Summary: Luke shows us God’s choice of parents for Jesus and John the Baptist. We can learn a lot about the kind of character God wants in parents when we see Zacharias, Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary’s character.
Today is the first Sunday of 2008! Happy New Year! We have a lot to look forward to this year. As we begin this new year, we also begin a new look at the Lord and his church through the eyes of Luke. It all starts with God’s “Planned Parenthood” for Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary and Joseph. That’s what we read about in the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel.
Let me also share our new theme for this year: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone! I love that! That’s also Luke’s focus. Jesus comes to us and the gospel he brings spreads from Israel to the entire world. That’s why we are here today. That gospel is given to us so that we will also spread it to others. May God bless us to be faithful and fruitful and increase 30, 60, or 100 fold! May God open our eyes to see how he moves through the unexpected little things to work his wonderful power to make and change the universe.
But back to Luke… The first part of this story is so familiar many of us know it by heart. But let’s look at it again and see what new message God will bring to us this time. Luke one is our text for today, Luke two will be next week. In chapter 1 Luke opens by telling Theophilus that he has carefully investigated the events of Jesus life and is writing them down so that he can know with certain assurance the truth about what he has heard. That’s a strong claim! In our day, when so many are attacking the gospels as made up, Luke says he is careful here to tell the truth. Do you believe it? I know you do! Our faith is what God uses to overcome the world. May he increase our faith more and more and use us to accomplish all he has planned for us.
Where does he start? What does Luke tell up front that God inspired for us to know? I find it very interesting that Luke didn’t start with Mary and Joseph like Matthew did. He didn’t open with John and Jesus as adults, like Mark. Luke doesn’t go back to creation and give us the heavenly view of Jesus that John does. Luke, the Gentile, starts his gospel at the temple in Jerusalem and an old, childless married couple from the priestly tribe of Levi and line of Aaron. Luke starts in the heart of Judaism. Luke knows that the hope of the Messiah was first a Jewish hope. It was a hope for a Jewish redeemer who would redeem Israel. It is a subtle reminder that the gospel is to the Jew first and also the Gentile. We Gentiles need to remember that today. We need to know our roots. Jesus is the root of David, the bright and morning star. He hasn’t changed. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our hope was born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
Scholars have noticed that the first two chapters of Luke sound very Jewish. So Jewish, in fact, that some liberal scholars once argued that a different author wrote them. That’s hog wash! But it shows us that God wants us to remember where we came from. We all have roots in God’s promise to Abraham: I will bless all nations through you! We all share a hope that was originally the hope of Israel and has become our hope according to God’s plan to redeem all man through Jesus Christ. Three quarters of our Bible is directly to the nation of Israel, and the entire Old Testament is in Hebrew! As far as we know, Luke is the only Gentile who the Holy Spirit inspired to write scripture, and he begins the gospel with a focus on the heart of the Jewish hope of the Messiah as redeemer of Israel.
We meet Zachariah as he enters the temple and receives a visit from the angel, Gabriel. The angelic message is just too good to be true to Zachariah. He just can’t believe his ears. God is giving him and Elizabeth a son in their old age. This is a prayer Zechariah and Elizabeth have prayed about for years: “Oh, Lord! Give us a child! Please! We want to have children. Lord, don’t let us die childless… Lord? Are you listening?” What prayers do you have for your family? The long years pass and now Zachariah and Elizabeth are too old. They’ve accepted that parenthood is just not part of the plan. They have come to terms with the reality of a barren womb and a house without a crib or diapers or brag books. In Zachariah’s mind, all that is settled. His hopes for a family are just a faded memory. Perhaps he can’t remember the last time he prayed for a child. But, guess what? God hasn’t forgotten his prayers. God’s schedule is a bit unique, and often surprising. God’s plan doesn’t depend on Zachariah’s plans. His plan for their parenthood entails a lot more than Zachariah ever imagined. And when the memo came, Zachariah didn’t believe it. Has God told you things that you find hard to believe?