Jesus is the Son of Man:
Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist
Good Moring! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Luke. If you do not have or own a Bible, we would be happy to give you one as our gift to you.
Last time I was up here, we were introduced to Doctor Luke and his Gospel. We saw who Luke was, when he wrote this Gospel and why he wrote it. One of the things we learned about Luke is that he is a storyteller. He was a researcher. He was a historian and he was an investigator.
And in that, one of the things that makes Luke’s Gospel different is that he does go into more details and shares more stories and more of the stories than the other Gospels. We see that here in, basically all of Luke chapter 1, stories from before the birth of Christ.
Here, in his research and investigations, Luke recognizes that John the Baptist was vital, it was integral to the whole story of Jesus Christ. The story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christs starts with the birth and life of John the Baptist.
After the book of Malachi, after his prophecies, there was 400 years of silence from God. No prophecies, no nothing. Israel was waiting. It was a dark time. And though Jesus Christ would be the dawn, the light breaking through the darkness, John the Baptist was the one who told us, let us know that the light was coming.
And today, Luke is going to introduce the parents of John and show how the hand of God started moving again after waiting 400 years. In chapter 1 here, Luke would compare and contrast the coming of and the birth of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.
And he sees that this story is important to tell to Theophilus because he wants to show him that God is in control. He is sovereign and he ordains the timing of the births of those in this world. As one commentator points out, these are not just coincidences that God uses to achieve his plans, but he ordains and orchestrates and orders it all according to his will.
So, let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 1, verses 5-25. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bibles and follow along in your translation. Reading the Word for yourself is so very important. Luke 1:5-25, Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.
Luke starts with some details that help add gravity and authenticity to his writings. In the day of Herod, King of Judah. That’s when this story takes place. This Herod, which is a title more than it is a name, ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC. He was under the Roman government, but he was nominally the King of the Jews. He was in authority over Judah at this time. We are going to hear more about him in the coming weeks as well.
In those days, a man named Zechariah was a priest. There were many, many priests in those days. The Old Testament divides up the priests into 24 divisions. Each division had many priests. I’ve seen numbers up to 8000 priests each. They would take turns and each division would serve at the temple for two, one-week periods each year. During that week, they would draw lots to see each day which priest would enter the holiest part of the temple, light incense and pray, one in the morning and one in the evening. Most priests would not have the opportunity to be picked for this job even once in their lifetime.
Zechariah was married to a woman named Elizabeth, also of the priestly line of Aaron, considered a double blessing in those days. They were both righteous and blameless in their walk with the LORD. This is of course, not the same as being sinless, but meaning that they were godly and upright, they were walking with the LORD.
So, we know that it was not because of something that they had done that God struck them childless. Children in those days were regarded as “Gods reward for faithful service.” And so, Zechariah and Elizabeth would have been looked at, whispered about, even gossiped about in their town. They look like they are living right, but God won’t give them a child so they must be sinning somehow…
As we see with Jobs friends as well, this is poor theology and poor assumptions. God chooses, not we earn. They were barren, like we often we see throughout scriptures. Abraham and Sarah. Hannah, whose prayer we heard this morning. So many more, and not barren as a punishment, but barren so Gods miraculous power could be shown and observed. They were not barren because they sinned, but barren to bring glory to God.
This is a very real struggle that so many couples deal with on a daily basis today. Knowing that God is in control can help, but it doesn’t fully take away the pain, the disappointment. If this is something you have struggled with, please don’t misunderstand me and think that is what I am saying. But Zechariah and Elizabeth did show that you can have that pain and disappointment and still be content with and faithful to the LORD.
And as we are going to see, they never stopped praying either. IF there is something you have been praying for and its been years, or longer, don’t stop praying. I’m not telling you that God definitively say Yes to the prayer, but throughout scripture we see God tell us to keep praying. No matter what, don’t stop praying. God will answer. It may be Yes; it may be No, or it may be Later. But he will answer.
Zechariah went for one of his weeks of service to the Temple in Jerusalem. This time God cause the lot to fall his way and Zechariah was chosen for one of, if not the greatest honor of his life. Definitely the greatest honor of his professional life. He was chosen to enter the temple and light the incense and pray. The rest of the priests waited outside and prayed while the priest was inside.
While Zechariah was inside, after he lit the incense and while he was praying, he got the surprise of his life. Gabriel, whom we just saw as we went through Daniel, had appeared and was standing in front of him. For those who are further interested, Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Luke, looks into the parallels of Gabriel and his appearances in both Luke and Daniel.
I want us to notice how Zechariah reacted upon seeing Gabriel. Fear. Awe. These are the appropriate responses to an encounter with an angel. This is what we see in Daniel. This is what we see here with Zechariah. This is what we see throughout scripture. And that’s how it should be. Angels are heavenly beings who serve and reflect the glory of God. The Glory of God is so great that it cannot help but cause us to fall down in awe and fear.
Gabriel tells him, do not be afraid Your prayers have been heard! What prayers is he referring to? Well, there are three options. First, it could be referring to the prayer that Zechariah and Elizabeth have been praying for years. The prayer for a baby, for a child. Or it was the prayer that Zechariah, as priest was likely praying in there, the prayer for Israel, for renewal, for restoration, for deliverance, for God to start speaking again, for the coming Messiah.
Both of those would be answered right here, leading me ( and many theologians) to believe that Zechariah was praying for both of those things there inside the holiest part of the temple and that Gabriel was referring to both of those prayers.
