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LIFE OF CHRIST
A Harmony of the Gospels

LESSON ONE

THE ANGEL GABRIEL APPEARS TO ZACHARIAS

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Luke 1:5-22
     (5)  There was in the days of  Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. (6)  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  (7)  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
     (8)  So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,  (9)  according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. (10)  And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.  (11)  Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  (12)  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
     (13)  But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is 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 in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also 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)  He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord."
     (18)  And Zacharias said to the angel,  " How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
     (19)  And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.  (20)  But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
     (21)  And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.  (22)  But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
NKJV

Herod, the king of Judea
Also known as "Herod the Great"

Antipater


Phasaelus

Herod the Great
King of Judea,
37-4 B.C.

Joseph

Pheroras

Salome

by Doris by Mariamne I by Mariamne II by Malthace by Cleopatra





Antipater
(Executed 4 B.C.)
Alexander &
Aristobulus
Both executed 7 B.C.
Herod
(Philip?)
Archelaus
Ethnarch of Judea,
4 B.C. - A.D.6
 & Herod Antipas
Tetrarch of Galilee
4 B.C. - A.D.39
Herod
& Philip
Tetrarch,
4 B.C. - A.D. 34
 
Herod
King of Chalcis
A.D. 41-48
Herod Agrippa I
King of Judea
A.D. 41-44
Herodias
Married:
1. Herod Philip
2. Herod Antipas
 
Herod Agrippa II
Ruler of Philip's former
Tetrarchy & adjacent regions.
Died A.D. 100
Bernice

 

Drusilla

    

When Pompey organized the East in 63 B.C,  he appointed Hyrcanus II to be the high-priestly ruler of an ethnarchy comprising Galilee,  Samaria,  Judaea,  and Perea.  Antipater, an Idumaean,  was Hyrcanus' senior officer or vizier.  Notable services rendered at Alexandria to Julius Caesar in 48 B.C.,  led to the appointment of Antipater to the procurator ship of Judaea.  Antipater had been the leading spirit in the policy that won Caesar's favor,  and he used his advantage with an astuteness that foreshadowed the career of his son.   Antipater persuaded the now aged Hyrcanus to appoint Phasael,  his eldest son,  to the prefecture of Jerusalem,  and Herod,  his second son,  to the governorship of Galilee.

When Antipater was murdered in 43 B.C.,  his two sons succeeded to his position in Hyrcanus' court.  It was the year after Julius Caesar's assassination that the Parthians,  the military problem of the northeast,  were restive.  In 40 B.C. they penetrated Palestine,  carried off Hyrcanus,  and drove Phasael also captive,  to suicide.

Herod eluded both military action and Parthian treachery.  He withdrew from Jerusalem,  shook off  pursuit by clever rearguard skirmishing near Bethlehem,  and escaped to Egypt.  Outwitting Cleopatra,  and reaching Rome through the perils of winter,  Herod set his case before Octavian and Antony.  It is a remarkable tribute to his charm,  daring,  political acumen,  and consummate diplomacy,  that he won the support of both triumvirates who were so soon to divide in disastrous rivalry.

The thirteen years that lay between the assassination of Caesar,  and the emergence of Octavian as the victorious Augustus,  after Antony's defeat at Actium in 31 B.C.,  were a time of paralysis and uncertainty throughout the Roman world.  Herod saw in such confusion the opportunity for decisive action.  Landing at Acre in 39 B.C.,  with only the promise of Roman favor,  Herod went to claim his kingdom,  and to unseat the Parthian puppet,  Antigonus.   Palestine,  with its hill-country,  deserts,  and fenced cities,  called for a variety of military ability.  Herod showed himself the able master of varied types of war. 

