Posted in reflections

The Sunrise from on high (Luke 1:78-79)

Note to the reader

From now until Pentecost Sunday (June 5), we’ll be journeying together through the Gospel of Luke. This Gospel is notable for the attention it pays to the powerless and marginalized of the first century, whether widows, women more generally, the sick and the outcast, or poor people. Likewise, the commentary will allot a large place to God’s care for the “last, the lost, and the least.” How we interact with people who have little to give us in return is a hallmark of the person who bears the title “Christian.”

NOTE: All Scripture is from the New American Standard Bible (Lockman, 2020).

A new commentary will appear each Monday morning, as a point of reflection and action throughout the week.


“The Sunrise from on high” (Luke 1:78-79)

Background: Luke 1

Luke 1 sets the stage for the remainder of the Gospel. Verse 3 notes: “it seemed fitting to me…” Traditionally, this “me” has been understood to be Luke the physician, a traveling companion of Paul who compiled both a Gospel (i.e. “good news” account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth) and the second volume in the series, the “Acts of the Apostles.”

The hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people are summarized in two prophetic words, one from Mary (1:46-56) and the other from Zechariah (1:67-79). These discourses appear in relation to babies. Elizabeth, the infertile and aged wife of Zechariah (1:7) will give birth to John, a “forerunner” who will “make ready a people prepared for the LORD” (1:17). Her younger cousin, Mary, is to receive the highest honor of all, to become the mother of the “Son of the Most High” (1:32).

Scripture focus: 1:78-79

Zechariah’s discourse begins with a short description of the task of his son, John. He would “go on before the Lord to prepare His ways” (1:76). Importantly, Zechariah doesn’t stop there. He quickly turns his attention to the “Sunrise from on high” (1:78), a poetic description of the Messiah. According to 1:79, this One anointed by God will:

  1. “Shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” and
  2. “Guide our feet into the way of peace.”


The Holy Spirit who lives inside of us propels us to engage our world, not to sequester ourselves from it. Our mission as disciples of Christ takes us into every nook and cranny of our world and culture. This is symbolized by the imagery from 1:78. Christ is a “sunrise.” At dawn, the rising sun gradually illuminates the sky more and more, incrementally dispersing the darkness of night. This is a positive vision, one filled with anticipation of the change that is possible. The beneficiaries of our light – lives lived in the integrity and hopefulness of Christ himself – are those who “sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” Look around you. Who are the people sitting in darkness? Who is living in the shadow of death? We as light-bearers go to them where they are.

Secondly, Jesus will “guide our feet into the way of peace.” The image is of a journey. Our feet are moving along a path, toward a destination. As disciples of Christ, we must pause and ask ourselves:

Will this path, if we follow it, foster greater animosity and destruction in our world, or will it lead to greater tranquility and flourishing for all?

If a decision results in greater misery, then how can Christ be in it?


These applications are suggestive, not exhaustive. You may have other ideas. Use those below either individually or in groups as ways to spark your creativity.

  1. Wrongful convictions — Estimates vary, but a minimum of 1% of those currently in prison have been wrongfully convicted. (See Contact the innocence project in your state to find out ways you can help.
  2. Assistance for those with unwanted pregnancies – Many communities operate a crisis pregnancy center, offering compassionate alternatives to abortion. Contact a center near you to discover ways that you can assist, whether through a donation or just a listening ear for someone who needs it.
  3. Food bank — Many churches operate food banks to provide healthy nourishment to hungry people. Find out which church in your community could use a volunteer of time or groceries.



Greg is interested in many topics, including theology, philosophy, and science.

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