Purpose: To deepen our faith that God always fulfills his purposes and promises, and that he uses people of hope and obedience to do this.
Extrabiblical studies keep confirming the historical accuracy of the third Gospel. Luke’s own introduction is in classic Greek literary style (1:1-4). He claims to follow the principles of good history: acquaintance with similar accounts, interviews with primary sources—eyewitnesses and leading characters—investigation of reported events, orderliness in arranging materials and a clear aim.
This question is intended to get people to start looking at the text. Some possible reasons for God’s choice: (1) They both descended from priests—their priestly pedigree was not a decisive factor, but this detailed emphasis indicates they knew and appreciated their rich spiritual heritage (v. 5). (2) They were “upright in the sight of God”—this does not mean they were morally perfect, but that their basic trust was in God’s grace, not their own works. (3) They obeyed God’s commands as best as they knew. (4) Zechariah had long been praying for the Messiah to come (v. 13).
Although Zechariah was a priest, he was one of “about eighteen thousand” according to Darrell Bock. And only once in his life would he have the opportunity to “assist in the daily offering by going into the holy place” (Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994], p. 35).
The angel is identified as Gabriel, a prominent angel in the Bible. He meets Zechariah in the house of God. His message is specific and harmonizes with scriptural prophecy. His message is for Israel and not a subjective situation. His prophecy is objectively fulfilled.
Why did Elizabeth go into seclusion? Scholars aren’t sure. Leon Morris notes that during the first five months “her pregnancy would not have been noticeable. It may be that she did not want to be seen until it was obvious to all that the Lord had looked on her to take away her reproach (cf. Gn. 30:23). Childlessness was usually considered a punishment from God,
and Elizabeth had evidently had to put up with reproaches from people who did not recognize her piety (6). Now she would know this no more.” (Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988], p. 79).
The birth of the Messiah’s forerunner had to be unmistakably God’s doing. Consider their advanced age, Elizabeth’s barrenness, the sign of Zechariah’s muteness, the witness of many people to the effects of his vision in the temple, the nine-month pregnancy itself, giving the name John (“gift of
God”). All pointed to the grace of God.
Luke loves to describe happy family/community scenes. Here he starts this subtheme in his Gospel: people who witness or participate in God’s wondrous works naturally tell others about it. But at this point Luke seems especially eager to give objective witness to this supernatural event.