The two years of tireless activity which made him,  by the age of 36,  the master of his inheritance,  revealed all the facets of Herod's amazing personality.  He was a ruthless fighter,  but at the same time a cunning negotiator,  a subtle diplomat,  and an opportunist.  He was able to restrain his Roman helpers and simultaneously circumvent the Jews.  Between 39 and 37 B.C.  Herod revealed those qualities that enabled him for thirty-four years to govern subjects who hated him.
In 30 B.C. Herod succeeded in retaining the favor of Octavian,  shared though that favor had been with the defeated rival,  Antony.  He was confirmed in his kingdom,  and for the rest of his life never departed from the policy of supporting the emperor,  and in all ways promoting his honor. 
Restored Samaria was called Sebaste,  the Greek rendering of Augustus. 
Caesarea was built to form a harbor on the difficult open coast of Palestine,  to provide Rome with a salutary bridgehead and base on the edge of a turbulent province,  and to make a center of Caesar-worship in the land of the nationalistic and monotheistic Jews.

Simultaneously Herod followed a policy of Hellenization,  establishing Games at Jerusalem,  and adorning many of the Hellenistic cities of his domains.  At the same time Herod sought to reconcile the Jews,  who hated his pro-Roman and Hellenizing policies,  and who never forgave his Edomite blood.

To manage a situation so complex and to survive,  demanded uncommon ability,  and an ordered realm.  Of Herod's ability there is no doubt,  and with his foreign mercenaries,  his system of fortresses,  and the centralized bureaucracy which he built in imitation of the Ptolemaic system,  he gave Palestine order,  and even opportunity for economic progress.

At the same time Herod was a cruel and implacable tyrant:

His family and private life was soiled and embittered by feuds,  intrigue,  and murder.
The king's sister Salome seems to have been in league with Herod's son Antipater by Doris,  his first consort,  against Mariamne,  daughter of Hyrcanus II, the king's favorite wife.  Mariamne was put to death in 29 B.C.,  and her two sons,  Alexander and Aristobulus,  in 7 B.C.  Antipater himself was put to death by Herod Antipas in the last days of his reign.
(Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary)

Zacharias, of the division of Abijah  (Luke 1:5)

Priests divided by David into 24 groups   (I Chronicles 24:1919)

There were at least nine prominent men in the history of Israel with the name of  Abijah.   The one named as an ancestor of Zacharias was a descendant of Aaron.  He was the ancestral head of the eighth group of the 24 groups into which David had divided the priests  (I Chron.24:10).

Each family served a week   (II Chronicles 23:8)

In the order of his division  (Luke 1:8)

Each of the 24 divisions:

1. Did duty for eight days
2. From one Sabbath to another
3. Once every six months

The service of the week was subdivided among the various families that constituted a division:

1. On Sabbaths the entire division was on duty
2. On feast-days any priest might come up and join in the ministrations of the sanctuary
3. At the Feast of Tabernacles all 24 courses were bound to be present and officiate

His lot fell to burn incense   (Luke 1:9)

According to the Talmud,  4 lots were drawn to determine the order of the ministry of the days:

1. The first, before daybreak, to designate the priests who were to cleanse the altar and prepare its fires.
2. The second for the priest who was to offer the sacrifice and cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense.
3. The third for the priest who should burn incense.
4. The fourth appointing those who were to lay the sacrifice and meat offering on the altar, and pour out the drink offering.

There are said to have been 20,000 priests in Christ's time,

so that no priest would ever offer incense more than once during his life-time.

The Temple

Directly across the Tyropean Valley from the Upper City,  in the Northeastern corner of  Jerusalem,  stood the incomparable temple,  the city's crowning jewel.  Built by Herod as a goodwill gesture toward his hostile Jewish subjects,  it was reputedly one of the finest religious structures in the world.

