Objectives: By the end of this subtopic learners should be able to:
Narrate the incident when Zacharias was in the Temple.
Relate the annunciation.
Explain the birth narratives.
State and describe the circumcision and presentation ceremony.
Eyewitness wrote the things which were delivered to them.
Luke decided to dedicate his gospel to Theophilus.
Theophilus was a high ranking Roman official who had an interest in Christianity
The meaning of Theophilus is lover of God or a friend of God.
The gospel wants to show the Romans in power that Christianity was not politically motivated but wanted to show his readers that it was just concerned with the life and teachings of Jesus.
Zechariah in the temple (Luke 1:5-25)
Zachariah was a priest who worked in the temple.
Lots were cast to select the priest on duty and it fell on him and was to lead the service in the temple.
This was a great Honor for him to burn incense and it came once in a man’s life time.
While Zechariah was in the temple the angel of the Lord Gabriel visited him.
Zechariah and his wife lived a blameless life before God.
They had no children because Elizabeth was barren and were advanced in years.
Zechariah was a priest of the division of Abijah.
A message was given to Zechariah by Gabriel standing to the right side of the altar of incenses.
Fear fell upon Zechariah and this made him troubled.
The angel told Zechariah not to be afraid for the prayers had been heard.
The message from the angel was that Elizabeth will bear a son for him and the name of the son be called John.
This was going to give them joy and gladness as many will rejoice at his birth.
John was to drink no wine nor strong drink because he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
It was proclaimed that John was going to turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
Zechariah questioned the angel as to how he shall know all this claiming he is old and the wife is advanced in age.
The angel told him that he will be silent and be unable to speak until the day the words of the angel comes to pass.
The priest leaving the temple was unable to speak to people and the people concluded that Zechariah had seen a vision while in the temple.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she hid herself.
Not only Zechariah was a priest but his wife Elizabeth was of priestly descent. Aron the ancestor of Elizabeth was the first Jewish high priest.
The temple priest were divided into twenty-four divisions and each division was on duty twice a year and for a week at a time. Abijah was therefore the name of the division of priests from were Zechariah belonged to.
To drink no wine, nor strong drink meant that John was to lead a life of self-denial and will play a part of Elijah the prophet and prepare people’s hearts for the day of the Lord. He was going to be the forerunner of Jesus.
Gabriel's words “I stand in the presence of God” showed that this angel was a high rank for only the highest ranking officials were only permitted to stand in the sovereign presence.
The dumbness of Zechariah was a punishment from God because he had disbelieved the message and proof of the truth of Gabriel’s words. This led him to dismiss the crowd who had come for the service with signs.
If a woman was childless/barren it was a sign of God’s displeasure as indicated by Elizabeth’s words in verse 25 of Luke 1.
2 The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1: 18-25)
In the sixth month Angel Gabriel went to the city of Galilee called Nazareth.
The angel visited the Virgin Mary who was betrothed to Joseph.
The angel greeted Mary by saying “hail you O favored one” and Mary was instructed not to be afraid.
Mary was told that she has found favor with God and behold she will conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus.
The child will be great and therefore be called the most high.
Mary questioned the angel as to how this shall be since she had no husband, the Holy Spirit was to come upon her and therefore conceive.
She was told that Elizabeth her kinswoman in the old age also conceived and it’s the sixth month.
The angel proclaimed that for God nothing will be impossible.
Mary accepted this by saying she was the handmaid of God.
Luke is the only gospel to mention the home town of Mary showing his interest in women.
Unlike Zechariah, Mary believed the angel’s message and accepted the great honor.
The response made by Mary “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” suggest that she had the free will to reprove her vocation
In Matthew the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream while in Luke the angel appeared to Mary.
This shows that Matthew's gospel was Jewish in nature.
In the book of Matthew, Joseph wanted to divorce his wife secretly when he knew she was pregnant.
Joseph as a Jew well versed with the Law of Moses he wanted to break off the engagement in terms of the Mosaic Law.
