Announcing the Forerunner



The Necessity of a True History – 1:1-4

Reconstitution of those things that have been carried out in full –1. The beginning assumption is that Christ’s earthly mission has been completed. Luke sees the importance of a narrative that sets the events n a context to demonstrate the viability of the immediate interpretation placed on these events by the apostolic preachers of the gospel. Luke accompanied Paul and wrote this gospel as a prelude to his record of the preaching and actions of the apostles.

Handed on by eyewitnesses and servants of the Word- 2 -Though Luke was not an eyewitness of the events of the life of Christ, he knew that what he was hearing from the apostles demanded a substantial historical account of the life, actions, and teachings of Christ. He therefore employed the accounts of eyewitnesses in crafting this discussion of Jesus’ messianic claim

Follow by careful research from the first events of this happening. Luke had searched out the compiled narratives and the eyewitnesses as far back as the initial events leading to the birth of John The Baptist. Not only the witnesses but the interplay of the persons involved in the following narrative served as a powerful witness to the purposive flow of events culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection and appearances. These were not historical accidents but all came about in the pursuit of a plan.

An orderly, well-arranged, account in Writing – This does not mean that everything is necessarily in chronological order but is arranged carefully to make the point that Jesus in his redemptive work is fulfilling that which was prophesied about him. Luke selects his historical events and arranges them, not to create a false impression but to show definitively that Jesus is indeed “a savior, Christ, the Lord.”

To know unfailingly the things you have been taught – fulfillment of prophecy; nature of the miracles; appearances and instructions after the resurrection; Acts

Historical Setting and Persons – 1:5-7

Time – Herod King of Judea

Persons – Zacharias and Elizabeth

Pedigree –Descendants of Aaron – Abijah, one of 24 divisions of the priesthood


Righteous in the sight of God – Malachi 3:18 –

Blameless in all the commandments and just requirement of the Lord

This description does not mean that Zacharias was not sinful and did not need justification but that he consciously served God in accordance with the revealed requirements of his office, and sought to do it heartily.

Condition – What is the importance of this?



Obviously when God placed such importance on women bearing children to be barren seemed to be the result of some divine retribution; This happened, however, in order that the miraculous nature of this conception would give Mary at least one person that would believe her, rejoice with her, and receive her during a very delicate time of her young life.

Specific Circumstances of the Announcement – 1:8-10

Zachariah was ministering according to the orderly arrangement agreed upon by the priests

Chosen by lot to enter the temple to burn the incense offering [Exodus 30:1-10 – done every morning and evening

The Appearance and the Announcement – 11-17

At the right of the altar of incense an Angel stood – not ominous but for favor

Your petition has been heard

Elizabeth will bear a Son

His name will be John – this in itself would be a sign cf. 61

Joy will come, yours and that of many [John 5:35]

Marked out for Greatness by God

Great in the Sight of the Lord 15 [Luke 7:24-28; What is greatness?] His place as the last of the prophets and the only one that actually saw the Christ and touched him and spoke with him constituted his greatness.

Externally he would be marked out by a particular type of life manifesting absolute sobriety.

Filled with the Holy Spirit 15 

Turn many Israelites back to the Lord – note response to preaching

Fulfillment of Prophecy

Before Him – Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 40:3; cf. Lk 1:76; 3:4; 7:27

Elijah – Mal 4:5

Turn and prepare people for the Lord – Malachi 4:6

A delay in the opportunity for Proclamation – 1:18-20; 67-79

Zacharias request for a knowledge superior to the announcement from one of God’s own messengers brought upon him the temporary inability to proclaim the wonder of this miracle and its meaning.

Redemption as a fulfilment of prophecy and covenant  67-74

Purpose of holy service 74, 75

John’s activity would be specifically to prepare the people for the Messiah as a redeemer from sin, darkness and rebellion 76-79

The Announcement to Mary of the birth of the Messiah – 1:26-38

26, 27 – The same angel that had announced the birth of the forerunner, now announces the birth of the Messiah. Betrothals were made not on the basis of the individual desires of the couple but with participation, and often arrangement, of their families. The maidens were young so as to maximize the number of years of child-bearing and also to avoid the oppressiveness of unfulfilled sexual desire during the critical young adult years. It is important that the family into which Jesus was born was of the tribe of Judah and descended from David. [See Romans 1:3]

28-30 – The angels twice indicates that Mary has been greatly favored by God, that she is the recipient of an unusually profound grace. She is not a reservoir of grace to be given to others, but a recipient as a matter of the sovereign purpose of God.