The central sanctuary was approached through a series of spacious outer courts,  each court progressively more exclusive:

Court of the Gentiles

The outermost was the COURT OF GENTILES,  a huge rectangular area about 35 acres in size.
It was paved with colored stones and enclosed by tall,  stately columns.
Visitors entered through a number of immense double and triple gates,  which stood at intervals along the outer court.
As its name suggests,  the Court of the Gentiles was open to Gentiles as well as Jews,  and it was usually crowded with People from many backgrounds and walks of life.
On a typical day a visitor would encounter:
1. Jewish pilgrims from all over Palestine and the Roman Empire
2. Merchants selling doves, young sheep and cattle for sacrifice
3. Moneychangers converting foreign currency into Jewish shekels
4. Jewish scribes and rabbis discussing points of Mosaic law
5. And others simply passing the time of day

Court of Women

At the center of the Court of the Gentiles stood a second enclosed compound,  posted with signs in Greek and Latin warning:
"No foreigner is allowed within the balustrades and embankment about the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his ensuing death."
(Several of these stones have been found)

Only Jewish men and women could venture beyond this point,  which. led through three large gates into the COURT OF WOMEN.  Ornate columns surrounded this court.

Here women as well as men were permitted.
Here were Located 13 chests like inverted trumpets, into which offerings for the expenses of the temple services were placed.

Court of  Israel

At the western side of the Court of Women was a curved flight of 15 stairs,  which ascended to the Nicanor Gate,  so named because a rich Alexandrian Jew named Nicanor had donated its magnificent bronze doors.

Beyond them lay the COURT OF ISRAEL,  a long and narrow area where the Jewish Men assembled during temple services.  No women were allowed here.

Court of Priests

A low balustrade separated the Court of  Israel from the COURT OF PRIESTS, accessible only to the priests and Levites who served in the temple.

In the center of this court was the great horned  altar of sacrifice  with a long ramp leading to the top.
(This was,  incidentally,  contrary to the Mosaic Law,  which forbade steps leading up to the altar.)

The Sanctuary

Dominating the entire complex was the majestic SANCTUARY itself,  which stood at the rear of the Court of Priests.

It was built of perfectly tooled and fitted white marble Stones,  covered

At the back of a large porch were immense gilded doors covered by a Babylonian tapestry of blue,  purple, crimson, and gold,  depicting the heavens.  with plates of heavy gold.  Golden spikes rose from the roof,  which soared to a height of about 165 feet.

Above was a golden vine,  symbol of the nation of Israel.  It was said that there was so much gold covering the building that no one could look directly at it in bright sunlight.

The Holy Place

Inside the sanctuary were two rooms.  The first,  the  HOLY PLACE,  was a large hall paneled in cedar.
It contained:
1. A Golden Altar for Incense
2. A Golden Table for the Bread Offering
3. A Golden Menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum lit by seven lamps burning purest olive oil.

The Holy of Holies

The second room,  the HOLY OF HOLIES,  was separated from the first by a heavy linen curtain embroidered with spun gold.  Only the high priest was allowed to enter this sacred spot,  and he only on the annual Day of Atonement. 
Within this mysterious chamber in the temple built by Herod,  where once stood the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat,   the Tablets of  Stone with the 10 Commandments,  the Pot of Mannah,  and Aaron's Rod that budded,  THERE WAS NOTHING AT ALL ... during the ministry of Christ,  this which at one time had housed the very Shekinah of Jehovah Himself,  stood starkly empty - symbolical of the emptiness which pervaded Israel at this time.

Begun in 20 B.C.,  the construction of the temple was one of Herod’s most ambitious projects.  The old temple mount first had to be cleared and enlarged to about twice its original size.  The new area was roughly 1000 by 1500 feet,  girded by a massive retaining wall of huge fitted stones,  each more than 15 feet thick.  As Solomon had done earlier,  Herod imported the best stonemasons and architects from Phoenicia to direct the construction.  Only the finest materials were used:  cedar from Lebanon,  the purest marble and limestone and the finest gold.

