The Playwright: Doctor Luke
a note from the writer…
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
The Setting: In the Temple in Jerusalem. Around 6BC.
Herod – a paranoid, political, ego-maniac. He is the puppet-king of the occupying Roman empire. He is ruthless, brutal, immoral and murderous. He will not be very happy to hear the news that a rival baby king has been born.
Zechariah – a simple, aging, rural pastor. He oversees a small synagogue somewhere in the surrounding region beyond Jerusalem. He was born into a clergy family and continues the practice. He is a good man, faithful to his wife, despite her inability to give him a son. He is righteous and obedient as far as God is concerned.
As the curtain rises, Zechariah is in Jerusalem with his cohort of 1000 priests, taking one of their two annual weeks of temple duty. He’s one of the oldest guys there, but his name has never been selected to be the lead priest for the day, to make the daily sacrifice of incense and prayer… until today…
Elizabeth – Zechariah’s wife. She is old like her husband. Her daddy and grand-daddy and those in generations before were also in the ministry, so being in a ministry family is all she has ever known. Like her husband, she is simple, and she is faithful and obedient to the commands of God. Today she waits with other worshipers on the steps of the temple while her husband celebrates his day of finally being chosen to be the lead priest.
But her happiness only goes so deep, for deeper still, she lives in constant sorrow for her barrenness. Her inability to conceive has caused more than one uncomfortable moment at home. Her husband at times seems distant, and the village women can be nasty, since the inability to have a child was thought to be a punishment from God for wrongs committed, for some kind of sinful lifestyle. She knows better, and yet…
Gabriel – an angel. One of two named angels in the bible. The messenger. When it absolutely has to be there overnight. If you ever see this angel, listen to him. He knows what he’s talking about.
SCENE ONE – In The Temple
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. (Luke 1:5-23)
Scene One focuses on Zechariah, and his response to this great announcement of the fulfillment of a promise. Four hundred years earlier, the prophet Malachi had predicted this day would come. Zechariah knew the promise, and he also knew the scriptures. He knew God had worked this way before, bringing new life from old people in order to accomplish his divine and sovereign plan. Nothing is too great for God, and it seems that he sometimes enjoys reminding of this is rather dramatic ways.
Chances are, he’s done something like this in your life as well. Did you notice it? Did you believe it possible? Or maybe it’s not your turn yet. You’ve been waiting a long time for your name to be drawn and you just keep getting older. Hang in there. God isn’t finished yet. Keep bringing him the longings of your heart.
SCENE ONE – Back at home.
Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” (Luke 1:24-25)
Scene Two focuses on Elizabeth. She is beside herself. She’s pregnant! But rather than analyzing and trying to figure out how, she isolates herself for five months in order to celebrate this event through worship. Maybe she wants to wait til she’s showing before going out in public so she can show all the gossiping women. Maybe she has severe morning sickness. But probably, she just can’t get enough time with the God who faithfully listened to every prayer she ever prayed for a child, and who finally – in his own perfect time – answered.
How about your time alone with God. How’s that going? My guess is, not very well, most of you. It’s Advent – the weeks before Christmas. The theme of Advent is waiting. Longing. Expecting. And it’s done best in seclusion. Alone or with a few other Christian friends. Just being quiet with God. Reading the Word. Praying. A few quiet songs maybe.