Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 1 Message Outlines
Luke 1:5-25 (4)
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 4 September 21, 2003 Lincolnton, N.C.
Thesis:Getting beyond fear to love involves having good theology settle in.
Introduction:We have been considering Luke's words to Theophilus in respect to the coming of John the Baptizer. Last week we looked into the issue of Zacharias' offering of incense upon the altar of incense. We concluded from that study that Luke wished for Theophilus to understand that the loyalty issues that are the point of focus in the burning of incense are absolutely fundamental to the process of coming to a clear-eyed grasp of Truth in this corrupted world. Without the decision to be loyal, there will be no significant growth into true understanding. This is the reason visible Christianity is in such a state of ungodliness in our generation: people have sought loyalty from God without being willing to be loyal to God. There is a record in John 2:23-24 that summarizes this principle in terms of a divine unwillingness to commit to people whose values are off target. Now, this morning, we are going to dig into the state of Zacharias' soul as it existed on that day of the appearance of Gabriel. The state of Zacharias' soul is the point of Luke's record of Zacharias' reaction to seeing the angel on the right side of the altar of incense. The reason we are going to dig into an understanding of the condition of his soul is that, by understanding what was going on with him, we can better understand what is going on with us. If we better understand what is going on with us, we will be better prepared to permit the life of Jesus to be made manifest through our lives.
I. Luke's Focus on Fear.
A. The focus is greater than it appears on first glance.
1. The term translated troubled has strong overtones of significant fear.
a. When we want to understand a word, we can do several things:
1) We can look it up in a dictionary, or
2) We can look at the way people use it and consider the context of their use.
b. When we act on this second option, we note that Jesus used this very word in Luke's record of His post-resurrection appearance in 24:38.
1) In this context, Jesus uses the word as a summary term to sweep several ideas into the same pile of dust.
a) Luke tells us that Jesus questioned them as to why they were troubled.
b) He then tells us what was going on.
i. They were terrified: ptoeo (which means startled -- that instantaneous physiological reaction of adrenalin which the brain shoots into the body when the unexpected happens)
ii. They were affrighted: with emfobo (the growth of the fear factor into a rather high state)
iii. They were supposing: dokeo (which means to suppose, in the sense of coming to a conclusion for explanation/understanding purposes)
c) He tells us that Jesus' choice of a summary word was the one translated troubled.
d) His telling implies that all of this was happening in high gear, meaning that he was pulling back the veil on the processes of the soul.
2) So, we understand that Luke was telling us that Zacharias was deeply afraid when he said that Zacharias was troubled.
2. Then Luke tells us that fear fell upon Zacharias.
a. This phraseology implies that Zacharias was bowled over by fear as it fell upon him.
b. This is significantly repetitious and emphasizes the emotional state of Zacharias' soul.
B. This focus raises several questions:
1. What was it about Gabriel on the right side of the altar of incense that turned Zacharias into a puddle of quivering terror?
2. How does it happen that a man of God is so terrified by a messenger from God?
a. This is not unusual in the biblical record [Daniel 10:8; Revelation 1].
b. But this is contrary to the ideal of 1 John 4:18.
3. And, more importantly, why does Luke tell Theophilus that Zacharias was so fearful?
a. All of the words are designed to create an impact.
b. What impact was Luke seeking to generate in Theophilus? In Luke's record of Jesus' words in 24:38, the main problem is that the disciples' supposition was clearly off target. Jesus summarizes their condition with Luke's word for Zacharias' condition and then He adds dialogismoi (which signifies the mental process of tossing up possibilities in an effort to either solve or confuse the central mental issue). The problems are significant because the mind/body complex is thrown into high gear and what will come out will come out according to past training (as was explained about police training/military training -- and as all kids know who work on computer games to get the responses down pat). This is a problem if the past training has not been solidly truthful. The reason for careful study and repetition is precisely here: suppositions in the midst of startling and fear-inducing circumstances are what will guide our behavior -- and behavior is all we have going for us in the externalized sensory world to make Truth known.
II. The question is: Why did Luke want us to know that Zacharias' reaction was so off target.
A. The response was clearly off target because the angel had to correct it.
B. The response was an open window to the condition of Zacharias' soul.
1. He was a godly man, but not fully developed in love (love casts out all fear; he that fears is not made perfect in love -- 1 John 4:18).
2. He was immature in his soul, not because he had not made the crucial loyalty decisions that are foundational to all real growth in Truth, but because of the wear and tear of living under divine sovereignty and timing while simultaneously wanting.
a. The problems of wanting:
1) It, typically, is thoughtless and under-developed.
2) It is rooted in things far deeper than our minds.
3) It sponsors, and then guides, behavior.
4) It generally makes us hypocritical.
b. The solutions to misguided wanting:
1) There must be an evaluation of the whys of wanting.
2) There must be a determination regarding the wanting -- will it continue, or not?
3) There must be a placement of the wanting into its proper slot in the agape of God.
C. Theophilus was in John's condition of being in-process and could, if he was inclined, learn from John's example.
1. What was he to learn?
a. Not to be critical of Zacharias! [Luke's description of Zacharias precludes the permission to criticize Another's servant].
b. But to recognize that good theology (delivered by Gabriel) leads to love and joy in the stead of frustration and fear.
2. How was he to learn?
a. Not by casual perusal and thoughtless exposure!
b. But by application of Psalm One's fundamental methodology of meditation.