The Passion Translation
1 1–4 I am writing for you, mighty lover of God,[a] an orderly account of what Jesus accomplished and fulfilled among us. Several eyewitness biographies have already been written,[b] using as their source material the good news preached among us by his early disciples, who were from the beginning loving servants of the Living Expression.[c] Now I am passing on to you this accurate compilation of my own meticulous investigation[d] based on numerous eyewitness interviews. It is appropriate for me to write this, for he also appeared to me[e] so that I would reassure you beyond any shadow of a doubt the reliability of all you have been taught of him.
Angelic Prophecy of the Prophet John’s Birth
5 During the reign of King Herod the Great of Judea,[f] there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah[g] who served in the temple as part of the priestly order of Abijah.[h] His wife, Elizabeth, was also from a family of priests, and was a descendant of Aaron. 6 They were both righteous before God, living virtuously and following the commandments of the Lord blamelessly. 7 But they were childless since Elizabeth was barren, and now they both were quite old.
8–9 One day, Zechariah’s priestly order was on duty and he was serving as priest. He was chosen by the casting of lots (according to the custom of the priesthood) so the honor fell upon Zechariah to enter the Holy Place[i] and burn incense before the Lord. 10 A large crowd of worshipers had gathered to pray outside the temple at the hour when incense was being offered. 11 All at once an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing just to the right of the altar of incense.[j]
12 Zechariah was startled and overwhelmed with fear. 13 But the angel reassured him, saying, “Don’t be afraid,[k] Zechariah! God is showing grace to you. For I have come to tell you that your prayer[l] for a child has been answered. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son and you are to name him John. 14 His birth will bring you much joy and gladness.[m] Many will rejoice because of him, 15 and he will be one of the great ones in the sight of God. He will drink no wine or strong drink,[n] but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even while still in his mother’s womb. 16 And he will persuade many in Israel to convert and turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go before the Lord as a forerunner, with the same power and anointing[o] as Elijah the prophet. He will be instrumental in turning the hearts of the fathers in tenderness back to their children and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of their righteous fathers. And he will prepare a united people[p] who are ready for the Lord’s appearing.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is too old to give me a child. What sign can you give me to prove this will happen?”
19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel.[q] I stand beside God himself. He has sent me to announce to you this good news. 20 But now, since you did not believe my words, you will be stricken silent and unable to speak[r] until the day my words have been fulfilled at their appointed time and a child is born to you. That will be your sign!”[s]
21 Meanwhile, the crowds outside kept expecting him to come out. They were amazed over Zechariah’s delay,[t] wondering what could have happened inside the sanctuary. 22 When he finally did come out, he tried to talk, but he couldn’t speak a word, and they realized from his gestures that he had seen a vision while in the Holy Place. 23 He remained mute as he finished his days of priestly ministry in the temple and then went back to his own home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for the next five months. 25 With joy she exclaimed, “See how kind it is of God to gaze upon me[u] and take away the disgrace of my barrenness!”
Angelic Prophecy of Jesus’ Birth
26–27 During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent from God’s presence to an unmarried girl[v] named Mary, living in Nazareth, a village in Galilee.[w] She was engaged[x] to a man named Joseph, a true descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Rejoice, beloved young woman, for the Lord is with you[y] and you are anointed with great favor.”
29 Mary was deeply troubled over the words of the angel and bewildered over what this may mean for her. 30 But the angel reassured her, saying, “Do not yield to your fear, Mary, for the Lord has found delight in you and has chosen to surprise you with a wonderful gift. 31 You will become pregnant with a baby boy, and you are to name him Jesus. 32 He will be supreme[z] and will be known as the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will enthrone him as King on the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign as King of Israel[aa] forever, and his reign will have no limit.”
34 Mary said, “But how could this happen? I am still a virgin!”
35 Gabriel answered, “The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and almighty God will spread his shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory![ab] This is why the child born to you will be holy,[ac] and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your aged aunt,[ad] Elizabeth, has also become pregnant with a son. The ‘barren one’ is now in her sixth month. 37 Not one promise from God is empty of power. Nothing is impossible with God!”[ae]
38 Then Mary responded, saying, “Yes! I will be a mother for the Lord![af] As his servant, I accept whatever he has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.” And the angel left her.
