Birth Announcement

From our current sermon series on Luke.

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5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, 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.”

Luke 1:5-25

Neither to the Top nor the Side

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“Jesus did not go to the top (to Caesar or Pilate) to get things changed; nor did he go to the left (to the Zealots). He went instead to the poor and sinners, offering forgiveness and deliverance and calling them into a community whose life was to embody God’s will.”

Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2002), 27–28.

In Mary’s Own Words

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Luke 1:46–55 (ESV)

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48  for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

49  for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50  And his mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

51  He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

52  he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

53  he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

54  He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

55  as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Zechariah and Elizabeth

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Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren; Israel was barren. The childlessness of a godly couple in their old age is mirrored by the spiritual dryness of the of the people of God. Israel had not heard a prophetic voice for centuries. No man living could recall hearing a prophet. Zechariah, an Aaronic priest who is chosen by lot, burns incense at the hour of prayer. It  is then he is met by Gabriel, who announces the birth of a son, who is to be named John. All of his and Elizabeth’s hopes and prayers were answered, although Zechariah cannot believe it. He is struck silent. The reproach upon Israel was soon to be lifted, just as the reproach of childlessness was from Elizabeth.

It may seem odd that Luke spends so much time on the birth story of the forerunner of Christ. It does not seem so odd, however, when the greater story is considered: a priest, of the tribe of Levi is burning incense in the temple, according to the Law, following the centuries-old ceremonies that demand repetition daily. During this temple ministry, a son is promised, but not one who will be a priest like his father. John will be a prophet, in the spirit of Elijah; the first prophet in centuries. Something new is coming.

Note also that John, of the tribe of Levi, will prepare the way for the final High Priest (Hebrews, chapters 5-8), the Saviour, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Levi gives way to Judah. Someone New has come.

In that same Holy Place in Herod’s great temple, Zechariah receives the first indications that the temple system is not eternal, but shall be declared irrelevant in the Kingdom of God. John will not carry on the temple traditions, but announce a new atoning sacrifice in Christ. Levi gives way to Judah.

In all of Christ’s ministry there is no miraculous sign or event in the temple, until the last day of the temple’s place in God’s economy: “ . . . And the curtain of the temple was torn in two” Luke 23:45. Jesus taught that the temple is to be destroyed. Because of the cross, its purpose is finally complete. It can now serve no other purpose. Limited access to God, restricted to the priesthood, is over. Access now is for “. . .  as many as were appointed to eternal life . . . (Acts 13:48).

The ceremonial Law is now complete, and the old covenant is ratified.

In a ceremony in the Holy Place, the end of the Holy Place is foretold.

Luke the Historian

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”

W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 222.

.Ramsay 1

“I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice.”

W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 89.

Ramsay 2

Lord’s Day Fifteen

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Question 37
What do you understand by the words, “He suffered”?

That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

1 Peter 2:2 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

1 Peter 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

Question 38
Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate, as judge”?

That he, being innocent, and yet condemned by a temporal judge, might thereby free us from the severe judgement of God to which we were exposed.

John 18:38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Matthew 27:24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

Acts 4:28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Luke 23:14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.

Luke 23:15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.

John 19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”

Psalm 69:4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Question 39
Is there anything more in his being “crucified”, than if he had died some other death?

Yes there is; for thereby I am assured, that he took on him the curse which lay upon me; for the death of the cross was accursed of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Deuteronomy 21:23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

“You have heard . . . but Scripture Says”

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“Evangelicals who would catechize today need to properly identify the appropriate “vis-à-vis” for their own catechetical ministries. In other words, when we say, in effect, “You have heard that it was said … but the Scriptures say to you” we need to be clear about the influences that have been speaking into the lives of our congregants. Catechesis must always be attentive to the counter-catechesis at work in our lives. Earlier we dealt with the causes and consequences of the uncatechized church. In reality, however, all our members actually have been catechized—thoroughly so—in competing worldviews.

. . .

As we suggested in the previous chapter, catechesis typically has a built-in contrast: “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you.” That is, in order to more clearly illustrate the truth of the Gospel we need to highlight p 192 the counterclaims of the competing cultures. In every age and culture there are false -isms—beliefs and worldviews that fly in the face of God’s revelation in Christ. Examples in our own age might include such -isms as materialism, godless humanism, religious pluralism, and so on. In faithful and fruitful ministries of preaching, teaching, counseling, and liturgy as well as through the hymns and songs we sing, we must identify and challenge these with the potent, liberating, universal, and unchanged truth of God’s Word.”

J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 162, 191–192.