The project required the services of more than 10,000 laborers.  Herod had 1000 priests specially trained as carpenters and masons to work on the sanctuary building since by law no layman was allowed to handle the sacred building materials.  The sanctuary was completed in 18 months,  but the outer courtyards were not finished for another 80 years,  in A.D. 64.  During this entire time the temple ritual was never interrupted.
6 years after its completion,  the temple of Herod was completely destroyed by the Roman General, Titus, in 70 A.D,

To burn incense    (Luke 1:9)

1. Incense was an aromatic substance made of gums and spices to be burned,  especially in religious worship.
2. It was compounded according to a definite prescription of:
a. Stacte
b. Onycha
c. Galbanum
d. Pure Frankincense
All in equal proportions, and was tempered with salt (Ex.30:23).
3. It could not be made for ordinary purposes  (Ex.30:34-38;  Lev.10:1-7).
4. Incense not properly compounded was rejected as  "strange incense"  (Ex.30:9).
5. The offering of incense was common in the religious ceremonies of nearly all ancient nations,  and was extensively used in the ritual of Israel.
6. The altar of incense was overlaid with pure gold,  and was set in the Holy Place,  near the veil that concealed the Holy of Holies.
7. Originally,  to burn it was the prerogative of the High Priest,  and he did so each morning when he dressed the lamps  (Ex.30:1-9).
8. The Korahites were punished with death for presuming to take it upon themselves to burn incense  (Num.16).
9. The sons of Aaron died for offering it improperly   (Lev.10).
10. By the time of Christ,  incense was offered by ordinary priests,  from among whom each morning and evening one was chosen by lot.
11. In the offering of incense:
a. Fire was taken from the altar of burnt-offering and brought into the temple
b. Where it was placed upon the altar of incense
c. Then the incense was emptied from a golden vessel upon the fire
d. When the priest entered the Holy Place with the incense,  all the people were obliged to leave the temple
e. They observed a profound silence as they prayed outside.
f. When the priest placed the incense on the fire,  he bowed reverently towards the Holy of Holies,  and retired slowly backwards,  lest he alarm the congregation and cause them to fear that he had been struck dead for offering unworthily   (Lev.16:13).

Thy prayer is heard   (Luke 1:13)

If we render the aorist literally,  "was heard,"  we avoid the question as to what prayer is referred to.
(aorist tense - indicating a past act with future results)

The reference is to the prayer for offspring which,  owing to his extreme years,  Zacharias had probably ceases to offer,  and which he certainly would not prefer in that public and solemn service.  Hence the aorist is appropriate, referring back to the past acts of prayer.  "That prayer, which thou no longer offer,  WAS HEARD."
The Amplified has it: ", your petition was heard."

Drink neither wine nor strong drink    (Luke 1:15)

This indicates that John the Baptist would be a Nazarite from his birth.

Either a man or a woman might take the vow of the  Nazarite, and the regulations for this vow are given in Numbers 6:1-21:
1. Shall separate himself  from ANY drink of the vine
2. Shall not eat any grape - moist OR dried
3. Shall not shave his head
4. Shall separate himself unto the Lord and is holy
5. Shall come near no dead body
As far as we know, there were three "Nazarites from birth" mentioned in scripture:
1. Samuel
2. Sampson
3.. John the Baptist
For those who wished to take the vow, which could last from 30 days or for as long as they wished, there were numerous reasons.

Jesus was not a Nazarite.  He was called a "Nazarene",  indicating that He was from Nazareth.

Gabriel    (Luke 1:19)

An angel  (or Arch-angel)  Gabriel is mentioned four times in Scripture, each time bearing a momentous message:

1. He interpreted to Daniel the vision of the ram and the he-goat,  in which the Prince of Peace is victorious  (Dan. 8:16)
2. In Daniel 9:21 he explained the vision of the 70 weeks.
3, He announced to Zacharias the birth of John, forerunner of the Messiah.
4. He was sent to Mary with the unique message of Jesus' birth.
THE ANNUNCIATION TO MARY