Elizabeth’s Prophecy to Mary
39 Afterward, Mary arose and hurried off to the hill country of Judea, to the village where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. 40 Arriving at their home, Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the moment her aunt heard Mary’s voice, the baby[ag] within Elizabeth’s womb jumped and kicked. And suddenly, Elizabeth was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit! 42 With a loud voice she prophesied with power:
“Mary! You are a woman given the highest favor
and privilege above all others,
for your child[ah] is destined to bring God great delight.
43 How did I deserve such a remarkable honor
to have the mother of my Lord[ai] come and visit me?
44 The moment you came in the door and greeted me,
my baby danced inside me with joy!
45 Great favor rests upon you, for you have believed
every word spoken to you from the Lord.”
Mary’s Prophetic Song
46 And Mary sang this song:
“My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God!
47 My spirit bursts with joy over my life-giving God![aj]
48 For he set his tender gaze upon me, his lowly servant girl.[ak]
And from here on, everyone will know
that I have been favored and blessed.
49 The Mighty One has worked a mighty miracle for me;
holy is his name!
50 Mercy kisses all who fear him,
from one generation to the next.[al]
51 Mighty power flows from him
to scatter all those who walk in pride.
52 Powerful princes he tears from their thrones
and he lifts up the lowly to take their place.
53 Those who hunger for him will always be filled,[am]
but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.
54 Because he can never forget to show mercy,
he has helped his chosen servant, Israel,
55 keeping his promises to Abraham[an]
and to his descendants forever.”
56 Before going home, Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months.[ao]
The Birth of the Prophet John
57 When Elizabeth’s pregnancy was full term, she gave birth to a son. 58 All her family, friends, and neighbors heard about it, and they too were overjoyed, for they realized that the Lord had showered his wonderful mercy upon her.
59 When the baby was eight days old, according to their custom, all the family and friends came together for the circumcision ceremony.[ap] Everyone assumed that the parents would name the baby Zechariah, after his father, 60 but Elizabeth spoke up and said, “No, his name is John!”
61 “What?” they exclaimed. “No one in your family line has that name!”
62 So they gestured to the baby’s father to ask what to name the child. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to the amazement of all, he wrote, “His name is John.”[aq]
64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again. And his first words were praises to the Lord.
65 The fear of God fell on the people of their village, and the news of this astounding event traveled throughout the hill country of Judea. Everyone was in awe over it! 66 All who heard this news were astonished and wondered, “Since a miracle brought his birth, what on earth will this child become? Clearly, God’s presence is upon this child in a powerful way!”
67 Then Zechariah was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied, saying:
68 “Praise be to the exalted Lord God of Israel,
for he has seen us through eyes of grace,
and he comes as our Hero-God to set us free!
69 He appears to us as a mighty Savior,
a trumpet of redemption[ar] from the house of David, his servant,
70 just as he promised long ago
by the words of his holy prophets.
71 They prophesied he would come one day and save us
from every one of our enemies
and from the power of those who hate us.[as]
72 Now he has shown us the mercy promised to our ancestors,
for he has remembered his holy covenant.[at]
73–75 He has rescued us from the power of our enemies,
fulfilling the sacred oath he made with our father Abraham.
Now we can boldly worship[au] God with holy lives,
living in purity as priests[av] in his presence every day!
76 And to you I prophesy, my little son,
you will be known as the prophet of the Most High.
You will be a forerunner,
going before the face of Lord Yahweh,[aw]
to prepare hearts to embrace his ways.[ax]
77 You will preach to his people the revelation of salvation,
the cancellation of all our sins, to bring us back to God.
78 The splendor-light of heaven’s glorious sunrise[ay]
is about to break upon us in holy visitation,
all because the merciful heart of our God is so very tender.
