’s part.
00:03:08:45 – 00:03:35:34
One interesting sort of historical note is here You might have seen at the very beginning that he was serving as a priest chosen by lot to join this church, going to the sanctuary. And it says that he was his section was on duty. My commentary points out that there are 24 groups of priests as that is broken out in First Chronicles 23 and 24.
00:03:35:34 – 00:04:04:28
And so though the exile interrupted that chain of the priesthood and it was a little bit more difficult, it’s still existed in the worshiping life of the people. So there’s a real kind of historical connection to that early Old Testament commitment and pattern that the people of Israel were called to have in their religious life. And so here that is just a fascinating kind of quick look under the circle or into the circle, rather.
00:04:04:28 – 00:04:26:56
You know, I think it’s fascinating. As you’ve already mentioned, we set up that theme that here’s a couple who Luke has gone out of his way to make sure that we know that they’re righteous, they’re not sinful, they are not childless because of something that they’ve done. And now here to hear that Zacharias, too, has had this burden on his heart.
00:04:27:12 – 00:05:01:49
And the idea that the Lord comes and speaks to him, this kind of very real presence, the angel who speaks the voice of promise, even in the midst of this, this difficult circumstance, it once again ties back to that theme of the the fact that God intervenes into circumstances, as we’ve seen in other Old Testament stories here. God makes a visit to say through a messenger that this is going to change, that God’s going to make the righteous man and righteous woman’s life right.
00:05:02:09 – 00:05:17:38
He’s going to correct it. Correct. What was wrong? And it’s a it’s a fascinating text in the sense that we’ve already begin to set out what is the forerunner to who Jesus is and how God’s going to miraculously make that possible.
00:05:17:45 – 00:05:54:46
And we get some of that in the text here. Again, Luke often does not quote Old Testament, but there are references here. So this language about he will be great in the side of the Lord. He will be filled with the spirit. He will turn people of Israel to the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will go before him and we’ve not even been told who him is yet to turn the hearts of parent to the children, disobedience to the wisdom of the righteous and make ready a people prepared for the Lord that that passage is littered with Old Testament allusions.
00:05:54:46 – 00:06:29:47
Old Testament, not word for word quotations in many instances. But so Luke, while not assigning chapter and verse to those things, does in fact lean into the historic story a great deal. And maybe the best place we see it, Michael, is this word. Elijah Remember that in the context of the expectations, Elijah was the prophet who was expected to come back and remember Elijah leaves in a flaming chariot, is drawn up into heaven.
00:06:30:05 – 00:07:03:16
And there was a legend or an expectation that had developed that Elijah was going to return and precede the coming of the Messiah. And so that language becomes borrowed and pointed at in some sense, John the Baptist, not that he is Elijah, but that he fills that role. And we already see it here. We see Luke getting a jump on it, doing that for us, helping us connect those dots even here long before John or Jesus is born.
00:07:03:16 – 00:07:25:55
And, you know, that’s a way that’s kind of typical for Luke, if you know what you’re seeing, if you know what you’re hearing, you will you will be connected to the Old Testament. But unlike Matthew, who says thus said the prophet Isaiah, or thus wrote Jeremiah I or thus proclaim the prophet Luke is less inclined to do that.
00:07:25:55 – 00:07:29:24
There’ll be some of it, but most of it he just let you find on your own.
00:07:30:01 – 00:07:52:49
Well, because a lot of this is connected to the idea that the story continues. It’s not about citing that previous story to make a point like Matthew’s doing. It’s often in cases not even looking to Jesus, who’s citing Old Testament. It’s really Luke. Why just show us that orderly account of Jesus’s life? How he comes, why that’s significant.
00:07:52:49 – 00:08:17:11
And the language here that we have in verse 15 for John, I do think is interesting. He’ll never drink wine or strong drink even for his birth. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit. And this is once again in line with that language that we see in the Old Testament surrounding prophets. The idea of dedication consecrate, John very famously that Nazareth vow that we’re not told here that it would affect his hair.
00:08:17:11 – 00:08:40:26
They can’t cut his hair. We certainly know from other descriptions of John that that may have also applied, that, you know, we know that from the Old Testament, these codes and commitments, the idea of being set apart. And here John, is being very quickly foreshadowed as another prophet. To your point, Clint, to use that language in the line of the great prophets.
