Elizabeth's Story from Luke 1 (Related to the Christmas Story)
Today's meditation and retelling comes from Luke 1:5-25, 39-80. Background music by www.bensound.com. Foreword: Zacharias and Elizabeth are the only other truly elderly couple in scripture to bear a child, besides Abraham and Sarah. There are a lot of parallels between Isaac and John the Baptist. Why this couple, and why now? Why did his need to be a “miraculous” birth? Gabriel did tell Zacharias that his prayers for a child were heard (Luke 1:13), so we know that Zacharias and Elizabeth wanted children long before this. Zacharias’s response to Gabriel’s good news was skepticism, based upon their ages (Luke 1:18), which suggests that he’d given up praying for children long ago, when he thought that it was too late. But given all the promises in scripture for fertility for those who followed the Lord, and the fact that this couple was blameless (Luke 1:6), I’m sure they wondered why it seemed that the Lord had not fulfilled His end of the promise. Elizabeth also called her barrenness a “reproach” (Luke 1:25). We know from the question the disciples asked Jesus about the man who was blind from birth (John 9:1-5) that it was a common belief among Israelites that physical ailments were a direct punishment for personal sin. Thus, like blameless Job, the people likely would have believed that it was some sin on their part that had kept them from bearing children all these years. Yet God had not forgotten them… it just took faith and patience (a lot of it!) for them to inherit this particular promise (Hebrews 6:12). One reason for this likely is because John’s conception and birth would have caused such a stir, and attracted such attention. Gabriel appears to Zacharias while he is performing his duties at the Temple, and the fact that he is subsequently struck dumb alerts everyone who was waiting for him outside the temple that he must have seen a vision (Luke 1:21-22). Then, after five months of seclusion, elderly Elizabeth reveals to all that she is pregnant. Imagine the whispers! She gives birth to the child, and then on the eighth day they break with all tradition and name him John, a name found nowhere in their lineage. As soon as Zacharias complies with Gabriel’s final decree, his tongue is loosed, and he announces to all the onlookers that this is to be the prophet they have all been waiting for these four hundred years. Had his conception and birth been ordinary, this child would not have caused such a stir, or such expectation (Luke 1:65-66). That’s one reason why the Lord probably chose an elderly, faithful couple to be the parents of John the Baptist. But I suspect the other reason is because Elizabeth and Mary were close relatives (Luke 1:36). (In my retelling, I imagined that she was her great aunt, though the scriptures don’t say what their exact relationship is.) They obviously knew each other well, though, because Mary goes to stay with Elizabeth for three months. This close relationship with another woman who had a miracle pregnancy was probably very important for Mary, who was being asked to take such an enormous step of faith, knowing she would be ostracized for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Not only does Elizabeth’s pregnancy confirm Gabriel’s words for Mary, but then the Lord reveals to Elizabeth that Mary, too, is pregnant, by the Holy Spirit, and with the Son of God (Luke 1:42-45)! I’m sure Mary very much needed this confirmation of the angel’s word to her, and the encouragement. While scripture never talks about the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist as children, given the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth and the prophetic connection between the two boys’ lives, they must have known each other before they each stepped into their ministries. And Jesus was born “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4-7); he could not have come any earlier than He did. His forerunner had to just barely precede him. So had the Lord granted...
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December 24, 2021
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