1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account [Luke likely had heard or read these other accounts in doing research for his gospel] of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
Note: How thoroughly have you investigated the Bible’s claims about Jesus?
1:2 just as they were handed down to us [refers to oral transmission] by those who from the first were eyewitnesses [those who had seen Jesus’ life and ministry; includes the apostles; could have included Mary, Jesus’ mother, as well as others who followed Jesus; cf. 2 Pet. 1:16-18] and servants of the word.
1:3 Therefore, since I [Luke, an educated Gentile believer (cf. Col. 4:11 and 4:14); a medical doctor (cf. Col. 4:14); one of Paul’s traveling companions (cf. “we” sections: Acts 16:10-17; 20:4-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16) and fellow workers (Philemon 24)] myself have carefully investigated everything [written and oral accounts concerning Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection] from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account [with few exceptions, Luke’s gospel is chronological] for you, most excellent [same title Paul used when addressing Felix (Acts 24:3) and Festus (Acts 26:25); cf. Acts 23:26; title suggests that Theophilus was a person of rank] Theophilus [name means “friend of God” or “one who loves God”; Luke dedicated this Gospel and Acts (cf. 1:1) to this individual],
Note: Who was Theophilus? Suggestions include…
• “Theophilus” was a name for all friends and lovers of God.
• Theophilus was an unknown Christian.
• Theophilus was a Roman official involved in Paul’s defense in Rome and therefore in need of an orderly account of Jesus’ life.
• The “most excellent” Theophilus was an official or person of prominence.
• Theophilus may have been a benefactor who supported Luke.
1:4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught [our Eng. word “catechumen” (one being taught basics of the Christian faith); Theophilus had probably learned about Jesus through oral teaching].
Note: Luke wrote his gospel and Acts to help his friend Theophilus better understand the significance of the life and ministry of Jesus. How can God use you to help your family and friends get better acquainted with Jesus?
1:5 In the time of Herod [a cruel ruler; ruled from 37 to 4 BC; also called “the Great”] king of Judea there was [Zechariah and Elizabeth stand in stark contrast to evil Herod] a priest named Zechariah [name means “Yah (the Lord) remembers”], who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah [leading priest in the days of the return from Exile (Neh. 12:4), and then a priestly house (Neh. 12:17)]; his wife Elizabeth [name means “my God is good fortune” or “God is my oath”] was also a descendant of Aaron.
1:6 Both of them [Zechariah and Elizabeth would be model parents to John the Baptist] were upright [righteous; refers to those whose lives are wholly conformed to God’s will] in the sight of God [not just in outward appearance], observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly [does not mean without sin].
1:7 But [in spite of their faithfulness to God] they had no children [resulted in a sense of disgrace; cf. Elizabeth’s words in Lk. 1:25; often viewed as a judgment of God (cf. Gen. 20:18; Hos. 9:14)], because Elizabeth was barren; and [like Abraham and Sarah] they were both well along in years [therefore the promise of 1:13 could only happen by God’s intervention; reminder that we can and should continue serving God through our senior years].
Note: How can senior adults today use their gifts, talents, and experiences to enhance the ministries of the church?
1:8 Once when Zechariah’s division [priests divided into 24 divisions (cf. 1 Chron. 24) and served an entire week twice a year] was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, [note three surprises Zechariah experienced…]
1:9  he [Zechariah] was chosen by lot [casting of lots took place twice a day at the morning and at the evening offering of incense; cf. Prov. 16:33], according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense [in the holy place on the golden altar; burning of incense represented the prayers of the people; a privilege given to a priest only once in his lifetime because of the large number of priests].
1:10 And when the time [incense burned in the temple in the morning and in the evening; Luke does not specify time of day] for the burning of incense [rising smoke of the incense signifies the prayers of the assembled worshipers] came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
1:11 Then  an angel [messenger; Gabriel as per Lk. 1:19] of the Lord appeared [a divine manifestation; Luke does not indicate what angel looked like] to him, standing at the right side [near holy of holies; between the altar and the golden lampstand] of the altar of incense.
1:12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled [troubled; terrified] and was gripped with fear.
1:13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid [command to stop an action in progress], Zechariah; your [personal] prayer has been heard [perhaps indicates Zechariah was praying for a son while performing his duty as a priest; perhaps indicates Zechariah was praying for the coming of the Messiah].  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John [name means “the Lord is gracious” or “the Lord is merciful”].
