A Coming Christ in Advent The Annunciation to Zechariah and the Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25, 57-66, 80) Sunday, December 3, 2006 10 to 10:50 am, in the Parlor. Everyone is welcome!
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. - Book of Common Prayer, p. 211
A Coming Christ in Advent: Essays on the Gospel Narratives Preparing for the Birth of Jesus. Raymond E. Brown, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1988. ISBN: 0-8146-1587-2. • Raymond E. Brown, S.S., was a world renown New Testament biblical scholar and the Auburn Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Dr. Brown died in 1998.
PurposeIntroduction • The gospels of Matthew and Luke differ from the Mark and John by beginning with stories of Jesus’ conception and birth • Mark never mentions Joseph • John never gives the name of Jesus’ mother
PurposeIntroduction • To understand these infancy narratives, we must remember: • The gospels were not intended be historical biographies, but rather proclamations of the good news of salvation in the life of Jesus • All gospel material was colored by the faith and experience of the Church of the first century
PurposeIntroduction • The origin and historical accuracy of the birth stories are unknown • The stories in Matthew and Luke • Agree in only a few details • Contradict each other in other details • There is no good historical record of public events mentioned in the birth stories (such as: a new star, a worldwide census) • Unlike what Jesus said and did during his ministry, no one claims apostolic witness to the events at Bethlehem
So why did Matthew and Luke begin their gospels (the good news of Jesus) with these birth stories?
Purpose Jesus was God at His Birth To make the “Christological” declaration that Jesus was God at his birth
Purpose Early Church’s Understanding of Jesus • Church’s understanding of who Jesus was grew during the first century • Oldest part of the gospel was the Passion narrative of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Some ancient preaching suggested Jesus’ exaltation as God occurred at his resurrection: • Acts 2:32; 2:36; 5:31; 13:33 • Romans 1:4 “by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus was designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness”
Purpose Early Church’s Understanding of Jesus • Mark’s gospel (the earliest gospel) begins his account of the good news of Jesus Christ at Jesus’ baptism • At the moment of his baptism, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus who is revealed as God’s Son • Matthew and Luke (later gospels), through the infancy narratives, make clear Jesus was God’s Son at Jesus’ birth • And John (the last gospel written), makes it clear Jesus was God’s Son even before creation.
Luke vs. MatthewMatthew’s Version • Last session we studies Matthew’s Chapter 1: • begins with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17) • Then follows an annunciation by an angel of the Lord to Joseph, telling him: • Don’t divorce Mary, but take her into your home as your wife • Her pregnancy is from the Holy Spirit • She would have a son who should be named Jesus, for he would save the people from their sins
Luke vs. MatthewMatthew’s Version • Mary is a background figure in Matthew’s story: • there is no angel Gabriel • No annunciation to Mary
Luke vs. MatthewLuke’s Version • Luke tells a much different story, with a different cast of characters: • Annunciation of the birth of Jesus is to Mary, by the angel Gabriel • Another annunciation, to the priest Zechariah, that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist • Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, which is the occasion for the canticle of the Magnificat • Birth of John the Baptist, which is the occasion for the canticle of the Benedictus
Luke vs. MatthewIn Common • They are alike in only a few (albeit very important) details. In both: • an angel announces that Mary, • who is married to Joseph in the House of David, • would give birth to a child conceived through the Holy Spirit, and • the child, the Son of God, should be named Jesus
Luke vs. MatthewIn Common • Matthew and Luke also both deliberately evoke Old Testament narratives in order to make it clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises stretching back to Abraham.
Reading Luke 1:5-25, 57-66, 80
Lucan StructureIntroduction • Luke uses narrative structure to artistically convey his thoughts. • Parallelism between John the Baptism and Jesus (John-Jesus “diptych”) • A “triptych” on God’s Plan of salvation
Lucan StructureJohn-Jesus Diptych • All the Gospels begin the story of Jesus’ public ministry by telling of John the Baptist • Luke sets up a parallelism between John and Jesus often compared to a diptych painting with two facing panels: • Annunciation of John’s conception precedes annunciation of Jesus’ • John’s birth (hailed by Zechariah’s canticle the Benedictus) precedes Jesus’ birth (hailed by Simeon’s canticle, Nunc Dimittis)
Lucan StructureGod’s Plan Triptych • In addition, Luke’s gospel and his sequel Acts have an architectonic perception of God’s plan, dividing history into three parts: • (1.) time of the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament; bears witness to Jesus; Acts 13:14) • (2.) time of Jesus (centerpiece) • (3.) time of the church (The Spirit and those whom Jesus have chosen bear witness to him; Acts 1:9)
Lucan StructureGod’s Plan Triptych • Luke 1-2 bridges (1.) time of the Law and the Prophets, and (2.) time of Jesus • Characters and motifs from the time of the Law and the Prophets encounter characters and motifs from time of Jesus (Mary, John the Baptist) • Acts 1-2 bridges (2.) time of Jesus, and (3.) time of the church • Characters and motifs from the time of Jesus encounter character and motifs from the time of the church (Jesus encounters the Twelve, including Peter, who will spread the good news throughout the world)
Annunciation and BirthZechariah and Elizabeth • The story of John’s parents Zechariah and Elizabeth is found only in Luke.
