The Gospel of Luke begins with a dedication to a man named Theophilus in which Luke describes himself as an eyewitness to the life of Jesus Christ and the following work as one that will bring clarity and certainty to any who read it. He begins with the foretelling and birth of John the Baptist who was born to a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who was barren. An angel appeared to Zechariah, explaining that his wife would conceive and that their child would be full of the Holy Spirit and on a mission to turn the hearts of the people of Israel towards God so that they might be ready to receive their Lord. Zechariah expressed his doubt and was rendered mute until the naming of his son, John.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was visited in much the same way and told of the One she would bear. He was to be named Jesus, the Son of the Most High. After this, she goes to see her relative Elizabeth who was already in her sixth month of pregnancy. The two rejoice together at their marvelous conceptions! After the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah prophesies the fulfilment of the covenant made with Abraham all those generations ago.
John the Baptist is the last of the Old Covenant prophets and comes right on the heels of the New Covenant. Both John and Jesus exist as a comingling of the two epochs, the former ushering in the latter in the waters of baptism. If we look closely at the way in with John the Baptist was introduced not only to his parents but to the rest of the world through prophecy, there are a striking number of allusions to what we read in the Old Testament.
For starters, there was the giving of a child to a barren couple, just like Sarah in Genesis and Hannah in 1 Samuel. I sense a nod to Samson when Zechariah is told that his child must not tough wine or strong drink, and that he would be full of the Holy Spirit as seen in the book of Kings. He would be a prophet, charged with turning the hearts of fathers to their children, the disobedient to wisdom, and to prepare a way for the Lord. John then grew up, strong in the spirit, away in the wilderness until his time had come, and we can recall the many years during which the Lord led Israel through the wilderness too!
Most striking of all, however, is the connection that Zechariah makes in his prophecy between the birth of John and the one whom he would go before (that is, Jesus), and the incredible insight that Jesus would be the salvation, the redeemer, the king from the line of David foretold by the prophets of old who would “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.” In the Gospel of Luke, in this very first chapter, we see an intentional and purposeful weaving of the Old Testament into John the Baptist, the life of John with that of Jesus, and the life of Jesus as the fulfilment of everything that had come before. The stage couldn’t be better set for the most important century in human history!
Application and question:
Jesus is the point of the Bible. He is the perfect revelation of God, the Word made flesh who came to dwell among us and be the wounded saviour of which we read all the way back in Genesis 3. Jesus is the focal point of history, our solid rock in the present, and our homecoming in the future. Reflecting on the sheer magnitude of His birth, life, death, and resurrection, how does that impact you? Do you make him the focal point in your life too? Is there anything else more important or worthy than Him?
Father, we thank you for knowing our needs and desires, and for loving us anyway. We are deeply sorry that we haven’t made you our foundation or the center of our lives. Please tear away anything and everything we are tempted to put in our hearts and lives to replace you, so that we may truly live on this earth as exiles, as sojourners, wanting only to know you and to make you known. Amen!
Song: New Wine - Hillsongs
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.