1:14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,
1:15 for he will be great [cf. Lk. 7:24-28] in the sight of the Lord [the true measure of greatness]. He is never [strong prohibition] to take wine or other fermented [strong or intoxicating] drink [indicating that John was to be a Nazirite (cf. Num. 6:2-8); cf. Lk. 7:33], and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from [or before; cf. Lk. 1:41] birth.
1:16 [re: nature of John’s ministry] Many of the people of Israel will he bring back [to cause to return; cf. Isa. 40:1-5] to the Lord their God [because of his prophetic ministry; cf. Jn. 1:15-34].
1:17 And he will go on before the Lord [Jesus, the Messiah], in the spirit and power of Elijah [strength and an uncompromising presentation of the truth; cf. Matt. 17:10-13], to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children [perhaps means John would be instrumental in restoring broken family relationships or in bringing the hearts of his contemporaries into harmony with the devotion of their forefathers] and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous [cf. Mal. 4:6] — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord [Messiah].”
1:18 Zechariah asked [his question indicates his doubt/unbelief (cf. 1:20)] the angel, “How can I be sure of this? [Zechariah focused on the obstacles and physical limitations…] I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
Note: Can you recall an occasion when you doubted God because you focused on obstacles or apparent difficulties instead of on Him and His power?
1:19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel [one of two angels actually named in Scripture]. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
Note: Only two angels are named in the Bible:
• Michael: Dan. 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7
• Gabriel: Dan. 8:16;9:21; Lk. 1:19,26
1:20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak [and possibly deaf as per 1:62] until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”
1:21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.
1:22 When he came out, he could not speak to them [unable to give priestly benediction (Num. 6:22-27)]. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
1:23 When his time [a week] of service was completed, he returned home [located in the hill country of Judea, south of Jerusalem (cf. 1:39)].
1:24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant [just as Gabriel had announced in 1:13] and for five months remained in seclusion.
1:25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people [cf. the experiences of Sarah (Gen. 21:1-7) and Rachel (Gen. 30:22-24)].”
1:26 In the sixth month [after Gabriel had informed Zechariah about the coming birth of his son; after Elizabeth became pregnant], God sent the angel Gabriel [fourth appearance in Scripture; previously appeared twice to Daniel (Dan. 8:15-27; 9:20-27) and once to Zechariah (Lk. 1:8-20)] to Nazareth, a town [located north of Jerusalem] in Galilee,
1:27 to a virgin [probably in her teens] pledged [engaged; couple regarded as husband and wife during this period] to be married to a man named Joseph [a carpenter (cf. Matt. 13:55)], a descendant of David [David had ruled Israel approximately one thousand years earlier; this kinship important in qualifying Jesus to be Messiah/King promised to David]. The virgin’s name was Mary.
1:28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored [graced; implies that Mary was recipient of divine favor]! The Lord is with you [indicates she was already a person of faith].”
1:29 Mary was greatly [thoroughly] troubled [confused, perplexed] at his words and wondered [consider, reckon up different reasons] what kind of greeting this might be.
1:30 But the angel [Gabriel as per 1:26] said to her, “Do not be afraid [Gr., phobeo: frightened; compare with Zechariah’s response to Gabriel’s visit in 1:12-13], Mary [Greek form of Hebrew name Miriam], you have found [not earned; recipient] favor [Greek charis: grace or undeserved favor] with God [because God chose her to be Jesus’ mother].
1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus [Greek form of Hebrew name Joshua; means “the Lord is salvation”].
1:32 He will be great and will be called the [messianic title] Son of the Most High [refers to God as exalted, holy, distinct]. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David [Messiah would come from David’s line: see 2 Sam. 7:13-14],
1:33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] forever; His kingdom will never end [see Ps. 89:3-4].”
1:34 “How will this be,” Mary [perhaps puzzled] asked [requested an explanation] the angel, “since I am a virgin [“know not a man” (KJV); am not intimate with a man]?”
1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit [not a male partner] will come upon you [to effect the conception], and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
1:36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.
1:37 [the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary illustrate the following point…] For nothing is impossible with God [cf. Jer. 32:17; Matt. 17:20; 19:26; Mk. 10:27].”
1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant [Greek doulos: means servant or slave],” Mary answered [recognized and willingly submitted to God’s will]. “May it be to me as you have said [Greek rhema: refers to a specific word spoken by God].” Then the angel left her.
1:39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried [from Nazareth] to a town [perhaps Hebron, the city of priests (Josh. 21:11)] in the hill country of Judea [possibly a distance of fifty to seventy miles],
Note: Mary went to visit Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. Why is it important to have family and friends with which to share our blessings, sorrows, hopes, difficulties, or challenges?