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Luke 1:26-38
     (26)  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  (27)  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  (28)  And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" 
(29)  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.  (30)  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  (31)  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.  (32)  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  (33)  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
     (34)  Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
     (35)  And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you,  and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;  therefore,  also,  that Holy one who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  (36)  Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age;  and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.  (37)  For with God nothing will be impossible."
     (38)  Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
NKJV

Galilee    (Luke 1:26)

1. The most northerly of the three provinces of Palestine (Galilee, Samaria, Judea).
2. It was approximately 50 miles from north to south
3. It was approximately 30 miles from east to west
4. Along the southern border was the Valley of Jezreel
a. This valley was a vital communications link between:
The coastal plain
And the center of Palestine
b. For this reason,  decisive battles were often fought here for possession of this desirable pass.
c. The city of Megiddo  (once one of Solomon's greatest fortresses)  was important for the control of the valley,  and lends is known today as  "Har-Magedon,"   (Hill of  Megiddo)
d. This valley is also known as Armageddon,  where the conflict between Christ and the armies of the Antichrist is predicted to occur   (Rev.16: 16).
5. An imaginary line from the plain of Akka to the north end of the Sea of Galilee divided the country into:
a. Upper Galilee, and
b. Lower Galilee
6. "Galilee of the Gentiles"  refers chiefly to Upper Galilee:
a. It was the territory of Asher and Naphtali.
b. Here lie the ruins of Kedesh Naphtali, one of the cities of Refuge   (Josh.20: 7; 21:32).
c. In this region lay the twenty towns given by Solomon to Hiram,  King of  Tyre,  in payment for timber from Lebanon.
d. The land was luxurious and productive.
e. It was a rugged mountainous country of oaks and terebinths (a small European tree of the cashew family yielding turpentine)  interrupted by fertile plains.
f. The olive oil of Galilee has long been esteemed as of the highest quality.
7. Lower Galilee was largely the heritage of Zebulon and Issachar.
a. Less hilly and have a milder climate than Upper Galilee.
b. It included the rich plain of Esdraelon (or Jezreel),
c. It was a  ”pleasant"  land  (Gen.49: 15)  that would yield  "Treasures in the sand"   (Deut.33. -19).
d. The sand of these coasts was especially valuable for making glass.
e. Important caravan trade routes carried their busy traffic through Galilee:
From Egypt and southern Palestine to Damascus
From the Mediterranean to the Far East
8. The northern part of Naphtali was inhabited by a mixed race of  Jews and heathen  (Judg.1: 33).
a. Its Israelite population was carried away captive to Assyria and replaced by a colony of heathen immigrants  (II Kings 15:29; 17:24),  hence called  "Galilee of the nations"  or "Gentiles"
(Isa.9: 1;   Matt.4: 13,15,16).
b. During and after the captivity,  the predominant mixture of Gentile races impoverished the worship of Judaism.
c. For the same reason the Galilean accent and dialect were noticeably peculiar  (Matt.26: 73).
d. This caused the southern Jews of purer blood and orthodox tradition to despise them  (John 7:52).

Nazareth

1. A town in lower Galilee belonging to the tribe of Zebulun.
2. It is nowhere referred to in the Old Testament.
3. It was the hometown of Mary and Joseph.
4. The ancient site is located by the modern  en-Natzirah,  a Moslem village of about 10,000 inhabitants.
5. It lies in a geographical basin so that not much of the surrounding countryside is in plain view.
6. If one scales the edge of the basin, the sights of
a. Esdraelon with its 20 battlefields,  and
b. Naboth's vineyard,  meet the eye.
7.  A distance of 30 miles can be observed in three directions.

Mary

All the authentic information we have about Mary is found in the New Testament.

