Luke 1-2

The first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke are an orchestral arrangement of witnesses proclaiming that the promises and hopes of the Old Testament pointed in the direction of the child born to Mary and Joseph. Luke recorded for Theophilus the solo performances of the angel Gabriel, Mary the mother of Jesus, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, and Simeon and Anna in the temple complex, in order to point out that they were all reading the same score. The participants in Luke 1-2 understood Jesus from a distinctly Old Testament point of view.

(1) The angel Gabriel employed Old Testament themes to explain the roles of John the Baptist and Jesus. In Luke 1:13-17 the heavenly messenger described John as a Nazarite, one who would avoid strong drink. Moses described the Nazarite vow as a voluntary commitment to seek the Lord for a period of time by abstaining from strong drink, letting the hair grow, and avoiding contact with a corpse (Num 6:1-12; 1 Samuel 1-2). In Luke 1:16-17, Gabriel echoed Isa 40:3, Mal 3:1-6, and Mal 4:5-6 when he proclaimed that Elizabeth’s son would turn to Israel to seek the Lord their God and go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah. Luke recorded that Gabriel later visited the virgin Mary, announcing to her that she would miraculously conceive and bear a Son who would sit on the throne of David (Luke 1:30-33, 35). The angelic proclamation is a conflation of Isa 7:14, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel;” Isa 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace…He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom…from now on and forever;” and 2 Sam 7:12-13, the Lord’s promise to David that his lineage would rule in Israel for eternity.

(2) Mary’s song of praise reflected upon the Abrahamic covenant, the song of Hannah, and the Psalms. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary responded to the announcement that Elizabeth was pregnant by singing her own song of praise to the Lord. Like Hannah before her (1 Sam 2:1-10), Mary was a humble woman who had been favored with conception. In her song of praise, Mary employed themes of victory from Psalms 34, 35, 89, 99, 100, 103, 107, and 118. Mary understood that the miraculous conception was consistent with the way God had acted toward Israel in the past, recalling God’s blessings to Abraham and his descendants (Luke 1:55). The God who had been faithful to fulfill His promises of land and lineage (Genesis 12, 15; Exodus 4-15; Josh 21:43-45) had acted again.

(3) After Zechariah announced that his son would be named John, he prophesied of Israel’s salvation in terms consistent with Old Testament expectations of deliverance. In Luke 1:67-79, Zechariah described the Lord as, “the God of Israel,” the One who had “visited and provided redemption for His people” (Luke 1:68). Zechariah rejoiced not only because his son would be the one who would go before the Lord, preparing His ways, but even more so because the One who would deliver Israel from her enemies (Isaiah 53, 60-66; Micah 7; Malachi 3) was at hand.

(4) In the temple complex, Simeon uttered prophetic praise concerning Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles and to Israel. Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:30-32 reflected Isa 9:2, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned;” Isa 42:6-7a, “I, the LORD, have called you for a righteous purpose…I make you a covenant for the people and a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeons;” and Isa 49:6, “It is not enough for you to be My servant raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the protected ones of Israel. I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

(5) Anna proclaimed the birth of Jesus to all who were looking for the salvation of Jerusalem. She understood Jesus as the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophetic themes—like those found in Isa 40:1-2a, “‘Comfort, comfort My people,’ says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of servitude is over, her iniquity has been pardoned;” and Zech 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (see Matt 21:5//John 12:15).