Our biggest task with respect to Luke 1:8-20 (or better, the larger text Luke 1:5-25) may be to think about, and determine, what Luke is telling us in this story. Of course, he’s telling us about events. But the events themselves, and even more, the way the events are related, presumably have a significance beyond the fact that “this happened, and then that happened.” What is that significance, do we think? Why does Luke begin the story of the gospel here, with old Zechariah and Elizabeth, instead of with the annunciation to Mary, or the birth of Jesus, or the baptism of Jesus? What does this choice of starting point tell us? What do we think Luke wants us to understand by beginning with this story?
Here are a couple of additional questions we might want to think about, or even discuss in class:
How would we describe Zechariah, as a person, given what we know about him from the text? Do we “feel” for him? Or, not? Why do we suppose we have this response to Zechariah?
[more personal] How do we imagine we would feel, or think, or respond, to the situation if we were in Zechariah’s position? Why? Does this tell us anything about ourselves? What? How do we feel about that?
[maybe a lot more personal] Would we ourselves like to meet the angel Gabriel? Why, or why not? Does this tell us anything about ourselves? What? And how do we feel about that?
One way to understand what Zechariah is asking for in v18 is to see him as asking for “a sign.” Why do people ask for, or want, or need, “signs”? How does asking for a “sign” make sense here, in this situation? How does it not make sense? Do we learn anything from thinking about this? What?
[more personal] Have we ourselves ever asked for a sign? Or, received one? What was the situation? How did we think the sign would help – or, how did it? Or, how did it not? What do we take away from all of this?
Why do we suppose silence, specifically, is the sign Zechariah receives? What is the function or meaning of silence in the story?
How is Zechariah’s silence different from Elizabeth’s? Or, is it? Or, do we not think of “seclusion” as a form of “silence”?
Do we discern a “moral” or “lesson” in this story for us? What lesson? What in the text, or in our thinking about the text, leads us to that lesson?
What do we take away from this story, and how does it influence our reading of the rest of the gospel of Luke?
Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons