International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 15, 2013
Purpose: To reflect on how Christ’s presence fulfills God’s promises to Israel and gives hope to a sinful world
Scripture: Luke 1:57-58, 67-80
Background Scripture: Luke 1:57-80
Luke 1:57-58 (CEB)
(57) When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. (58) Her neighbors and relatives celebrated with her because they had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy.
Luke 1:67-80 (CEB)
(67) John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, (68) "Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people. (69) He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house, (70) just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago. (71) He has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. (72) He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered his holy covenant, (73) the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham. He has granted (74) that we would be rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes, for as long as we live. (76) You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way. (77) You will tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins. (78) Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, (79) to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace." (80) The child grew up, becoming strong in character. He was in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Similar to last week’s lesson when we studied the “Magnificat” of Mary, this week we will look at the “Benedictus” of Zechariah. Each being named after the first word in the Latin translation. Saint Jerome translated, most of the bible as we know it, from Greek to Latin in the fourth century and it is referred to as the “Vulgate Bible.” Like Mary’s Magnificat, the Benedictus passage is also called a “canticle” which simple means a hymn other than a Psalm.
Both contain a lot of Old Testament prophecy and promises. Since the writer Luke devotes so much of his writings to explaining John the Baptizer’s role we should take a careful look at the importance of understanding John’s part in preparing the way for Christ ministry.
Zechariah’s Benedictus covers two separate prophecies. In Luke 1:68-75 Zechariah is talking about Jesus. In Luke 1:76-79 Zechariah is talking about his son John.
One of the important things about Luke’s writing in both his gospel as well as the Book of Acts, you will find that the Holy Spirit is often used as a source for the inspiration. The Gospel of Mark mentions the Spirit 6 times, Matthew 12 times, and John 15 times. In comparison, the Gospel of Luke along with the Book of Acts, mentions the Holy Spirit 74 Times. There was no doubt in Luke’s mind that Zechariah’s prophecy was a product of the Holy Spirit.
Because Luke’s primary audience is Greeks and Romans, he highlights the past history and covenants that God had made with the Jewish people. He also shares how God’s mercy promised to the Jews will now be made available to all nations.
God’s promises to Abraham have now been fulfilled, truly descendants of Abraham now sit in leadership all over the world. The nation of Israel is one of the most powerful and important countries in all of the world. Through the birth of a descendant of David the entire world lives in hope and has access to a merciful God, and an opportunity for reconciliation with their creator. Interestingly that reconciliation is found in the preaching of John the Baptist, through the forgiveness of sins, repent and be saved.