2.2 Similarities in the Annunciation of the birth of John and the birth of Jesus as drawn from the gospel of Luke.
Angel appears in the two stories.
Both Mary and Zechariah are disrupted by the appearance of the Angel.
In both cases the angel says do not be afraid.
Future greatness of the children is brought out.
Zechariah was told that he was going to be silenced and unable to speak and Mary was told that Elizabeth who was considered to be barren was pregnant.
2.3 Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56)
Mary went to the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Hearing the greeting the babe leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Blessed are you young among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why this is granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me.
Mary hearing this said “my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for all generation will be blessed for he who is mighty has done great things for me.He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts and put the might down from their thrones. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away, he has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy."
Mary remained with her about three months and returned home.
Mary had learned from the angel that Elizabeth was pregnant and also expecting a child and therefore visited to see her kinswoman.
Elizabeth knew the reason for the visit and therefore greeted the mother of Jesus.
Probably she had gone there to seek advice and share the secret.
Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary visited her.
She was filled with the Holy Spirit after the greeting as it was said by the angel that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.
John paid honor to Jesus while in the womb.
Mary replied Elizabeth with a hymn of praise Magnificent. Magnificent was a revolutionary hymn.
In this incident God identifies himself with the poor and the down trodden.
The time factor in verse 56 suggests that Mary stayed with Elizabeth until the birth of John.
3. The birth of John (Luke 1: 57-66)
When the time came Elizabeth to be delivered, she gave birth to a son.
Neighbors and family rejoiced at the birth of the son.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child and wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.
His father said not so but he shall be called John as he wrote on a tablet because he was still unable to speak.
Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed and he blessed God.
Fear came on all of them and all these things were talked about around all the area.
Neighbors and relatives of Elizabeth rejoiced when John was born.
On the 8th day the child was circumcised according to the customs and traditions.
Circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin from the penis which showed that the child was now the member of God’s people and was obliged to follow it.
Zechariah was still deaf as this was told by the angel.
As every child is given a name, many people wanted the child to be named Zechariah but Elizabeth denied. They inquired from Zechariah through writing on tablets.
Zechariah’s hymn of praise is called the Benedictus which is a message of hope not to himself alone but to all Israelites.
Like Mary, Zechariah thanked God for his goodness to his people and for remembering his promises made to Abraham.
3.2 Zechariah’s hymn of praise called the Benedictus (Luke 1:67-80)
Filled with the Holy Spirit Zechariah begun prophesying saying,
-"blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he has visited and redeemed his people. - Has raised a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. -We should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us to perform the mercy promised to our fathers. -Remember the holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham. -Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days. -Going all the way before the High one preparing the way for the Lord. -To give light to those who sit in darkness and in in the shadow of death".
This was Zechariah’s message of hope not to himself alone but to all the Israelites.
The final form of the Benedictus as with the Magnificent is probably the work of Luke who edited but its contents belong to Zechariah.
Zachariah prophesied whilst he was filled with the Holy Spirit as a priest of God.
Israelites were to be delivered from their enemies through the birth of Jesus who will bring salvation to his people.
4. The birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7)
When it was time for census Joseph went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth to Judea the city of David which is called Bethlehem.
While they were there it came the time for Mary to be delivered. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.
He was laid in a manger because there was no place for him in the inn.
It was a Roman practice to conduct census every fourteen years. Census was done for the purpose of taxation and administration.
Augustus Caesar the first Rome’s emperor had ordered the world to be enrolled and by that time Quirinius was the governor of Syria.
Joseph went to Judea the city of David his descendant in Bethlehem and accompanied by his wife Mary.
The name Jesus meant that God is Salvation.
Manger was the feeding trough for animals and it signified that Jesus was from a poor and humble family but was to benefit everybody.
Jesus was born of the poorest of the poor without home or cradle. This is of importance to the gospel of Luke that emphasizes on the poor.
4.2Wise men visit (Matthew 2:1-12)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.
They inquired from King Herod saying where he is how has been born king of the Jews for we have seen his star in the East.
