Monday, January 14, 2013

Luke 1:1-25

Luke 1:1-4 - Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. (full text here)

Occasionally there will be a buzz in the news about a "new gospel" found. Or perhaps the History Channel will run a special series on "the forbidden gospels". Books such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Phillip, and the Gospel of Judas make great plots for stories such as The Da Vinci Code, but they contradict each other as well as the canonical gospels and early church history. Pop culture references make these "gospels" seem to be equally on par with the book of Luke, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Some scholarly research would reveal that the gospel of Luke stands the test of time in historical accuracy when checked with other documents of the time period as well as being accepted by early believers and eyewitnesses who knew the true stories. Luke gives us an orderly account the life and ministry of Jesus, giving certainty to believers of the truth of the gospel. He has no need to innovate and sensationalize the story. He simply reports the facts. His sources are eyewitnesses and "servants of the word" who preserved the oral tradition of the apostles.

The passage continues with the story of John the Baptizer's conception. There was a couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were upright and blameless in the eyes of God. Both were from the tribe of Levi - the tribe responsible for priestly duties. Despite their devotion to God they remained childless - seen in their time period as divine punishment. Five times a year Zechariah would have left home for the temple. During the three major Jewish festivals, all priestly divisions were on duty to serve the multitudes of pilgrims. Two other weeks a year he would also come to Jerusalem to help with the daily temple sacrifices and rituals.

In the days of King Herod, a crazy ruler but amazing architect, Zechariah was ministering in the temple. He was chosen by lot to enter into the Holy Place and burn incense to the Lord in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies, a once in a lifetime opportunity. As priests and worshippers joined Zechariah in prayer from outside the building, the angel Gabriel suddenly appeared and announced to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son. Many would rejoice because of his birth, and he would call many to repentance. He was to be filled with the Holy Spirit and set apart in a similar manner to a Nazarite - a special commitment to the Lord. His mission would be to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zechariah was overwhelmed and could not believe what he heard, despite the fact that he was talking to an angel. As a consequence he was struck dumb until the baby would be born. When Zechariah finally appeared to the waiting crowd, he could only make signs to indicate that he had seen a vision from the Lord. Despite his dumbness, he completed his week of service. His wife Elizabeth became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months, secure in the knowledge that God had performed a miracle and removed her disgrace.

We often look at people like Zechariah in the Bible and shake our heads, wondering how they can be so daft. After all, an angel of the Lord would surely be convincing! But we often equally doubt truths spoken into our own lives. We ignore Scriptures that seem too difficult to follow. We close our ears to the calling of the Holy Spirit when He leads us toward paths that seem difficult. We doubt the goodness of God in the midst of the storms of life. We choose to follow pop culture rather than the truths of God.

God’s promises to us are no less binding than his promise of a son for Zechariah. He promises that we can participate in His divine nature, escaping the corruption of the world and our evil desires (2 Peter 1:4). He promises to supply all our needs through His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). He promises us perfect peace beyond anything the world can give (John 14:27). He promises us rest when we labor for Him (Matthew 11:28-29). He promises that He has a plan for our lives, one of a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). But so many days we stumble through life, failing to live in the power of these guarantees. If God struck us dumb each time we disbelieved his promises, what a quiet bunch we would be!

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for the one who made the promise is faithful.
- Hebrews 10:23

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