Birth of John The Baptist foretold
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. – Isaiah 40:3
The coming of John the Baptist was pre-planned, as prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi. Luke begins his narration with an age-old tale of an elderly barren couple, this time, Zechariah and Elizabeth. The couple belonged to the priestly clan of Aaron and were righteous, obedient and blameless in the sight of God but still remained childless. Similar to the condition of Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah and other barren women in the Bible, Elizabeth would have also faced countless false empathy and even reasoning from her neighbors and relatives for her ‘shame’.
When Zachariah’s division was on duty, he was chosen by lot to serve as priest and burn incense in the temple of God. There he was met by the angel of the Lord, Gabriel, who brought him the answers to his prayers and said that his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son. Gabriel also gave certain instructions pertaining to John, the purpose of his life and the way he will live.
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”- Luke 1: 15-17
As with any of us, doubts cropped in the mind of Zechariah as his old age became a ceiling for his faith. He was to remain mute until the time of his child’s birth, not as a punishment for his unbelief but rather as a sign that his son was the chosen one to prepare the Lord’s path. The shame of being childless was turned into a blessing by God. Whenever we wait on God, He never lets us down.
Angel Visits Mary
When Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, Gabriel visited her relative Mary. He brought good news to Mary saying that she would conceive through the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Savior of the world. We can imagine how frightened Mary would have been since she was a virgin and was recently betrothed. The societal fears would have engulfed her thoughts but she obediently agreed to the fulfillment of God’s word.
On hearing about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary rushed to meet her relative and hearing the greeting, John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. Probably this is why Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months of her pregnancy waiting for Mary’s visit.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months then left back home. This was when John was born and on the eighth day after John’s birth, he was named in an astonishing sequence of events and Zachariah’s speech returned. Zachariah prophesied through the Holy Spirit and even wrote a song. The exact words of both the songs of Zachariah and Mary are recorded by Luke, which shows the extent of his research and gives us a glimpse into the detailed narrative that we can expect in this book.
- If Zachariah had been praying for a child, why did he not believe when Gabriel brought him the exact answer that he was looking for?
- Why didn’t Gabriel mute Mary when she had asked the same question as Zachariah?
- Why did Jesus lead a normal life but John had to live in the wilderness?