1Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered them to us,3it seemed good to me also, having closely followed all things from the very first, to write it to you in orderly fashion, most excellent Theophilus,4that you may know the certainty of the words which you were told.5There 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.6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.8So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,9according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.10And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.13But 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.14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.15For 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.16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.17He 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.18And Zacharias said to the angel, By what shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.19And 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.20But 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 season.21And the people waited for Zacharias, and wondered that he lingered so long in the temple.22But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they recognized that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he made signs to them and remained speechless.23And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were fulfilled, that he departed to his own house.24Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,25Thus the Lord has done with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.28And having come in, the angel said to her, Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!29But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and contemplated what kind of greeting this might be.30And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor from God.31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David.33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.34Then Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I do not know a man?35And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.36Now behold, Elizabeth your kinswoman has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.37For not one declaration of God will be impossible.38Then Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.39And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,40and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.41And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42And she spoke out with a loud voice and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!43And why is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?44For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.45Blessed is she who believes, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.46And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord,47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.48For He regards the lowly state of His handmaid; for behold, henceforth all generations will count me blessed.49For He who is mighty does great things to me, and holy is His name.50And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.51He performs mightily with His arm; He scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.52He puts down the mighty from their thrones, and exalts the lowly.53He fills the hungry with good things, and the rich He sends away empty.54He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,55as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.56And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.57Now Elizabeth's time was fulfilled for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.58And her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had magnified His mercy with her, and they rejoiced with her.59So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they were calling him by the name of his father, Zacharias.60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.61But they said to her, There is no one among your kindred who is called by this name.62So they made signs to his father; what he would have him called.63And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. So they all marveled.64And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.65And fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were talked about throughout all the hill country of Judea.66And all those who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What kind of child will this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him.67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:68Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people,69and raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David,70as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began,71Deliverance from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,72to perform mercy with our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,73the oath which He swore to our father Abraham:74To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,75in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,77to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins,78through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;79to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.80So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his proclamation to Israel.
Matthew Henry - Concise Commentary 1
Luke will not write of things about which Christians may safely differ from one another, and hesitate within themselves; but the things which are, and ought to be surely believed. The doctrine of Christ is what the wisest and best of men have ventured their souls upon with confidence and satisfaction. And the great events whereon our hopes depend, have been recorded by those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and who were perfected in their understanding of them through Divine inspiration. 5
