Luke indicated that Jesus saw a special role for John the Baptist. He said that John was the one about whom Malachi, the prophet, chapter 3:1, had written (οὗτός ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται), without mentioning the prophet’s name. Malachi had said that he was sending his messenger ahead of him or before his face (δοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου) to prepare the way before him (ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου). This Scripture written passage about the role of John was from the prophet Malachi, although not explicitly mentioned here. This saying about John the Baptist can be found word for word in Matthew, chapter 11:10. Thus, this may have been a Q source about John, like many of the other passages about John. Actually, Mark, chapter 1:2, had part of this saying as the beginning of his gospel when he introduced John. In Malachi, Yahweh was going to send his messenger or angel before him or his face to prepare the way for him. Originally, Yahweh would re-enter into his Temple, because the messenger of the delightful covenant had prepared things for him. There is no mention of the Temple here. John was clearly inferior to Jesus, since he was there to prepare the way for Jesus as his messenger, much like an angel of God. Who prepared the way to Jesus for you?
Just as Luke had the circumcision and naming of John, so too he has the circumcision and naming of Jesus, his cousin. Like John, it takes place on the 8th day after the birth in chapter 1:59. So too, just like John, chapter 1:63, Jesus got his name at his circumcision. Luke said that after eight days had been completed (Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ), it was time to circumcise the child (τοῦ περιτεμεῖν αὐτόν). He was called Jesus (καὶ ἐκλήθη τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦς), the name given to him by the angel Gabriel (τὸ κληθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀγγέλου) before Mary conceived him in the womb (πρὸ τοῦ συλλημφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ) in chapter 1:31. Luke continued these parallel stories of John and Jesus. Both families clearly followed all the Jewish laws and customs about circumcision and naming a child, but John and Jesus were nevertheless special children.
Luke said that suddenly (καὶ ἐξαίφνης), a whole choir or a heavenly host of angels came to join this one angel (ἐγένετο σὺν τῷ ἀγγέλῳ πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου). They were all praising God (αἰνούντων τὸν Θεὸν). This one angel became a multitude of angels.
Luke said that the angel told the shepherds that there would be a sign for them (καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον) in order to find this baby child (εὑρήσετε βρέφος) that would be a Savior, Messiah, Christ, and Lord. This baby child would be wrapped in bands of swaddling cloth (ἐσπαργανωμένον), lying in a manger (καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ). Instead of the sign of a star, as in Matthew, chapter 2:2, they were told about a place with a manger. These shepherds did not bring any gifts with them, unlike the Magi with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew, chapter 2:11.
Luke then has the Angel Gabriel reveal the whole plan. Just as in Matthew, chapter 1:20, the angel told Joseph that the child conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit. Luke did the same here. This Angel Gabriel answered Mary (καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ). He said that the Holy Spirit would come over her (Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ). The power of the Most High God would overshadow or envelop her (καὶ δύναμις Ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι). Her child would come forth or be born holy (διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον). He would be called the Son of God (κληθήσεται Υἱὸς Θεοῦ). This was a very theological statement uttered by the Angel Gabriel. This child, Jesus would come about because of the Holy Spirit. Elohim, the most high God, would overshadow her, the way that Yahweh had overshadowed the tent of dwelling with the covenant in Exodus, chapter 37:1-9. This presence of God in Mary would make her pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. The unique act of Jesus’ conception was a fully Trinitarian action involving the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within the womb of Mary. Obviously, the Son, her son, Jesus, would be born as a holy human person, clearly and rightfully called the Son of God. This was a very developed theology of Luke, who always stressed the role of the Holy Spirit in his writings.
Luke, as in Matthew, said that the angel Gabriel was reassuring Mary, just as the angel had reassured Joseph. Gabriel told her (καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ), Mary, not to be afraid (Μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ) because she had found favor or grace with God (εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ). Everything was going to be okay.
However, Luke pointed out that Mary was confused, troubled, agitated, or perplexed by these words (ἡ δὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη,) of this angel Gabriel. She was pondering or considering what this kind of greeting meant (καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος). She was unaccustomed to this kind of greeting from a human, let alone an angel.
Luke indicated that there was a moment of hesitancy on the part of Zechariah. He responded to the angel (καὶ εἶπεν Ζαχαρίας πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον) that he was not sure how could he know all this was going to happen (Κατὰ τί γνώσομαι τοῦτο)? He explained that he was an elderly old man, a presbyter (ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι πρεσβύτης). Also, his wife was advanced in her years (καὶ ἡ γυνή μου προβεβηκυῖα ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῆς). In other words, they were old folks, not young spring chickens. How could they have a child?
This angel, as presented by Luke, said that John would have a profound influence on the Israelites. He would turn many of sons of Israel (καὶ πολλοὺς τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραὴλ ἐπιστρέψει) to the Lord, their God (ἐπὶ Κύριον τὸν Θεὸν αὐτῶν). This foreshadowed the call of John for repentance to the Israelites.
Now comes the jolt, as the role of this John would be made clear. This angel, via Luke, pointed out that this child will not be just another Jewish kid, but someone special, befitting his special birth. Luke had the angel continue that John would be great in the sight of the Lord (ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον Κυρίου). However, he must never drink wine, or any strong intoxicating drink (καὶ οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ), like a Nazirite, a person dedicated to God, as in Numbers, chapter 6:1-4. Either a man or woman could take these Nazirite vows that made them closer to Yahweh. In Hebrew the term “nazir” meant a vow, so that it was possible for a non-Levite to be a favorite of Yahweh also. Vow taking in most religious groups sets those people apart, just as the religious vows of the medieval Catholic Church became popular, producing vowed monks and nuns. A striking English comment would be that these are “Nazi rites.” This Nazirite vow separates them from normal life, especially from wine and anything to do with grapes. The Nazirite stayed away from grapes of any kind. Thus, John was to be filled with the Holy Spirit (καὶ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου πλησθήσεται) even before his birth, from his mother’s womb (ἔτι ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ). John would be holy before he was born. The Holy Spirit would play a major role in the works of Luke here and in Acts. This special role of John is similar to Samuel in 1 Samuel, chapter 1:11, and Samson in Judges, chapter 13:4-7, in the Hebrew Bible. Both were dedicated to be Nazirites before their birth. John was to be a special dude.