Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 1 Study Notes
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
These two verses record the angel's response to Zacharias' fear and record what he says to him in respect to the impact of his message on Zacharias. The following material (verses 15 and following) has to do with John's impact in his setting in history.
1. The angelic correction of Zacharias' reaction.
2. The angelic instruction of Zacharias in respect to the coming son's name.
3. The angelic revelation to Zacharias of the coming joy.
4. Summary: Joy after a lifetime of denial. [Psalm 30 is appropriate here; joy comes in the morning.]
1. The coming joy will more than compensate for the cost involved.
2. Fulfillment has a way of actually erasing the conflicts of wanting, in spite of the fact that the time investment may be way over-balanced in the wanting framework.
3. The record is of a couple who did not use frustration as an excuse to abandon fidelity.
4. "John" means "Yahweh is gracious". [This declaration does not mean that men can, therefore, begin to demand favor because if they do not get what they seek, "Yahweh is not gracious" -- the entire notion of gracious is that Yahweh remains sovereign in the dispensing of grace. The point is that Yahweh is gracious and most, if not all, of His activities of blessing are rooted in grace. So, if Yahweh is sovereign in the dispensing of grace, what does it mean to me that He is gracious? If He refuses my request, is He yet gracious? Of course, otherwise grace is not grace. If He can refuse my request, what does the fact that He is gracious mean? Is He not also just and angry and holy, etc.? What do these attributes mean to me in my circumstances? Just a note: thanksgiving is a response to grace given and we are to be filled with thanksgiving...meaning that we are recipients of an enormous amount of grace! But, the question still remains: what is the significance of Yahweh's grace? Is it that He prefers grace to be given -- though He can deny it without ceasing to be gracious? If He prefers grace, any suppliant will receive grace unless the grace given would lead to a greater disaster than would occur if the grace were not given. The end result is that man can never demand from God -- not even on the basis of God's promises -- because the demanding attitude develops enormous disasters! Whence, then, is confidence? It arises from two things: the realization of God's essential graciousness, which means that typically a suppliant will receive; and the ministration of the Spirit Who brings the conviction of "yes" to our hearts in the face of need. It seems that grace from God then establishes necessity upon God in that once He has given grace, there are certain promises attached that require His faithfulness. At this point, grace gives over to integrity. Does this give man leverage to demand? Absolutely not! It only gives him leverage to be confident. Unbounded grace would remove all confidence so that man could never know what he might expect from God -- the idea of sovereign grace can easily be twisted into a foundation for no confidence because the grace of God means He can do as He pleases without requirement upon Him. Since man has always wanted a way to get some leverage on God so that he may be able to relax, he will never have it because of grace. Man's confidence does not come from leverage; it comes from the graciousness of God. Does humility bring a requirement to grace (i.e., James 4:6)? No, but it does make it more likely in that humility does not normally move in the direction of disaster.]
1. The angel's imperative, being present indicative, may signify that Zacharias actually had a lifestyle problem of fear.
a. The fear that hit him like a ton of bricks at the appearance of the angel was not an isolated occurrence that came out of nowhere; rather, it was the result of a fearful soul.
b. The fact that Zacharias and Elizabeth were as rigorous as they were in the obedience realm may well have been caused by a deep-seated fear in their souls regarding their future in light of their barrenness. It is impossible to face the on-going denial of promise without fear arising about the causes of the denial.
1) There are only two motivations for obedience: love and fear.
2) Zacharias' fear strongly implies a minimal influence of love and a maximal influence of fear.
a) Can the text honestly tell us that Zacharias was blameless in his walk while speaking of a man who is dominated more by fear than by love?
i. Philippians 3:6 clearly says that Paul, as an unbeliever, was "blameless" as touching the "righteousness that is in the Law".
ii. The point of the Luke 1:6 text is not that the couple was perfect, but that there was no reason in them for the barrenness that was upon them.
b) Biblical texts often address the performance reality without going into the root issues, as in the description of Job who, himself, admitted that his theology needed more than just a tweaking to get it right.
3) This raises the question of the nature of the fear.
a) At the deepest root, it is the fear of rejection because of the fear that God is more persnickety than generous.
i. The general theology of Israel at this time in history focused upon the persnickety character of the deity, more interested in conformity than anything else.
ii. The legalism that pervaded the culture was having some impact upon everyone in the culture -- even the righteous.
b) The cessation of fear because the supplication has been heard [using a term that is rare in the New Testament and always passive] indicates that Zacharias' reasoning processes may well have been that the reason for the barrenness was some hidden evil too deep for discernment that might actually indicate a foundation for rejection of which the barrenness was simply a harbinger.
c) The use of eisakouo indicates that the angel is dealing with things deeper than surface issues because the word addresses true hearing rather than superficial hearing.
d) The announcement of a coming conception and birth of a son indicates that the barrenness is coming to an end as the promise required, and it indicates that Zacharias' fear of divine rejection is groundless.
e) The requirement that the son's name be John implies that this is precisely the problem. It is rather easy to say that Yahweh is gracious, it is altogether a different thing to honestly believe it without twisting it into something evil (such as the sugar-daddy concept).