Herod was troubled and assembled chief priests and scribes inquiring of them where the Christ was to be born.
Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from what time the star had appeared.
Wise men were sent to Bethlehem to search diligently for the child and if found bring back the word.
They went the way and when there saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Going into the house where the child was they fell down and worshiped him.
Opened their treasures and offered him gifts.
The Wise man from the East originally came from Iran. Gifts were from Southern Arabia which were given to Jesus.
Appearance of the star signified the birth of a great person.
The gifts given by the Wise man were symbolic, these were:
Gold signified the kingship of Jesus.
Myrrh was an ointment used for healing and anointing the dead. It signified Jesus’s later suffering and death.
Frankincense was a substance used in worship by priests and on this incident it signified that Jesus was divine or a holy man.
The Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)
In the region there were shepherds out in the field.
An angel appeared to them and the glory of God showed among them.
An angel brought the message saying “be not afraid I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people for you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
The sign given to Shepherds by the angel was that they shall find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth lying in a manager.
When the Shepherds went away the shepherds went to Bethlehem with haste.
They found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger.
Jesus was recognized and honored by the simple shepherds who were considered as outcasts.
Jesus is seen to be rejected in his own home place but accepted by the outcasts.
The message to the shepherds and their reaction to the birth of Jesus showed God’s love for the weak ones of this world in giving them the good news of Jesus Christ.
5. The nativity in Matthew (1:18-25)
This how Matthew narrates the birth of Jesus.
Matthew begins his story where according to Luke, Mary had returned from her visit to Elisabeth.
Joseph did not want any publicity about the divorce to Mary.
The angel in a dream warned Joseph not to divorce his betrothed wife.
5.1 The Circumcision and presentation ceremony (Luke 2: 21-24)
At the end of eight days when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus.
This was the name given to Mary by the angel.
When the time came for their purification according to the Mosaic laws, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
They came to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord.
A pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.
Every male that opens the womb shall be called Holy to the Lord and a sacrifice was offered by Jesus’ parents a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.
A woman was not allowed inside the temple for forty days after giving birth to a baby boy and a baby girl was eighty days and her admission was to be accompanied by sacrifice to purify her.
The eldest son was considered to be God’s special property.
The parents were supposed to buy back the child again making a substitute offering.
Circumcision was a sign of the promise made by God to Abraham that he should be the father of the multitude of nations.
6. The escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23)
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying “Rise take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and remain there till I tell you for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him”
By night Joseph arose and escaped to Egypt. Remained there until the day Herod died.
After that they returned and stayed in Galilee instead of Judea as they feared Archelaus Herod’s successor.
Herod seeing he was tricked was angry and sent soldiers to kill all the male children in Bethlehem.
A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled, because they were no more”. (Matthew 2 verses 18)
The killing of the children by Herod is considered to be “The massacre of the innocence” as they had not sinned against anyone but it demonstrated Herod’s fear and jealousy of his position.
It was an atrocity which the King would have approved.
6.2 Twelve years (Luke 2:40-52)
This was Jesus first Passover when he attended it with his parents at the age of 12 years in Jerusalem.
When the feast ended, on their return his parents never noticed that Jesus had remained behind. After a day’s journey they could not locate him in the crowd.
They returned back to Jerusalem and after three days they found him in the temple, sitting among teachers, listening and asking them questions and many who were present were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
His mother was astonished and said, “Son why have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been looking for you anxiously”, Jesus answered, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?” His parents did not understand this and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
Jesus accompanied them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Adult male Jews were supposed to visit the temple for the 3 main feasts in a year but those who were from afar could visit only once.
12 years was an important age for a Jewish boy as it marked the beginning of being grown up and assume full adult responsibility in the matters of Jewish Law taught by Scribes. Jesus knew that God was his father and that his true home was in the temple.
The temple in Jerusalem was the place where God’s presence was known with a long and sacred history.
Jesus was brought into this magnificent building as a helpless infant to be dedicated to God.