Luke 1: The Birth of John the Baptizer

What writings might Luke have known about when he said “many people have written”?

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Luke 1:1 Many people have written about what God has done in fulfillment of his promises.
King James
Luke 1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

What resources might Luke have used in compiling his gospel? Why should we believe his report is accurate?

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Luke 1:2–4 All these accounts owe their source to the early disciples and other eyewitnesses who saw him with their own eyes and touched him with their own hands. They have been carefully investigated, so you may be certain that this record is accurate.
King James
Luke 1:2–4 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Why would many Jews have trouble believing Zechariah and Elizabeth were “upright in God’s sight?

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Luke 1:5–7 During the reign of Herod the Great over Judea, Zechariah of the priestly order of Abijah and his wife, Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron, were upright in God’s sight, blameless in following the commandments and regulations of the Law. Despite their righteousness, they had lived beyond the age of childbearing and were still childless.
King James
Luke 1:5–7 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

Zechariah must have asked God for children throughout his younger years. If so, why weren’t those prayers answered? At what point would he have quit praying?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Luke 1:7 Despite their righteousness, they had lived beyond the age of childbearing and were still childless.
King James
Luke 1:7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

How significant was Zechariah’s winning of the lottery to offer incense in the Holy Place?

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Luke 1:8–10 Zechariah was chosen by lot to fulfill his priestly duties. He entered the Holy Place to burn incense to God. While the people gathered outside to pray, he stood before the altar.
King James
Luke 1:8–10 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

What did Zechariah see on the right of the altar of incense? What about the appearance caused him to fear?

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Luke 1:11–12 Suddenly, a messenger appeared on the right of the altar of incense, and Zechariah became paralyzed with fear.
King James
Luke 1:11–12 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Why was John’s name important?

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Luke 1:13–14 “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,” the angel said. “God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son. You must name him John. He will bring you great joy, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
King James
Luke 1:13–14 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

Why couldn’t John be allowed to drink wine?

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Luke 1:15 “God will recognize him as a great man. He must never drink wine or other fermented beverages. Even before birth, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
King James
Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

What choice did John have to do anything other than what was foretold?

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Luke 1:14–17 “He will bring you great joy, and many will rejoice at his birth. God will recognize him as a great man. He must never drink wine or other fermented beverages. Even before birth, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many Israelites back to the Lord their God. In the spirit and power of Elijah, he will soften the hearts of fathers toward their children and cause the rebellious to accept godly wisdom. He will prepare the people for the Lord’s coming.”
King James
Luke 1:14–17 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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.

Why couldn’t Zechariah believe God’s word?

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Luke 1:18 “How can this be?” Zechariah said. “This is impossible. I am an old man, and my wife is also too old.”
King James
Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

Why was the judgment for Zechariah’s unbelief so severe?

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Luke 1:19–20 “I am Gabriel, sent from God to bring you this good news. Because you have not believed me, you will be unable to speak a word until the day of your son’s birth. All I have said will be fulfilled in due time.”
King James
Luke 1:19–20 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

How did people react to Zechariah being unable to speak?

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Luke 1:21–23 Outside, the people waited and wondered why the priest had stayed so long in the Holy Place. When he came out and could not speak, but kept making signs with his hands, they were sure he had seen a vision. After completing his time of service in the Temple, he returned home.
King James
Luke 1:21–23 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

What kinds of difficulties did Elizabeth face with her pregnancy?

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Luke 1:24–25 His wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went off by herself for five months. “This is the Lord’s doing,” she said. “In these last days, he has shown his favor and has taken away my disgrace.”
King James
Luke 1:24–25 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

What do you think Mary was doing when Gabriel appeared?

Author’s Thoughts
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Luke 1:26–27 In the Galilean town of Nazareth, the angel Gabriel appeared to a virgin named Mary, who was engaged to marry Joseph, a descendant of Israel’s King David.
King James
Luke 1:26–27 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

Why was Mary fearful?

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Luke 1:28–30 “Greetings, favored woman!” the angel said. “God is with you.”
Mary was deeply shaken. She trembled at what the angel’s greeting might mean.
“Do not be frightened, Mary. God is pleased with you.”
King James
Luke 1:28–30 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

What reasons did Mary have to question Gabriel’s message?