79 The word from heaven will come to us[az]
with dazzling light to shine upon those
who live in darkness, near death’s dark shadow.[ba]
And he will illuminate the path that leads to the way of peace.”
80 Afterward, their son grew up and was strengthened by the Holy Spirit[bb] and he grew in his love for God. John chose to live in the lonely wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
- 1:1–4 The Greek text can be translated “most excellent Theophilus.” The name Theophilus means “friend of God” or “lover of God.” The Greek word means “most honorable” or “mightiest.” Some scholars believe there was no individual named Theophilus mentioned in Luke’s writings. This becomes instead a greeting to you and all the lovers of God.
- 1:1–4 It is likely that Matthew and Mark are two of the Gospel accounts Luke refers to here.
- 1:1–4 Translated literally from the Aramaic text. The Greek word is logos. Some have translated this rich term as “Word.” It could also be translated “Message” or “Blueprint.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the creative Word, and the Word made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in his humanity. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has expressed himself in Christ.
- 1:1–4 The Greek word used here is actually “to see with the eye” or “autopsy.” Autopsy is a relevant word, since we know that Luke was a physician. Also, note that Luke’s sources would have included all he heard from Paul and others on their missionary journeys. And, he likely had the opportunity to interview Mary, Jesus’ mother.
- 1:1–4 Translated literally from the Aramaic text. The Greek text uses the same term for “coming from above” found in John 3:31 and 19:11. Luke is revealing that the Lord Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to compile his inspired Gospel. See 1 Cor. 15:3–5, regarding the direct revelation Paul similarly received and would have passed on to Luke.
- 1:5 Herod the Great ruled in Israel under the Emperor of Rome, the first of a succession of Herodian “kings.”
- 1:5 Zechariah means “God has remembered.” Elizabeth means “oath” or “covenant of God.” The gospel of Luke opens and closes with the story of a priest. It begins with Zechariah, the fallible human priest after the order of Aaron, and ends with our perfect High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, Jesus Christ.
- 1:5 King David organized the priests into twenty-four divisions, and Abijah was the head of one of the priestly families. See Neh. 12:12, 17; 1 Chron. 24:6–10.
- 1:8–9 Some have said there were twenty thousand priests in Christ’s time, so that no priest would ever offer incense more than once. This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Zechariah. The burning of incense before the Lord was done twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon (Ex. 30:7–8).
- 1:11 The angel appeared on the south side of the Holy Place, between the altar of incense and the golden lampstand.
- 1:13 Luke uses this phrase, “Don’t be afraid,” seven times in his gospel (1:30, 2:10, 5:10, 8:50, 12:7, 12:32).
- 1:13 The Greek verb allows for a possible translation of “prayer you don’t even pray anymore.”
- 1:14 Luke is the gospel of joy! There are nine reasons for joy in this book: (1) The joy of Christ’s life, 1:14. (2) The greatness of Jesus, 1:41. (3) The joy of heaven over the birth of Christ, 2:10. (4) The joy of God’s Word in our hearts, 8:13. (5) The joys of a ministry of power and our names written in heaven, 10:17, 20. (6) The heavenly joys of salvation, 15:7, 10. (7) The joys of condescending love, 19:6. (8) The joys of overwhelming mysteries, 24:41. (9) The resurrection and the blessings that are ours in Christ, 24:52.
- 1:15 Most likely, John was to be a Nazarite from birth, one totally set apart for God and who would fulfill the Nazarite vow found in Num. 6:1–12.
- 1:17 Or “spirit.”
- 1:17 The words “united people” are found in the Aramaic text.
- 1:19 The name Gabriel means “God’s hero” or “God’s mighty one.”
- 1:20 Since Zechariah asked for a sign rather than believe the word of the Lord, he was given the sign of silence. Unbelief keeps a priest from speaking until faith arises.
- 1:20 This is the first spoken message from heaven in more than four hundred years. The last person before Zechariah to receive a message given by angels was also named Zechariah. See Zech. 1:6.
- 1:21 They were waiting outside for the priest to come out and speak over them the customary Aaronic blessing found in Num. 6:24–26.
- 1:25 This phrase is translated from the Aramaic text.