In the opinion of many scholars she was descended from David because:

1. She was told that her Son should receive  "the throne of  his father David"
2. Christ is described as being of  "the seed of David according to the flesh"
(Acts 2:301 Rom.1: 31; II Tim. 2:8).
3. It is thought by many that Luke's genealogy of  Christ is through His mother

She appears in only 5 narratives in Scripture:

1. The Infancy Narratives    (Matt. Chapters 1 & 2; Luke chapters 1 & 2.).
2. At the Marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11)
3. The Episode of Matthew 12:46;  Mark 3:21,31 ff.;  Luke 8:19-21.
4. At the Cross  (John 19:25 ff.)
5. In the Upper Room   (Acts 1:4)

According to these narratives, Mary was:

1. A young woman who was yet a virgin until after the birth of her first son.
2. A young woman who was deeply religious and humble before God.
3. A young woman,  who,  though a descendant of David,  was still  of the seed of Adam, with the accompanying sin nature.
4. One of the thousands who needed and received forgiveness of sins from her Son after His crucifixion,  resurrection,  and ascension.
5. One of the thousands  who needed and received the infilling of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost

After Mary's death many legends grew up around her name,  but none of them are trustworthy;  the craze for further particulars about her was partly satisfied by the writers of the Apocryphal Gospels.  There is no direct evidence of prayer being offered to Mary during the first four centuries.

Betrothed      (Espoused)   (Luke 1:27)

Betrothal among the Hebrews was something more than what a mere marriage engagement is with us:
1. It was considered the beginning of marriage
2. It was as legally binding as marriage itself
3. Could not be broken off save,  by a bill of divorce,  hence we find that Joseph is called the  "husband"  of Mary  (Matt. 1:19).
4. The betrothal was usually determined by the parents or brothers of the particles
5. The engagement was made between:
A friend or legal representative of the bridegroom
And the father of the bride
6. The betrothals were made very early in life
(Though marriage did not take place before the bride was 12 years old)
7. Even when the age was suitable,  the marriage was not consummated for some time after the betrothal.
8. At least a year,  or sometimes more,  elapsed between the betrothal and the marriage of a maiden
(To give time for preparing her outfit)
9. In case of a widow,  marriage might take place 30 days after betrothal.
10. Betrothal was usually accompanied by a  feast in the house of the bride.
11. The engagement,  to be binding,  must be either by:
Written contract
  or
The reception of presents by the bride from the bridegroom
(the reception of these made the contract binding)
12. The bride remained at her father's house until the time of   Marriage,  when the bridegroom came after her.
13. Meanwhile communication between her and the bridegroom was kept up by means of the  "friend of the bridegroom."   (The  "friend of the bridegroom"  will be discussed later - suffice it to say,  for now,  that he would correspond slightly with our modern  "best man.")

Shall call His name JESUS    (Luke 1:31)

The same as the Hebrew,  Hoshea  with  Jah  prefixed
Also the same as the Hebrew  Jehoshua,  or the abbreviated form  Joshua
Both come from the covenant name:  JEHOVAH

Meaning  "Jehovah has become our Salvation"    (Exodus 15:2)
Hebrew - Jehoshua Jehovah-Savior  -or-   Jehovah has become our Salvation
Greek - Iesous Jehovah-Savior  -or-   Jehovah has become our Salvation
English - Jesus Jehovah-Savior  -or-   Jehovah has become our Salvation
AN ANGEL APPEARS TO JOSEPH

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Matt 1:18-25
     (18)  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. (19)  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  (20)  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  (21)   And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
     (22)  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  (23)  "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
     (24)  Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,  (25)  and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
NKJV

Joseph    Matt 1:18

Other than the narrative of the first few years of Jesus' life,  we have no knowledge of Joseph.  The only two facts we have of Joseph himself are:

1. He was a carpenter
2. He lived in Nazareth

As far as his character,  we gather he was a religious man who followed the Law of Moses carefully but,  unlike the average Pharisee  (as we shall see later)  he was also a fair man.

You shall call His name     Matt 1:21

Thus committing the office of a father to Joseph.  Although Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus,  a great responsibility was here laid upon him.