Annunciation and BirthParallelism with Abraham-Sarah • There is only one elderly barren couple in the Old Testament who, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, have a child by the power of God – Abraham and Sarah (Luke 1:7; Genesis 18:11) • More aspects of the parallelism between Zechariah-Elizabeth and Abraham-Sarah: • In both, announcement is made to the man • Zechariah’s response to angel (Luke 1:18) is a verbatim quote to Abraham’s response to divine revelation (Genesis 15:8) • Elizabeth rejoices with neighbors over the good news (Luke 1:58), as does Sarah (Genesis 21:6)
Annunciation and BirthParallelism with Elkanah-Hannah • Zechariah and Elizabeth also evoke another Old Testament couple whose yearning for a child was answered by God: Elkanah and Hannah, parents of Samuel • Luke 1:5 “There was a certain priest named Zechariah … he had a wife … and her name was Elizabeth.” • 1 Samuel 1:1-2 “There was a certain man … whose name was Elkanah … and he had two wife; the name of one was Hannah.”
Annunciation and BirthParallelism with Elkanah-Hannah • More aspects of the parallelism between Zechariah-Elizabeth and Elkanah-Hannah: • Revelation to Hannah that she would give birth to Samuel is at a visit to the temple sanctuary (1 Samuel 3, 17), just as revelation to Zechariah is in the Jerusalem temple sanctuary • Child to be born would not drink wine or strong drink (Luke 1:15, 1 Samuel 1:9-15) • Canticle Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) evokes Hannah’s canticle in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
Annunciation and BirthEchoes of Daniel • The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple • The only previous appearance of Gabriel is in the book of Daniel. In both: • Appearance called a vision (Luke 1:22, six times in Daniel 9-10) • Appearance comes at a time of liturgical prayer to a figure praying in distress (Luke 1:13; Daniel 9:20) • Visionary becomes afraid, told not to fear, is struck mute (Luke 1:12-13, 20, 22; Daniel 10:8, 12, 15)
Annunciation and BirthLuke’s Evocation of the Old Testament • Parallelism between Zechariah-Elizabeth with Abraham-Sarah evokes the Books of the Law in the Hebrew Scriptures (The Torah or Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus…) • Parallelism between Zechariah-Elizabeth with Elkanah-Hannah evokes the Books of the Prophets in the Hebrew scriptures • Echoes of Daniel evokes the last section of the Hebrew Scriptures in Luke’s time: the “Writings” • In Daniel, Gabriel interprets the “seventy weeks of years” of the end times, when “everlasting justice will be introduced, vision and prophecy will be ratified, and a Holy of Holies will be anointed.” (Daniel 9:24) • Gabriel is the final messenger of the Hebrew Scriptures, bringing the Old Testament to a close
Annunciation and BirthLuke’s Evocation of the Old Testament • So like Matthew, like Luke, evokes • All of the Hebrew scriptures • TANAKN: the Jewish holy scriptures, an acronym based on the initial Hebrews letters of the text’s 3 main parts: Torah, Prophets, and Writings • the entire span of salvation history, • of God’s dealings with God’s chosen people Israel, • from Abraham and Sarah to Daniel and Gabriel (the last messenger of the Hebrew Scriptures), • as prelude to the beginning of the New Covenant, the birth of the Jesus
Annunciation and BirthJohn the Baptist • Luke 1-2 is the interlude, the bridge between parts (1.) and (2.) of Luke’s architectonic vision of God’ plan of salvation: • (1.) time of the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament, the Old Covenant) • (2.) time of Jesus • In this bridge, we have John the Baptist, a prominent figure in the time of Jesus, along with characters and motifs evocative of the time of the Law and Prophets.
Annunciation and BirthJohn the Baptist • John’s description in Luke 1 is anticipatory of how he will be described later in the gospel: • Luke 1:15a “he will be great”; Luke 7:28: Jesus: “Among those born of women, none is greater than John” • Luke 1:15b “before the Lord”; Luke 7:27: “I send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way ahead of you.” • Luke 1:15b “will drink no wine or strong drink”; Luke 7:33 “John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine.” • Luke 1:15b “will be filled with the Holy Spirit”; Luke 3:2 “The word of the God came to John…”
Annunciation and BirthBirth of John the Baptist • The actual birth of John the Baptist is described only briefly, in Luke 1:57-58 • The rejoicing of the neighbors on the birth of John echoes the rejoicing at Sarah’s giving birth (Genesis 21:6)
Annunciation and BirthNaming of John the Baptist • Zechariah’s insistence that the child be named John, rather than following convention and naming the child after a relative shows his belief; his muteness is lifted. • Note the remarkable coincidence (?) that Elizabeth also chooses the name John (Luke 1:60), a further sign that God is at work here.
Annunciation and BirthGrowth of John the Baptist • Parallelism with Hebrew Scriptures continues with description of the growth of John: • Genesis 21:8 on Isaac: “The child grew up” • 1 Samuel 2:21 on Samuel: “The child grew strong before the Lord.” • Luke 1:80 on John: “as the child grew up, he became strong in spirit.”