For with God nothing shall be impossible. — Luke 1:37
“You probably will not be able to have any children,” the doctor said after doing some testing. This report came to my future husband and me not long before our marriage. In the years following our wedding, the doctor’s diagnosis proved to be correct — there were no children. Sometimes it seemed as if we were riding an emotional rollercoaster as we went through times of hope and times of sadness. I would pray and consecrate the matter to the Lord, and then another wave of grief would come, so I would need to pray and consecrate it again. Eventually, we felt God had led us into an avenue of helping young people that we believed was our calling instead of having children.
However, eight years after our wedding, God unexpectedly changed the direction of our lives when we found out that I was pregnant. More tests were done, and a different doctor said conception was one chance in a million. What joy we felt when our miracle baby son was born! Then nineteen months later, another miracle occurred when our baby daughter came into the world. We experienced for ourselves that “with God nothing shall be impossible.”
The births of our son and daughter gave my husband and me personal understanding about the joy Zacharias and Elisabeth must have felt when they learned God would give them a son. They had been married far longer than eight years, and not only that, they were past the child-bearing time of life. No doubt they had undergone many emotions over the years — anticipation, disappointment, joy, grief, and more. Although they thought their situation was past hope, God had a divine plan.
Then the time came for God to implement His plan of redemption that had been established from the foundation of the world. This began with the message to Zacharias that he and his wife would have a son who would prepare the hearts of the people for the coming Messiah. Soon after appearing to Zacharias, the Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary to tell her that she would conceive and bear God’s Son. Thus, with two miraculous births, a new dispensation in God’s plan for the salvation of mankind began.
The miraculous births of our two children certainly did not have the large-scale impact of the births foretold in today’s text. But our story, along with the miracles experienced by many others, is a testimony to God’s power to do the “impossible.” Maybe you are facing a situation that seems to have no solution. Perhaps your emotions have fluctuated between hope and despair as you’ve dealt with this difficulty. May you be encouraged by the knowledge that God has a plan, and He is well able to accomplish the impossible.
After four hundred years without a message from one of God’s prophets, the Israelite people were expecting their Messiah to come, heralded by a forerunner prophesied by Malachi. Luke began his historical documentation with the two announcements which started a new dispensation: the messages delivered by the Angel Gabriel as he appeared to Zacharias and then to Mary.
The first four verses of the Book of Luke are an introduction. The author’s purpose was to write a historical account based upon the words and writings of eyewitnesses.
Verses 5-7 give a point of reference for the date and introduce Zacharias and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. In Luke’s individual style, he indicated the time frame when he wrote, “In the days of Herod, the King.” Herod the Great was born in Idumea, an area south of Judah that was inhabited by Esau’s descendants. Appointed by the Roman Senate, this Herod ruled until his death in 4 B.C.
Zacharias was a priest “of the course of Abia” (verse 5). Because of the great number of priests, King David had separated them into twenty-four groups for a rotation of duty. It was considered commendable for a priest to marry a descendant of Aaron, which Elisabeth was, and Zacharias and Elisabeth had faithfully kept God’s commandments and the religious customs, serving God from their hearts. However, in that culture and era, having no children was considered to be the consequence of not pleasing God, so they had undoubtedly felt humiliation and condemnation as the years had passed.
Incense was offered in the Holy Place before the daily morning sacrifice and again following the sacrifice made in the evening. Many people and priests stood in the courtyards about the Temple and prayed during these offerings, as it was a sacred time. Perhaps a thousand priests were in each rotation, so the priest who offered the incense was chosen by lot, and could only perform this service once in his lifetime. In our text, this great honor fell upon Zacharias (verses 8-10).
While Zacharias was ministering, he was visited by the Angel Gabriel and given a startling message (verses 11-17). He would father a son who would “drink neither wine nor strong drink” (be a Nazarite), and would be commissioned for his calling by the Holy Ghost as the Old Testament prophets had been. This son, who was to be named John, would fulfill the prophecies of Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6, becoming the forerunner of Christ.
Verses 18-25 tell that although he was righteous, Zacharias demonstrated unbelief at this announcement and asked for a sign. The sign given was disciplinary — he was unable to speak until the baby was born.
Six months after Elisabeth conceived, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary (verses 26-38), who was living in Nazareth, a small town about sixty-five miles from Jerusalem to the northeast. Mary was espoused to Joseph. Jewish couples were often engaged for as much as a year before they were actually married. However, the betrothal was binding and legal; faithfulness was expected and unfaithfulness punishable by divorce and death.
The word hail in the angel’s greeting meant “be glad,” and was a greeting when used in this context. It could be stated, “Joy be with thee.” The angelic message was that Mary would conceive a son to be called Jesus, which means “Savior” or “Jehovah saves,” and that He would be the Son of God, the Messiah. He would fulfill God’s promise to David that his throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16) and the prophecy that his kingdom would be eternal (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Mary “cast in her mind” (reasoned), but did not understand how this could happen. Her response to the angel showed perplexity, not doubt. The Angel Gabriel’s answer indicated that miraculously, God’s Son would take on the form of a human and be born into the world as a baby. The Incarnation was designed and implemented by God himself so that Jesus was born without sin.
As additional assurance, the angel told Mary that her cousin Elisabeth had conceived a son. Mary’s response, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (verse 38) showed complete submission to God’s plan. She undoubtedly knew that unkind and untrue statements would be made about her, yet she was fully ready to obey.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The preface to the Gospel (1:1-4)
A. The sources for the Gospel (1:1-2)
B. The research for the Gospel (1:3)
C. The purpose for the Gospel (1:4)
II. The advent of the Son of Man
A. The annunciations
1. The announcement of the birth of John (1:5-25)
a. The parents of John (1:5-7)
b. The promise of John (1:8-23)
c. The prospect of John (1:24-25)
2. The announcement of the birth of the Son of Man (1:26-38)
a. The appearance of the angel (1:26-29)
b. The message of the angel (1:30-33)
c. The reassurance of the angel (1:34-38)
Even impossible situations are not too big for God, and we can come to Him with all our problems, needs, and circumstances.