1:40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit [cf. Lk. 1:15].
1:42 In a loud voice she [Elizabeth] exclaimed: “Blessed [“having been favored”] are you among [not above] women, and blessed is the child [no ordinary child] you will bear!
Note: How do you think Elizabeth’s words may have strengthened Mary and challenged her faith?
1:43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord [indicates Elizabeth recognized Mary would give birth to the Messiah] should come to me?
1:44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
1:45 Blessed [happy] is she [Mary] who has believed [trusted; in spite of the difficulties caused by the pregnancy] that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
1:46 And Mary said [Mary’s song is often called the “Magnificat” (first word of Latin translation of this passage: “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”)]: “My soul glorifies [tense indicates a habitual act] the Lord
1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
1:48 for he has been mindful [regarded or looked with favor upon her] of the humble [refers to low social class] state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
1:49 for the Mighty One [title used 14 times in OT; used by Jesus in Matt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62] has done great things [cf. Deut. 11:7] for me—holy [cf. Lev. 19:2] is his name.
1:50 His mercy [cf. Ex. 33:19] extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
Note: What do verses 49 and 50 reveal about Mary’s understanding of God’s character and about her knowledge of the Scripture?
1:51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm [symbol of strength and power; cf. Ex. 6:6; Isa. 51:5; Jer. 32:17]; he has scattered those who are proud [cf. Ps. 138:6; Prov. 3:34] in their inmost thoughts.
1:52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones [political position and power] but has lifted up [to positions of importance] the humble [cf. Ps. 147:6].
1:53 He has filled the hungry with good things [cf. Ps. 107:9] but has sent the rich away empty.
1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
1:55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”
1:56 Mary [probably was helpful to Elizabeth who was pregnant in her old age] stayed with Elizabeth [probably helpful to Mary and sensitive to what she would face upon returning to her home three months pregnant] for about three months and then returned home [Mary willing to bear disgrace and misunderstanding in order to be used by God for His divine purposes].
1:57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
1:58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord [God given the credit for this miraculous birth] had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy [cf. 1:14; birth of a male child cause for rejoicing in that day; God had taken away Elizabeth’s disgrace (Lk. 1:25)].
1:59 On the eighth day [cf. Lev. 12:3] they came to circumcise [a sign of the covenant with Abraham (cf. Gen. 17:9-14)] the child, and they [neighbors and relatives] were going to name him after his father [as per the usual custom] Zechariah,
1:60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John [cf. Lk. 1:13].”
1:61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
1:62 Then they made signs [indicates Zechariah had also been stricken deaf] to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.
1:63 He asked for a writing tablet [small wooden boards, covered with a film of wax (E. Earle Ellis)], and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John [cf. Lk. 1:13].”
1:64 Immediately [instantly] his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God [Zechariah’s first words after the return of his speech were words of praise].
1:65 The neighbors were all filled with awe [at the birth of a baby to an elderly couple and the other events at his birth], and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking [continuously] about all these things.
1:66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
1:67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied [Zechariah’s song often called the “Benedictus” (first word in Latin translation)]:
1:68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come [or “has visited”] and has redeemed [or “accomplished redemption”; just as He had redeemed Israel from Egyptian slavery (cf. Ex. 15:13; Deut. 13:5; Ps. 77:15; 111:9)] his people.
1:69 He has raised up a horn [symbol of strength and power] of salvation for us in the house of [reference to David’s ancestral line] his servant David
1:70 (as he said through his holy prophets [cf. 2 Sam. 7:11-13,26; Ps. 89; 132:17; Ezek. 34:23-24; Amos 9:11-12; Heb. 1:1] of long ago),
1:71 salvation [people looking for salvation from Roman Empire rather than salvation from sin] from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—
1:72 to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
1:73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham [cf. Gen. 22:16-18]:
1:74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
1:75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
1:76 And you, my child, will be called [note John’s key role in history of redemption…] a prophet [first prophet since Malachi, ending 400 years of silence] of the Most High; [cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6] for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him [the forerunner promised in Mal. 3:1],
1:77 [ministry of John h Baptist included…] to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
1:78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun [cf. Mal. 4:2] will come to us from heaven
1:79 to [cf. Isa. 9:2-3] shine on those living in darkness [darkness of death and sin] and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace [spiritual peace; cf. Jn. 14:27].”
1:80 And the child [John] grew and became strong in spirit [moral development]; and he lived in the desert [in isolation; period of preparation for public ministry] until he appeared publicly to Israel.