|<< Matt 1|
|This is the New King James text of the passages.|
Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1 Listen
Joseph's dilemma (Matthew 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.
Mary is betrothed (espoused) to Joseph. That's the procedure for marriage then - a wedding contract without consummation of the relationship until some period of time later. We see in verse 18 that the marriage had not been consummated at that time, yet Mary was expecting. All was well when Joseph received a word from an angel (verse 23) that this child was the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (see notes); this child would be the Messiah. Joseph is also told that the newborn child is to be called "Jesus" (Greek: Iesous pronounced ee-ay-sooce´). That is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, "Joshua" (Hebrew: yehosua). Neither language has a "J" sound in its alphabet. The Hebrew name "Joshua" carried the connotation of "is salvation." At the time of the birth of Jesus, it was a common name. Keep in mind, the street language in Judea during this era was Aramaic, a Semitic sister language to Hebrew. While the grammar was somewhat different, the language sounded like Hebrew. Therefore, when people heard the name "Jesus," they undoubtedly were reminded of the successor of Moses who led the people of Israel into Canaan. Incidentally, it should be pointed out that, even though the people in Palestine in Jesus' day predominantly spoke Aramaic, the Gospels were actually recorded some years later in the dominant written language of the world, Greek. Educated people spoke and read Greek; few in Judea were skilled in Hebrew. Bible historians tell us that very few people in Jesus' day actually were able to read and write - just speak Aramaic. Hebrew was used in the readings of the Old Testament in the temple and synagogues.
Since Greek was the commercial language of the Roman Empire during the first century, it is likely that the people in Judea also spoke Greek, at least to some extent. When Jesus was crucified, the inscription on his cross was written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew.
Oh...one more thing, notice verse 25 regarding intimate relations between Joseph and Mary, "and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS." The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life. That baseless fallacy is disputed by this verse (i.e. "firstborn son") as well as Matthew 13:55 (see notes) which says of Jesus what was commonly known by his neighbors, "Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?"
An introduction to Luke (Luke 1:1-4)
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,
2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,
3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,
4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
The Gospel of Luke was written by Luke, who also wrote the Book of Acts. Several times in Acts, Luke identifies with Paul's journeys by using the word "we." You'll find these in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16. Luke and Acts are addressed to an individual named Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). "Theophilus" is a Greek name formed from two Greek words, "God" and "lover." The name means "lover of God." Paul named Luke as a companion in Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24, and 2 Timothy 4:11. Luke acknowledges here in verses 1-3 that his Gospel was written some time later from the accounts of eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus.
Zacharias, you're gonna have a baby! (Luke 1:5-25)
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.
23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Zacharias was a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. See the window to the right (Zacharias) for some specific information provided by Easton's Bible Dictionary regarding the one-week-long temple duty Zacharias was performing when the angel appeared to him.
This is a big day for Zacharias; he's gonna be a daddy; an angel stood beside the altar of incense and told him so. NEVER DOUBT AN ANGEL! When Zack asked for a sign, the angel immediately took his voice away. How's that for a sign? Why? Because he doubted! And he will remain that way until after the birth of the baby (verse 20). He came out of the temple using sign language. Elizabeth, his wife, was extremely grateful to conceive a child - especially John the Baptist. There was a considerable stigma attached to being childless in those days (see verse 25). You'll recall that God took the prophet Ezekiel's voice away also back before the fall of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 3:16-25, see notes); he, too, was a priest and was unable to speak (except to prophesy) for over seven years - until the fall of Jerusalem. That had to go through the mind of Zacharias every once in a while. Zacharias did not speak again until after John the Baptist was born.
Notice verse 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." While it doesn't mention his hair, this verse leads one to speculate that John may have had the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6, see notes) on him from birth as Samson did (Judges 13, see notes). This is to be no ordinary child as we see in verses 16-17, "And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 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.'" This baby has a big mission ahead. Was John the Baptist Elijah? Click here to read the article concerning this issue. We see the birth of John the Baptist in verse 24.
Incidentally, Gabriel, the angel who brought this message, is only referenced otherwise in the Book of Daniel (8:16 and 9:21 - see notes). The appearance of an angel with this kind of a resume was quite significant.
Now some news for Mary (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.
Mary, you're going to have a baby also. Notice Luke 1:32-33, "'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. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.'" This will be no ordinary baby. This is the fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah (Isaiah 9, see notes). Uh, oh! Got a problem though - no husband. Gabriel, the angel, assures her that it's all taken care of. Like Joseph (see above), she also gets the same instructions to name her child "Jesus."
Mary visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)
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.”
Time to share the good news. Elizabeth is tickled, and John the Baptist is happy too (verse 41). She readily acknowledges that Mary's son is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in verse 43 when she says, "But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
Mary breaks out in song (Luke 1:46-56)
46 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.
In reply to Elizabeth's comments, Mary waxes eloquent with the goodness of God and her sense of joy at having been chosen to bear. We see in verse 56 that Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months.
John the Baptist arrives (Luke 1:57-66)
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 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.
Zacharias is still unable to speak until the circumcision and naming of the baby on the eighth day. Elizabeth says, "Let's name him John." Nobody by that name in your family, Elizabeth. Are you sure about this; don't you want him to be Zacharias, Jr.? Then they took a writing tablet to Zacharias for a second opinion on a name; he wrote "John." Immediately his tongue was loosed and finally he was able to speak, "John it shall be!"
Zacharias breaks out with a prophecy (Luke 1:67-80)
67 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.
It was obvious to Zacharias that his boy was no ordinary boy. Just look at the prophecy God gave him concerning his son, John the Baptist. There was no question in the mind of Zacharias what John would do with his life. Look at Luke 1:76, "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." Oh...and he also calls in the Abrahamic Covenant markers here in verse 73. That's a reference to the promises God made to Abraham. For more on God's covenant with Abraham, click here. Zacharias fully understands that his son will be instrumental in the fulfillment of this covenant.
Verse 80 is a little curious, "So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel." Zacharias and Elizabeth were old when John was born. Perhaps they died while he was a child. Whatever, John the Baptist was raised "in the deserts" until he embarked upon his God-given ministry of announcing the Messiah.