Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gateways to Grace (1)

Luke 1v1-80

Having spent the autumn working through Luke 9-19, I thought I'd return to the start of the book. Given Christmas celebrates the incarnation of Jesus its good to come back and look at it.

Chapter 1 is laced with divine intervention. We're given the stories of Zechariah being told of the birth of a son to him, John the Baptist. Then of the forthcoming birth of Jesus to Mary, and then the birth of John. Around these are two psalms - one from Mary and one from Zechariah.

Mary speaks of the God who keeps his promise to Abraham, remembering and saving his people (47,55). She had previously been told (31-33) that her child would be named Jesus (Saviour) and would be Son of God, reigning on David's throne forever. The birth of this saviour and king follows in chapter 2 (The Angel's message to the Shepherd's parallelling his message to Mary)

Whilst Mary had been quick to believe, Zechariah had doubted and so been silenced. His voice returns and he is filled with the Holy Spirit (67), as Elizabeth (41) who leads him to testify about the glory of God. Zechariah had been told that his son John would be a Spirit-filled man who would turn the people back to the LOrd, making them ready for the Lord (14-17). Zechariah then, at the birth of his son, testifies that God has already saved his people. It is as good as son. The prophets had predicted it and now it was happening (70). A great rescue, saving his people. A salvation that would bring forgiveness for sins (77). A saviour who John would prepare the way for. Already the Cross casts its shadow back over this life.

This is what God had promised through the prophets, and then through his messenger. Now it is happening. God is at work in this situation and God is revealing. He has not yet been born but Jesus is the Saviour and King. This is God's plan stretching back long before the appearing of Jesus. Back before time in fact, though that much isn't explicit here.

Luke is careful to direct our attention to Jesus. This story is not about Zechariah, or Elisabeth, or Mary, or John. Jesus is already the hero of this story, and he's not even been born. The expectation is high going into chapter 1.

Theophilus (3) reads Luke's words gaining further certainty of what he has already believed. He has believed in Jesus who died and rose, and ascended. The great King, a king whose birth was expected to bring salvation and whose life and death would achieve it. When he reads the final pages this expectation will have become a reality - (24v46-47) - "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations..."

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