They shall call His name     Matt 1:23

Showing even before His birth the universality of His mission

Emmanuel

Or Immanuel,  the name meaning,  "with us is God"

This name was given by Isaiah to a child whose birth and childhood are a sign to King Ahaz
(Isa.7: 14; 8:8,10),   and whose later life,  sufferings and glory are the themes of his book.
Micah 5:2  takes Immanuel to be the Messiah
Matthew 1:23  identifies Him as Jesus, or:
El, or  Elohim (the creator) with us in Jesus - who is Jehovah (Which is the creator in covenant-relationship) has become our salvation.

The two annunciations of Gabriel:

Luke tells the story of Jesus'  birth from Mary's standpoint:

Luke 1:26 Describing her maidenly fears
Luke 1:38 Describing her humble submission to the will of God
Luke 1:39-55 Describing her song of praise to God for the favor accorded her in being the mother of the Messiah

Matthew tells the story from the standpoint of Joseph:

Matthew 1:19 Describing his reaction when he found she was with child
Matthew 1:26 Describing his determination to protect her from shame as much as possible
Matthew 1:24,25 Describing his obedience to God's commands

The two accounts harmonize and dovetail perfectly.

MARY VISITS ELIZABETH

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Luke 1:39-56
     (39) Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,  (40)  and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  (41)  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  (42)  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  (43)  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  (44)  For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  (45)  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
     (46)  The Song of Mary
And Mary said:
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
(47)  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
(48)  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth 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 on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
(51)  He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
(52)  He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
(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 seed forever."
(56)  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.
NKJV

Mary's Song of Praise

There is quite a comparison here between the praise Mary offered in verses 46-55,  and the praise Hannah offered  in I Samuel 2:1-10.

In their experience, they were opposites:

Hannah Mary
1. Was an older woman
2. Was married
3. Had prayed for a child
4. The birth of her first
5. Son removed the disgrace from her
6. She gave her son to the service of the Lord,
and saw him only yearly
1. Was a very young woman
2. Was only betrothed
3. Had not prayed for a child
4. The birth of her first
5. Son brought disgrace to her
6. She was given the Son to rise up until He
was ready for Service

And yet, though so opposite in circumstance, their praise is the same:

1. Both are filled with wonder to behold  "the proud,  the mighty,  the rich,"  passed by
2. In their persons the lowliest chosen to usher in the greatest events
3. They sing of the great Law of the Kingdom of God,  by which He delights to "put down the mighty from their seats and exalt them of low degree."
4. In both the strain dies away on Christ:
a. In Hannah's under the name of  "Jehovah's King",  His Anointed,  whose horn He will exalt
b. In Mary's it is as the  "Help"  promised to Israel by all the prophets
THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Luke 1:57-80
     (57) Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.  (58)  When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
     (59)  Circumcision of John the Baptist
     So it was, on the Eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.  (60)  His mother answered and said,  "No; he shall be called John."
     (61)  But they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name."  (62)  So they made signs to his father -- what he would have him called.
     (63)  And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, "His name is John." So they all marveled.  (64)  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.  (65)  Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea.  (66)  And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, "What kind of child will this be?" And the hand of the Lord was with him.
     (67)  Zacharias' Prophecy
Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
68 "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
76 "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace."
(80)  So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
NKJV

On the eighth day ... they called him Zacharias     Luke 1:59

It was customary among the Jews to give names to children at the time of their circumcision.
The rabbins say that this was because God changed the names of Abram and Sarai at the same time that He instituted circumcision. 

Traditionally,  a baby boy would be named after his father or someone else in the family;  so the relatives and neighbors were shocked when Elizabeth insisted on the name John.  Zacharias wrote  "His name is John"  on a tablet,  and that settled it! Immediately God opened the old priest's mouth (see Luke 1:20 above),  and he sang a hymn that gives us four beautiful pictures of what the coming of Jesus Christ to earth really means.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright (c) 1989 by SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.)