31 – 34 – Mary was to be the woman through whom the Messiah would come. Genesis 3:15 has promised the destruction of satan and his servants through the seed of the woman. Several amazing incongruities were included in this announcement.

She would conceive, but as of yet she was unmarried and had no child-producing relations with a man.

His name would be Jesus [which after Joshua means Jehovah is salvation] and, and though the son she bore would be her son, he would be called the Son of the Most High. It is also true, that he would be the one that would fulfill God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:16. The phrase “Son of the Most High” carried with it eternality. One that was a Son of the Most High meant that he shared the nature of the Most High. He must be an eternal person, divine in nature, and yet would be born and would be her son and a true descendant of David.

Her question, “How will this be” is not a request for proof as was the question of Zacharias; She needed nothing but the word of God that it would be so. Her question was one of puzzlement since she was a virgin and the announcement seemed to mean that this conception would take place immediately.

35-38 – The angel condescends to explain to her how this amazing event of the Son of the Most High becoming her own son will take place. How will the one that already the Son in an eternal sense become a son in the temporal sense?

The impregnation of Mary occurred when the Holy Spirit came upon her. This was an act of creation in which her own egg was given vitality through a special operation of the Holy Spirit. As Son of Man Jesus was truly a conceived, finite, creature. Human nature was produced at this moment of conception. At the moment of the Spirit’s coming upon her she conceived in her womb [cf. 31]

A second thing occurred, however, at the precise time off the impregnation; that is, the power of the Most High overshadowed her. This is a separate operation of God from that conceiving process involving the Holy Spirit. This is the activity of God the Father in a mysterious operation in which he overshadowed Mary with the person of his Son, eternally generated by his power. The Son immediately assumes this human nature into himself so that from the moment of conception “the child to be born was holy—the Son of God.” He was Son of God, not on the basis of the production of his human nature by the Holy Spirit, but on the basis of the overshadowing of the Father.

Gabriel then gave Mary the gladdening news of the conception that had taken place with her relative Elizabeth.

41-48 – Elizabeth and Mary rejoice in the redemptive events in which their lives have become so entwined.

A. 41 – This verse shows an amazing concurrence of witnesses to the wonder of the reality that has now come to pass. Mary, now pregnant, has gone to visit Elizabeth. The one, yet unborn, that is to witness to the coming of the Christ and is to baptize him senses even in the womb the presence of his master and creator, the one who comes after him and yet is before him, and leaps in the womb for joy. Elizabeth, being filled with the Spirit gives an utterance that is inspired.

B.  42 – By revelation she knew that Mary had been selected to bear the child that would crush the serpents head.   

C.  43Elizabeth calls Mary, “The mother of my Lord.” This concept that Mary is the Mother of the Lord, or in historically important language, the Mother of God, does not mean that Mary should be elevated beyond the stature of a sinner in need of salvation. In fact, this entire episode led her to rejoice “in God my Savior.” The significance of the phrase, “Mother of my Lord,” is that the single person to born of her was both God and man. Jesus was not two persons, one human and one divine, but was one person uniting two distinct natures. This is the mystery of the incarnation, a manifestation of the wisdom and power of God, but no mere display of mystery, rather the necessary manifestation of the single person that can save fallen creatures.

D.  44, 45 –  Elizabeth recognized that her own child already had begun his role of perfect submission to this calling to announce, to point, and to be glad when the bridegroom comes; she was filled with joy at perfectly content with the superior role to which Mary had been called and thankful for the grace that generated Mary’s faithful acceptance of the message of Gabriel. Every time anyone has faith we can say “Blessed is he/she who has believed,” for faith has been granted to us [Philippians 1:29].

E.  46-48 – Mary had no haughtiness about this, but knew that this was a manifestation of grace


God’s control of history to manifest his character through the covenant of redemption

All the particular Providences of our lives are subdued to that purpose

Greatness is directly proportioned to the knowledge of God through Christ’s redemptive work – interpreters that represent Luke as uninterested in atonement should see this in relation to Lk 22:14-20, 37; 23:47; 24:25-27

God’s power and wisdom have full display in all the events that lead to and in the final consummation of the Christ’s redemptive work.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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