- 1:26–27 Many translations have the word virgin. It is a possible translation of the Greek word parthenos, but its most common usage implies “a girl of marriageable age.” It is made explicit in Matt. 1:25 and Luke 1:34 that Mary was indeed a virgin.
- 1:26–27 The Aramaic word translated “Galilee” here means “revealed.” It is only fitting that God would first be “revealed” in a village in Galilee. Nazareth means “branch.” Jesus grew up as the “Branch” of the Lord in the city of the “branch.”
- 1:26–27 This betrothal period usually lasted one year, and unfaithfulness on the part of the bride during the engagement would have been punishable by death.
- 1:28 For Gabriel to say, “the Lord is with you,” could mean that Jesus, our Master, had been conceived in her womb. This was what bewildered Mary.
- 1:32 As translated from the Aramaic text.
- 1:33 Or “House of Jacob.”
- 1:35 The Greek word used as a metaphor, “spread his shadow over you,” is also the word used at Jesus’ transfiguration when the cloud of glory overshadowed Jesus on the mountain (Mark 9:7).
- 1:35 Jesus Christ is holy, born without sin in his bloodline, for his Father was God Almighty. He would become the only perfect sacrifice to take away our sin and remove its power and penalty from us.
- 1:36 The Greek word is “relative.” Many scholars believe Elizabeth was Mary’s maternal aunt.
- 1:37 This verse can be translated in two different ways: “There is nothing impossible with God” or “The word of God will never fail.” This translation has chosen to include both for this verse.
- 1:38 As translated from the Aramaic text.
- 1:41 The Bible calls Elizabeth’s yet-to-be-born son, John, a “baby.”
- 1:42 Or “the fruit of your womb.” This is the same word used for the “fruit” of the tree of life in Rev. 22:2. Jesus is “fruit” for us to take in as our life supply.
- 1:43 An obvious prophetic revelation was given to Elizabeth from the Holy Spirit about what had happened with Mary.
- 1:47 Or “Savior.” The first recorded person to call Jesus Savior was his mother, Mary. She rejoices in God not simply as her Creator, but as Life Giver and Savior.
- 1:48 The Aramaic text is “He set his gaze upon the willingness of his mother.”
- 1:50 Mary is quoting Pss. 103:17 and 111:9.
- 1:53 Mary is quoting Ps. 107:9.
- 1:55 Mary understood by revelation that the Christ child would fulfill the promises of mercy that God gave to Abraham. See Gen. 22:16–18.
- 1:56 The cultural practice of the Hebrews was for the mother to do nothing but rest during the first three months of pregnancy.
- 1:59 This ceremony was an important time of celebration in Jewish culture, for another child was born under the covenant of God with Israel. See Gen. 17:4–14; Lev. 12:1–3.
- 1:63 The name John means “God’s gift” or “God is gracious.”
- 1:69 Literal translation of the Aramaic. The Hebrew is “a horn of salvation,” which signifies strength and fighting power.
- 1:71 Zechariah is quoting from Ps. 106:10.
- 1:72 There is amazing Hebrew poetry contained in this passage. The names of John, Zechariah, and Elizabeth are all found in this verse. “He has shown us mercy” or “God’s gracious gift” is found in the name John. “He has remembered” is the name Zechariah. “His holy covenant” is the name Elizabeth.
- 1:73–75 Or “serve.”
- 1:73–75 The word translated as “purity” here is a Hebraic homonym for “priesthood.”
- 1:76 Literal translation of the Aramaic.
- 1:76 Zechariah quotes from Mal. 3:1.
- 1:78 Some believe this is a quote from Mal. 4:2. Jesus the Savior is the dawning light of a new day to this dark world. This “sunrise” is the appearing of Jesus, our Dayspring.
- 1:79 Or “manifestation from heaven” as translated from the Aramaic.
- 1:79 Zechariah is quoting from Isa. 9:2 and 59:8.
- 1:80 Both of John’s parents were full of the Holy Spirit (vv. 41, 67). John was raised in a Spirit-filled home.