And you, child, will be...    Luke 1:76-79

1. Luke 1:76 His DIGNITY Prophet of the Most High
Last prophet of the Old Covenant
First prophet of the New Covenant
2. Luke 1:76 His DUTY Go before the Lord in Preparation
3. Luke 1:77 His DOCTRINE The Science of Salvation  (Knowledge)
4. Luke 1:78, 79 His DUTY SUCCESSFUL The recovery of a lost world
He has the promise that his labor will not be in vain

Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied    Luke 1:68-79

Redeemed  -  The opening of a prison door

(v. 68) The word  redeem  means  "to set free by paying a price."
It can refer to the
releasing of a prisoner or the
liberating
of a slave.
Jesus Christ came to earth to bring 
"deliverance to the captives"  (Luke 4:18), 
salvation to people in bondage to sin and death.
Certainly we are unable to set ourselves free;  only Christ could pay the price necessary for our redemption   (Eph 1:7;   1 Peter 1:18-21).

Horn of Salvation  -  The winning of a battle .

(vv. 69-75) In Scripture,  a horn symbolizes power and victory  (1 Kings 22:11; Ps 89:17,24).
The picture here is that of an army about to be taken captive,  but then help arrives and the enemy is defeated. 
In the previous picture,
the captives were set free;
but in this picture,
the enemy is defeated so that he cannot capture more prisoners.
It means total victory for the people of God.
The word salvation  (Luke 1:69,71)  carries the meaning of
health and
soundness.
No matter what the condition of the captives,  their Redeemer brings spiritual soundness. When you trust Jesus Christ as Savior,  you are
delivered from Satan's power,
moved into God's kingdom,
redeemed, and
forgiven
(Col 1:12-14).
Where did the Redeemer come from?
He came from the house of David  (Luke 1:69),
who himself was a great conqueror.
God had promised that the Saviour would be
a Jew (Gen 12:1-3),
from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10),
from the family of David (2 Sam 7:12-16),
born in David's city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
Both Mary (Luke 1:27) and Joseph (Matt 1:20) belonged to David's line.
The coming of the Redeemer was
inherent in the covenants God made with His people (Luke 1:72)
promised by the prophets (Luke 1:70)
Note that the results of this victory are sanctity and service  (Luke 1:74-75).
He sets us free,  not to do our own will,  because that would be bondage,  but to do His will and enjoy His freedom.

Remission  -  The canceling of a debt .

(vv. 76-77) Remission means  "to send away, to dismiss, as a debt."
All of us are in debt to God because we have
broken His law and
failed to live up to His standards  (Luke 7:40-50)
Furthermore,  all of us are
spiritually bankrupt, 
unable to pay our debt.
But Jesus came and paid the debt for us  (Ps 103:12;   John 1:29).

Dayspring  -  The dawning of a new day .

(vv. 78-79) Dayspring means "sunrise."
The people were sitting in darkness and death,  and distress gripped them when Jesus came; but He brought
light, 
life,  and
peace.
It was the dawn of a new day because of  the tender mercies of God  (see Matt 4:16).

The old priest had not said anything for nine months,  but he certainly compensated for his silence when he sang this song of praise to God!  And how joyful he was that his son was chosen by God to prepare the way for the Messiah (Isa 40:1-3; Mal 3:1).   John was

(Luke 1:76) "prophet of the Highest"
(Luke 1:32) introducing to Israel "the Son of the Highest"
(Luke 1:35) who was conceived in Mary's womb by "the power of the Highest"

Instead of enjoying a comfortable life as a priest,  John lived in the wilderness,  disciplining himself physically and spiritually,  waiting for the day when God would send him out to prepare Israel for the arrival of the Messiah. People like Simeon and Anna  (Luke 2:25-38)  had been waiting for this day for many years,  and soon it would come.

God calls us today to believe His Good News.
Those who believe it experience His joy and want to express their praise to Him.  It is not enough for us to say that Jesus is a Saviour, or even the Saviour.  With Mary,  we must say,  "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:47).
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright (c) 1989 by SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.)
 

(End of Lesson One)
 

  

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