Luke’s gospel gives us a particular portrait of Christ. Why did Luke write it? How did he get his information? How trustworthy is his account? How can we benefit from his approach? These are the questions we’ll be exploring in Luke’s prologue to his gospel.
We live in an uncertain age. Skeptics doubt whether objective truth exists. Relativists believe everything depends on your point of view. Agnostics just don't know. Even Christians are often beset by many fears and worries about the future. But into a world of such uncertainty God sent His Son, born of a virgin, so that we might not only know the truth with certainty, but be set free by it.
As Luke begins to develop his portrait of Jesus, he begins at the beginning, and gives us an account of the birth of John the Baptist and his cousin, Jesus. Luke weaves together the two accounts to show that even though John the Baptist is a great figure in the outworking of God’s redemption, Jesus is the greatest figure. He alone is the Son of the Most High and the new king, who will occupy the throne of David forever. His kingship and kingdom, foretold long ago, have important applications for us today.
The main reason the birth of Jesus was such good news was because it promised grace to sinners like us. Grace to those who suffer. Grace to those who doubt. Grace to those who long for the kingdom of God to advance in an unjust world. The grace of Jesus is so amazing that even the announcement of the one who would announce Him was showered in grace! How much more so the mercy shown to those who have trusted in His saving work upon the cross.
Babies feature prominently in the Bible’s plotline of redemptive history. There are a number of special babies who are used as adults by God to accomplish his purpose of bringing salvation to the world and to secure eternal blessings for the world to come. The lives of these individuals remind us of God’s sovereign purposes and his faithfulness to his promises.
There were a wide variety of responses to the announcement of Jesus’ birth. King Herod responded in murderous rage. Priest Zechariah responded in skeptical doubt. But a poor, teenage girl from Nazareth responded in faithful obedience. It was a fitting response to the Savior whose faithful obedience would save His people from their sins through the cross, and it reminds us that Advent brings not only good news of great joy but a renewed call to follow the One who first sought us.
After encountering the angel Gabriel, Mary did not focus on her poverty, her obscurity, her weakness, or her impending unwed pregnancy and social rejection. She focused on the Lord and His promise and her heart was filled with joy. Our focus determines our joy. When we focus on ourselves, our misery is compounded. But when we focus on our Savior, His limitless joy becomes ours to the praise of His glorious grace.
When the depravity of our sin as a fallen race hits close to home it’s easy to feel like the spirit of Christmas has been undermined. But in fact, it was for this very reason that God sent His Son into the world: to atone for the depths of our sin and replace our depravity with a thankful spirit of praise to the One who set us free.
Mary rejoiced by focusing on God rather than herself. Zechariah took it one step further by specifically focusing on God’s past, present, and future grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what we face in a given day, our sure hope is found in what God has done, is doing, or will yet do in Christ for His glory.
As we move into the Advent season, we’ll look at Luke’s account of the heavenly host that appeared at Christ’s birth. The angel’s proclamation that the Messiah has been born presented the shepherds with the paradoxical picture of a conquering king who is a mere baby. This divine paradox of the victorious Christ, the Lamb of God, was first revealed partially in Genesis, and is finally revealed explicitly in Revelation, where Jesus is portrayed in all of His glory as the victorious Lion.