00:08:40:26 – 00:09:12:00
And so that’s maybe a surprising turn for us. You would think if you’re going to tell Jesus a story once you start with Jesus, but we may get to that assumption from a very kind of Western view where we think famous people are famous because of who they are. But Luke wants it to be clear that Jesus’s story is a part of this larger story that includes the prophets, that Jesus is fulfilling the the really, in many ways, the hopes and promises of those profits.
00:09:12:00 – 00:09:33:14
And so, John, being the first step that even the miraculous kind of voice to foreshadow John’s ministry is, for us supposed to be a nod to the fact that the one who’s going to come after John is going to be the ultimate prophet, that he’s going to be the one who does what no prophet before could have done.
00:09:33:36 – 00:09:39:46
And so Jesus in many ways then is being built upon the foundation of all the prophets, John being among them.
00:09:39:46 – 00:10:05:58
Yeah. And really, they have to answer this expectation in Israel or among the Israelites that Elijah is the Herald and Luke and the gospel writers have to reframe that to some sense to say that John the Baptist fills that role of Elijah. He he is the Elijah figure, though I’m not aware of anyone who argues that he is in fact, Elijah.
00:10:05:59 – 00:10:35:15
It it changes to say, well, it happens, Elijah does come. But Elijah in this instance isn’t the historic Elijah, it’s the person John the Baptist, who fills the role and heralds the coming of the Messiah as expected, but not who we expected. And that’s some probably not problematic to us. But as the gospel writers are telling the story, they have to be very careful with that.
00:10:35:29 – 00:11:02:15
And as we said yesterday, we know from the amount of scripture dedicated to his story that John the Baptist was a significant figure in first century Judea. He starts a movement. He has people coming to see him. We’re going to get to a lot of those things. But John is a significant part of this story, and particularly in the early part of it for Luke.
00:11:02:29 – 00:11:08:38
So joining us again, kind of helping us get there as he points us along here.
00:11:08:38 – 00:11:35:54
It may be lost on us a little bit, but John was, I think in some ways a problem for the Early Testament New Testament writers, because he represented a person who could be read as competing with Jesus. He could be seen as someone who was sort of vying for religious interest, religious power in the time. And all of the gospel writers who include references to John make it clear that he wasn’t put off by Jesus.
00:11:35:54 – 00:12:01:06
In fact, you know, the clear references that he names Jesus’s arrival and he is humbled in front of Jesus. And that reality, I think, only helps to add color to the story that a person who you might on first glance think is, you know, at worst not helpful for the story or at best, you know, maybe a distraction from the story of Jesus.
00:12:01:46 – 00:12:40:19
Someone like Luke wants us to know that this is an important aspect of the story, that there are people who heralded Jesus’s coming and that those voices, if they were heard, would have point that would have pointed the people to the reality of what God was doing in their midst. And I think it would be easy for us to read past this, and especially next week when we turn to the texts where we’re going to have Zachariah having dialog with this angel and we have the contrast between Zacharias response to God’s Word and what we later see in Mary’s response to God’s Word.
00:12:40:19 – 00:12:57:48
There’s some interesting parallels and contrasts that are happening here, so don’t think that this is only about John is my point. While we’re reading this, we need to store this in the back of our mind because it’s going to be called back to the forefront of our attention once we get into the narrative of Jesus and his birth.
00:12:57:48 – 00:13:06:01
These things are speaking to each other, both in the positive and in the contrasting sense. And we’ll see more of that as we go.
00:13:06:45 – 00:13:28:30
Yeah, And if it feels like we’re not making progress here, you know, these are the opening pages and we’re trying to handle them carefully. This is the very outer layer as we work our way into the story. And the the importance of that is that Luke is setting a foundation here that will ultimately hold up other parts of the story.
00:13:28:30 – 00:13:41:56
So bear with us If it doesn’t feel like we’re making progress quickly. We are trying to set ourselves up for the best way to understand the gospel as we continue through it.
00:13:42:25 – 00:13:49:58
I think that’s well said. I hope you all have a great weekend and we will see you. And we kick off with the next section here in Luke next week.
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