The first chapter of Luke’s gospel is one of the longest in all of Scripture but I cannot imagine it being divided up, because the entire chapter is a story with its own chapters. The first chapter of Luke’s gospel should be understood as the prologue or prequel to the birth of the Son of God.
There are five chapters within this first chapter of Luke’s gospel: The introduction, written to some man name Theophilus. Luke’s greeting indicates that Theophilus a man of some governmental authority. Second, the birth of John the Baptist foretold to Zacharias by the angel Gabriel. Third, the birth of Jesus foretold to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Fourth, Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth, whom she visited for three months before returning home. Lastly, the birth and circumcision of John the Baptist.
The two main characters are Zacharias and Mary. Zacharias representing unbelief and Mary representing amazement. Zacharias questioned the angel Gabriel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” Mary questioned the angel Gabriel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Zacharias’ question was one of unbelief but Mary’s one of amazement. Both gave reason for their questions and both of their reasons for asking a question where legitimate. However, Zacharias questioned the angel Gabriel from unbelief while Mary questioned from amazement. The indication for this is not found in their reason, but in the questions that they asked. Zacharias asked, “How will I know this for certain?” Mary asked, “How can this be?” Mary was a virgin, therefore, asking, “How can this be” was a legitimate question. Zacharias did not ask how, he asked for a sign. Both individuals understood how babies are conceived. Mary did not ask for a sign, but an answer to how she, a virgin would become pregnant. Zacharias asked for a sign, because he did not believe the prophecy spoken by the angel, sent from God.
This is very important to understand, because Jesus will later call sign seeking wicked. (Lk 11:29) When Thomas saw and touched the risen Lord he believed. (Jn 20:28) When Zacharias witnessed his son’s birth and circumcision he believed. However, Jesus says, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (Jn 20:29) Neither Zacharias nor Thomas are condemned, because both men came to faith. However, like Mary, we must believe without a sign. We might ask in amazement, “How can this Be?” For this causes us to dive deeply into the Word of God. But we shall not ask in unbelief, “How will I know for certain?” No sign will be given to us, except the sign of the Son of Man. He will appear in the sky and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because it will be to late to repent and believe. (Mt 24:29-31)