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Luke 1:31–35 “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will make him king like his ancestor David, and he will rule over Israel forever.”
“How is this possible?” Mary said. “I have never slept with a man.”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, your child will be holy and will be called the Son of God.”
King James
Luke 1:31–35 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

In what way was Elizabeth a relative of Mary? Why might Mary have been unaware of Elizabeth’s pregnancy?

Author’s Thoughts
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Luke 1:36 “No one thought your relative Elizabeth could have a child, either, but she is now in her sixth month.”
King James
Luke 1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Is it true that nothing is impossible with God? Why?

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Luke 1:37 “Nothing is impossible with God.”
King James
Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Could Mary have said no to God? How well did she understand what she was saying yes to?

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Luke 1:38 “I am God’s servant,” Mary said. “Let all you have said happen to me according to his will.”
Then the angel left.
King James
Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Why did Mary go to see Elizabeth?

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Luke 1:39–40 Sometime after seeing the angel, Mary hurried to the Judean hill country, to the town where Zechariah lived. As she entered the house, she greeted Elizabeth.
King James
Luke 1:39–40 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

What kinds of conversations were exchanged between Mary and Elizabeth over a period of three months?

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Luke 1:41–56 The instant Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the Holy Spirit filled her, and she felt the baby leap in her womb. Overwhelmingly thrilled, she exclaimed, “Of all women, you are most blessed because of the child in your womb. Why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord should come to see me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that every word God has spoken will come to pass.”
“Oh, how my soul sings praise to the Lord,” Mary said. “I rejoice in God my Savior, who took notice of me, a lowly servant. From now on, every generation will call me blessed because the Mighty One has done a miraculous work in me. 50 “His mercy reaches to all who fear him. With his might, he does tremendous things, scattering the proud and arrogant. He has brought rulers down from their thrones while lifting up the humble. With good food, he has filled the stomachs of the poor, but he has sent the rich away with empty bowls. He has remembered his promise to Abraham and his children, showing mercy and helping his servant Israel.”
For about three months, Mary stayed with Elizabeth. Then she returned home.
King James
Luke 1:41–56 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

Why did Mary stay with Elizabeth for three months, not more or less?

Author’s Thoughts
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Luke 1:56 For about three months, Mary stayed with Elizabeth. Then she returned home.
King James
Luke 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

Why might Elizabeth have questioned whether her child would be male or female?

Author’s Thoughts
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Luke 1:57–58 After Elizabeth gave birth to a son, relatives and neighbors who knew how God had been merciful and healed her barrenness came to celebrate with her.
King James
Luke 1:57–58 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

Why did people assume that the baby’s name would be Zechariah? Why did Elizabeth object?

Author’s Thoughts
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Luke 1:59–61 The baby was eight days old when they gathered for the circumcision ceremony. They called him Little Zechariah, but when Elizabeth heard them, she said, “No, his name is John.”
“What?” they said in disbelief. “You have no relatives with that name.”
King James
Luke 1:59–61 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

What made communication with Zechariah difficult?

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Luke 1:62–63 Making gestures with their hands, they asked the baby’s father what he would name him. Zechariah motioned for a writing slate. To everyone’s amazement, he wrote the name John.
King James
Luke 1:62–63 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.

After so many months being unable to speak, how did Zechariah feel when he suddenly could?

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Luke 1:64 Immediately, his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.
King James
Luke 1:64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

What was so amazing about the birth of John?

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Luke 1:65–66 The neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the Judean hill country, people talked and wondered about these things, and kept asking one another, “What will this child become? The hand of God is surely upon him.”
King James
Luke 1:65–66 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

What made Zechariah’s words absolutely true concerning his son?

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Luke 1:67–79 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah prophesied, “Praise the Lord God of Israel, who has come to set his people free. From the house of his servant David, he has sent a mighty Savior, as the prophets promised long ago, to deliver us from our enemies and all those who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant sworn with an oath to Abraham. We are freed from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, for the rest of our lives. And you, my infant son, will be called the prophet of the Most High because you will prepare the way for the Messiah, who will offer salvation to his people and forgive their sins. In God’s tender mercy, heaven’s early light is about to shine on those living in darkness, in the shadow of death. He will show us the way of peace.”
King James
Luke 1:67–79 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

What did it mean for John to become “strong in spirit”?

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Luke 1:80 As John grew, he became strong in spirit. He lived in the wilderness until he preached to Israel.
King James
Luke 1:80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.