The father and mother of John the Baptist were sinners as all are, and were justified and saved in the same way as others; but they were eminent for piety and integrity. They had no children, and it could not be expected that Elisabeth should have any in her old age. While Zacharias was burning incense in the temple, the whole multitude of the people were praying without. All the prayers we offer up to God, are acceptable and successful only by Christ's intercession in the temple of God above. We cannot expect an interest therein if we do not pray, and pray with our spirits, and are not earnest in prayer. Nor can we expect that the best of our prayers should gain acceptance, and bring an answer of peace, but through the mediation of Christ, who ever lives, making intercession. The prayers Zacharias often made, received an answer of peace. Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten. Prayers made when we were young and entering into the world, may be answered when we are old and going out of the world. Mercies are doubly sweet that are given in answer to prayer. Zacharias shall have a son in his old age, who shall be instrumental in the conversion of many souls to God, and preparing them to receive the gospel of Christ. He shall go before Him with courage, zeal, holiness, and a mind dead to earthly interests and pleasures. The disobedient and rebellious would be brought back to the wisdom of their righteous forefathers, or rather, brought to attend to the wisdom of that Just One who was coming among them. Zacharias heard all that the angel said; but his unbelief spake. In striking him dumb, God dealt justly with him, because he had objected against God's word. We may admire the patience of God towards us. God dealt kindly with him, for thus he prevented his speaking any more distrustful, unbelieving words. Thus also God confirmed his faith. If by the rebukes we are under for our sin, we are brought to give the more credit to the word of God, we have no reason to complain. Even real believers are apt to dishonour God by unbelief; and their mouths are stopped in silence and confusion, when otherwise they would have been praising God with joy and gratitude. In God's gracious dealings with us we ought to observe his gracious regards to us. He has looked on us with compassion and favour, and therefore has thus dealt with us. 26
We have here an account of the mother of our Lord; though we are not to pray to her, yet we ought to praise God for her. Christ must be born miraculously. The angel's address means only, Hail, thou that art the especially chosen and favoured of the Most High, to attain the honour Jewish mothers have so long desired. This wondrous salutation and appearance troubled Mary. The angel then assured her that she had found favour with God, and would become the mother of a son whose name she should call Jesus, the Son of the Highest, one in a nature and perfection with the Lord God. JESUS! the name that refreshes the fainting spirits of humbled sinners; sweet to speak and sweet to hear, Jesus, a Saviour! We know not his riches and our own poverty, therefore we run not to him; we perceive not that we are lost and perishing, therefore a Saviour is a word of little relish. Were we convinced of the huge mass of guilt that lies upon us, and the wrath that hangs over us for it, ready to fall upon us, it would be our continual thought, Is the Saviour mine? And that we might find him so, we should trample on all that hinders our way to him. Mary's reply to the angel was the language of faith and humble admiration, and she asked no sign for the confirming her faith. Without controversy, great was the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, 1Tim 3:16
. Christ's human nature must be produced so, as it was fit that should be which was to be taken into union with the Divine nature. And we must, as Mary here, guide our desires by the word of God. In all conflicts, let us remember that with God nothing is impossible; and as we read and hear his promises, let us turn them into prayers, Behold the willing servant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word. 39
It is very good for those who have the work of grace begun in their souls, to communicate one to another. On Mary's arrival, Elisabeth was conscious of the approach of her who was to be the mother of the great Redeemer. At the same time she was filled with the Holy Ghost, and under his influence declared that Mary and her expected child were most blessed and happy, as peculiarly honoured of and dear to the Most High God. Mary, animated by Elisabeth's address, and being also under the influence of the Holy Ghost, broke out into joy, admiration, and gratitude. She knew herself to be a sinner who needed a Saviour, and that she could no otherwise rejoice in God than as interested in his salvation through the promised Messiah. Those who see their need of Christ, and are desirous of righteousness and life in him, he fills with good things, with the best things; and they are abundantly satisfied with the blessings he gives. He will satisfy the desires of the poor in spirit who long for spiritual blessings, while the self-sufficient shall be sent empty away. 57
In these verses we have an account of the birth of John the Baptist, and the great joy among all the relations of the family. He shall be called Johanan, or Gracious, because he shall bring in the gospel of Christ, wherein God's grace shines most bright. Zacharias recovered his speech. Unbelief closed his mouth, and believing opened it again: he believers, therefore he speaks. When God opens our lips, our mouths must show forth his praise; and better be without speech, than not use it in praising God. It is said, The hand of the Lord was working with John. God has ways of working on children in their infancy, which we cannot account for. We should observe the dealings of God, and wait the event. 67
Zacharias uttered a prophecy concerning the kingdom and salvation of the Messiah. The gospel brings light with it; in it the day dawns. In John the Baptist it began to break, and increased apace to the perfect day. The gospel is discovering; it shows that about which we were utterly in the dark; it is to give light to those that sit in darkness, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It is reviving; it brings light to those that sit in the shadow of death, as condemned prisoners in the dungeon. It is directing; it is to guide our feet in the way of peace, into that way which will bring us to peace at last, Roma 3:17
. John gave proofs of strong faith, vigorous and holy affections, and of being above the fear and love of the world. Thus he ripened for usefulness; but he lived a retired life, till he came forward openly as the forerunner of the Messiah. Let us follow peace with all men, as well as seek peace with God and our own consciences. And if it be the will of God that we live unknown to the world, still let us diligently seek to grow strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.