Welcome to the Bible Reading Plan! We are so glad you are joining us for this journey through Luke over the next couple of weeks. Each day, you will read one chapter of the Bible followed by a short devotional, answer a few questions, and if you want, record any observations or insights using the interactive comments section. We believe God will use this resource to grow our knowledge and affection for Him. We know God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Sign up with a friend, your Life Group, or your family, and let’s dig in!
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Let’s Go, Church!
The Gospel of Luke, the longest book in the New Testament, is the first of two books written by its namesake. Luke, unlike some of the other Gospel writers, wasn’t one of Jesus’ disciples who was writing down what he had seen while traveling with Jesus. Luke was a physician and a researcher—a student of the life and ministry of Jesus. He formed this account after investigating and interviewing those who had seen the life of Jesus firsthand and compiled it into this book for a man named Theophilus, a friend of his and also the recipient of the book of Acts (which was also written by Luke).
As you read, you will likely notice differences between Luke’s writing style and some of the other Gospel accounts you might have read. Many of these chapters are long and full of vibrant details. Luke is like an investigative reporter here—he’s trying to paint the fullest picture he possibly can based on these eyewitness accounts and he includes more historical details and context than the other Gospel writers in order to do so. Luke states his purpose for writing up front: He wants Theophilus to have certainty in these theological truths he had been taught about Jesus. The same can hold true for us today!
One New Testament scholar described Luke this way: “Whereas the emphasis in Matthew is on what Jesus said, and in Mark on what Jesus did, here in Luke it is rather on Jesus Himself.” Throughout the 24 chapters in Luke, we’ll read about everything from the birth of John the Baptist (who prepared the way for Jesus) to the gruesome details of Holy Week to Jesus’ resurrection. As you read each chapter, try to immerse yourself in the story. That’s what makes these narrative accounts so compelling! Close your eyes and picture what each one of these scenes might have looked like. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in a new way as you Jesus through these ancient, sacred words.
Read Luke 1
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 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.”
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 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.
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
This book begins with Luke stating his purpose for writing it in the first place: He’s trying to validate the claims and stories of Jesus so that Theophilus, the book’s original intended audience, would grow in confidence in his faith. But it’s important for us to remember what happened before this book (and this chapter were written): nothing. For about 400 years (after the book of Malachi was written), there was a lot of silence and a lot of waiting for God to do something. Then, after centuries of waiting, a glimmer of hope.
We meet two couples in this chapter: A married couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth, then a little later on we are introduced to Mary and her soon-to-be-husband Joseph. We’re also introduced to the angel Gabriel, who’s quite busy in this chapter delivering news about these unborn babies and the role that they would play in ushering in God’s Kingdom. We learn that John is going to prepare the way for someone even greater to come. The chapter ends with a pregnant Mary returning home and the birth of John happening soon after.
A couple of things stick out after reading Luke 1. First, put yourselves in the shoes of the Israelites in this chapter. God’s people had been waiting and waiting for centuries for God to move. God never forgot His people; He had a plan the entire time. Sometimes we feel similarly–like God has forgotten about us or like we God has moved on. But consistently throughout scripture we see God orchestrating everything for His good and moving throughout our midst.
God was moving all around them and, when they least expected it, he picked the most unlikely of people to change the world through. Zechariah and Elizabeth were older in age and had never had children. Mary, on the other hand, was a young, unmarried virgin. Both seemed like unlikely people for God to choose to complete His will. But that’s what God does. The similar thread between all of them was that they were known for their faithful obedience. Similarly today, God is looking for the faithful to use to accomplish His will and to help further God’s Kingdom here on earth.
- What do you notice about the lineage of Jesus in this chapter?
- Have you ever felt like God had forgotten you or gone silent on you? Explain your feelings.
- What does this passage teach you about the people God uses? How can you be faithful today in order to accomplish God’s will tomorrow?
By the Way
The end of this chapter tells us John went off to live in the wilderness. Mark 1:4-6 gives us a description of what he looked like when he came out of the wilderness:
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
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