He tells Zechariah that he is going to have a boy, a son. Finally, a child! His name will be John. We get deeper into the life and ministry of John here in a few weeks. But Zechariah is to rejoice and be glad! John will play a major role in Gods plans. He will lead the way for the coming messiah. Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be great before the LORD. God chose John for a very specific mission, for a very specific purpose, just like He has for each and every one of us. And John would not disappoint.
Gabriel told Zechariah that John was not to drink wine or strong drinks. This leads many commentators to believe that John was a Nazarite. This was the vow or the lifestyle or whatever that Samson had in Judges as well. Like John, an angel told Samson’s parents before birth that he would be born and be held to these standards. However, Samson was told clearly and along with no wine or strong drink, it was spelled out that he could not cut his hair or touch any dead bodies. We don’t see that with John, so while he very well may have been held to the Nazarite vow, we have no actual scriptural evidence for that.
Gabriel continues and says something quite remarkable and even more so for that time. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even within the womb. John is the only person in scripture that we see this with. And he is the first person to receive the Holy Spirit in the New Testament manner. By the way, this is a great pro-life passage, as it shows Johns personhood in the womb, it shows him named, and it shows him holy spirit filled and already known by God.
You know, I was reading a lot this week about Zechariah and I’m also reflecting on the words and behaviors and attitudes of many Christians online and in real life as we ramp up another election season and in one of the sermons on Luke that I read I saw this line. “Sometimes, Gods people, they talk to much and the wait to little.” Zechariah absolutely should have heeded this. LORD knows I need to heed this at times! I exhort each of you to look in yourselves and see if this is something that you need to work on as well. Is it true, is it edifying, is it holy and pure? No? Then don’t say it.
Zechariah says what he says though. How can this be? I’m old! Like really old! And so is my wife! Like Really old! He disbelieved the Supernatural power of God. He did not believe that God could do for he and his wife what he did for Abraham and Sarah. What he did for Hannah, what he does every day for countless couple.
I appreciate what the commentator pointed out, however, what we all need to remember and that’s grace for Zechariah and grace for those around us who say stupid things, who spout off, who dont think before they speak. We know that this event was preceded by and followed by a lifetime of walking with God, being blameless and upright. This was a slip. It was a stupid, fleeting moment and this moment should not define Zechariahs life and define who he was. Just like Peters three denials of Christ, this is a moment in their lives where the sanctification hits a snag, it happens to all of us. If you say it doesn’t, your lying.
Of course, as we see, to say that there should be grace does not mean that there will not be consequences and repercussions. Gabriel responds to Zechariah, telling him who he is and that he is speaking for God right now. How dare Zechariah question him!
We know that there are right ways and wrong ways to question God. Examples such as Mary and Job were just fine in how they ask questions of God. Examples such as Sarah and Zechariah show how not to respond when God promises to do the impossible.
John Piper reminds us that its not wrong to want evidence, but it is wrong to demand signs beyond what a humble and open heart would require. Mary asked, “How can this be? She was asking for an explanation because she couldn’t understand. Zechariah asked, how can I know this? He was asking for evidence because he couldn’t believe. I believe That’s the difference.
And the consequence for not believing the words of God was that John would now be silent, he would now be mute until after John is born. John spoke when he shouldn’t have and said what he shouldn’t have, and this was the repercussions.
Now, while all this was going on, the other priests were outside waiting for Zechariah to come out and lead the closing prayer. But when he came out, he obviously couldn’t. All he could do was motion around and it was clear to the other priests that Zechariah had seen a vision. Once the week was over, and this division of priests were done with their service, Zechariah went home.
Elizabeth became pregnant and she kept away from everyone and everywhere for 5 months. After waiting that long to have a child, she was soaking up every possible moment, sensation and experience she could. And she may have been afraid to tell people because she wasn’t sure if her body would be able to keep the baby. Remember Zachariah couldn’t tell her what the angel said, so she didn’t have the promise that he was given. As she prayed, she says that the LORD took away her reproach.
No one would be able to look down on them and wonder what hidden sin was in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. No more whispers or glances. They were redeemed. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you have done, where you are from, God gives life where there otherwise would be no life. He did it by putting a baby in Elizabeth’s womb and he does it every time someone responds to him in faith, he brings them out of spiritual and everlasting death and in to spiritual and everlasting life.
God does that for us. He takes away our reproach, our shame. He takes our unrighteousness and replaces it with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Perfect God and Perfect man. John comes to tell of him, to make smooth the way of the LORD. To prepare Gods people to know God. Christ came to save sinners.
God gives salvation freely by his own grace which he pours out on us by the faith that he gives us in his Son, Jesus Christ. He gives it freely to those who respond to his calling and who do so by faith.
However momentary, Zechariah, when given the answer to his prayers, when faced with the miraculous and the supernatural, lacked faith. Don’t follow his example. Faith is the vehicle that God uses to pour out his saving grace. Jesus says in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The one being sent, of course, is Jesus Christ.
I will close this sermon with an exhortation, in the words of Philip Graham Ryken, who closes his commentary on this passage with these words:
This is what God always wants from us: faith. He wants us to take him at his word. So whatever God says, believe it! He has said that Jesus died and rose again, so believe in the crucifixion and the resurrection. He has said that he will forgive anyone who comes to him trusting in Jesus; so, if you are a sinner, believe in Jesus and know that your sins are forgiven. God has said that he will never leave you or forsake you; so whatever troubles you are facing, believe that God will help you to the very end. He has also said that Jesus is coming again to judge the world. If this is what God has said, then we need to get ready by turning away from sin and trusting in Jesus.
Amen! Let’s Pray!